Country Boy

Chen Da boards a train bound for Beijing with a bamboo flute, the equivalent of $1.50 pinned to the inside of his pants pocket and a small bag of soil from the riverbank of his remote southern-Chinese hometown. As a matriculating student at the Beijing Languages Institute, which in 1979 is China's most cosmopolitan school, he is the ultimate rube. He has never laid eyes on a foreigner, listened to a radio, tasted coffee or seen a refrigerator, and when he opens his mouth to speak—whether in English or his heavily accented Chinese—his classmates and teachers just laugh in uncomprehending...

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