Carol Merrill is alive and living well in Jurong

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.

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