I can’t believe it’s been more than a month since my last post. Okay, I’m lying. I do believe it. My life is so boring that I don’t have much to say. I sleep, I nap, I sleep some more and so on.
I had my 3-week Spring Festival holiday. While we were in Changsha, I did next to nothing. I may have gone to a store. However we did spend 10 days in Baoding, home of the child-bride. As I’ve mentioned several times, I like her family a lot. They are kind to me and thoughtful and so on and so forth. This time they weren’t trying to feed me all the time. I think they finally understand that if I don’t eat, it doesn’t mean I’m not happy. Eating is a huge part of the culture here and much socializing revolves around food. I have no idea why so many Chinese are skinny since all they do is eat. It is one of life’s mysteries.
Baoding has greatly changed since my initial visit here in 2007. It’s bigger, more modern, has 2 Starbucks, 2 Pizza Huts, and even a Burger King. I ate at the Burger King and I must tell you it was horrible. I know you are saying, “it’s Burger King, of course it’s horrible”, but that’s not what I mean. When you go to a huge chain restaurant it usually doesn’t matter what country you’re in. The food tastes the same. McDonalds is McDonalds. When I had Burger King in Korea, it tasted just like any Burger King. This Burger King was foul. I think they are not getting the right supplies and skimping on what little quality Burger King has. It was disgraceful. Okay, enough of my Burger King rant. I really wanted a Whopper. I’ve had Burger King in China in a different city and it was fine. Okay, enough.
Starbucks was offering “spicy Black Forest cake”. I was intrigued. The menu showed it had 1 pepper (like some restaurants show a number of peppers to indicate how spicy it is). I took a chance and bought it and I loved it. It wasn’t really Black Forest cake but more like a rich chocolate cake with cherries on top. There was a bit of a kick after you finished a bite. Shujie thought I was crazy because her level of spicy is much different from a North American’s. However, I did like it.
We took the high-speed train to Baoding, which took about 5 ¼ hours. The cost was about $100 U.S. The regular train would have cost half and taken 13 hours. Shujie is going to Baoding later this month for about 4 weeks to start the wedding planning for her son’s wedding in September. She will take the overnight train because she’s a crazy Chinese who likes riding on the train and taking a sleeper. I personally would rather have steel needles stuck in my eyes.
We spent the time at Shujie’s son’s place. That is my last time living there. What a dump. What a pig. He’s a really nice guy and an excellent son, but he can’t keep things reasonably clean. I was ready to move to a hotel but Shujie (who was upset) cleaned things up. I was against that, but never again for me. Of course, he’ll be married the next time so there isn’t enough room for a Westerner like me (Chinese would cram in), so I’m off the hook. What a dump!
I’m happy to spend time in Baoding even though it’s deadly boring for me. Shujie is happy to be with her family and it doesn’t kill me. I read or play on my computer. I talk a bit to her younger brother (he speaks English and it’s his son that goes to MacMaster in Hamilton). We went out for a New Year’s Day lunch and I managed to eat some stuff. The day after New Year’s her older brother took everyone to Pizza Hut (in my honour). They’re so nice but I hate it. If there are 10 people who want Chinese food and 1 person who doesn’t, do what the 10 want. They have a hard time grasping this concept. Or I have a hard time accepting it.
Shujie went to a “meeting” at her ex-husband’s brother’s house with her son and her ex. She hadn’t seen the ex in about 10 years and the meeting was a failure. His brother and brother’s wife are very nice but apparently the ex is an idiot and a jerk. Shujie says he didn’t look at her once, said some stupid things, and then stormed out of the house. It was a lunch get-together but he didn’t last that long. Who knows what shape the wedding party will take. Maybe he won’t go. Maybe there will be 2 parties, one for the mother’s (Shujie) side and one for the father’s side. You would think that two people, regardless of their hate for each other, could manage to get along for one day for the sake of their shared accomplishment, their son.
When Shujie’s older brother’s son got married, he had a wedding party and his ex-wife had her own. Dumb. Even Barbara and I (not on speaking terms) managed to be civil to each other at our daughter’s wedding. The wedding isn’t about the divorced parents; it’s about the kid. Who said the Chinese were crazy? Oops, I did.
Shujie and I had dinner with the in-laws to be. It went fine, probably because they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese. I think they liked me and saw me as an improvement over the ex. They seemed like nice people and they weren’t loud. Not being loud in China is good enough for me. It should be interesting to see what happens. I’d like to be an understanding Chinese fly on the wall at some of these planning get-togethers.
Shujie’s mother gave me a cash gift of 2000RMB (about $400) at New Year’s. Why, you are asking. Apparently it’s a “I’m sorry I wasn’t there for your heart surgery to take care of you” gift. She’s a doll (I think I mention that quite regularly). I think it’s that her daughter is happy so I’m great. I accept that. If all I have to do is be good to Shujie to have lots of people like me, I can handle that. She’s not that hard to be good to.
I returned to school last Monday. I can’t say I like my job, but I won’t be quitting. I want more than 6 students (2 of which are garbage). I want a larger audience for my lame jokes. The students had to give me a first draft of a thesis proposal by the time we got back to school. Four did and two didn’t. The two that didn’t don’t really care and I told Phillip (the guy in charge). He spoke to them and said their attitude will change. I doubt that but we will wait and see. I told him the English level is terrible and I can’t be marking and teaching English too. He said to just show them their errors and have them correct them. I just wrote on everyone’s paper, “your English is terrible”. They can figure it out. I invite them to write whatever they want and send it to me to review. I will correct it and they can learn from that. I tell them to read English and then learn how sentences are put together. I told them that this is their homework every night. It’s not “officially” assigned, but it’s what they should do. They are adults. Okay, they’re not, but they are supposed to be.
I asked how much should they be deducted for terrible writing and grammar and I was told 30 to 40 percent. That works for me. The course guidelines say that if a student is late with an assignment, they lose 10 percent a day. I told Phillip that was garbage as in “real” school in the West, if you don’t turn it in on time you get a big, fat zero. He was okay with that. I told him I would be marking as I see fit. If he wants to change my marks at the end of the year, he can. I understand that this is a business too. I mentioned that it might be good for business to throw a couple of kids out to show you have standards. That isn’t going to happen, but I suggested it. I will say that even though school is a business, where I’m teaching they really do care about giving value for the money. Not all schools are like that. My limited experience says that few are. Bring in a white face and even if they are a moron, then you’ve done you’re job as a school to get a foreign English teacher. Here they seem to care. They’re good to me. All my classes are in the morning (good), and I can take off after that if I have no meetings (which I never do). We get paid one month in arrears so I won’t be getting my first pay until March 25 for my work Jan. 26 to Feb. 25. I asked for an advance because 2 months is a long time to go without pay and I had the advance I asked for the next day. I wish I could complain because I love to complain, but I can’t.
Last night Shujie, OuYoung, and I went to a bar/restaurant. They had Bloody Mary’s. I shouldn’t have had that sixth. I was fine (feeling good) after five, but the sixth sent me out to the street to lean against a wall in the dark and puke my guts out. Shujie now says two is my limit but NEVER! I just shouldn’t have that one more. We had a nice time and here’s a picture of me with the woman-in-waiting, OuYoung.