Thursday, July 31, 2003

So you say you want a revolution. Caroline is the oldest Chinese TA here. She's 50 and has been teaching English for 30 years. Unlike the other TA's who are in their 20s, she has first hand memories of Mao and especially the Cultural Revolution which turned the society upside down, sending intellectuals and white collar workers to prison, closed all the schools and sent then-children like Caroline from their urban homes to rural villages to work on farms.
"I was sent away for 5 years, many hundred miles from my home. My father was a university professor and he was publicly insulted, made to wear the pointed (dunce) hat and sent to prison," she said. "We knew nothing of farming and the villagers knew nothing of us. Some did not want us because we were taking food from their mouths. We wanted nothing but to go home and go back to our families and schools. The happiest time I remember was when a plane would appear in the sky. People would shout: 'See the plane, see the plane!' And we would all stop working and stand and watch the plane." She gestured, making an arc over her head. "We watched the plane until we could not see it anymore, imagining we were on it."
She is entirely self-taught unlike many of her generation who have no skills and are now in their 50s without jobs or futures.
"They only stay at home. They are a lost generation."

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Torn and frayed. The session ends in two days and like a low budget version of MTV's Real World the strain is beginning to show among our cast. S, a young guy who plays Div. 2 football and is an education major, has the hots for T, a self-assured, opinionated woman but has been frustrated in his attempts. T has enjoyed his attention but has no intention of sealing the deal. Beanie, Julian's TA, has become infatuated with J, a female American teacher who, though she prefers Asian men finds Beanie cute but not her type. Male and female teachers M (a guy) and N (woman) arrived as a couple and room together but according to M, they haven't had any physical contact for months and he's discovered the local fleshpots and a bar girl in particular that has taken a chuck of his pay in advance for drinks and fondling. He introduced S to the bar girl scene recently and now T is wondering why S's attention has strayed. Heh.
The students are not immune to the strain. One of Julian's students - not Rod Stewart - bit another student and the victim's father has pulled his son out of the camp. The biter has been expelled. Several hours later a full out brawl broke out in another classroom that left one kid on the floor and five others trying to restrain another.
Three of us discovered the Merry Christmas kareoke bar recently and discovered that drunken Chinese can sing as badly as drunken Americans. But as a trio we wowed the locals with an impassioned version of Louie Louie - the "clean" version.
Sign posted in the campus library. A picture of a fire extinguisher with this message: "Embezzlement is Strictly Prohibited."

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Back on the chain gang. So, what's your daily routine like Justin? Glad you asked. Here's a typical day in digest form.
7:30 a.m. Shattered awake by a dorm floor security guard with a whistle, shouting in Chinese. Kind of like the bugles and screaming that heralded Chi-com and North Korean charges against the US and South Korean troops during the Korean war. The teachers share dorm floors with students, males on the boys floor, females on the girls floor. Our quarters are considerably more swank than the students. We have air conditioning and real beds and private showers and holes in the floor for toilets. The students are tough little mofos. Public showers and shitters. They sleep on bunks, with wooden supports and thin tatami mats as mattresses and no pillows unless they brought some. They also hand wash all their own clothes and have no AC, only malfunctioning fans.
The whistles and shouts are followed by earshattering music piped all over campus. It ranges from Pan flute versions of the Bee Gees, to the Eagles greatest hits, Hong Kong pop, Barbra Streisand, Air Supply and, always, always some version of the Titanic theme.
8-8:30 a.m. Breakfast in the cafeteria. Usually three kinds of rolls, sometimes with a filling ranging from bean paste to coconut creme to pork. Hard boiled eggs. Dishwater colored soup.
8:-9 a.m. Teachers and staff gather in the "(Communist) Party Members Activity Room" before classes. A gold hammer and sickle shines from a wall on one end of the room. Unlike our classrooms, it has AC. Teachers can be seen nursing occasional hangovers, while others are trying to prepare for lessons by asking each other, "What've you got? Got anything good?" like junkies trying to score. A notable two or three are always prepared, particularly S, a female teacher in a 7th Day Adventist school in LA. Fortunately for many of us, she is generous with her expertise and experience.
9 a.m.-noon. Lessons. These can take the form of real lessons, 60 minute games of hang man, rehearsing for whatever pageant is expected. Or simply trying to maintain order after someone like Rod Stewart (see prevoius blog) has a meltdown and throws herself on the floor shouting in Chinese and hammering her tiny fists.
Noon-2:30 pm: Lunch. MMMMMM! Do you fancy chicken tendons and boiled bean sprouts at the school cafeteria? Are they serving pig's blood custard again? If not, you can wander down to an area behind the school we've dubbed "Blade Runner-ville" and eat at a local joint that features 15 freshly made on the premises potstickers for 40 cents. Or an enormous noodle and veggies and pork soup for the same price. Stop at the "Chicken store" on the way for an 8-cent Coca Cola. The Chicken Store is so named because the owners keep a fat, friendly chicken as a pet and egg source. It seems to interact peacefully with the two cats that also live there.
Other teachers take the #347 bus for a 30 minute ride to a KFC. KFC is enormous here, extremely popular with the foreigners and locals alike. Col. Saunders' kindly visage looms on many billboards like the benevolent pictures of Mao once did.
2:30-4:30 pm Free and Fun Activities: Not always fun and not free. This is the facsimilie crafts and arts and sports part where we have to lead classes in things like dance, singing, friendship bracelet weaving, dream catcher building, collage making, letter writing, soccer, basketball, mixing colors to make new colors ("science") and turning the classrooms into waste dumps with yards of torn papers, spilled paints and yarn.
4:30-5:30 More classroom/activities time. If you're lucky you've got time booked in the computer room, ping pong room, gym or library. If you're not it can be the longest hour of your life.
5:30-7:30 pm. Dinner. See lunch.
7:30-8:30 pm: See 4:30-5:30 pm or occasionally they get to watch a movie piped into all the classrooms. The movies are American, stuff like Finding Nemo and Vertical Leap, but with Chinese subtitles.
The kids also watch TV during classroom breaks, usually Chinese soaps set in the Ming dynasty or thereabouts. The commercials are much like ours with the exception of one for toothpaste that opens with live footage of two yaks copulating and then cuts to a closeup of the toothpaste tube. I have still not divined the connection.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Gender bending. All the classes are feverishly preparing for the final dramatic actitivties. Each group has to present a play no more than five minutes in length for competition. I've cobbled together the world's shortest version of Cinderella. Julian has a similar production of Three Little Pigs. One major problem is that few of the children want to perform and virtually none want to perform with someone of the opposite sex. Hence my Cinderella is a fella. As is her mother and one of her sisters. And finding parts for all thirty some kids is a challenge. I solved it with the party scene in which Cinderella loses her shoe, using all the extra kids as ball goers. Though boys will only dance with boys, girls with girls.
Yesterday one girl in my class who calls herself Linda was working on an assignment which involved writing a letter to a parent. Hers began "Dear Father, I haven't seen you in three years. I miss you very much." I asked her where her father was.
"He's dead," she replied. Later that day she came up to me and said, "I wish you were my father." I felt like crying, though I managed to say gently that her mother might have something to say about that. It got a little smile out of her.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Field trip. Sunday brought us two field trips in which 7 teachers got the day off and 7 along with all 14 Chinese TA's had to escort 400+ munchkins to places they'd rather not be. Mercifully, the camp did hire a fleet of air conditioned buses for our transportation.
One destination was the newspaper, the Shenzhen Daily, that is cosponsoring the camp. While at the paper our kids managed to 1. lock us in an elevator exit area by randomly pushing the buttons on a security panel and 2. while in the newsroom immediately glom on to unoccupied reporter and editor computer terminals to start trying to play video games.
The other destinaition was another English language institute where the organizers of this camp hope to hold a secondsession lasting two weeks after this one ends. It is a brand new, sprawling campus on the outskirts of Shenzhen. Unfortunately, few of the kids had any idea why they were there and the organization left a lot to be desired. After a 40 minute bus ride we arrived and walked in seemingly random fashion in the baking heat all over the campus as the hoplessly outnumbered teachers and TAs tried to keep the kids in groups. It was like herding cats. We wound up in an auditorium where the PA system - much to the students' amusement - made Sally Wu who was making the pitch for the new session and campus sound like Petunia Pig on helium. Finally a bull horn was found and the result was equally ineffective, if less comical.
On our way out many students spotted a larger than life bronze bust of a bearded, bald European gentleman in a small outdoor garden area
"Bald Jesus! Bald Jesus!" several of the more advanced students shouted, pointing at it. I thought it was Karl Marx, but went over to see if there was an English name plate. There was. It was bald Charles Darwin, not bald Jesus. A triumph of evolution over creationism, one might say.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Dazed and confused: Last night was a meet the parents night. We've done this before, but it was very informal with parents and kids milling in and out of the classrooms and all of us assumed the drill would be the same. Silly us. When we arrived at our classrooms we all found thirty or more parents sitting stone faced in the desks expecting to hear a full account of the marvelous progress their kids have been making. A pic ture of Confucious and one of Mao also stared at me from opposing walls. Thank god for my TA, Fay. More and more she reminds me of "Honey" the Vietnamese woman who keeps Duke straight and on track in Doonesbury. I had no clue how to begin and just began by speaking slowly and in broad, positive generalities about who I was, why I was qualified to oversee their precious spawn and what an honor it is to work with them as Fay translated.
I didn't say anything about how I pull lessons out of my butt every morning because the book we work with is substandard and how hideously disorganized the daily routine here is.
After my spiel the questions began. Most parents wanted to know how their kids were doing and in several cases I had no idea who the child was, either because the parent didn't know the English name or because they had made no impression on me. So, with Fay's able assistance I lied a lot.
Then a surprise. Turns out there were two different parents who spoke fluent English and their questions were much more detailed and specific. Hard to BS someone who says she's concerned about he son's "learning curve." Then an even bigger shock. One of the English speakers, a textile exporter, had just returned from Denver last week. Knows it well and we spent some time talking Colorado. His speciality is flags -- American and state flags.
"You know the flags in Civic Center in Denver?" he asked.
"Yes, sure."
"All from Shenzhen," he replied. "And after 9-11 we sold 30 million American flags to your country. Nine-eleven was very sad, but it was also very good for my business."
After the parental units, me and another teacher, "E' decided to repair to downtown Shenzhen to check out a swanky bar called the U Bar that I'd heard about. It served the strongest Margaritas we'd ever imbibed, but after that and some Guiness, we decided to check out another operation across the straight called "Play Girl." The Hugh Hefner attys. are going to have a field day with this place if they ever discover it. A cross between the old Playboy clubs and the Star Wars bar, it features waitresses in white feather bunny ears and Princess Lea high neck robes, fishnet hose and white furry cuffs. It was jammed with wealthy Shenzhenzites of all ages and sexes, featured a good dj and a Chinese manager named "Paul" who told E and I that it was our "lucky night."He gave us two VIP Play Girl membership cards (I'm member 54) in exchange for our phone numbers. We both gave him our American numbers. We have no idea what the cards entitle us to, but the thought was nice.
It was difficult to get any women to dance with us and we finally wound up dancing by ourselves after several more beers until we were joined by two enthusiastic "I think we've found the only two gay guys in Shenzhen," said E.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Teacher, teacher. The kids are really beginning to warm up to us. Several girls in my class are attempting - somewhat unsuccessfully - to teach me to count to 10 in Chinese and scolding me daily because I haven't "studied." Another has made two colorful yarn friendship bracelets for me, which I've worn faithfully since she gave them to me despite the fact that it makes me feel a bit like a hippie wannabe circa 1973. She also wants me to come back to China and stay with her family. One of Julian's charges had his mother bring Julian a pizza from the local Chez Pizza Hut and other teachers are receiving similar honors, including tins of cookies, and, in one case, six packages of dried, salty squid. We've met some of the parents here, too, who want to be assured that their investment in the camp is paying off. It's caused some pressure on us via Sally Wu to be more "active" and "imaginative" and "creative." If we had more resources that might be possible but as it is we're all scrounging for materials and ideas. I loaned M a CD of Cheap Trick's greatest hits so he can do an hour on the band with his group. My kids are younger and largely indifferent to western music except for Michael Jackson and Westlake (British) and a Sino-LA boy band called F4. I don't think my Townes Van Zandt CD live in German bars singing "Dead Flowers" would cut it with them.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Hail Britannia. A supposed selling point of this camp is that it teaches American English. Which conflicts with the fact that all these children have learned British English. Hence we all spend a lot of time explaining that lorries are trucks, rubbish bins are trash cans, lifts are elevators, the WC (water closet) is a toilet/bathroom, restroom and that humor, behavior, favor and color are not spelled with U's. I did have a large U with a circle around it and a slash through it written on the blackboard. Unfortunately, several kids took it literally and stopped putting U's in any of their words.
Speaking of words, one unwitting 11-year-old girl in another class showed up yesterday proudly wearing a new orange T-shirt that read "If It's Not Stiff, It's Not Worth a Fuck." Her teacher explained it wasn't attire that a polite American would wear and she spent the rest of the day wearing her backpack in front.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Like a hurricane. Severe weather hit Shenzhen yesterday and today in the form of Typhoon Imbudo. Fortunately, we escaped the full force, but it was bad enough to have the city cancel all summer public schools. Didn't stop the Shezhen Foreign Language Institute, though which had promsed the parents who ponied up about $800 per child that they would get 21 straight days of English classes. The power went out in our complex in the early morning and the winds and rain were still blowing and spraying hard as we began classes. Because of the heat and humidity, we had to leave windows cracked, but it wasn't effective enough to stop papers from blowing all over the classroom at erratic intervals.
Most of the teachers, including me, used it as a makeshift lesson in natural disasters. I was able to eat up a good hour and a half on earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanoes, blizzards and floods and then had the kids write about their typhoon memories. Most enjoy typhoons because, like snow days in Colorado, it means a day or two off from school.
Psycho Killer. Julian has an 11-year-old female student we've all dubberd Psycho Rod Stewart because of her rooster hair and skewed behavior. She's apparently a math genius, but also obviously a bit "off." She'd be in Special Ed if she was in America. So far she's bitten another girl's head and pinched two teacher's breasts. She enjoys standing and staring intensely at random teachers and then coming up to them and asking a random question like "Why are you fat?" or "Can I pick you up?" Most of us try to avoid any direct visual or physical contact with her.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Lap of luxury. Our boss here is a woman from Taiwan and LA named Sally Wu. Sally Wu has connections in Shenzhen, too, and one of them that she's been urging on us is a massage/spa operation on the fifth floor of the Shangri La Hotel, near the Shenzhen train station. Several of us accepted the offer to be pampered and to explore the five floor indoor mall nearby which specializes in bootleg designer watches, purses, clothes and lots of what can only be described as junk. I did manage to find several Mao butane lighters that play "The East is Red" when they are opened and fired up.
The area is crawling with beggars, also. And as a group of foreigners we were natural targets. One enterprising fellow had a monkey that begged with him, others were maimed and more looked oddly well off for scrounging on the streets.
We finally repaired to the spa by which time it was 11 pm. Imagine the world's largest living room, with about 32 lounger chairs and a wide screen TV showing an incomprehensible Chinese movie that seemed to veer from a psychotic gangster flick to a comedy involving three glam boy musicians from frame to frame. Imagine most of these chairs occupied by Chinese men and women getting pedicures, manicures and foot massages while sipping complimentary tea and juice and eating fresh fruit.
The foot massage took almost an hour, by which time I was falling asleep in my commie barca lounger. Then we repaired to massage room for a three hour body rub down that had me and another teacher as stupified ooze by 2 a.m. Too late to go back to our school, but we were allowed to sleep on our massage tables (included in the price) until 7 a.m. The whole shebang cost about $22. And it ijncluded a WESTERN STYLE TOILET!
Our cab ride back this morning was an adventure of sorts when the driver realized he'd taken the wrong long exit ramp to our destination. Instead of forging on and finding another off ramp, he shifted to reverse and backed up a good quarter mile, albeit slowly, against oncoming traffic on the center line as my companion and I quaked and prayed in the backseat.
I just learned that the speciality at lunch today is cold pig's blood pudding. No thanks.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Cultural exchange program. Julian and I spent an evening in our room with our TA's, Beany and Fey, watching Moulin Rouge on Julian's laptop. It's a particular favorite of many young Chinese and Beany - who has seen it five times - was virtually in tears at some points, aided no doubt by the beers we also consumed. "He is me; it is my life!" he declared referring to the film's lovestruck poetic hero. Beanie is only 22, but has a rich imagination and undoubtedly more heartbreak ahead of him.
Julian and I also played them a wide selection of Western music, ranging from Frank Sinatra, Blink 182, James Brown, Stephen Stills, the Who, the Pogues, and others with mixed results.
Several friends of mine and Julian's in the states have requested Mao items as souvenirs, but the trouble is that Mao is no longer popular. I asked Fey where I might find some and she looked at me like I was nuts. "Why would anyone want that? It's stupid!" she said. She did finally tell me about one store (the largest book store in Shenzhen) that might have some Mao artifacts and I plan to check it out soon. But it was clear that what I am attempting is the equivalent of going to the states and trying to find Nixon souvenirs.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Among our myriad duties here besides teaching English are leading half assed projects like organizing our classses for weekly competitions. This week was a song competition. Each teacher picked an English song for their class to perform. I resisted the temptation to teach "We Don't Need No Education", or "Sympathy for the Devil" and in five days, largely with the help of my 19-year-old TA, Fey, managed to coax our class (the Panda Team) through a passable rendition of "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain." It was pretty no-frills, incorporating only three simple hand gestures and no dancing.
The range of the other teachers went from "Heroe's (David Bowie/Wall Flowers) "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" to "Jesus Loves You," Itsy Bitsy Spider, B.I.N.G.O. to some Digable Planets hip-hop. One teacher in particular, a young woman I'll call "V" had her "Rabbit Team" completely choreographed with dancing, hand jive, chants and about three different songs. The kids performed in front of three adult judges, all school administrators..
"We're toast. Definitely toast." I told Fey after V's rabbits went through their glittering paces.
"What is toast? What do you mean?"
I didn't have time to explain. Panda team went up next, ripped through "Comin' Round the Mountain" without shoving and pushing each other, filed back to our seats and waited for the inevitable decision for V's group.
Surprise! Panda Team won. We couldn't believe it. We still don't know why. I let the kids have the next hour of class off to play in the gym as a reward. Meanwhile, I suddenly became a first class teacher in some Chinese administrators eyes. Several requested the CD I had of "Coming Round the Mountain" so they could burn copies, like it was some sort of rare bootlegged lost recording session of Kurt Cobain.
"V", who is a born again Christian, was not very Christian in losing. She complained that the judges favored me and moaned that she had prayed to Jesus to win and didn't know why she hadn't. I should of told her I had invoked Lord Lucifer's dark powers to help my Pandas, but I kept my mouth shut.

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Ugly American: Julian, me and a fellow teacher I'll call "M" were taken out by three of our teaching assistants last night to a "real" Chinese nightclub called True Colors. It was jammed, every table taken by young and middle aged couples, very few singles, who were there to drink, play dice, smoke and listen to bands. We saw three bands, one of which featured a lead singer in full camo attire, complete with beret and a guitar player with a modified mohawk. All wore sunglasses a la Devo. All the music was very poppy and mild by US standards, mostly cover songs from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, according to Beany, Julian's young, hip TA. "M" got wasted on three beers and on the taxi ride home proceeded to embarass the rest of us by urging the taxi driver to teach him "The East is Red" while profusely complimenting him in loud, condesneding tones.
"Tell him he is very professional!" he demanded of the TA's. "Tell him I love his country!"
The TA's told the driver something, but I imagined it as:
"We apologize for the the drunken barbarian who cannot handle even three small beers. We promise he will not vomit in your taxi."

Friday, July 18, 2003

R&R: Seven of us had most of the day off on Friday and explored more of Shenzhen. It's a city of about 6 million, a new economic zone, that grew from a fishing village of about 20,000 15 or so years ago. Most of the architecture - such as it is - is high rises, sort of neo-Soviet bloc/Cabrini housing project. There are a few distinctive looking office buildings and sky scrapers but most of it is pre-fab concrete with a postage stamp size balcony for every unit. Lots of laundry continually hanging from the balconies.
Our trip to a more urban area of downtown revealed a perponderance of electronic and high tech stores and - thank you jeebus !- a Pizza Hut. Chinese cafeteria food is wearing a bit thin. This was the swankiest Pizza Hut any of us had ever experienced. It is obviously a sort of Le Cirque in Shenzhen - plush interior, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett on the sound system and prices to match. One salad from the salad bar (no refills) was the equivalent of $4, but the Ranch Dressing was authentic.
The pizzas were both familiar and tweaked for local tastes. All the crust varieties were there with but the toppings on some, squid, tuna fish, monk fish, etc. weren't so familiar. I went with a meat lovers while Julian inhaled a spicy chicken.
Side note: I had my students "interview" me and write a bio the other day. In the course of the interviews, I told them I had been divorced twice. Several subsequently wrote: "My teacher has two wives."

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Crosstown Traffic. There's a large shopping area within walking distance of our complex that, during the night, resembles the set from Blade Runner. Last night we went on another discovery and shopping mission and our first sight was a video store roped off by the cops as they confisicated all the bootleg dvds. Not to worry, though. A middle aged Chinese woman watching us watch figured out what we wanted and hissed "DVD? DVID?" We followed her through two dark allies into a very small room containing a TV, three small children, a sputtering fan and four large packing boxes of bootlegs. Julian bought about six for a total of $4.50.
Later we went to a department store where I found a copy of Matrix Reloaded with the slogan: "The White Man Wanted a Stud to Breed Slaves" displayed prominently on the case. Matrix Reloaded, of course, has nothing to do with porn slave traffic. I bought it for the blurb alone.
We eventually repaired to a sidewalk restaurant where, as we relaxed over adult beverages, a scooter bearing a female passenger crashed into the front of a store across the street from us. The traffic here is haphazard at best, with pedestrians, bikes, trucks, taxis and cycles all competing for inches of space. The driver, a young guy in his 20s, was OK, but his passenger was knocked unconscious. No blood, but it was frightful. A crowd gathered immediately. One of our teachers was yelling "Call the hospital!" "Call the 911!" while another one was trying to prevent the driver from roughly lifting the young woman up and slapping her face.
We eventually backed off and let society take its course. The driver finally picked the girl up under his arms and carried her down the street in search of a taxi, where presumably she got better care.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Crime and punishment. Julian was teaching last night when a student came up to him and gave him Julian's wallet, which he didn't know he'd lost. All his money was missing, about $200 in Chinese and American currency. He was pretty torn up about it, more the betrayal than the money loss. The school administration went into crime solving mode, called a cop, and browbeat the kid who returned the wallet. They are all convinced he'd taken the money, which made no sense to us. He is only 10 or 11 and began sobbing hysterically as the cop and school administrators browbeat him. The school is going to compensate Julian for part of his loss but I was also told that what happened wasn't really "stealing." It would have been "stealing" if Julian had been pick pocketed, but not if a wallet falls out of his pocket and the money is taken.
On the plus side, we found a neighborhood area where we were able to browse and shop finding bargains like bootleg DVDs not yet available in the states. Pirates of the Carribean, Terminator 3 and others, all for under $1. Saw some great "Chinligsh" T-shirts too. My fave was "Fuck you Girl - Goethe".

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

A group of us finally got outside the campus complex here for the first time since we arrived. The hours we work are fairly brutal, 9 am-9 pm, with time between taken for eating, having multiple showers and trying to plan for the next day's class.
"It like Survivor," said one teacher, "Except we can't get voted off."
We eat Chinese dorm food, usually some dim sum and soup and some form of sponge cake for breakfast, or pastry with meat or fish or sweet bean fillings. Lunch and dinner are various combinations of vegetables, beans, pork, a tad of beef, and rice is present in mass quantities at every meal.
Last night eight of us four women, four men, managed to leave about 9:45 pm armed with the address of a bar and our school written in Chinese so the cabdrivers could understand where we wanted to go. We wound up in a nightclub/bar/hooker district in the one nice restaurant for several blocks. It's called Casablanca and owned by an expat, ederly French woman. Julian had a baked potato and pronounced it the finest he'd ever had. Others had lasagna, brandy laced ice cream dessert and steamed brocolli. I stuck with Chinese beer.
After Casablanca we went to a bar populated with friendly hookers who tried to charge us on leaving for several drinks we never ordered but that they had opened and put at our table nonetheless. I also learned I had "bought" a particularly friendly one a gin and tonic, though I had no memory of actually placing an order. The situation was resolved after a lot of polite, but firm bargaining on our parts.
I'm posting this during lunch break when other teachers, excepting Julian, are taking another field trip to the Shezhen Wal Mart for comfort food and supplies. I don't even go to Wal Mart in the States, why would I want to go to one here?

Monday, July 14, 2003

The kids are all right. Both Julian and I have classes of 30 each, ages 10-12. He's become quite a hit; his nickname is the "Clown Prince" - at least that what his Chinese TA, a young guy named Beany, tells him. I don't have a nickname, according to my Chinese TA, a woman in her early 20s named Fey who learned her English in England and speaks it with a British accent. All the children have English names that they've picked from books or had bestowed on them by previous teachers. Most are fairly traditional, like Tim, Mary, Agnes, and others are incomprehensible. "Street" and "Mole" are two I've heard of. I have one boy named Watt. Another teacher has a girl who is Precious Moment. Two kids in my class didn't have names so I dubbed them Aretha and Elvis. They seemed happy with their new IDs, though they are clueless as to their namesakes. Another teacher had a similar situation and dubbed his charge, "Bono."

Sunday, July 13, 2003

More blog on the run between classes and the "talent show" we 13 are supposed to give for the students tonight. It's hotter and more humid here than anyplace I've ever been, including Florida and Thailand. I'm sure my students have already nicknamed me "Waterhead Man" or "Sweaty Barbarian." Thankfully our dorm room is air conditioned, though having the toilet as a large rentangular hole in the shower stall was a real surprise.
We've had virtually no time to rest except for our first night of sleep since we've arrived. Last night as we were all ready to collapse from jet lag we were taken unshowered to a dinner in our honor at a swanky restaurant that included fine linen tableclothes, crystal goblets and the silhouettes of rats scurrying across the opaque class ceiling when the lights went on. It was easily a 15 course spread that included a ginger chicken complete with severed head that kind of put Julian briefly off his feed.
Highlight of class today? While having the kids -- 6th and 7th graders -- interview each other and then tell me about their "new friends" one boy told me that his pal "like to fuck."
I congratulated him on using the word correctly but told him that it wasn't one we would be using in class.

Friday, July 11, 2003

Blogging on the run from the Hong Kong airport after 17 hours of flying. Julian and I are fine. Ate at McDonald's for our first meal on Asian soil. Had our temps taken for SARS to get in as thermal cameras scanned our body heat. Our group is 13 people ranging from two 50 year olds - me and another woman (we're alsothe only smokers) to a hip-hop dance dude who just returned from Russia, several folks who've done this before - all mostly in their 20s. Julian is the youngest at 18 and fitting in well. Supposed to leave for China proper in an hour. Frazzled, sleep deprived, bio-clocks askew but also exhilerated. We've still got nine hours (it's noon here now) before we're officially off the clock after orientation and a greetingdinner. But we smell so funky, we might drive our hosts away early.

Thursday, July 03, 2003

We finally got the departure dates figured out. Julian will be working for only 3 weeks which gets him back on native soil on Aug. 3. I may do 5 and be back on Aug. 17. Can't believe a week from now we'll both be in the PRC. We're leaving July 10 and I've got assurance from a former coke-addict-turned-evangelical Christian minister-ex-brother-in-law/convicted felon (Korean) that we can crash for awhile with him and one of Julian's Korean aunts in LA while we wile away the time between arriving at LAX and departing the same evening. Spent most of the day at a friend of mine who is a budding paralegal as she rewrote our contracts using proper English/American legalize and a copy of Law for Dummies, and I changed all the too-high light bulbs and fixed a bad cabinet door hinge in her place in exchange. The ol' barter system. Works every time. She is also a pack rat who has an incredible collection of low-grade swag that Julian and I can use as gifts for the students while we're there. A lot of laser-printed "Colorado" themed fridge magnets - with animals we don't see here regularly, like wolves, bears, mountain lions and bald eagles plus a ton of old Burger King and McDonald's children's meals gimmes all made in - you guessed it! - China. Should be interesting to see how those go over.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Whooha! Finally got some date/time specifics from another person named, "Lotus." Lotus, whose phone manners and accent were disturbingly reminiscent of Julian's berserk mother on a good day, says we're leaving at midnight on the 11th from LAX. Departure dates are "open." But Julian can sign on for three weeks instead of five which will give him more time to prepare for the move to college. So we'll reserve lodging in LA for an afternoon and evening and suck it up and take two one ways to LA and book the other ones back after we get there providing the Internet service works. Which it will. It will. It must. World without end, amen.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?