There’s always a workaround

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:

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