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Monthly Archives: September 2011

I think Wednesday’s are officially “I’m dead” days.  Yesterday I slept about 5 hours during the day.  I’m just so wiped from early mornings.  Maybe if the music for exercises only last 10 or 15 minutes I could roll over and go back to sleep.  But no, that isn’t happening.  It goes on and on and on.  Sometimes there are announcements and sometimes there is just regular annoying music added on.  It could be more than an hour of non-stop aural assault.  So no classes on Wednesday and by 10AM I’m down for the count.  Shujie went out yesterday and I didn’t even hear her leave.

I even went for a walk after dinner yesterday.  I thought Shujie was going to have the big one when she asked me if I wanted to go out and I said yes.  That’s the first time I’ve done that on the first asking.  And what’s amazing is that even after all the sleep on Wednesday I can still fall asleep before 1AM.  This will not end but will continue for the year.  Oh joy, he said.

The topic of this week’s speeches for my students was “What do I like least about school”.  Everyone did their work (amazing) and the top 3 answers are:

  1. Getting up twice a week for morning exercises.
  2. The overcrowding and high prices in the cafeteria.
  3. The overcrowding which makes getting between classes difficult.

So the little monsters do have to exercise.  You can never get the same answer twice if you ask the same question twice.  The first time they told me they don’t exercise.  Now it seems that it’s mandatory twice a week and attendance is taken.  I think they should let the kids (and me) sleep.

At first I was shocked that they had to buy their own food and then I realized that it’s normal, even in the west.  You put money on your food card and it’s deducted from the card depending on what you eat.  The food isn’t great (as I’m told as I wouldn’t eat it).  The lines are long because there are so many people.  I guess feeding 12,000 people in two sittings is a lot.

I had kids write that the biggest dislike they had was that they had too many classes.  The boy who said that also said that he hardly has any homework so who knows what he’s complaining about.  It’s interesting to hear their “pet peeves”.  But I’m with them 100% on the exercise thing.

If you make a threat, you need to follow through on it.  I don’t do idle threats.  I’m very nice and easy and kind.  I try to be helpful and if a student says they have to take off for 20 minutes to do something, I just say goodbye.  If a student says they forgot their book with their homework, I ask them if they did it for real and if they say yes, I say “okay”.  I’m easy.

Now, I told them at the beginning of the year that I don’t like talking when I’m talking or their fellow students are talking.  I usually let it go as long as it isn’t too loud or doesn’t happen too often.  This morning there were 2 boys talking back and forth.  They were in different rows and one kept looking back at the other to speak.  I kept looking at them but didn’t say anything assuming they’d get the hint.  But like most students, they assume I’m stupid.

Finally I walked to the back where they were sitting and told them to leave the classroom.  One of the boys just looked at me and sat there.  So I sat down and told him I wasn’t moving until he left the classroom.  He slammed his books and his chair and left.  The other boy just left.  I think the class was shocked.  I asked one boy if any teachers ever kicked kids out of class and he told me, “in primary school, yes, in middle school, yes, but never in college”.  I confirmed this with another class.  So I guess I’m the crazy foreigner but if you tell them what the punishment is in advance, you need to follow through with it.

I called Wang Jing after class because even though I told her I would do this if necessary, I thought she should know in case it came to her through the grapevine.  She wanted the names of the students as someone was going to talk to them.  That’s fine with me.  I hope I don’t have to do it again since they now know I’m serious.

I also found out there was a big meeting with this class after my complaint about them on Monday.  So the class monitor who told me that no one had spoken to them probably didn’t understand me or just did the typical Chinese lie.  Big deal.  I’m not messing around.  They want an English teacher, I’m here.  They want a babysitter, get someone else.

My “philosophy” if you want to call it that is that my 2nd job in the classroom is to be an English teacher.  My first job is to get them to use their brains, which is no easy task.  I wonder if any of their teachers (and I have no idea) try to stretch their brains.  I want them thinking and I want to discuss things with them.  Of course, I need them to speak English so we can discuss.

I told the class that in the one month together that I thought they were smarter than they pretended to be, and that they knew more English than they claim to know if I make them speak.  I told them that they’ve improved in the last month.  I don’t know if this is true but I figure positive reinforcement won’t hurt.

I tried teaching a song this afternoon for a change of pace.  I wanted a song that could be understood (I printed out the lyrics for them) and that we could discuss.  I chose “Imagine” by John Lennon.  It really isn’t their type of music and it’s so hard to get a conversation going.  I gave them the lyrics and some time to review them and I’d answer any questions.  There were no questions.  I played the song the 1st time and asked for questions and almost keeled over when a girl put up her hand and asked a question.  Good for her.  I played the song again and tried to get a discussion going.  No chance.  So I’d ask questions and some of the bozos didn’t understand the questions which had to do with the lyrics they claimed to understand.  What idiots.  I told one boy that if you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know”.  One boy finally admitted he didn’t know and I told him, “see, I didn’t shoot you”, and made as if I had a gun to shoot him with.  You try and try to create an atmosphere where no one is afraid to talk or ask a question and it’s worse than pulling teeth.

I was surprised to learn that in this country of little religion most of the students believe there is a heaven.  I then asked them if they believed there was a hell and then immediately told them that there is and it’s called “Jiangsu Polytechnic College of Forestry and Agriculture”.  Most of them got it right away and laughed.  I was pleased.  More students believed in heaven than in hell (one girl told me heaven was nicer to believe in).  I found it interesting.

I then played snippets of various songs to try to get a feeling for what type of music they liked.  They didn’t really like anything and I have a very wide range of music on my Ipad.  However, they’d like to do a song again so we will but it’s my choice and they’ll have to deal with the music.  I’m considering doing “Like a Virgin” next since I can’t imagine any of them having sex (it’s like picturing 12 year olds having sex) and I want to see how embarrassed I can make them.  I’m also considering SLUT by Todd Rundgren.

In the morning it’s off for our week in Baoding.  Shujie’s friend is meeting us at the train station in Beijing to drive us to Baoding which is very kind of her and will save us a potential heap of trouble.  The roads and trains and buses should be quite crowded starting tomorrow.  Shujie is looking forward to it and I’ll survive it.  It seems she had bought a pair of running shoes for her son’s girlfriend but now that she’s no more, Shujie says she wants to keep them.  I told her she should give them to QiJi for his next girlfriend if the shoe fits.

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Pictured below is the unbelievably fine Mattress Pad from the Seelee Posturepain Company of Wuxi, China.  You can clearly see Carol at rest on this fine piece of workmanship valued at $125.  Carol loves her Seelee Mattress Pad as it changes her bed from the feeling of sleeping on concrete to the feeling of fine comfort found when sleeping on a wooden floor.

Shujie and I went out this morning to look for a mattress pad that she had told me we would never find in Jurong.  Chinese are such know-it-alls.  As we rode into the city on our fine new electric bicycle (Shujie drives and I’m the passenger), I noticed something I found strange but have been told it’s quite common for China.  There was a block we passed where every store was a shoe store.  We went into several bedding stores and they were all on the same street except a couple that were around the corner from that street.  The Chinese like to keep like stores close together because it’s easier for the shopper to look and compare.  I think it’s a bad business idea because if the shopper is tired they might just settle for your inferior product instead of just looking.

Every store we went into didn’t have what we were looking for.  They had some things they claimed were a pad but they weren’t even close.  Some stores would take out a pillow and ask if we were looking for a pad similar to the pillow.  When we said yes, they told us they didn’t sell them.  Weird.  At one store the man said he knew where we could get one and he led us to another store passing 3 bedding stores on the way.  Naturally they didn’t have what we wanted.  We went back to the 3 stores we passed and they didn’t have anything but one of the stores directed us to a place around the corner with the words (translated from the original Chinese), “if they don’t have it, nobody will”.  They didn’t have it.

As we left that store we passed two others and stopped in.  The first place didn’t have anything and the 2nd place knew right away what we wanted and went into their warehouse to get it.  It was what we were looking for.  The moral of the story is you have to go in every store to see what can be found, and don’t take anyone’s word for anything.

The price was a deal and Shujie of course wanted more for nothing.  She told them that her brother had bought one and that the store he bought it at added a couple of pillows for free to the deal.  Liar!  So, they gave us a couple of pillows.  “Bargaining in China” by Shujie Wang will be available at most bookstores next month.  I’d list the price here, but it’s negotiable.

Tonight will be the big test.  I’ll see how I sleep.  It seems to be an improvement but how much of an improvement remains to be seen.  And no matter how good it is, I’ll be up at 6:21AM listening to the fine musical offerings that the school shoves down our throats.

Yesterday was the start of another exciting week of work.  Things did not begin well for me.  In my first class I was annoyed and almost angry.  I don’t think I hid it either.  Some kids weren’t listening, some were talking, many didn’t do their homework, and in general they were annoying.  I asked them why they didn’t speak in class and the answers were lame.  They’re shy, their English isn’t good, and so on.  I keep telling them that they need to speak in order to get better but the truth is that many of them just don’t give a damn.  I can’t make them care and they need to motivate themselves.  I asked how many had classes on Saturdays when they study for the exams that will get them into University and I think 3 of 30 do.  So that says it all for the motivation.

After class I decided to visit the office and see Wang Jing (the woman who hired me).  I could have gone to the moron June (who I obviously have no respect for) as she is supposedly my contact in the English department.  However, because she never seems to listen to anything I say I thought it would be a waste of time.  I made the right choice.

Wang Jing and I met for about 30 minutes.  I wanted to know my options when it came to dealing with the useless students.  It’s not so much that they annoy me (but that’s bad), it’s that they waste my time and take time away that I can be spending with the students who care.  Wang Jing told me that she would speak to their lead teacher about them and I said “fine” but that wasn’t enough.  I needed a plan.  I asked her if I could get rid of them as in ban them from class.  She laughed and when I convinced her that I was serious she said I could.  That was good.

I also told her that June wasn’t good at listening to me and that I had offered at the beginning of the school year to work with more classes and so on.  I don’t have the hours that I committed to in our contract.  I know I’m the only foreign teacher here and that 2nd foreign teacher who they want doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.  That means many classes who are supposed to have a foreign teacher aren’t getting any.  She was surprised that I had offered my time and she thanked me.  I basically said they should make better use of me.  I also said that if the 2nd foreign teacher doesn’t appear I’m willing to work more than the hours I agreed to if they paid me accordingly.  I know they can since they’re not paying the 2nd teacher.  We shall see what happens after the holiday.  I just can’t believe how stupid they can be.  I swear I’m the only foreigner in the area and with 14 Chinese English teachers they should be utilizing their foreign English teacher.

So far I like Wang Jing.  Except for day one and the disgusting apartment that she fixed the next day, she’s done all she’s said she would do.  I have the time to work more as I only have 12 classes a week.  Since every 2 classes are combined into a 90-minute session, I think of it as 6 classes a week.  I have the time.  We shall see.  Wang Jing said she really appreciates that I appear to care and want to help.  We’ll see if that translates into a plan of action.

She also asked me if I had time to help a student.  I’ve offered all my students my “services” for extra time together to talk or whatever.  Not one of them has taken me up on it.  This is a student who I don’t have.  Since it was a tutoring thing I asked if I was to be paid by the student for it and she said the student couldn’t pay me.  I said, “okay, no problem”, and agreed to meet with her.  This is a student who has asked with no one pushing her for help to improve her English.  Of course I’m going to help.  She just might be the smartest kid on campus.  Not that I’m any great gift as a teacher but rather that she was trying to advance on her own initiative.

When I met with my 2nd class later in the day I was very sensitive to how they behaved.  I thought they were the better class and I was right.  I enjoy being with them (although I wished they were more outgoing).  I have more motivated students in this class and about 60% of them are studying to advance to University.  I like them and they make me smile.  I just wish I could remember more names.  I’m hopeless at names and they have English names.  I do know some names.  I just don’t know why I can’t get all of them, especially kids I really like and think stand out.  Very strange.

I have instituted a 3-strike rule in my classes.  I had to explain the baseball analogy but they got it.  It’s if you don’t do your homework 3 times, you’re banned from class.  Naturally I’m hoping some of them don’t do their homework but we’ll see.

This morning I had the class that annoyed me so much yesterday and at the break the class monitor approached me.  The class monitor is like the class president and speaks for the students.  She told me that I was angry yesterday and she wanted to apologize for her class’s behavior.  What was absurd about that was that this girl is a good student and I think it’s crazy that she’s apologizing for the class when it wasn’t the whole class who was at fault, just selected morons.  I asked her if anyone had said anything to her about apologizing and she said no.  I’m to believe that the class decided on it’s own that they screwed up and decided to apologize.  It’s possible but I’ll never know.

They were much better today.  One of them didn’t do his homework so that’s strike one.  I think 2 more classes and he’s out.  That’s good.  Everyone else had done their homework.  I was quite amazed.  I did give them a short essay to do yesterday that is due Thursday on “Why do I study English”.  It has to be typewritten and handed in.  I told them if they don’t do it, to stay away from class.  I’m curious to see if they all come through.

Tonight I had my first tutoring session with my new student who goes by the name of Beata.  Don’t ask me.  She’s a cute kid who is a 3rd year student studying Tea Art.  What the hell is Tea Art?  It’s the art of making tea.  Tea making has a long tradition and there are many ways to brew different kinds of tea.  It appears she has a job lined up for when she graduates so that’s good.  Her English is horrible but she’s motivated so that’s good enough for me.  You can see the change after just one hour.  They’re more relaxed and using the words they know much better and picking up a couple of new words.  If only all the students could be taught one on one.

We will meet weekly for 1 hour.  I think she wanted more but once is enough.  Shujie came with me because I wanted her to see an example of someone who basically knew no English 3 ½ years ago and can now speak pretty well.  However, Shujie gets a little excited and was talking a little too much including working with Beata a little to help her pronounce her words more clearly.  I told Shujie after she needs to speak less and to not teach pronunciation.  That should be me.  She didn’t speak Chinese, as that was the rule if she wanted to come.  I think it’s good if Beata hears 2 voices speaking English but Shujie has to speak less and I’m the one who needs to be mimicked.

My step-son (that is so weird to say) and his girlfriend have broken up.  One of the things we had to do in Baoding next week was go to dinner with the girl’s parents.  I thought that was crazy as they weren’t engaged but this is China.  Apparently the mother was the big problem.  The mother was upset that Shujie’s son never came over unless the daughter was home.  That makes sense.  The mother also returned all the gifts that QiJi (the son) had given the daughter.  Why the mother?  Because these people are crazy and parents of my generation and a little younger love to interfere and run their children’s lives.  Hopefully QiJi and his generation will let their children run their own lives.  Shujie says she’s pleased by this development as she felt the mother was playing too big a part in the relationship and there would be trouble ahead.  She was on the phone with him a long time yesterday and again today.  I think (without being able to understand what’s being said) that they have a good and close relationship.  That’s another member of her family whom I wish I could communicate with.  I’m so happy that Shujie is getting to see and spend time with her family.

So no school tomorrow.  Six classes on Thursday and Friday we blow this pop stand for the filth of Baoding.  We’ll be gone a week and Shujie is looking forward to it.  There will be no one for me to speak to as all her friends don’t speak English and her older brother and son don’t speak English.  But this is all fine with me.  I feel good seeing her spending time with the people she cares about and I can just let my mind wander.  Hell, I can even bring a book and read and who can blame me.  It’s not that I’ll miss any part of the conversation.

Friday morning we were on our bus at 7:50AM for the 3-hour ride to Shanghai.  It was, as advertised, approx. 3 hours to get there.  The extra time past the 3 hours was spent fighting traffic in Shanghai.  Cars, cars, everywhere there’s cars.  It’s incredible.  To think that just 10 years ago this was a bicycle-riding nation.  Now they’re car crazy.  I think if you own a car and use it in Shanghai that you’re crazy.  The subway has 12 different lines so getting anywhere has to be quicker by subway.  Even standing on a jam-packed subway has to be better.

Our driver had some sort of mental deficiency.  This was confirmed this afternoon, as he was our driver on the return trip.  He is having some sort of illicit love affair with his horn.  He honks at everything.  I had such a headache.  I was in the front seat and I could see out the front window and I couldn’t figure out what he was honking at.  If a car was in the next lane, he’d honk as if it was in his way.  If a car were in front of him, he’d honk.  If the road were clear he would honk (just to stay in practice I’m sure).  What an idiot.

We took a taxi to my brother-in-law’s place and Shujie’s mother was outside waiting for us.  I went across the road and gave her a big hug and she hugs back.  I think she loves my hugs.  I’m sure I’m the only one besides her husband who has ever hugged her.  Chinese people aren’t known for the natural displays of affection.  After Shujie paid the taxi driver she gave her mother a sort of hug.  Different cultures but who can explain it, who can ever try?

Here’s the old bat.  Actually I think she’s a very sweet and kind woman.

Her brother and sister-in-law were home and her nephew was still at school.  It was nice to see everyone as they’re all wonderful people and it was great to see Shujie with her family.  Her sister-in-law is such a soft-spoken woman.  She is very un-Chinese in this way.  She doesn’t talk quickly and her voice doesn’t assault your eardrums.  I think most Chinese are loud.  I guess when you’re competing with 1.3 billion people you have to be loud.  Shujie is the loudest in her family but you’d never know it from the “Canadian” Shujie.  It is an adjustment and it does get on my nerves at times.  She loves to argue with taxi drivers, vendors, waitresses, everyone.  Everything is a tough negotiation.  I’m digging my nails (which are too short) into her leg when she carries on and she tells me that she doesn’t want anyone trying to cheat her.  The rest of her family is quiet so she’s the one that doesn’t really go together.  But, she is softer with her family.

There were tomatoes out for me to snack on.  They know I like tomatoes so they were there.  There was Coke Zero for me as I’m a diabetic.  There were oranges in case I had a sugar low.  We didn’t sleep in the spare room as her brother and sister-in-law insisted we take their room.  It’s easier to give in even if it makes me feel very uncomfortable.

Since it was close to lunch time her brother insisted I have a cheeseburger for lunch.  So he calls McDonalds (they deliver).  I asked for a Big Mac and fries and he got me 3 Big Mac’s.  After all, why stop at one.  I did.  Fortunately their son ate one later and had the 3rd for breakfast on Saturday morning.

It’s like I’m the child who has to be kept happy.  Whatever Martin wants, that’s what we want to do.  I hate that.  I just want to be one of the crowd.  If we go out for a Chinese dinner, I can find something to eat.  We don’t have to go to a lousy Chinese “Western” restaurant that no one likes because they want me to have steak.  It’s just too nice.  I can’t pay for anything.  Their bed had a mattress pad that made it quite comfortable so they wanted us to take in back to Jurong.  I won that fight.  I don’t complain.  I don’t lie either.  If I don’t like something I won’t pretend I do but I don’t complain and it’s no big deal.  I want the group to be happy, not just me.

It’s just too much kindness.  I can’t take it.

Their son came home after school.  He’s 17 and goes to a high school that affiliated with a high school in British Columbia.  Half his teachers are Canadians and he learns in English.  His classes in Chinese are reviews of what they’ve learned in English to be sure they understand.  He learns math, science and everything in English.  The plan is for him to pass the examination that will allow him to go to a Canadian University and study there.  He is a very pleasant boy and more mature than my students, I believe.  He told me his grandmother wants him to be a doctor (like she was) but he’s not sure what he wants to be.  I told him that in the West that’s quite normal and most people don’t decide until after their 1st year of University.

While his grandmother is visiting for these 2 months they share a room.  In fact, I think they share a big bed.  It’s quite normal I’m told and he’s not bothered by it.  I think it’s kind of yucky but on the other hand, it is kind of nice.  It shows a love and closeness between them.

For dinner they insisted we go out to a steak restaurant.  Why?  Because of me.  Shujie, her mother, and her sister-in-law wouldn’t order steak.  Her nephew (Steven) ordered chicken.  Her brother (Frank) ordered steak but I know he doesn’t like steak.  He told me that isn’t exactly true.  When he travels outside China he can enjoy a steak because the beef is much better.  And I ordered steak.

When you order steak here and they ask you how you’d like it done, you don’t say things like, “medium” or “rare” or “well-done”.  You give a percentage.  I gave 80% thinking that meant medium-well.  Not quite.  It means a little bit of the steak is cooked and the rest is talking to you.  I looked at Frank’s and his looked cooked so I asked him what he asked for and he told me 100%.  So 100% cooked means medium.  Makes sense?  Only in China.

Shujie got a chance to complain to the waitress about my steak since I wouldn’t eat it and the waitress told her it was 80% just like I asked.  After further negotiations they took it back for further cooking and I got medium-rare.  I kept my mouth shut and said it was fine.  It was pretty bad.  There is no way we should have been there.  I would have been much happier at a place where 5 out of 6 people could have enjoyed their meal.  But we have to keep Martin happy.

After dinner Steven and his mother went home because he had homework to do.  Actually what he did was help his mother clean the apartment.  That was nice.  The four of us went to the Bund (an area of very nice lighted buildings wasting thousands of dollars of electricity).  It’s busy down there with people walking around and during holidays I’m told it’s jam-packed.  As we’re talking I take a look at the 3 others in our group and realize that for the first time in my life that in a group of 4 adults, I’m the tallest.  What a shock.  I’m looking down at everyone.  It was the strangest feeling.

After walking around for a while on a beautiful evening we headed back.  Shujie and I to the master bedroom and Frank and his wife (I forget her name) to the spare room to sleep on cushions on the floor.  What was I to do?  Fight with them?

On Saturday morning I went with Steven to a confectionary exhibition.  He wanted to go because he has a fondness for sweets and I went along because he’s a nice kid and it’s something different to do.  There really wasn’t that much but I bought a bit or rather I should say, he bought for me.  My money was no good.  We went into Starbuck’s first where I had my first coffee since arriving (2 double espresso’s) and he had a coffee.  I got to pay so I guess he was sleeping for that part.  I did get to see some of the famous Chinese Kosher candy.

From there we met the four others at a department store somewhere and after walking around a bit, we headed to another area of town Frank said was quite nice.  First we stopped for a traditional Chinese lunch.  You can see the picture of how busy these traditional Chinese places get at lunch.

After that we walked further to this alley full of shops and people offering to sell you a Rolex for about $30, which is quite a deal.  Shujie, Steven, and I partook of that famous Chinese ice cream dessert as you can see in the picture below.

After that we paid (or rather Frank did) to enter this lovely garden.  It was a beautiful day and quite nice to walk around the area and see the buildings and the rock displays and the ponds and the fish and so on.  I got to see some ideal furniture that is a must for anyone who doesn’t want their guests to overstay their welcome.

We were there for more than 2 hours and before we left it was time for a final trip to the washroom.  I try to avoid public washrooms in China due the fact that most of them are disgusting (except in places like McDonalds).  But I risked it and I’m glad I did.  The place was spotless.  You could have eaten off the floor.  It was an amazing experience.  It was nicer than the 5 star washroom I once went into in Beijing.  I’m serious.  There was a sign outside the washroom for the tourist board that gave the washroom a 5 star rating.  A most pleasant surprise.

Here’s Frank and I in the garden.

We headed for the subway to make our way to dinner.  I was told (after insisting we eat where everyone wanted to eat) that we were going to a Chinese restaurant that would also have barbeque.  I like when they grill some lamb and beef and potatoes.  We went to this area with lots of restaurants that were of the Japanese and Taiwanese variety.  The Japanese places were out since Shujie’s mother won’t eat Japanese food.  I can understand and respect that.  It’s like many Jews won’t but German products.  Since her mother was alive during the Japanese invasion I can see here still harboring a strong dislike of them.  Shujie was trying to get her mother to go into a Japanese place for me and I told her to not push her mother and that she should respect her mother’s wishes.  How did I know what was going on?  Steven was giving me the blow by blow.

We ended up in a Taiwanese place that had no barbeque.  That was fine with me since I knew everyone would be quite happy.  There was a picture of some fish that looked quite appetizing and Shujie told me that it was similar to a fish I’ve had here that I liked.  She lied.  I tried a couple of new things (and didn’t like them) and I tasted the fish and then learned it was eel.  I ate eel.  Was it gross?  Yes.  Did it make me feel ill?  Yes.  Did I complain?  No.  I’ve eaten eel and now my life can go on.

Frank did order a pepper beef dish that was fantastic so I was thrilled.  If there’s one thing I can eat, I’m quite happy and figure I’ve won.  The steak restaurant was horrible but the beef at this place was fantastic.

After dinner we walked back to the apartment.  All in all I was out about 12 hours and it was a beautiful day.  It was nice to spend the day at a beautiful place with some wonderful people.

We sat up and talked for a while or rather they talked and I just zoned out.  Frank was worried it was boring for me but I told him that I enjoyed it because it meant I didn’t have to pay attention and be ready to speak but could just let my mind wander without being rude.

This morning I was told we would eat lunch at 11:30 and leave for the bus station at 12:30.  Naturally they have to ask me what to eat for lunch.  I had a craving for pizza and Frank had told me he liked Pizza Hut so I suggested pizza.  I thought we were going there but they ordered take-out.  The ordering process took about 15 minutes on the phone as they debated with the Pizza Hut people about ordering me a pizza with just tomatoes and onions on it.  If it’s not on the menu the Chinese have a hard time with substitutions.  Usually it requires a visit to the manager and the chef to get it approved.  Finally the order was placed and 30 minutes later the pizza arrived.  Guess what?  Pizza Hut screwed up and I said I wouldn’t eat what they sent but that was okay.  I don’t like corn and some of the other things they had on my pizza.  So they called and had an argument about getting the right pizza sent over.  Finally it arrived and everyone was happy because I was happy.

When it was time to leave everyone came downstairs including the sister-in-law who was still in her pajamas.  I’m glad she feels so comfortable.  For the first time she spoke English with me and I had always suspected she could speak some English.  Frank speaks some English, as his job requires doing business in Europe.  I gave everyone a hug including my sister-in-law along with a kiss on the cheek.  I’m sure that’s the first time she’s been kissed by a non-family member who isn’t her mother or husband.  I think she liked it.  I’m lucky to have a family of in-laws who are all extremely nice to me and seem like extremely nice people.

It was nice to escape all that kindness.  I’ve had enough kindness to last me a year.  Hopefully the next time they won’t treat me as a V.I.P. but just another family member.

When we got back we went out for dinner at one of my favorite places, on the street.  You can get a bunch of grilled things for next to nothing.  We had lamb, chicken, and potatoes and were stuffed for about $5.  I do love the street meat here.

Here’s a final look at me in the garden gazing out at y’all.  Back to work tomorrow.  Holidays start next Friday.  Life is rough.

Compared to Korea I’m hardly doing any complaining.  I took a quick inventory tonight with Shujie and decided I could have done much worse.  Granted this isn’t the best educational institution around and I’m living in a town where I’m sure I’m the only white guy, but it could be worse.

Here are my major complaints at this point.

  1. The music blasting at 6:21 every morning.  For the exercises that none of my students (at last count) go to.  Why bother?  I really should take a walk one morning and see how many of the 12,000 are out there exercising.  Seven?  Twelve?
  2. The bed.  If only I could wake up one morning pain free from not sleeping on a slab of concrete.  I don’t want to buy my own mattress but I’m tempted.
  3. The couch.  It would be nice to have somewhere to sit down and relax but this couch isn’t the place.  It’s just another slab of concrete masquerading as a couch.

That’s it.  That’s the big 3.  And if that’s the big 3 then I’m not doing too bad.  My salary of almost $966 a month might be one of the highest salaries on campus.  I base that on knowing that a professor friend of Shujie’s who works at a University earns ½ of that.  The Korean teacher earns $644 a month.  One of the Chinese English teachers is thrilled when he gets extra classes to teach and earns between $8 and $13 an hour.  So many colleges and universities pay their English teachers (the white people kind) about $644 a month.  I figure this place pays higher because no one is crazy enough to move here.

The National Day is on October 1st and you traditionally get 3 days off work.  They wrap it around a weekend to give you 5 days off (if you’re lucky enough to not work on a weekend).  The official word here just came down.  They don’t like to let you know too far in advance when the holidays are.  It seems we get the whole week (Monday to Friday) off.  Since we are only supposed to get Monday to Wednesday and they are nice enough to throw in Thursday and Friday, they want something back in return.  We work Saturday and Sunday.  Saturday will have Thursday’s classes and Sunday will have Friday’s classes.

I told Shujie that was nuts and she said it’s fair because the school is being nice and adding 2 days on so you can be away longer.  I come from a culture where if your company gives you a day off that you didn’t ask for, they don’t ask you to work another day in return.  We argued a little about that.  These people are nuts.  You know why they work 6 days a week for about 10 hours a day?  Because they can’t do a regular 40 hour week in less than 60 hours or more.  I think it’s idiotic but Hu Jintao won’t discuss it with me.

I asked the kids today if they liked the movie (Magnificent Seven) on Tuesday night.  Those that came said yes.  Are they being honest?  Who knows because I don’t.  I’ll see how many show up next time.  I asked the ones that didn’t come why they didn’t and one boy said it was because I didn’t tell them the name of the movie.  So I said it was “The Magnificent Seven” and if he knew that would he have come?  He just looked perplexed.  So next time I’ll tell them the name and a little about the movie in advance and see if that makes a difference.

In my afternoon class today ½ the kids weren’t there because they had to go to an extra accounting class.  That’s all fine and good but it would be nice if I knew these things in advance.  One of the students told me that this would be the last time.  What it means is I can’t teach the lesson I sort have had planned and I just have to sit and blabber with them for 90 minutes.  It’s a good thing I can talk but sometimes I just run out of things.  If I’m lucky some kids will ask questions or take part in a discussion like what computer games do you play.  These kids are quite immature in my opinion compared to Western kids.  I would put them somewhere between my 15-year-old niece and 17 year old nephew.  My nephew is more mature than them.  I’m not really trying to be insulting but rather just sharing how I see them.

Our area of apartments has a security building when you come in.  At least I think it’s a security building.  It’s some concrete hovel where some people sit and stand around.  Anyhow there is this very nice woman who works there.  She’s nice because she says hello to me (in Chinese because she doesn’t know English) and she always has a smile for me.  That’s all it takes to show kindness when you don’t share a common language.  Shujie asked her today if she could store her motor scooter there while we’re away and she told Shujie yes.  Shujie took it over tonight and the woman showed her how to get it in some sort of basement there.  That was very kind of her.  We had an extra box of moon cakes that I got for the mid-Autumn festival so Shujie took them back and gave them to her.  Shujie said she was very appreciative.

Then there are the guards in uniform at the gate I walk through in the morning.  If a car drives in, they salute.  If a teacher rides in on their scooter, they salute.  If I walk in they just ignore me.  It’s like I’m invisible.  So there are the 2 polar opposites of how people are towards foreigners they don’t share a language with.  I like the woman’s way.

We’re off to Shanghai in the morning and Shujie told me that her brother wants to give us his bedroom.  And they want to take me out for steak.  And they want to take us out for a good crab dinner.  I hate being pampered because I don’t know how to respond.  I appreciate it but it’s too much.  Shujie and I can sleep in the spare bedroom but her brother wants us to have their bedroom because there’s an attached bathroom.  I was wrong and there are 2 bathrooms in the apartment.

And steak?  I’m the only one who likes steak although her mother enjoys it.  I think her mother enjoys all food.  But they don’t have to pamper me.  Even though I don’t like Chinese food I’m perfectly willing to go and dine at a Chinese restaurant and eat a plate of rice.  I would feel less conspicuous.  They are going to kill me with kindness.

So if they could only kill the music and give me a bed where I could get a good night’s sleep I’d be thrilled.  It’s not going to happen but I can dream.  Oh wait, I can’t dream because I can’t sleep well enough to get into the dream state.  But if that’s the worst, then things aren’t too bad, are they?

Yesterday, Monday, began a new week.  A new week filled with hopes and dreams.  A new week waiting to fill us with wonder and awe and the sights and sounds we behold around us.  Get off it.  It’s just another week of the same old crap.

I actually think one of my classes is starting on the small road to improvement.  I asked them if they thought the little speeches that they have to give are helping them, and they said yes.  Of course, they might just be being polite or they might just be liars.  We shall see.  They do some to be catching on to my humour and silliness, which is good.  After a student gives there little speech I make them ask for questions.  No one but me ever asks questions although yesterday was the first time a question came from a student.  I keep coming up with different ways to raise my hand recalling my days gone by of being in class.  You know, the “ooh, ooh, me teacher” way as putting your hand up.  Then I lay down on the seats and put my leg up.  Anything for a cheap laugh.

The other class is still too early to call.  I did have 6 out of 30 students who didn’t prepare anything as opposed to my other class where all 36 were prepared.  I’m not ready to give up on them as it’s still early, but the bigger class has taken the lead.

As I was asking at the beginning of class what they did on the weekend I had many replies that they had a class or an exam.  Since the class is always together Monday to Friday I was getting a little confused.  I think what it all boils down to is that if they pass a Math exam, an English exam, and a Computer exam they can leave this school and go to any University in the province.  I was pleased to see that so many students seem to be aiming for this.  There may be hope for them.

After my morning class I had about a 2-hour nap.  I am extremely tired after my morning class.  Today I had a 5-hour nap.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Sounds like I might be sick, doesn’t it?  I think what it is, is that my sleep at night is not good due to the rock like mattress and I can’t sit and relax on the couch as it’s so uncomfortable.  I might just be so damned tired.  I mean, 5 hours is silly for a nap but it did feel good.  I don’t know why I can’t adjust to the discomfort of the mattress but it appears I can’t.  I do hope it changes soon.

Shujie says she’s taking the job that pays nothing at the school.  She went to talk with one of the owner’s yesterday and although I don’t quite understand how it works, she says she’s working there.  I asked when she starts and she said they don’t talk about that.  I asked her what her hours were and she said they don’t talk about that.  Sometimes it’s best to just ignore it all and just let things happen.

She did get a call today from an import/export company that wants to interview her so she’s going tomorrow morning.  So even though she has a job she can change her job.  I guess that’s good.  It puts her in a position of strength when interviewing knowing she has something she wants behind her.  I guess I’ll see what happens and maybe one day begin to understand it.

Tonight was my first “movie night”.  I chose “The Magnificent Seven” because it’s great and the story is simple.  We went to the “language lab” where someone met us there to set up.  This room has a monitor on every desk along with headphones.  There is also a projector so you can see the film on the “big” screen.  We put the DVD in the DVD player and it seems the set-up guy couldn’t figure out how anything worked and the speakers in the room were useless.  So we switched to the computer where you could see the DVD controls (pause and so-on), and listened on headphones.

Shujie thought, and I agree, that we would show the English subtitles.  However, this DVD had no English subtitles so it was listening only.  I think about 20 to 25 students came so I was impressed.  I gave a 2-minute talk about the movie as I didn’t want them to feel this was a class.  Shujie basically told them what I said in Chinese.  The students were a little “shocked” that there were no Chinese subtitles.  As I’ve said, these aren’t the most imaginative kids in the world.  Why would I show Chinese subtitles for an English film where I’m trying to expose them to English?

They all left at the end like they were afraid there would be a test or something.  I just wanted to know how many enjoyed the film.  I really have no way of knowing.  And there is no way I’ll remember on Thursday who was there tonight.  I guess the test will be in two weeks when I show my next film.  Shujie says I should make sure there are English subtitles before taking the film to show.  I agree.

I think later on in the year I might show them “From Here to Eternity” with Chinese subtitles.  The movie is just so good and without the subtitles it would be very difficult for them to understand.  I’d like to expose them to excellent classic films.  But I won’t do this for a while, as I don’t want them to think they are going to get Chinese subtitles all the time.  I’m pretty this one has Chinese subtitles since many of the older films from Columbia Studios have subtitles in Chinese.  Why?  I don’t know.

There was some talking and the voices bounce off the walls and you can hear it even with the headphones on.  I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to be a policeman, but I did want to bust one kids head.  I knew it wasn’t going to be good when I saw him get there since he’s the one student I ignore because he knows no English and even though it’s college, I’m not sure he’s playing with a full deck.

His voice was the loudest and I just decided that I will let him know that he is not allowed to come to any more “movie nights”.  No warning.  Just total ejection.  It’s my movie and I want to enjoy it.  He bugs me and he’s given me reason to ban him.  If he would have come and sat quietly I’d have no problem.  But as I said, there’s always one.  One who will annoy you and who just rubs you the wrong way.  I don’t want to think it’s because he knows no English.  Rather I think it’s his “I don’t give a damn” way of looking.  I can’t figure out why he’s in school.  Maybe he’s a genius in disguise and if that’s the case, it’s a pretty good disguise.

Tomorrow there are no classes for me.  I hope I can fall asleep tonight after my 5-hour nap.  Shujie got our train tickets for the high-speed train from Nanjing to Beijing for September 30th.  I’m so glad I insisted she be there for 3PM when they went on sale as opposed to waiting for tomorrow.  She said she was 6th in line and 2 minutes after she got there; there was a huge line behind her.  So we’re in this Podunk town of 1 million with a line for tickets and there must have been lines in all the other Podunk towns, not to mention in Nanjing itself.  So I was right and she was wrong.  I only mention this she thinks she knows everything about China and the Chinese and while I admit she does know much more than me, she doesn’t know everything.  After all, how can I ever understand taking a job without a starting date or known working hours?  It can be confusing.

Sunday evening and another wild weekend in Jurong.  Actually not really.  The weather has cooled down and we actually felt a little cold this evening.  On Friday night and Saturday night we watched movies from Netflix.  It’s like never leaving Canada.  But tomorrow is Monday and another week of work begins.

Next weekend we’ll head to Shanghai to visit and stay with Shujie’s younger brother and his family (wife, son), and Shujie’s mother who is there for the next 2 months.  It means 6 people sharing 1 washroom but other than that it should be nice.  It’s only about a 3-hour bus ride so I think we’ll survive that.

Yesterday which was Saturday we went out to look at cars.  Why cars?  I don’t know.  My cheap wife thought that maybe getting a car would be a good idea.  We went looking at used cars and there was very little to choose from and more than I was willing to pay.  Then Shujie tells me that Chinese built cars are cheap.  Cheap is good and if it’s new there is a warranty so no worries.  So we went to the new car area.

The first thing we looked at was a Hyundai, which isn’t Chinese but Korean.  The price was reasonable but much more than I was willing to pay.  We went into a Chinese car dealership and we asked what a car we were looking at cost.  They told us 50,000RMB (about $7800) and then they revised the price when asked again to 54,000RMB.  I insisted we leave since they were stupid jerks in my viewpoint.  I then told Shujie that was why so many people disliked Chinese.  You see, you can’t trust people like the car guys and unfortunately you don’t remember the good people as well as you remember the bad people.  So these idiots make over 1 billion people look bad.

We then went into another Chinese car place where they were much more pleasant, helpful, and professional.  After browsing a few cars we were invited to sit down by the fan (it was hot) and they brought us water.  We chatted and it was quite pleasant.  Actually I didn’t chat much as no one really spoke English.  One guy knew a little so he asked me where I was from.  I always enjoy interfacing with the locals.

I asked Shujie why she felt we “needed” a car.  She thought it was a good idea for when we travel.  Now we won’t be travelling every week and if we do travel to a big city, we won’t drive in the city.  It just seemed silly to me (I can’t believe I was being logical) to spend more than 1 year’s salary on a car for going away a few times when we can take trains and buses like the common people.  She agreed with me and the car idea went out the window.

We went out to the street to catch a taxi and there were none around and none driving by.  Shujie went back into the car dealership to see if they could call us a taxi and someone there (I think he was just visiting) offered to drive us.  That’s what gets so confusing here.  Sometimes people show such great kindness doing things that we Westerner’s would never think of doing.

Today, we went to a open air fruit and vegetable market this morning.  It was quite small with not many things to choose from.  It was a huge disappointment.  We came home and decided to go and look at electric bikes.  These are bicycles with a battery that works a motor.  They travel at about 40km an hour (if you want) and the battery lasts for about 50km.  It takes about 8 hours for a full charge.

We tried looking for a decent used one but we had no luck.  We went into a few shops (there are lots since everyone and their sister has one) and browsed.  We finally were ready to take a “test drive”.  Shujie rode first and thought it was fine.  Then I went.  I almost fell.  It’s not like riding a bicycle.  It’s like riding some sort of hybrid bicycle-motorcycle.  I need to work on my balance.

We kind of liked this one but I wanted to walk away and think about it.  We went to another place we had visited to test drive and just Shujie rode it.  In the mall.  They didn’t want it to be on the road.  I don’t think you can make much of a judgment by crawling through the crowds in the mall.  She thought it was okay but it was tough to judge.

There was one other place I wanted to visit.  It was one we went into last week where I thought the saleslady was quite nice and helpful.  Since we were now being serious I thought we should revisit her and see if she could earn our business.

She was very pleasant and helpful again.  Shujie told her it was my idea to come back since I thought she was quite pleasant.  She appreciated the compliment.  We looked at a few of them and one of them stood out.  Shujie test-drove it (I wasn’t going to risk wiping out) and she liked it.  We decided to purchase it.  It was about $425 but now we would be part of the Chinese masses.  It fit the two of us comfortably.  It has a remote starter and it locks.  It also has an anti-theft siren.  It’s quite the cat’s pajamas.

Shujie went into negotiation mode and I admit I didn’t like what she used.  She thought that since I came back because I liked the saleslady, she should show her appreciation by giving us a small discount.  These people are shameless.  So it worked and we got the small discount but I wasn’t comfortable with my kind thoughts being used as a negotiating tool.

We rode our new toy home and are now settled in.  We have local transportation and I’ll have to practice before I’m roadworthy.  I’m quite content to let Shujie be the driver as it couldn’t be worse than her car driving (it isn’t).

The pictures below are of our new baby.  We’re heading out on the highway and looking for adventure.  I guess we’re just born to be wild.

The Beast

Side view of the Beast

Fashion and Power. It says it all!

My weekend began yesterday.  Isn’t it great when you don’t work Friday?  Or Saturday.  Or Sunday.  I must have 1,000 things to fill my many empty hours.  I try to think of things.  I have my Canadian job but I haven’t really gone back to that yet.  I don’t feel inspired (and I never will).  I want the money but I don’t want to work.  It’s quite the dilemma.

On Wednesday evening I got a text message from a student that said, and I quote, “hello teacher, can you give me your Email address?  I have a very important things to tell you now”.  I naturally responded in the affirmative and sent him (or her) my email address.  Then I got a 2nd message that said, “ok I will give you a email soon.  If I send you I will tell you”.  I replied, “okay”.  Then I got a 3rd message that said, “teacher I have sended the email”.

This was the email.  The subject was Application.  Here it is in it’s unedited version:

“i am sorry teacher ,i want to tell you something.i want to tell you something.i want to apply for not on your class.because ,i am not going to abroad .and also,i will attend a great many of national exam .for example at the end of september .i will go to participate in national accounting licence test. november  i will take part in the uniform national computer exam.the end of december ,i will attend national exam of turn to the undergraduate course .i know ,i am really took the liberty of you .but ,i think the usual afther school time really is not enough .i do not have the meaning of hating you and your class.

our class students do not attend these test . these are all i signed up for .it is better for after  further education.

teacher please consider my idea.”

I admit I struggled with it a little and wasn’t 100% sure I understood so because of my caring nature I replied thus to some student that I had no idea who they were.

“Hi there;

I am having trouble understanding what you’re asking me.  I think I know but I want to be sure.

Please write me in Chinese and tell me exactly what you’re asking me so I can be sure I understand it.  Also please give me your English name because I don’t know the Chinese names.

Thank you,

Martin”

I thought that was fair.  He could explain to me in Chinese, Shujie could translate, and I could be 100% sure of what was being asked.  This student replied to my email with:

“ok teacher .i will meet you to talk about it tomorrow.”

So much for trying to be helpful and make it easy for them.  Needless to say that no student approached me on Thursday to tell me that sent the email and to ask me what they wanted.  I didn’t ask who sent me an email since I didn’t want to deal with what I thought it was since I was of two minds on it.

What I think it was, was that a student was serious about their accounting classes (they are in the business class) and they have big exams coming up that require a lot of study time.  They want to well so they can go to university.  Therefore they wanted to be excused from any homework I might assign (which is nightly).

Part of me wants to say “no problem”.  Go and study for what’s important to your future.  The other part of me says “forget it because you’re in English class and life is full of difficulties and you need to use time management and handle everything”.  What I was going to do was discuss it with the person who is responsible for me.  I don’t know if they would ask such a thing of a Chinese teacher, and if so, what the proper thing to do was.

But how important was it because it wasn’t mentioned the next day.  Interesting.  In my last class yesterday I had 14 students present and 22 absent.  Where were they?  It seems they have a big computer exam this weekend so they had an opportunity to go to the computer lab and study (or to take a study class).  I think what this exam is about, is getting a piece of paper they hope assists them in getting a job.  The 14 who didn’t go aren’t taking the exam since they feel they don’t have sufficient computer skills to pass.  It would be nice if the school would tell me that these things will happen occasionally.

Now I’m certainly not going to complain about only 14 students.  I threw my lesson plan (such as it was) out the window and sat at a desk close to the students to try and get some conversation going.  I asked each of them to tell me something about China they didn’t think I knew, or something that was interesting in China.  I just get the feeling that these kids lack imagination or the ability to think outside the small town.  I got answers like “food” and some cities to visit.  One student told me that the customs here have changed very quickly.  He said that if you were Chinese and went abroad 10 years ago and just returned, you wouldn’t recognize China.  I thought that was an intelligent answer and showed some thinking process.  Now his accent wasn’t the easiest to understand and his English was fairly basic, but he had something to say and he worked at saying it.  That’s what I’m looking for.  To hit on that something that interests them and inspires them to work at speaking.  It happened to me in a class in Korea where the students felt strongly about the conflict with the Japanese over some islands in dispute.  It was great to see them work so hard to express their thoughts since it was so important to them.  This one student yesterday had something to say and he wasn’t going to let his poor English get in the way.  And if you do that, your English does get better.  I just don’t know how to get unimaginative kids to be imaginative.

I told the class yesterday (not the small group) that I wanted to find things that interested them and were more adult than having speeches on “Who is your best friend”.  I threw out (since I like to amuse myself) that we needed to talk about sexually transmitted diseases.  That went right over their heads as I knew it would, but what’s bad is that no one asks.  And if they had asked, I would have told them.  After all I was just told to be careful with religion and politics.  Sex wasn’t mentioned.

I’d like to do a virginity survey but I don’t think I will.  I don’t want to scare them.  These kids are 20 and 21 and when I asked if any of them ever thought about marriage all of them looked at me like I was nuts.  Don’t we all picture ourselves married long before we get married or even know who we’re marrying?  I did mention the Chinese problem of there being millions more males than females (due to the fact of families throwing their newborn daughters in the garbage because they want a son and they can only have one child).  I didn’t mention the “girls in the garbage” and it seemed only 1 student was aware of the lack of balance between men and women.  He was the one who told me about rapidly changing customs.  I said it was very sad that many men will never marry (not enough women) and will never have a date.  That didn’t inspire any conversation.  I know that I’ll stop across an icebreaker sooner or later, but I hope it’s sooner.

I have to do something to help with their accents.  I just have such a hard time understanding them due to the fact that so many speak barely above a whisper and the sound in the disgusting classrooms bounces all over the place.

I went online last night seeing if there were places I could see free streaming movies online.  I don’t want to download movies because it takes so long and the Internet here sucks.  I taught some kids the word “sucks” yesterday.  Slang is good.  I had no luck finding anything decent.  Then I saw I could get an Amazon Prime membership for $79 for the year after a 1-month trial.  This would allow me thousands of free movies to stream (which means there might be 100 or so worth watching).  So I signed up and went to watch something to check it out.  Ha Ha on me.  You have to be in the U.S. to use the service.  There are many things that require you to be in the U.S. to use their service plus we have the weird blocking of sites here.

So I started to search for ways to “spoof” my IP address to a U.S. address.  Spoofing is when you hide your IP address (your Internet address that identifies where you are).  I saw nothing worthwhile.  I downloaded a few demos that were useless.  Then I stumbled across people who had signed up for a VPN service.  A VPN is a virtual private network.  What that is, is that you connect to an address, sign in, and then use their IP address.  I found one that I signed up for 1 week for $5 to check it out.  I don’t trust anything.

It worked.  It worked quite well.  I could get on Facebook and Blogger without a problem.  Of course I’m using WordPress for this blog and I rarely look at Facebook but I didn’t like the fact that the government could block my access.  I went to Amazon Prime and my free 1-month membership and could stream movies because I was in the U.S. because I was on this VPN.  I then thought “Netflix”.  You have to be in the U.S. to sign up for Netflix.  It did come to Canada but their movie selection was terrible.  The streaming movie selection for the U.S. Netflix isn’t great but it’s better than Canada was and it’s $8 a month.

So movies are back in the picture.  I checked out Netflix by watching the 1st ever episode of the “Dick Van Dyke Show”.  I laughed out loud.  That was one good show.  So now we have movie choices of some decent films to watch.  Shujie can access some sites that she lost the ability to access when we came to China.  She was thrilled.  It seems there is always a workaround and it feels good to not be foiled by the Chinese government or stupid U.S. laws.

Shujie has begun the job hunt.  It’s a little different here in that Chinese employer’s expect you to work a minimum of 6 days a week and basically be on call 24/7.  I want our weekends and the ability to go away.  Shujie says this makes it more difficult and I think it’s terrible that employer’s can get away with demanding these things.  However, there are 1.3 billion Chinese and if you don’t take that low paying 6-day a week job someone else will.

Shujie might have found a job yesterday that appeals to her in terms of a challenge (which is most important).  It would be managing an almost new “academy”.  Over here, an academy is a school for kids that happens after school.  It’s so they can spend more time learning English and other things rather than playing basketball and soccer like we do in the West.  I hate these places and the culture that spawns them.  Anyhow, she liked the young couple that has started this and they told her they had very little money now, but if they grow then she would be part of the family and there would be more money.  She claims to trust them.  The starting salary is about $235 a month.  They’d like her to work about 7 days a week but I told her that weekends were no good.  She said Chinese work on weekends but she told them it would be too difficult to do that.  They seemed flexible and felt that if she could do her work during the week, then there would be no problem.  However, there is a small problem, as part of her job would be meeting the parents of potential students and “selling” them on the school.  These meetings would occur after the parents work hours and on weekends.  She seems excited about the challenge so we’ll give it a shot.  I told her she should ask for a small commission for every student she signs up.  This way they’re not paying her more without generating extra income and I feel it would show a commitment on their part.  She doesn’t really want to ask them because after the weekend question it might be asking too much.  I told her it wasn’t too much and they have the option of saying no.  But what’s good about it is that it doesn’t cost them a penny more unless business gets better.

Shujie has said that Chinese don’t really ever say no, even if they mean no.  They don’t exactly say what they mean.  I told her that she didn’t have to play by those rules and that times were changing.  If she presents a confident and professional face then it will make them think she’s special.  I think any company that gets her would be a lucky company because whether they pay her $235 a month or $23,000 a month she’ll do the best job possible.

She went to a job fair this morning and left her resume with a couple of places that are interested in her.  But they are 6 day a week jobs and she says she told them that she doesn’t work weekends.  They said they’d have to discuss it with the boss or something like that.  I think she can get “fair” terms if she sticks to her guns and seems like a person they’d be very lucky to have.

She’s leaning towards the school manager job and if it challenges her and makes her happy then I’m all for it.  I just don’t want that crazy Chinese 6 day a week workweek.  Maybe if they’re paying her $10000 a week but not for the pennies they pay.  We shall see but she has to start working before she gets bored.

We got our cable TV this afternoon.  It’s weird.  There is no cable.  They brought us a new modem and they have a port on the modem that goes to the set top box.  Then the box goes to one of the TV inputs.  There are 163 Chinese channels (oh joy).  But they have movie channels.  And one of these channels is American and British movies.  And they have newer films and classics such as “Casablanca”, “Gone With The Wind”, and “The Wizard of Oz”.  I was quite impressed.  There were over 200 movies to choose from and they change the movies.  So it seems there is video entertainment at night to go along with Internet and reading.  Just like home.

We don’t have any special plans for the weekend.  It was 34 yesterday (about 95) and will be over 30 (88) until Sunday.  So I don’t think we’ll be running around.  Perhaps we’ll hit a supposedly decent open-air fruit market tomorrow.  I can’t get enough fruit.  Perhaps we’ll dine out tomorrow night.  Where?  I don’t know.  We might ask our upstairs neighbor (the Korean teacher) to join us.  Maybe he knows a Korean restaurant in town.  Then I could get some meat you cook yourself at your table.  That would work for me.

We’ve asked for a new couch (or used in good condition).  Sitting on ours in painful.  The floor is more comfortable.  We shall see.  They don’t have to, but it would make me happy.  I expect to see it by Tuesday.  Look, this town isn’t overrun with foreigners and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a lineup to move here.  So let’s keep the foreigner happy.

I’ll leave you now with some more exciting pictures of our luxurious abode.  Enjoy.

The dining room where the dining and the ironing take place:

The washing machine which resides in the dining room for quick service if you drop food on yourself while eating:

The beautiful balcony which serves many purposes such as storage and laundry drying:

Yes, you can have it all!

The living area which includes the computer lab:

The entertainment centre which includes the TV and the imported from Canada PS3:

The air conditioner which also serves as a heater.  There is also an air conditioner in the bedroom.  And the couch from hell:

The bedroom window with the drapes closed against those prying eyes:

The closet where our fabulous wardrobes reside:

And of course, the bed, which does not allow a good night’s sleep and is as hard as a cement floor, if not harder: