People are often surprised by my English. In China, it is unusual for a non-English major to learn more than is necessary for the tests.
I began learning English in Grade 7. I remember the first day of class very well. I was sitting in the classroom, wondering what an English class was like and who our teacher would be. I expected a woman. The door opened, and to my surprise, a young man walked in.
Mr. Hou was friendly and energetic with a loud, passionate voice that seized our attention. He asked each of us in English, “What is your name?’
Each student was to answer, “My name is. . .”
One by one, the students mumbled through their replies, trying hard to imitate the sounds of English. The rest of us listened attentively, tending to laugh, but at the same time, nervous to be next. Mr. Hou left quite an impression.
I had a cousin who was also an English teacher at that time. She and Mr. Hou were in the same office. My cousin told me Mr. Hou mentioned me often and referred to me as “that boy.”
There were a few times when a substitute teacher took over the class. Seeing me raise my hand to answer his question, but not knowing my name, the substitute teacher would say, “That boy, please.”
Immediately my classmates would correct him with,”She is a girl!”
I wished no one would correct the substitute teacher. I wished he would not apologize for using the “wrong” address. So, I was happy to hear Mr. Hou referred to me as “that boy,” even though I never heard it for myself.
Because of this, I felt Mr. Hou’s affirmation and fondness, which motivated me to study English. I kept my test scores over 90%, for I knew he expected me to do well and I didn’t want to fail him.
Regretfully, I only had Mr. Hou as my teacher for one year. Though a new, more experienced teacher taught me in Grade 8, I missed Mr. Hou.
One day, in the beginning of a new term, Mr. Hou appeared at the door of my classroom and asked for me. This was a surprise. Mr. Hou handed me two English exercise books for Grade 8. They were brand new and exactly what I needed. He must have known I didn’t pay the book fee and would use borrowed books to save Mom money. We were not expressive, I don’t remember if I said “thank you,” or if we said anything. Overwhelmed, I stood and watched his back disappear at the staircase.
I made the most of those two books, which laid a good foundation for my study of English. At the end of the semester, I wrote on the side of the books, “In remembrance of Mr. Hou,” and put them away as a keepsake.
With this good beginning, plus interest and hard work, I learned my English well. I didn’t know then that it would enable me to share my story worldwide one day.
Now that Life Beyond My Body has been published, I would like to say, “Thank you, Mr. Hou!” Love motivates. I’m grateful for the good people who showed me kindness around every corner in my life.
What about you? Is there someone in your past whose kindness made a big difference in your life? Write me back in the comments section of this blog post or on my Facebook page.
I look forward to hearing your story of how love motivated you!
P.S. If you haven’t read my memoir yet, Life Beyond My Body: A transgender journey to manhood in China is available at TransgressPress.org or at Amazon.com. If you have read it, please consider leaving at review at Amazon.com. Thanks!