1. At the Bookworm bookshop in Sanlitun district, Americans and Brits worked side by side with local Beijingers and I played ‘do you know’ with a transplanted East Londoner while my German translator discussed foreign rights with an expat from Berlin. Somewhat confusingly, the Italian member of the team, Giulia Fabris, turned out to be English. As did Sharon Thiruchelvam, who should have been at least a little bit Sri Lankan.
2. June Chen was born in Taiwan and lived seven years in Houston. Her lovely 11 year old daughter speaks Mandarin and English and eats books for lunch, while her son Ben prefers hamburgers to Chinese food and misses Texas. As we listened to them play a concert of traditional Chinese music at their international school, a polite English boy of about 16 crouched on the floor, recording it on his Macbook for a student-made film.
3. At the Beijing campuses of Harrow and Dulwich College, students from Kazakhstan, Paris and Romania asked a number of searching questions about identity. Relevant, when you think about it, to an American living in and writing about England.
4. In Suzhou, I ran a two hour class with a bunch of 9-10 year olds from a local school at which English was the only common language. The kids were kind enough to let me keep the ‘what if’ stories they wrote and illustrated. I lost my heart to Sebastian from Moscow, and Tobit from the Congo, who wants to play professional football and has a genuine talent for drawing.
4. Martin, whose Chinese name I couldn’t pronounce, was born in the middle of China and wanted to visit Japan to see the best preserved architecture from the Tang dynasty. He was, incidentally, a fantastic guide to the gardens of Suzhou.
Only in China?