What shall I major in?

Another week of thrills, chills, and spills.  Actually another week of pretty much the same thing with some interesting things (to me) thrown in.  Here we are, the middle of March, and I’m still here.  This is the longest I’ve ever stayed at one school so it looks like I will be finishing a complete year here. 

I showed “The Princess Bride” on Tuesday and to say the students loved it would be an understatement.  I believe it to be the most enjoyable film for the students that I’ve shown all year, even surpassing “Big”.  The turnout was big so you would think that next week the turnout will be huge coming on the coattails of “The Princess Bride” but I’ve learned that one week does not relate to the next week.  All I offer is great movies that most them have never seen or heard of.  I try and stay away from the too thought-provoking (Citizen Kane) so I don’t tax their little minds.  And when a student tells me that they don’t like “black and white” movies, I just want to punch their faces in.

The student I “tutor”, Julie, is a person who appears to love films.  I lend her all the movies I won’t be showing to the masses.  She saw “Citizen Kane” last week and she knew it was supposed to be one of the greatest films ever.  She says she liked it.  I enjoy giving her films and I think her taste is similar to mine—eclectic.  So, good for her.  I’ll show “The Godfather” this Tuesday.  That’s Shujie’s favorite American film and I’m sure those who come will enjoy it.

I started the movie again on time this week so that’s the official way now.  I think students are starting to catch on that if you come late, you miss part of the movie.  I would prefer that they stay away as it’s disrespectful to the film, but I’m no one.  I’m just the guy who buys and shows the movies.  Not that it bothers me, but not one freaking student has said “thank you” to me all year for showing these movies.  All those things you’ve read about manners in Asian cultures are crap.  Maybe they were true once upon a time, but the manners here are no better than in the West, and they certainly don’t hold a candle to my manners.

I have 2 first year classes.  One class has 28 students, which is manageable so even the bozos stay quiet and occasionally listen.  I have no problems with them (except getting them to talk sometimes).  I like them and I tell them about once a month that I like them.  The other class is 40 students which includes about 10 bozos who I want to punch in the face.  For a job that’s stress-free, that’s as stressful as it gets.  They have no desire to learn and I spend too much time asking them to be quiet.

So, this week on Tuesday I made a “special offer”.  First I explained what a “special offer” is, and then I told them.  They had 24 hours to decide if they wanted into this special program.  If they disappear from my class and I never have to look at their faces again, I’ll pass them.  If they stay then I guarantee they will fail the exam and when it comes to the make-up exam, they’ll fail even worse.

I was aiming for 8 boys and 2 girls.  That would bring me down to 30, which is a huge difference from 40, and would free up time for all the students who are trying.  Also without their idiotic influence, more students will make an effort.  Luckily I’m trusted and have always done what I say I’ll do, and they know I’ll go to bat for them.  So the next morning 9 boys took me up on my offer.  One of the boys was a shock as he’s a fine student and I expected more from him.  The rest were the useless ones.  There was one useless boy I was sorry to see go.  He’s not the brightest but he has hope if he can get away from the bozos.  I can see him being pulled and he chose to be pulled the wrong way.  I’m not trying to sell the program; it’s their decision.  I just think he made another bad decision just like he’s made bad decisions his whole school life to end up at this place.  It is sad.

But the good thing is they’re gone, and the classes are much better.  A brief survey of the remaining students showed that they were extremely happy with what I did.  They would rather attempt to learn than listen to me tell idiots to be quiet.  It doesn’t bother me to pass them since they will never use English in their future lives.  So they’re happy with the pass, and I’m happy not seeing them.  Everyone wins!

Every couple of weeks I reprint an essay I find in a book I have.  I go through it and explain words and phrases they don’t understand.  The students are getting so much better at actually asking me questions (which is great) and after everyone basically understands it, I try and go for a discussion on the topic.  The most recent one was “what type of man or woman should you marry”.  Since no student would admit to ever wanting to get married (weird, who never thought about that at 20), the discussion goes nowhere.  I asked them if they’re silent because we’re in a group setting and if we were alone they would talk about it, and they told me yes.  I believe them.  So, I shall stay away from boy/girl/sex topics.  Damn, no discussions of religion, boy/girl relationships, or sex.  But it’s the culture and I’m not going to fight it.  I’ll just try and stay within the boundaries of things they’re comfortable talking about.

I’m pretty sure they’re open with me and with no other teachers, which means I’ve succeeded in gaining their trust and putting them at ease.  It’s nice to feel you’re good at something.  The other day I told them I wasn’t perfect and I’m still learning how to be better and some girl (I think I know who it was) said after I said, “I’m not perfect”, said “yes you are”.  I think she has a crush on me.  If I was a very young father, she could be my granddaughter.  I’m flattered that she has this crush on me since I think she’s an intelligent young lady (not just for her taste in foreigners).  Ah, the sweet moments I have.

I learned more about my elective classes this week.  My regular classes have 14 English periods a week.  My elective students have either 2 or 4 (not including me) English classes a week.  No wonder they’re so bad.  I also went around the room because I wanted to know what major they were taking.  I got things like “communications”, “tea art”, “landscape design”, and a few others.  Most of the students professed to not liking their classes.  One girl said school wasn’t “colorful”.  I liked that description so I asked her what color it was.  After giving it some thought she came up with “green”.  Why?  I don’t know.  So I guess green is the color of jealousy and of boring classes.

My favorite major answer came in a conversion like this.  I’ve normalized the English for easier reading but trust me; it doesn’t sound like I’ve written it.

Me:      What’s your major?

Student:         Golf.

Me:      Golf?????????????????

Student:         Yes.

Me:      Where do you play?

Student:         We don’t play yet.  They’re building a golf course.

Me:      Have you ever played golf before?

Student:         No.

Me:      Oh.  Why did you choose golf?

Student:         Because it sounded interesting.

Sometimes you feel like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole.  Golf?  Do you know how expensive it is to play golf in China?  No, you don’t.  But it’s expensive and I don’t believe these are students from rich families.  Who studies golf as a major without ever having picked up a golf club before?  Now we know the answer—the Chinese.

The job hunt.  It can be annoying.  I think I started too early because I was silly and thought schools would be organized.  The woman who got me the job here last year is looking for me and has a few possibilities if she ever gets organized enough to send them to me.  She works for a government agency so she decides once the school looks at my resume.  Since she knows what she’s getting (someone “serious”  which is funny and who comes with a good recommendation), I know I’m at the top of her list and schools are starting to trickle in.

However, I may have secured a job already.  I spoke to a woman (through another agency) from Baotou Teacher’s College in Baotou.  You know Baotou.  It’s in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.  It houses the Genghis Kahn Mausoleum.  It’s a city of about 2.6 million people.  We had a good conversation and she sent me a contract.  I wrote back with my issues and the ones she answered pretty much came out in my favor.  There are still one or two things to go over.  And it’s not a deal until it’s signed.  But the biggie here is that they want to hire Shujie to teach Business courses (including Business English).  Shujie would love that and it gives her a traditional job where we have weekends together.  She doesn’t get paid the same as me (foreigners get paid more), and she doesn’t get her plane ticket paid for (but she’s coming anyhow), so it’s good.  I hope we get the other few things ironed out (I don’t see why not), because I’d love to see her working at something she’d enjoy and be challenged by.  As for me, all my students would be English Majors so they would be there to learn.  It might be north and cold in the winter, but who cares.  If it’s north, that means the classrooms will have heaters which beats this place.  Hopefully we can pull this together by Tuesday.  Then I have nothing to worry about for the next semester and Shujie gets one of her dream jobs.  I asked her if she wanted to be a teacher and she said, “it’s always been a dream of mine”.  So dreams do come true if you marry a white guy.

If it doesn’t work out then there is Echo (the lady who got me the job here).  I know I will get a job easily in Jiangsu Province, but I’d much rather go where Shujie has a “normal” job with “normal” hours.

We watched “The Artist” this week.  I know, you’re saying, “it’s out on DVD already”?????  C’mon, this is China.  It’s out on DVD before it’s out in the theatres in North America.  Okay, that was a joke but this illegal copy came from the DVD’s they sent to Academy voters in France (I could tell from the warning that would pop up on the screen occasionally).  It was cute and different, but in the lexicon of “best pictures”, it’s near the bottom.  I enjoyed it and I respected it and it was different, but “The Godfather” or “Gone With The Wind” it’s not.

It’s supposed to hit 11 degrees C today.  Could this be a good sign?  Then it will drop to around 8 or 9, so I think, finally, that Spring is around the corner.  Good, I can start complaining about the heat soon.  It will be a welcome change from complaining about the cold.

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