Eau Claire Man Finds Chinese Culture Fascinating


Joel Lewiston has made Chinese culture a hobby. © 2016 Kai Luo

By Kai Luo

A Chinese calligraphy and an embroidery of a plum blossom hang on the wall; a paper cutting is pasted on the wall is opposite; two gilded six-leaf screen samples are on the desk; a tin of dragon well tea is on the cabinet.

 You are immersed in a strong Chinese culture atmosphere in this office, every Chinese decoration is delicate.

Then the manager comes in and talks to you, it‘s easy to notice his western face outline and American accent.

Joel Lewiston, a 59-year-old manager of Business Solutions Center for Xcel Energy in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a fan of Chinese culture. He has been learning Chinese for almost 10 years, and now he is planning to go to China this November.

“I took a six-week Chinese class, and I found it’s really difficult, especially the tones of Chinese,”  Lewiston said, “but I just got hooked on it.”

He usually studies Chinese when he is not at work. Learning Chinese and hiking are his favorite leisure activities, and hiking makes him like China more because of the beautiful natural scenery.

Besides that, he mentioned that he likes China not only for the attractive scenery, but also other differences there — the difference in food, the difference in culture… “It’s just interesting and fascinating, you know,” he said with smiling.

For Lewiston, Chinese is not his second language; he learned Spanish early in his life. The way he learned Spanish helped him to know the best way to learn a new language for himself: Practicing it in a language environment which is full of native speakers.

Here he can practice his Chinese with his Chinese students who are in the “Host Friends” program of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Zhejiao Wang, one of the “Host Friends” students of Lewiston said Lewiston is a nice and kind host, and he is interested in Chinese culture.

“The first time I received his email, he typed it with Pinyin and asked her some questions about Chinese culture and cuisines,” Wang said. “I have taught him Chinese for the past two years, and I can say he has made great progress on learning it.”

When asked to rate Lewiston’s Chinese on the scale of zero-to-ten, “I will probably rate him as seven to eight,” she said. “It’s a high score.”

When it comes to how he learns Chinese, Lewiston said, “I do a million of different things: I joined a program called ‘Chinese 101’, in which you can learn Chinese from conversations about the vocabularies and the tones; and I got an app on my iPad which can show you the structure of a character and there’s a Chinese dictionary on my phone which I could either use English or Pinyin to search… but the most helpful thing is to talk with you students, you know Chinese and English, but I can’t do it too often because you have your own study assignments and your own life.”

He always wants to go to China to learn Chinese, to know China better. Last year, when he decided to go to China, his wife fell ill.

He said he couldn’t study well and do anything complex for the past month, because his wife is died recently, but things are normal now. So he is going to see his daughter and son, then they will go to China this December.

Lewiston’s son graduated this year and is working in Minneapolis, his daughter is a teacher in Myanmar, so he and his son plan to go to Myanmar to meet his daughter first and then they will fly to China.


When talking about his trip to China, Lewiston’s excitement is obvious. He said he will go to Kunming, Lijiang, Shanghai and somewhere else to meet his Chinese students and learn Chinese culture.

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