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When A Chinese Student Falls In Love With New Jersey

Zhou Yinzi moved last year from China to Plainsboro, NJ. Used to dreary classes, she discovered a new world of sexy principals and crushworthy teachers, piercings and booming T-shirts. An exchange student's love letter -- to her teachers, most of

An American tradition: waiting for the Principal (John Rudolph Mueller)
An American tradition: waiting for the Principal (John Rudolph Mueller)
Zhou Yinzi*

PLAINSBORO - I have already decided to get my ears pierced this summer. I still remember the days when I categorically said that I'd never have my ears pierced, nor my hair permed. Well, now I realize how old-fashioned I was.

I also remember how once an American-born Chinese girl asked my mom: "Why do the teachers in China not allow kids to have their ears pierced?"

"They think it will affect the students' learning at school," my mother answered.

The girl was obviously very puzzled: "What does ear-piercing have to do with learning?"

It has been only two years since I came to the United States and I realize how much my ideas have changed. I have been totally immersed in the free atmosphere of an American high school campus.

Our photography teacher is so handsome that you just drool! He has a shining smile and wonderful air. He wears loud T-shirts and has four piercings.

Our language and art teacher has seven piercings. He has so many that he almost has no ears left. He hasn't quite got the "Pompadour hairstyle" or "Regency style hair" but his locks are certainly defying gravity! He only wears white shirts and a tie. He always has a cup of coffee in his hand; he is so cool. He lies down on the floor when he reads Romeo and Juliet in class.

The math teacher is my favorite. He wears a different tie every single day of the year. If you asked any Chinese student who would see him for the first time what he teaches, they would never guess math. He exudes a kind of sunny and youthful radiance – nothing like the math teachers I knew in China with their special air that just says: "Math ruined my childhood."

When I learned that this amazingly cute guy is also the long-distance running coach for the girls in our school, I almost fell over! When he dressed up in a Baroque period costume for a Cosplay (Costume play), we were all charmed. We couldn't take our eyes off of him.

The sexy principal

But you'd be wrong if you think that only the young teachers are cool in our school. The chicest are probably the older ones.

I once needed to make a video, so I asked if I could use the school's recording studio. Our principal told me the video teacher would give me a hand.

While I waited for the teacher to come, a guy suddenly attracted my attention. He was South American looking, short in build, and wore a big black T-shirt, black trousers, with black long curly hair falling on his shoulders. I suddenly realized that he was the teacher I was waiting for.

Having met the video teacher I become really intrigued by the principal: someone who employs so many impressive teachers must be out of the ordinary herself.

Two experiences soon confirmed my feeling.

She joined us for our 11th grade party. In the bus, this principal who wears ultra-sexy clothing and talks loud and fast, flirted with the male teacher next to her all the way to the party.

Before getting off the bus, she said to the boys: "Attention please! All gentlemen please take care of your partners and assist them off the bus!"

At the prom, she was, of course, present again. She definitely does not miss out on any chance of fun.

At the prom, two DJs who looked smashingly cool played dance music. When I got home that night, I got the regular phone interview from my dad in China. "What did your teachers say at the prom?" That was the first question.

"What is the teacher supposed to say at a students' prom?" What a weird idea, I thought.

The mad woman dancing at prom

"But isn't it organized by your school? Aren't the teachers supposed to say something?" I suddenly realize that my dad was logical in his thinking. If it were in China, not only the principal, but also the class teacher, and various subject teachers, as well as the class representative would all have given a speech. If that were to happen at my prom, "Let's beat him up" would have been the audience's first reaction.

As a matter of fact, the teachers were all dressed very elegantly to go to the prom as if they were attending an ambassador's ball. They just walked around, chatted and ate pastries in the corridor and let us enjoy our evening.

While we were being blasted with dance music, an extremely overweight teacher squeezed through the crowd. She took up so much space that everybody had to step back. Then she started dancing like a mad woman with bare feet and her hair flying in all directions. Everybody was just thrilled! After she left after just one dance, leaving us to enjoy the frenzy.

Not only do my teachers surprise me, but they also give us warmth.

One afternoon before history class, I felt a bit sleepy so I just put my head down for a short nap. When the bell rang, the history teacher came over. She gently stroked my back and said "Tired? I understand. It must have been tiring to have classes the whole day." My heart just melted.

When I first came to the States, I thought that American students were extraordinary in their clothing and their behavior. But after seeing the teachers I realize that we are just sweet lambs in front of these maverick adults.

Thanks to them, I love my school, the photography class, the art class, the math class, the principal's office, the history class, the cafeteria and the library. My teachers are just so wonderful.

*Zhou is an 11th grade student at the West Windsor - Plainsboro High School South, New Jersey

Read the original article in Chinese.

Photo - John Rudolph Mueller

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

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