Chinese exchange student is loving the American way

Daifeng Tan is spending his junior year at the Little Falls Community High School

By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
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Daifeng Tan, or better known to his friends in Little Falls as Hunter, is spending his junior year in Little Falls. He has traveled more than 7,000 miles to be part of the exchange student program.

Hunter comes from a very populated town, Kunming, in the Yunnan Province of China and he said he wanted to live in a small town, something more tranquil than he is used to.

Daifeng Tan, better known as Hunter, is staying with Roger and Mary Blake while he attends his junior year at Little Falls Community High School. Pictured are seated (from left): Hunter holding Zorro the cat and Roger. Standing is Mary Blake and on the back of the couch is the Blake’s golden retriever Nellie.

“I love America, I love its style of education and I love the lifestyles here,” he said. “In China, we attend school from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. It’s very hard, we get too much homework and not enough sleep.”

Hunter said the lifestyle in Little Falls is so much more relaxed than in Kunming. People are not as busy; life is less hectic.

“There are so many  people in China, everyone is moving around and when I take the public transportation, it’s a constant battle with the crowds. It’s tiring,” he said.

Besides the long hours in school, Hunter said he has no choice of what classes he will take. His day consists of classes in Chinese, English, math, art, music, physical education, physics, geography, chemistry, history and biology. In Little Falls, he is taking English, biology, food, geography, algebra and Spanish.

“I am interested in learning many languages because I would like to a lot of traveling during my life,” he said. “I also speak a little Japanese.”

Daifeng Tan is from Kunming, China, in the Yunnan Province. It is located in the southern part of the country, near Vietnam.

One of the hardest differences Hunter has had to overcome is the food. He said he really misses Chinese cooking. He has tried to teach his host family how to cook Chinese, and that he finds very funny. He is not a cook at home.

“We take him to the Chinese Restaurant in town almost every week,” said Mary Blake, his host mother. “But he is used to spicier food than what is offered.”

Mary said that Hunter did like her southwestern-style pork chops, so she will be making those again.

A few American foods, like the hamburgers at school and any pizza, Hunter has tried, but has not liked.

Hunter is an only child, but has a huge extended family in China.

“The Chinese government has mandated that families may have only one child. That’s because there are so many people in China. I have a cousin who had a second child about 20 years ago, and the family was fined about $500 U.S. I have 11 aunts and uncles, all born before the mandate.”

China has about 1.3 billion people in 3.7 million square miles. The one child policy was created in 1978 to alleviate social, economic and environmental problems in China. Under Mao, the population in China doubled from 1949 to the 1976, from 550 million to more than 900 million people.

“Today, if a family has a second child, the parents may lose their job, along with a fine of about $10,000,” he said. He also said that wealthier families sometimes choose to pay the fine, just to have another child.

Roger, Hunter’s host father, and Mary have taken Hunter to Duluth to see the Lake Superior harbor and watch the ships come and go. He has also learned to love fishing, even when he doesn’t catch anything.

The town Hunter lives in is on approximately the same latitude as the Florida Keys, so he has never lived where it snows. Hunter said he loves the snow (it’s so pretty, he said) and wishes there was more of the white stuff in Minnesota this year.

“Kunming never gets cold, he said. “It stays in the mid-70s most of the time,” he said. “It’s called the ‘Spring City.’”

Hunter’s future plans are to attend college in the United States. He has narrowed it down to Brainerd’s Central Lakes College, because he could stay with the Blakes in Little Falls, or the University of Seattle, where many of his Chinese friends plan to attend.

“When I was young, I wanted to be a soldier, like my father,” said Hunter. “Later, I wanted to be an engineer or a scientist. But right now, I think I would like to be a psychologist.”

Mary Blake said that it has been a wonderful experience having Hunter in their home.

“Roger and I never had children; I like my role as a parent,” she said. “We would definitely experience this again.”

Roger said he would like to adopt Hunter.

Hunter said that while much of what people bring home from travels in the United States are less expensive than what he pays at home, much of it is made in his home country of China. But, he does plan on purchasing lots of Little Falls Flyer clothing.