Why I love to freeze in China

I don’t.  The title is a lie.  But if I want to be a real Chinese person, I think I have to start lying a little more.  Shujie tells me that everyone tells “white lies” and they’re not bad.  I’m too simple.  You lie or you don’t lie.  Why make something more difficult where you have to measure the lie to see if it qualifies as a “real lie”.  It’s a bunch of crap to me.

Another quiet week.  Last Tuesday I did not go to my class at 1:30 since a student told me that they would not have classes during the week, as it was “practice week”.  At 1:31 I get a phone call from the lovely Estella asking where I was.  I told her I was at home as her class didn’t have any classes with me this week.  Ha Ha.  I got fooled again.  It was next week (now this week) that there are no classes.  So, from now on I will only take direction from the liaison student who should inform me.  I can’t be listening to everyone, even those I trust and respect.  It’s better if the source is just one person.

So 2 of my classes are gone this week for practice week.  My 1st year accounting class and my 2nd year environmental class have “practice”.  Don’t ask.  I am going with a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy because something will get screwed up in the translation.  Last week my other 1st year class told me on Wednesday that they wouldn’t be in class on Thursday as they were having “practice week”.  I said, “but its Thursday tomorrow” and they told me that on Thursday and Friday they had “practice week”.  I told them that it sounded like “practice 2 days” and not “practice week”.  I need to learn the lingo better.

They want me to give marks.  I was asked by Wang Jing about the exam I’d be giving and I said, “what exam”?  I told her I do oral English which means people talk and I’d need approx.. 10 minutes with a student to have this “oral exam”.  I have 150 students so that’s 25 hours.  Do they have time?  She got my point.  I said I judge them on their day-to-day performance and her concern is “where is the backup”.  With an exam, if you give a student a lousy mark you can say they blew the exam.  Yes, it’s a CYA world here too.  I told her I would have comments for all the students to “justify” my marks.  I told her that in one class I expect 40% to fail.  Call it my revenge.  If you don’t ask any questions, and you don’t volunteer any questions, you blew it.  So that stupid girls who hide at the back will get their just rewards.  If your English stinks but you are listening and making an effort to speak you can expect an excellent mark.

I told my classes this and the class where 40% will fail apparently don’t believe me.  I have my spies.  Also their head teacher had a meeting with them and told them that I get annoyed when they miss classes for school reasons (a lie because I don’t), and that I’m too serious.  I guess I should just be a goof-off.  These sort of things leave a bad taste in my mouth.  I’d like to let it slide like water off a duck’s back but it’s not working yet.  This idiot teacher (who I don’t know but who knows all about what I’m like) told the class they should be nice to me since I’m a foreigner.  These people are crazy.  If this idiot wanted to know “the truth”, he would schedule a sit down with me and Wang Jing to discuss things.  I always thought that you should get to know a person a little before commenting on their behavior.

I worry I’m running out of things to say.  I have been talking non-stop in class for more than 3 months.  There is less than 1 month to go before winter vacation and when we return there are 4 ½ months left.  I will survive.

I guess my biggest complaint is that these young people who are about 20 are too stupid to take advantage of having a foreign teacher to talk to.  They are too stupid to be in a classroom where they can say whatever they want and it doesn’t leave the room.  They refuse to take advantage of their opportunities.  I’m the only teacher here who will write “fuck” on the blackboard.  I am the only teacher who will say, let alone discuss, homosexuality.  I like to think we are all living and breathing people with minds, but a lot of these kids have the living and breathing down, it’s the minds that need the work.  I will survive.

Julie came on Saturday for “tutoring” at 10:30.  She brought some software to download streaming movies from the Internet but it isn’t working for me.  Shujie invited her for lunch and she stayed until 5:30.  I felt like Carol Burnett.  I wanted to put my pajama’s on and pull out the couch.  But Shujie told her to stay as long as she wanted to as there is no heat in the dormitories so she was in one of the few places around here where you can be warm.  So, it was the right thing to do.  I like that we can lend her the Chinese books Shuie reads and lend her movies because she appreciates them and is a good kid.

When Beata came last Monday she came with gifts.  She’d been home for the weekend and her father bought some stuff for her to give us.  I think it’s food things that will never touch my lips, but it is truly the thought that counts.  I thought it was nice and I was touched.  I said please give me your father’s phone number so I can call and thank him.  Not really me, but Shujie.  So she did.  But, apparently in China if Beata delivers the gifts then we just have to thank her and she passes the message along.  I wanted to do it my way.  So Shujie was kind enough to call and to mention a few things that I wanted her to say such as he has a lovely and polite daughter who has improved immensely and is a hard worker.  Parents usually only here when they’re kids are bad.  They should here when they’re kids are good.

Yesterday, without warning, the dreaded Lisa (Shujie’s arch enemy) knocked on the door.  She had a piece of cheesecake for me that she brought from her weekend in Nanjing.  I thought it was very nice of her.  When she left Shujie said she shouldn’t have come without calling ahead.  Lisa had explained that her cellphone was dead (she had to put more money on it) and there is nothing wrong with stopping by to deliver something.  Shujie said what if no one was home, and I said, then no one would be home.  Who cares?  It started to get testy and I suggested that she not mention Lisa again and I not mention her either.  We’re never going to solve this so we should agree to disagree and so be it.

My Tuesday movie nights will undergo a change starting tomorrow.  They are still English films but the subtitles will be in Chinese.  It’s not exactly what I want, but I love film and if this will bring more kids in then it’s good.  The first movie will be “A Clockwork Orange” which I totally love and may be over their heads.  I bought about 50 movies online this weekend (about $100) so I have quite a supply ready to go.  Will we get more students?  I think so and I hope so.  I hope I’ve picked movies that they haven’t seen.

Last week was “Million Dollar Baby” and a boy sat beside me.  A nice kid but I don’t want anyone sitting near me since I cry at movies.  I don’t want to fight it off but I had to.  Even if it was the 4th or 5th time I’ve seen it.  I look forward to some of our future films that I think they haven’t seen that will give them a different view of America.  I got “Precious” so they can see the ghetto life and I got “The Hangover” so they could see stupid American comedy.  Sometimes due to the translation it hard to bring the culture across.  Shujie and I watched “Casablanca” last night.  After 20 times I’m still mesmerized by it.  But even with Chinese subtitles she missed a lot due to the snappy dialogue.  I’m laughing at the funny parts and she’s not even smiling.  And when Sam plays “As Time Goes By” she wants to know if it means the same as “Time Flies”.  I said no but that’s how it was translated.

We hope to have our vacation trip booked this week.  It’s looking like a 10-day visit to Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.  They’ve never been on the top of my list of places to see, but they’re close, and they’re warm.  I think I can live with that.  I think I need to get away from here before people start to annoy me.  After all, it’s easier to annoy a teacher who is “too serious”.  What the hell does that mean?  Bunch of morons!


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