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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?