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.
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