Friday, March 4, 2011

Homework in China

(From Country Driving, by Peter Hessler.)

On the whole, six-year-old boys are not naturally cut out for the demands of boarding school, and Wei Jia was especially disorganized.  Often I picked him up on Friday afternoons, on my way to the village, and I always reminded him to make sure he brought the books he needed. But every Friday evening, back in Sancha, it was a complete mystery what would emerge from within the bowels of the Mickey Mouse backpack.  Wei Jia opened the bag like a magician:  anything could come out, and the trick was that even the boy had no idea.  Tonight he conjured up four textbooks, a few pencils, and a dozen crumpled papers.  His father snatched one of the pages.

"What's this?  This is your homework!  How are you going to do your homework if it's torn up like this?"

Wei Jia stared down at the kang.

"Where's your math book?"

"I forgot it," Wei Jia said softly.

"How are you going to do your homework if you don't have the book?"  Wei Ziqi's voice became sharp. "You know what Teacher Yang said today? She said that you always forget your homework.  And you don't pay attention in class!  What's going to happen to you if you don't study well?"

Overachiever's footnote: from, a "kang" is:
(especially in northern Chinese houses) a masonry or earthen platform at one end of a room, heated in winter by fires underneath and spread with mats for sleeping.


  1. That sounds exactly like the arguments I used to have with my mother, and I was a couple of years older than the child here. Please keep posting excerpts like this. I'm going to have to read this book.

  2. Thanks, Megan! I like this excerpt a lot because it shows that Chinese kids are really no different from American kids. I love the description of the kid wondering what the backpack might cough up next.