Sometimes I feel like a rock star over here.
When I first visited China 25 years ago, people stared at me as if I were a Martian. Foreigners are no longer considered so exotic but, especially in non-tourist cities like Zhengzhou, we’re still unusual enough to get special treatment.
At my university, students are fascinated with foreign teachers and shower them with adulation. Students have applauded me in class and many want to have their picture taken with me. They also ask for my phone number and email address so they can stay in touch.
Many schools in China have English Corners, informal get-togethers where students can practice their English speaking with teachers and fellow students. I’ve attended two of these sessions, and both times I was greeted like a combination of Brad Pitt, Mick Jagger and Barack Obama.
Last Friday night, at Henan University’s student center, I joined four other foreign teachers at an English Corner where the students sang songs, danced, played games and took about 10,000 pictures. At one point, we broke into small groups and the students asked us questions. My group was extremely interested in how Americans lived, my career as a journalist, my travels around the world and all the famous people that I’ve met.
When one student found out that I had interviewed Michael Jordan, he almost fainted. Another student gasped when I told her I had met Leonardo DiCaprio.
Later in the evening, they played the “Gangnam Style’’ video on a big screen in front of the classroom. Students started dancing to the music, imitating Psy’s signature horse trot, lasso and leg-shuffle moves. The teachers joined in and thoroughly embarrassed themselves, but everyone had a great time. I don’t think any us will be getting an invitation from “Dancing with the Stars.’’