RP’s Alderman teaches in China, donates signed Hooters T-shirt
Andy Alderman is a frequent visitor to Hooters Restaurant in Beijing China, but it’s not solely for the reasons one would expect. His visits to Hooters give him a tiny feeling of home.
“Yes, the girls are pretty, but the other major factor is in Beijing Hooters, the girls speak English,” said Alderman, a 1984 graduate of Rancho Cotate High who also brought back a T-shirt signed by the staff at the Beijing Hooters.
“After a week of trying to understand what people are saying in Chinese, you want somebody who speaks English.”
By now, many are probably asking, “Why is he in Beijing in the first place?”
Alderman, 45, is the equivalent of a grade-school teacher in China and has taught in the country for 2-1/2 years. Alderman teaches English, science and mathematics to second-graders. His class size is limited to eight students, and most are from Korea, Taiwan or Thailand, and he also teaches second-grade math to Chinese nationals.
Ironically, Alderman’s knowledge of the Chinese language is limited.
“As a matter of act, I speak less than 150 words of Chinese,” he said. “Every week I go to a tutor, but I’m very slow picking up the language. I still speak more Spanish than Chinese at this point.”
After earning his teaching credential at Sacramento State University, Alderman sent resumes throughout California and as far away as Texas, but he found no takers. His plight was similar to that of many entering the field of education – there were simply no jobs.
“I got my credential just as the recession hit. Everybody was laying off,” Alderman said.
He said the state of the economy in the United States is likely to keep him in China for the next three or four years. By that time, he believes the Chinese economy will be hit with the type of recession that will make the U.S. recession look like child’s play.
“The cities are still growing, but their economy is running out of steam,” Alderman said. “Basically, the banks and the government are so intertwined. When the banks have trouble and the government has trouble, and that’s what’s happening. In a couple of years, who knows, I may be bringing a Hooter’s shirt from India.”
Because the Chinese government has a tight grip on the media, getting accurate information on the state of the economy is like finding a snowball in Palm Springs in July.
“There are 40 channels all government run,” Alderman said. “You do not get CNN. When I get the China Daily, which is in English, I read between the lines. They don’t admit they’re having problems with economy, it’s all happy talk, and there’s nothing really to it. You go to an international Web site, it’s the opposite story.”
One thing Alderman likes about living in China is the inexpensive lifestyle. He said in China he makes the equivalent of $1,200 per month, and after sending home $500 each month, he still has enough money to be a weekend tourist in China.
He also likes the friendly nature of the Chinese citizens. He says there is not sense of “stranger danger” because Chinese parents would like to expose their children to as many things American as possible. Alderman said he senses some Chinese may feel safer speaking to Americans or foreigners rather than other Chinese because of the worry of maybe saying the wrong thing to undercover law enforcement agents.
“I never got the sense of a police state or anything like that, but there are probably a lot of things a native would see that I would not,” he said.
One note of caution by Alderman is to not drink the water in Beijing because of the pollution. He also said it can get very smoggy, especially in the summer, but the winters are actually decent.
Alderman’s ultimate goal is to get back to the United States and help children who do not speak English learn the language.
“When it comes down to it, I’m a patriot,” Alderman said. “I enjoy working with the Chinese, but I was meant to teach kids how to become American citizens. I want to teach kids who speak Spanish how to speak English. I want to work with immigrants. I’m happy with my job over there, otherwise I’d be on food stamps. But I really want to come and teach in America and work with American kids, especially lower-income kids.”