The Cat Thief of Gaizhou, by Rob Harris

The Cat Thief of Gaizhou, by Rob Harris (Travel)

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Having always been what he calls, a ‘wannabe teacher’, Rob Harris saw his opportunity in late 2003.

At the time, Rob’s New Zealand employer was going through a death spiral towards receivership. One morning, he saw a small newspaper ad with the intriguing title: ‘Teach English Overseas’. A short course later and a chance online meeting with a teacher, who had just returned from China, meant that in February 2004, Rob was winging his way to Dalian in the North East of the People’s Republic of China.

Now 10 years later, he has been able to put his experiences and insights on paper. Coincidentally, it was a book by another New Zealand teacher – Jane Carswell that inspired Rob to write. ‘I picked up Jane’s “Under the Huang Jiao Tree” and literally devoured it in one day’ Rob says. ‘On every single page of Jane’s book, I gave out a yelp of recognition, of a student, fellow teacher or situation, I had experienced’

Rob has completed two sojourns in China, and is planning a third. His first in Dalian, in the old Manchuria, close to the border with North Korea, was followed by another in Qingdao, site of the 2008 Olympic sailing regatta.

The most memorable part of Rob’s China experience, was six weeks he spent in Gaizhou over the Northern summer of 2004. Living in the home of a Chinese couple who ran a language school, Rob experienced something of life in China away from the big city. At the end of the holiday period, Rob wrote a play for the students to perform for their parents. The play was entitled The Cat Thief of Gaizhou, which is also the title of this book.

Note: The commonly-encountered syllable ‘zhou’ is pronounced ‘Joe’ and simply means ‘place’.

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