Peter Hessler and China

Decent Essays

Peter Hessler and a fellow Peace Corp. volunteer were placed in Fuling, and poor town on the Yangtze River in rural China. River Town is more or less a journal of what it was like being in Fuling on a day to day basis. He illustrates his experience through stories of trips he took, people that he became close with, and situations that required an open mind. Peter’s job was teaching English literature at a small college in the town; and through this was able to learn both about the tightly controlled nature of being a foreigner in China, as well as some of the thoughts of the younger generation through various assignments. He was greeted as a “hero” and was lavished upon, but at the same time found it very difficult to be “accepted” by the locals, cadres or not.
Many “hot” topics were addressed, from the Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong, to the independence of Taiwan. It is amazing how nationalized China is—and how standardized thinking is there. To the people there; Mao is good because he is a revolutionary, and Taiwan is bad because they should be part of China. Everything is simplified into this style of thinking and debate is not a valid avenue for students (or teachers for that matter) to take. Hessler constantly fought with his position as a foreigner, even after two years of living in the town. Ethnocentrism is evident in China just like it is everywhere else, and even though Peter tried very hard to blend in, he was never truly able to shed his waiguoren

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