- Nice people and amazing history By Helen Pan
H o m e i n W u h a n
Name: Paul Hass
Time spent in Wuhan: 4 years
Occupation: English teacher
Paul and his students
By Helen Pan
Paul Hass has lived in Wuhan for four years; his life here has been exciting and filled with unique and interesting stories. As a history enthusiast, Paul has explored a significant number of Wuhan's many museums and historical sites. He has even served as an amateur actor in a Chinese historical documentary.
Business trip turns into four years
Paul worked for 25 years as a custom home designer and contractor back in the U.S. In 2011, he and his business partner, looking for new business opportunities in China, attended the first China-Eurasia Expo in Urumqi. Out west, Paul's business partner met a local girl and fell in love; the two later got married and settled down out there.
Still interested in pursuing his original plan, Paul decided to come to Wuhan. He said that he chose Wuhan because it is located in the center of China and offers convenient logistics and transportation services. Additionally, Wuhan, unlike some other cities in China, has worked hard to preserve its history and culture, making it a very "Chinese" city, one in which Paul felt he could learn more about this country and its people.
In October, 2011, Paul came to Wuhan. He pursued a number of different business opportunities, at the same time he networked and made a number of Chinese and foreign friends. One of them recommended teaching at a local school. As Paul had done seminars and other presentations on stage for various projects in the past, he soon discovered that teaching as a career suited him.
Paul teaches English and computer science in the international department at Hongshan Senior High School.
He strives to make his classroom both entertaining and enlightening. One trick he often practiced with the kids in the first class is the "Justin Bieber" trick. Paul's grandson resembles Justin Bieber. For his new students Paul would show his grandson's photo and ask them "who do you think this is?" The answer was nearly always the same, "Justin Bieber." Paul would then nod and announce that "this is my grandson. Do you want to talk to him? I can get you to talk to him on Skype." Of course the kids were all thrilled. Paul would let this trick go on for a while and later tell students the truth. Still "they all wanted to talk to him," Paul chuckled. This contributes to the reason that his students call him "Grandpa."
Paul also hosts an English corner at the Jamaica Blue Coffee Shop in the 1911 Center in Hankou every Sunday morning. The topic varies each week in accordance with the news and the interests of the participants. For the participants, it is an excellent opportunity for them to improve their English; for Paul, it is a chance to meet many different people from all over Wuhan. "They come from all walks of life. Their individual experiences give me ideas for topics for the English corner," explained Paul.
Documentaries and local history
Paul is a history buff. One of the first films he watched here in Wuhan was 1911, a historical film about the Xinhai Revolution. Although Paul's Chinese was limited, he was able to understand the plot because he had done some research online beforehand.
Paul says that there are a number of similarities between Wuhan and his hometown, Philadelphia. Both have interesting cultures, and both were pivotal revolutionary centers at one point in time. In order to learn more about Wuhan, Paul regularly visits local museums and historical sites. Occasionally, he will be invited to discuss with local friends local buildings and the history behind them.
Last year, Paul was invited by one of his friends to take part in a historical documentary being shot here in Wuhan by CCTV. They were attempting to recreate scenes from the 1920s, when the mayor of Wuhan was actively working to increase foreign investment. Paul and his friend played two foreign businessmen. They met with the "mayor" and toured the Yellow Crane Tower and Yangtze River together. Amusingly, Paul, who was born and raised in America, played a British businessman, and his friend, a native of the U.K., played an American businessman. Paul said that he still has no idea why the director had them switch the roles like that. Just the same, Paul enjoyed the experience, saying that it helped him learn more about this city.
Paul said that almost all of his interesting stories can be attributed to his foreign and Chinese friends here in Wuhan. "Many of my experiences are related to people I know. I am fortunate to have met so many nice people. They have introduced me to many things that I don't think I would have otherwise experienced."
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