Friday, September 02, 2005 9:43pm
I have just come back from a pleasant gathering with some of the students that have arrived for the new term, which begins officially on Monday. However, neither the students nor the teachers have any idea of which classes are going to be taught and who is teaching them. I have had one meeting with the Chair of the English department- a Mr. Happy, (I should explain right away that everyone in the English department and possibly everyone attending University has an American name which they select because their given names are thought to be too difficult for Westerners to understand.) who informed me that he was very happy to have an American here teaching classes and that he would inform me of when I will begin teaching the students.
In meeting them over the last week, I am ready for the challenge and am prepared to deal with what I am up against. Most of these students have the most basic understand of the language and they have decent tone. For the most part, they are progressing like they have read the language from a text book, but have very little experience working directly with the language. I am going to try to make them try to speak it whenever possible if they are really interested in learning the language. Some of them tell me that they would like to be able to become a translator of English in a different country and if that is the case for the most of them, I am going to have a lot of work ahead of me, but I wouldn’t mind it in the least. This evening there was a group of about 6 boys, all of them 20 and very naïve. I am discovering this a lot about the Chinese college kids. They don’t have anything to prove and they seem to just enjoy living out their youth. There is a lot of handholding by the same sexes and I am wondering how to take it. At first it was only the girls that I witnessed doing this. I didn’t think much of it—lets face it, these Chinese women still love Hello Kitty like it is a religion! Then tonight I saw several schoolmates holding each others hands at Paul’s and I am growing a little more suspect. Paul seems like he is certainly gay, but I keep going back to my American stereotypes and laughing at how stupid I am being. Let me note for the record that I don’t care if he is gay or not, but I think it might be possible that these boys that are at his apartment might also be gay as well, but we will see if that is the case in the coming weeks. Again, it doesn’t matter in the least bit, but it is odd enough to mention. I must again mention that the Chinese are also very naïve and would make easy prey to someone who would be considered a professional and a peer mentor to these kids. Time will tell. In the United States, we feel like we are so free and open minded, but we certainly have some social attitudes that are not present in China. This is something that is apparent in everything that is going on as this country attempts to place itself in the middle of western culture. The concept of working in this country would be of particular amusement to any Westerner as an average work week should never go over 32 hours and time spent away from work is used for relaxation and not consumption—one thing that Capitalism will certainly have issues with.
Teaching is certainly within that perspective. The concept of time doesn’t matter as much in China—I keep hearing the same thing from the professionals: Things take time in China, Mr. Tim. They say it to me not in frustration but as a courtesy because they know that they could steal the leisure award from the French without any issue whatsoever. In the United States, students register for classes at the end of the old semester and professors put in their class listings weeks into the previous semester to give everyone enough time to prepare the information. School officially begins on Monday and Mr. Happy doesn’t think we will start on Monday, but I will still be paid my monthly salary, even if I don’t end up teaching for several weeks. I feel like I need to call him and ask him when he thinks I will begin teaching, because I wouldn’t mind going up to Changsha and seeing where Mao is actually from. I have a number of things that I need to check off my must see list!
Now that the students are beginning to trickle in, I am beginning to see what I have actually signed up for and I am excited for the new term to begin and at the same time I am also beginning to get a little stir crazy. There has been a lot of waiting this past week, which has kept me from going into town and getting to know the city a little more. The weather has also turned in the last couple of days and I am a little afraid that the monsoon season might have possibly come already, although from what little I have read on the subject it would seem that it isn’t supposed to start until the end of the month, or Mid-October, which would be great because I want to try to get to either Beijing or to Xi’an, Shaanxi to see the Terracotta Warriors that protected Qin Shi Huang’s tomb during China week, which is where we have a week off.
Beijing is going to have to wait until Spring Break, when we have a longer period of time off to explore. There are just so many things to go and see in Beijing that I want to make sure not to rush it. There is the Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Summer Palace and the gates leading to the temple of heaven—all things which, like the Chinese, take time.
As I said before, the last week has been one of mostly waiting and wondering just what I have gotten myself into. Yesterday and some of today have been a struggle. I lost power to half of my flat yesterday afternoon as well as knocked out the internet on the computer and broke the chair that was provided to me. It was in pretty sad shape as it was, but my ass gave it the final blow. Typical. Then this afternoon, my ipod decided to take a shit on me and I lost some 2600 songs in one false sweep. This is particularly disheartening because my music is going to be the one lifeline that I had counted on throughout the journey and there is little to no help that I am going to be able to get any of it back—at least until I arrive back into the United States.
But the time and the whining are not worth writing about. However, I must mention that I am getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes, especially in the evening during my sleep. They have a particular longing for my face, specifically my cheeks. It is a little funny, but I am also concerned because of what those little fuckers could be carrying in the blood which they are transporting. Malaria, Leprosy, whatever—the paranoid American traveler doesn’t need anything else to happen to him from traveling around the planet. Disease is the only real concern that I have. I had a full tap water machine delivered to the house today for a deposit of 60rmb, which is about $7.50. The water is 6rmb per 5 gallon, which is about .80cents. The cooler that it comes with has a boiling water and normal water release on it and the boiling water is hot enough to prepare noodles without cooking, so it is quite useful.
I have to rely on the goodness of other people in order to get food at restaurants, order water, get things fixed and haggle with merchants, but if I have to go out by myself, I am fully confident I can manage at least somewhat. I have only gone into town once with a couple of students in tow, but I think tomorrow I am going to head into town by myself and make a go of it. There are two main buses that connect me to the city, the 22 and the 27, which are both 1rmb each way, which is .13cents each way. Not too bad considering it is 30minutes via bus to get downtown.
According to Paul, my neighbor from the Philippines, who has been here for a year, there is a market in Chenzou that I can actually buy meat from. This would be a welcome moment as I already growing a little tired of having to go through the hassle of waiting for people to go with because I can’t read the damn menu. There is no English whatsoever, but people are very willing to assist if they can figure out what you need. When ordering food it is a little difficult because restaurants do not place their menu items together or number them. At times there are pictures which you can point at, but this is fairly rare of an occasion. Most of the locals tend to want to go to the cheap eat places. The food in these places is not bad in particular, but meat dishes are quite skimpy on the meat, even by what I would consider Chinese standards. So I am anxious to go to the shop and buy my own vege’s and do a little stir-fry, just to make sure I still have the skills.