A Nobody Can Be Somebody

Updated: 2016-05-01 14:33

By Shao Yu(chinadaily.com.cn)

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A Nobody Can Be Somebody

Ian's giving lecture to students.[Photo provided to students.]


His name is Ian. Yes, only a first name and he is a nobody. If you want to know more than his first name, then I will tell you that he may be British because he has a British accent and he has a Chinese wife, has been to at least 46 countries, was an editor and is an English teacher. More about him? Sorry, to be honest, I don’t know.

Ian, if my memory serves, taught English in a university in Suzhou in 2010. At that time, I was a sophomore English major. As most universities in China do, mine also entitled us to attend classes taught by foreign teachers. Ian just happened to be one of them. Initially, my impression toward him was not much different from his predecessors - coming to China for the gold rush. I know I was skeptical because I had met abhorrent expats. Days went on, classes went on and absent-mindedness in his class went on. Everything went on as usual until the end of May.

After May Day, I presume what students look most forward to is Children’s Day. Inattentive in class as I was, I was enthusiastic about volunteer work, especially in education. In the middle of May, I started a campaign on campus, calling schoolmates to donate to a nearby primary school mainly consisting of migrant workers’ children. I wanted the kids to have a special Children’s Day and I hoped they could access better education. I thought about different ways of contributing, such as inviting my versatile friends to tutor.

Thinking of those pupils who had never had a chance to have an English lesson conducted by a foreign teacher before led me to venture to ask Ian if he could spare time to give them a special English class. It was before one of his not-so-interesting English classes that I asked him.

I remembered the scene vividly because he showed great interest and asked many questions about the students’ status quo and the campaign and then declined to tutor because of school rules. The ten-minute break soon passed, while the 45-minute class slipped a bit slowly.

Frustrated and a bit angry, I went out of the classroom after the bell rang. However, Ian stopped me. He asked me to go to a corner with him and he looked around very suspiciously before getting something out of his pocket. He said in a low voice, “Please don’t let anyone know this.” Instead of giving me some marijuana, it was 1000 RMB.

On June 1st, the pupils had a great time. They played games with college volunteers and received gifts donated by nobodies through the campaign. They also had a special English class taught by a foreign friend of mine. Instead of giving the school the donation directly, I spent the donation on stationery and suggested the school use them as rewards for well-behaved students.

Six years have passed since that Children’s Day. If I haven’t by chance reviewed the pictures taken then, I would have forgotten that Ian had been involved in such a campaign. In this sense, he is a nobody. Probably the students don’t remember that moment either. But he is somebody and once played a part in making the students’ life better.