What you don't know about Uncle Hanzi

By Ruan Fan ( ) Updated: 2015-11-02 13:06:52

What you don't know about Uncle Hanzi

Sears takes pride in calling himself a hippie. [Photo by Ruan Fan/]

Once a hippie, always a hippie

"I do not go to bed on time, and I don't feel the need to sleep for certain hours a day. I'm an old hippie."

For Sears, hippies are those that live on free will, always interested in the world at its current state, and are never tired of exploring the possibilities of life. Sears takes pride in calling himself a hippie.

In 1972, Sears, then a 22-year-old physics freshman at the University of Portland, felt that life in Oregon was "boring". Having found his interest in Chinese, he bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan.

In 1979, Sears began looking for Sanmao, a famous Taiwanese novelist who he admired. Sears travelled to the Sahara desert, only to find information that Sanmao has gone back to Spain. When he finally met Sanmao in 1981, he encouraged Sanmao to try areca nuts. Sanmao tried the areca nuts, swallowing them in one-shot, and felt dizzy on the street.

Three years ago he declined offers to teach English despite his lack of employment and his shrinking bank account. For Sears, teaching English would be a waste of time.

"I would prefer teaching physics because it can exercise my brain."

Last Monday, when he was told to wear a suit to attend the 2015 Symposium on China Studies, he told the host he hasn't owned a suit or tie in over 30 years. He attended the symposium wearing a red jacket while everyone else wore a black or grey suit.

Last Thursday, while walking with a group of professors in Ningbo, he suddenly stood in front of a horning no-stop tricycle rushing to them from behind, as if he was superman. He spoke in clear-cut mandarin to the Chinese rider saying, "don't honk your horn in a narrow street where people are walking." The rider obeyed.

"I always do that in China. I think those people are disrespectful to pedestrians. I know you are supposed to get used to it, but I like forming my own social protocols."

When asked whether he's bothered by life in China, the old hippie quickly said no.

"People at my age have difficulties finding a job back in my home country, but not here in China. Besides, it's safe here. You won't get a gun pointed at you for stopping those big car honkers."

As an enthusiastic hippie, Sears has kept a habit of writing stories on facebook about the Chinese society - its culture and people he observed. "I love China, I hope I can help more people understand China."

You can try taking the China out of Uncle Hanzi, but you can't take Uncle Hanzi out of China. He's here to stay.

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