It ain’t easy being Steven Chu

Small explanatory detail: I am teaching English for the summer at a small school in southern China.
At the school’s opening ceremony today, the head teacher opened with the following anecdote:

A very prominent Chinese scientist graduated with a PhD from UCBerkeley and his two younger siblings graduated with PhDs from Harvard. The Berkeley grad went on to win a Nobel Prize. He called his mom to tell her the good news and she said ‘So? You still didn’t graduate from Harvard.’ He went on to be named Secretary of Energy by President Obama. The mother: ‘So? You still didn’t graduate from Harvard.’ He was then invited to speak at the 2009 Harvard commencement, which means he was granted an honorary degree, and finally his mother was proud of him.

I think the Chinese have a skewed sense of the importance of a Harvard education.
The head teacher then turned to my fellow teachers and me with ‘a very interesting question.’ He said he knew a man who was eighty years old and was still so spry that he could leap up onto his roof whenever it needed to be repaired. He also slept only half an hour every night – but when he slept, you could light him on fire and he wouldn’t notice. Finally, he was a man, but he had two breasts that, if you squeezed them, would produce milk.
‘How do you explain that?’
I think the Chinese have a skewed sense of the breadth of a Harvard education.
He spoke in Chinese, which his daughter then translated to English. I know absolutely no Chinese, so his speech mostly sounded like a fundamentalist church on Pentecost. Occasionally, though, words would stick out: ‘Obama,’ ‘Harvard,’ ‘New York’. He also kept on saying something that sounded like ‘niggah’: ‘how-chi-kun-wey-niggah-qin-woah-niggah-wot’. I’m going to have to find someone to translate that word for me.
Update: Apparently ‘niggah’ in Chinese is the equivalent of saying ‘um’ or ‘er’ in English.
Facebook, youtube, myspace, twitter, etc, are not always blocked, but have since the beginning of the recent Uighur-related unrest in Western China. More on that – and less of me being a presumptuous news critic – soon.
Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *