“Sometimes when you study a new language and culture and compare it with your own, you get a better sense of the whole world.”
A childhood spent in mainland China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution barely qualifies as a childhood at all for many who lived through that time. For Xiaozhou Wu the horrors of repression were personalized in the extreme. “Both my parents died during the Cultural Revolution; persecuted by the Communist system,” he recalls. “My mother was killed by the Red Guards, those so-called revolutionaries. And my father was forced to live in a cowshed where he got tuberculosis and died a few years later.” But relying on the traditional strengths of Chinese families—even without a mother or father—Xiaozhou and his three older brothers managed to survive.
“We somehow managed to study all by ourselves,” he recalls. “And though we were totally free, we didn’t turn bad. We studied and studied and waited for our day to come.” That day happened when Deng Xiao Peng came to power and curbed the excesses of Mao’s waning years. “I eventually graduated from college and passed an exam for overseas studies. I won a full scholarship to come here.” And after the chilling events in Tienanmen Square, Xiao decided to make America his country.
Xiaozhou, after the tumult and trauma of his early years, is delighted to have found a ‘home’ at SMC. “I’m very happy here because the college encourages teaching,” he says. “And the people that come here to study Chinese come from all walks of life. I have students from all over Asia but also businessmen and women who come to the evening classes after work. Unlike the big universities where research is promoted, SMC is an environment for teachers. And of course,” he adds, “that just makes it easier for us, as teachers, to expand what we can offer.”
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