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Archive for November, 2007

Boys are strong, Rabbits can jump

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

This blog is dedicated to Amy B, it was her birthday just the other day and I wanted to give her a blog, she’s taken to hounding me about them and it seems to be the only thing that gets me motivated.  So in a way I wrote this as a present for her, although aside from what I just said none of it has a single thing to do with Amy.  I actually hung up the phone with her and Ryan yesterday at around 1 pm my time, midnight there, and I stopped writting at 11 last night.  So, I just finished another long one, I have yet to get a single complaint about them running too long, I figure the ones who mind don’t bother and the ones that don’t mind seem to get into it.  And it helps me to write about everything so I will be able to go back and look years from now.  And in a way it feels like taking a huge shit, getting it all out.  So here it goes, its not really about anything more than the things going on in my life these past two months.  It ends on a sad note, but you’ll get there.  Funny stuff too, Halloween, a special apearance by Ultraman, and an alchahol feuled action adventure, whoa billy. 

I 

So I guess I will just start with Halloween.  Might as well.  That was a couple of weeks ago.  I spent the whole week teaching my kids about Halloween, I first taught them the word costume, which proved trickey, I had to use the Chinese word which I made them race with their dictionarys to it look up to see who was fastest.  I told them about trick or treating, and I told them that if any students dressed up in a costume on Halloween day than I would give them candy, garunteed.  I wanted to impart the spirit of Halloween the way I knew it. I told them about how if someone stingey so and so doesn’t give candy than sometimes the children will be forced to preform a small bit of mischeif known as the trick, which may involve dispensing toilet paper all over the offending house, and I drew a house covered with toilet paper complete with dancing stick figure children in the yard throwing the paper.  The stick figure children were smiling and dancing.  I told them that when I was young I once did this, not all the way true but I did try once.  I recall the attempt we made as kids was against a menace of a shit bag 16 year old named Nathan Guant, but we didn’t have much drive or attention span or toilet paper so it was sorry and piss poor and all of what little we bothered to throw was on the ground by morning, I remember my friend Adam’s older sister telling us we were so lame.  Of coarse the way I told the kids every inch of the house was covered, their little eyes bugged out, and of coarse my story ended with my getting in trouble over the incident just to wrap up everything with a cautionary note to be on the safe side, although I can not imagine any of my students ever even thinking about doing such a thing.  They really lost it when I explained that this stunt was most funny on nights when it rained and the paper stuck to the house. 

I told them about baked pumpkin seeds and my grandmothers pumpkin pie which was the best in the whole world, and I told them about jackolanturns.  I told them about monsters and used the bad guys in Ultraman as examples, and drew Ultraman fighting a giant google eyed slime monster.  I made them raise their hands if they liked monster movies, some didn’t and I asked them why, some did and I asked them why. I taught them about Dracula, and about how he sleeps during the day and used a sleeping student as an example.  I told them about Frankenstein and pretended to be the monster coming to life through electricity, then I charged at their desks with my arms stiff in front of me growling ferociously, the students screamed and lept out of their chairs.  I told them all about warewolves and I told them with dire certainty that they would all need to know about how to kill one as there are in fact many such monsters right here in Shangqiu.  The students all said ‘no, no teacher we will not believe you.’ and I walked around behind one of the boys backs pointing to his head and raising my eyebrows to indicate he was a warewolf.  Unfortunatly, none of my students had silver bullets handy.  And then we all decided which students were warewolves and which were vampires like Dracula, and I asked them why monsters in Chinese movies hop up and down and I spread my arms out and hopped like a Chinese monster which caused many of the students to do the same just as the bell wrang to end class.  I left the classes that week hollering over the hopping vampires and the screaming kids and the chair legs scraping the floor and the holabalu of the children exploding into motion at the sound of the bells just the Pavlov proved they would.  I was hollering that English corner would be held that Thursday and that on Wednesday if anyone wore a costume on Halloween I would give them candy.  Some heard, some didn’t, some smiled and waved, some were already on their cell phones, a couple still hopped like vampires. 

Usually my lectures invovle a little more serious subject matter and I also try to do games or activities which make (force under threat of humiliation) the students speak as much as possible, but sometimes I have to make sure they are having fun.  I seem to be the only teacher they have ever to do so.  May told her classes that on Wednesday I would be giving candy to every single student.  I had to go tell her kids that only kids with costumes would get candy and May thought that is wasn’t fair to the children who didn’t want to put forth any effort.  I suppose in some bizzare way in May’s head this is true, but in my head I am always right and she is always wrong.  She disagrees with this and it seems to be a running theme in our friendship, we are still best friends, May and I.  And we delight in arguing all the time.  I am so lucky to know May.

Speaking of friends, I am so happy to say that I have found cool westerners to shoot the shit with, Brett and Shannon are a married couple from Saskatchewan.  They are teaching at the college and I feel like we get along well.  Brett is a good guy and willing to drink whiskey all night and in the morning Shannon makes breakfast and shakes her head at how bad we were being.  And we talk and have great conversations and we travel to other cities on the weekends  So now life here aint so bad now, which is cool.  

That was the week before Halloween and Brett and I went to the candy market to shop for our students.  Brett and Shannon have way less students than I have (maybe around 1700 this semester) so they can actually buy cool prizes and shit for their students.  I am jealous that they can learn their kids names as well, by the way.  Anyhow, the candy market is a row of many stores along a street run by little chinese ladies who generally buy bulk candy which they turn around and sell wholesale to little stores.  The cool thing about this is the old ladies kick up a huge fuss and they wanted me to sample all the various delights.  Gum drops and things that were sort of like toostie rolls and strawbery mints and babana toffe and huge boxes of chocolete.  I left with a pillow cased sized bag of fake apple jolly rancers and some cinimen stuff that wound up being all sucky and a huge jar of chewing gum.  If these kids wore costumes I would be ready, if they punked out than I would have a ton of candy for almost nothing which is never all bad.

The college Halloween dance party was a costume event, so I did the best I could.  I figured I would be a rat if I didn’t come up with something, especially after teaching the kids about it all the past week.  So I wound up buying some chicken wire and wrapping it into a cone.  I then covered that in wrapped masking tape, painted eyes and cut out teeth for me to look out of.  It had horns and stands maybe almost five feet, maybe four and a half.  And I went to the college party and rocked it, and on Halloween day I wore y giant head to all my classes.  I was quite a sight, strutting around that way all day.  The kids all flipped out, and I was walking around the campus and saw the head master and all the school leaders, marched up and said hello, the head master looked like he didn’t know what to do and maybe would cry if I didn’t leave, so I did.  That was also the week I had a real bad cold and sore throat.  I made myself cowboy through it, it just wouldn’t do to be sick on Halloween.

All along I had guessed that one brave kid would wear something like a costume, but I was so jazzed that night when I got a steady stream of kids who had made masks out of paper.  Ask Ryan Burk about it, he had called me that night and we were talking as the kids were knocking on the door so he got to listen to the whole thing.  They had colored the masks and cut out eye holes, some of them were very creative, one kid tried turning his mask around and come back, which was crap and I told him that was an old trick and it wouldn’t work.  I only gave him a little candy the second time.  With most of the kids I was so thrilled I was dropping fist fulls of candy on them.  It was actually better than the always disapointing turnout in America.  One year, when I lived in Kirkwood I only got one trick or treater all night.  He was a kid from the neighborhood who had somehow managed to make a costume that made him look and smell just like a 60 year old crack head holding a dirty trash bag and no costume, the trick or treater said “trick or treat” through missing teeth.  I looked at him for a long time.  Finally I told him I wouldn’t give him any candy.  He pointed out that the least I could do was give him some cigerettes, I told him to get the hell off my porch or I was calling the police.  The trick or treaters in China this year were much better.

Plus in my classes that day we were playing a game where I read a block of text and the class bust into teams and competed in answering my questions.  On Halloween I was throwing candy to any student who got a right answer.  I was also asking difficult questions about the subject of the text which required them to think, which they seem to not do as well at.  They do much better when it comes to remembering facts or retrieving information found in the text.  Then at the end of class I was throwing fistfulls of candy out like Mardi Gras! Hip, Hip, Hurray for Halloween! 

In the mornings those weeks I was working at another school, these kids were little, maybe 5 or 6 and they had been learning English since september, this being October, don’t you know.  When I explained to them ‘an apple is red’ that was new information.  I felt it was difficult to teach them much of anything outside of memorization, every single thing that came out of my mouth they hollered it back in unison weather I liked it or not, a class of parrots.  This is the Chinese teaching style, conditioning from the age of very small to repeat in barking repition, never think, there is simply no need, just as long as they can memorize and regergitate the information on command.  So, on the first day I made the mistake of trying to teach them to respond to my saying ‘hello, how are you?’ with ‘I am fine, thankyou.’  Well I wrote the whole thing on the board, and I had them repeat it a few times, which they were marvoulous at doing, then I asked them one on one ‘Hello, how are you?’ and without fail each and every kid hollered at the top of their lungs  “hello how are you?’ back in my face.  I was totally unable to break through the wall and have any one of kids respond ‘I am fine, thank you.’ like I had asked a qustion.  And with highschool kids somewhere between my shitty shitty Chinese and thier highschool English level we can comunicate at least enough so I can get my point across, here I am at a loss.  On top of everything else I would have each class for fourty minutes one day every other week, so it is more or less futile to try to counter the conditioning their teachers have implanted in them all day long 6 days a week.

I recently sat in on a few Chinese classes during a day-long seminar I attended.  The teacher had a smile that was too big and phony which she used to patrol the room, her 12 year old students were expert repeaters, her arm was held out stiff and bent at the elbow in a C3PO pose, she was a prize winning dog trainer showing off her little Chinese human poodles.   The teacher was screaming a little, speaking English as fast as possible, ever smiling with cold teeth.  The over head projector clicked to the next slide, it was two children, one had a balloon over his head that read ‘What color is my cap?’  The teacher had her one girl and one boy out of the whole class who were good enough to answer all the questions, the majority anyway.  When she didn’t ask those two she encouraged the whole entire class to scream in unison like a company of marines.  A few times she ventured into the rest of the class, carefully avoiding the stupid ones, but she usually called on her two fav’s in the front.  She asked the boy in the front ’what color is my cap?’ and the boy stood suddenly and hollered ‘its a blue.’  ‘that is good.  Its a blue.’  Then she asked the whole class, the whole class seemed to agree in sreaming unison ‘Its a blue.  Blue, blue, blue’.  ‘Spell it‘, she stress the word it like her life depended on it.  ‘B-L-U-E’  ‘Spell it.’  ‘B-L-U-E’.  ‘Spell it’.  ‘B-L-U-E’.  Each time, the B-L-U-E was barked out with speed and anger and hate, like they were all training for a war against the insideously wicked color blue and his godless army of ‘what color is my cap’ and the ever impending threat of ‘Do you like a big panda or do you like a small panda?’ who were suspected of being long time loyalist sympathizers with and geneally known to be (at the very least) in cohoots with the ’Do you like to sing a song at Kangkang’s birthday party?’ Gorilla terrorists.

I would also ask you, dear blog believer, when the hell have you ever in your life had to respond to someone asking you the question, ‘what color is my cap?’.  But just in case it does come up, just remember ‘its a blue.’  Thats B-L-U-E!

The next slide was a picture Yao Ming who plays in the NBA for the Huston Rockets, easily the most famous man to Chinese Children aside from Mao Ze Dong or Jackie Chan or Confucious.  ‘Who is it‘?  The whole class now, ‘It is Yao Ming’.  Then to the one boy she always calls on, ‘Is Yao Ming very strong?’  The boy shot out of his seat like it was on fire and hollored ‘Yes he is’.  Then the teacher asked the boy, ‘Are you very strong?’  To which the boy hollered ‘Yes, I am.’  ‘Yes, you are very strong.  That is right.’  The teacher than turned to the girl to the left of the boy and asked the same question.  ‘Are you very strong?’  To which the girl replied ‘No, I am not very strong.’  The teacher barked back, ‘yes, you are right, you are not very strong.’  She then went around the room to all her little trained poodles.  Like well oiled robots each boy said that he was strong and each girl said that she wasn’t strong.  And with the exception of the boy who froze and couldn’t remember what to say (the only time I saw this ladies smile disapear) they all agreed that boys are very strong and girls are not. 

*Footnote-More of interest on this subject at the end of the post.

I was sitting next to the days key note speaker, a nice lady who as strange coincedence would have it had taught at the same school my friends Shannon and Brett worked at last year.  Her English was pitch perfect and we had been chatting all day.  She was taking careful notes during the class in question, she didn’t look impressed.  She asked me if I ever used the overhead projector in my class, and I told her that none of the class rooms had overhead projectors and if they had told her different they were lying.  She nodded slowly.  Later that day one of the many things covered in her three hour lecture cautioned teachers against pretty much everything I just told you about, so my faith in all Chinese education was now more or less restored.  I sat next to the poodle trainer who twisted in her seat nervously, her smile had scramed.

So I mentioned that that week I was teaching the little kids, they were little 5 year old repeating machines.  The first day I was there they had a guy come to take my picture as I taught.  The last day I was there they had actually called a news crew to come and cover the event.  I have taught kids that age before at my friends small weekend school, there I enjoyed small classes of 10 or 15 kids.  I had always found that the kids love it when I get em krunk.  They never get the outlet, see?  They never get to just be silly and blow off the steam.  So, I was doing with the class of 70 5 year olds what I always do with 15 5 year olds, even with their teachers there urging calm from the back of the room it didn’t take long for the whole thing to go hockey match.

Here is why, my lesson that week was that a rabbit can jump, a bird can fly, a fish can swim, a dog can bark, and a monkey can climb.  After I wrote the shit on the board, drew pictures of the animals to make sure they knew, made them repeat it a few times, made up a song about the sentence they had to sing, then everyone was out of their seats and I had these kids jumping like Rabbits.  I was jumping as high as I could and we all screamed ‘a rabbit can jump, a rabbit can jump’ but not in any kind of unison.  No, we were fucking sloppy disorganized.  I had them fly like birds, they flapped their wings and I picked some of them up off the ground and flew them around like little airplanes, this made them so crazy and happy I thought a few of them might explode.   Then they learned how dogs can bark, so there is an even chance that TV crew put me on the local news barking at the top of my voice at a child, I didn’t see it so I don’t know.  The children made very good dogs, I thought, and they took to running around barking at each other like pros.  I looked to the teachers standing in the back of the room, they looked very nervous.  Then we learned that a fish could swim, which called for everyone swimming like fish, then a monkey can climb, and everyone climbed an invisable tree, or there desks in one or two cases.  One child climbed to the top of his desk and demonstrated how lemmings can drop.  He was ok though.  He was smiling. 

Mind you, the whole time after acting out each animal I had them sit down and learn the next sentance about what another animal can do.  And yeah, it was totall chaos and I was screaming my self horse trying to quite them down enough to say the next thing, thats what you get when you put 70 5 year olds together and make them jump and scream like wild animals, I know that.  But I bet that when that kid is 10, they will know the word for what a rabbit does in English, or at least they will remember how much fun we had trying to learn.  I bet some of them will remember how much fun we had that day a long time past age 10. 

The class concluding with a pop test, ‘this side of the room,….. ALL MONKEYS!  MONKEYS.  What can a monkey do?  Yes, yes CLIMB, CLIMB!  This side of the room,….wait for it, wait for it…..DOGS!  And what can a dog do?  YES YES, a dog can bark, ok, everybody,…..SWIM!’

I appologized profusely after class to their next teacher.  I wouldn’t have wanted to handle that class.  As I left I went around giving the kids high fives and shaking their hands.  Many wanted to hug me.  A boy in the back hugged me and he said ‘I like you very much’.  I learned later that all through the class this boy had begged his teachers to tell him how to say this to me.  Outside the class all 70 surrounded me, all trying to hug me or shake my hand at the same time.  I think I was a big hit.  It was nice to feel that much love too, I don’t think I deserve it, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t feel really nice and magical.

So, like I said, I was nursing a sore throat that week.  Screaming at the absolute top of my lungs that day didn’t help matters, nor did all my other six classes that day, on top of everything else that was the day of my schools big English Corner.  I may or may not have mentioned English corner before.  At the Shangqiu college where Brett and Shannon teach has an English corner which involves being surrounded by super duper college girls who want nothing more than to ask me questions to improve their English, sort of like the beer commercial where the loser opens a coors light and his office turns into a beach filled with girls in bikinis.  Sort of like that without the beer, beach or bikini.  That was the cause of my initial interest, but now I have found that I am making friends with many of the college students and I look forward to our conversations, sadly from lack of anything better to do, English corner has become a mainstay of my social life.  So, this past month I started one at my school, a place where any student who felt like it could voluntarily go and try to have conversations in English one night a week for an hour.  The first few nights had me as a nucleus surrounded by an inner ring of believers who wanted to work on their English, than a significantly larger outer ring of kids who were there to make fun of us by calling ‘Hull-ooo’ in a high pitch girly falsetto.  Well, I am proud as hell to say that at this point I have my English corner growing steadily in force, the last one was huge and a lot of fun.  Brett came out to the last two and brought a few of his students with him.  I have a pack of cool boys who hang around with their elbows resting on my shouldier the whole time to show that we are bro.  And I seem to have my ever loyal giggle section of young girls, who want to flirt and blush which is creepy but flattering and funny at the same time.  Often creepy though.  And I am starting to get the younger kids out too, and I ask them things about their favorite color, or which one can run the fastest, that sort of thing.  I have yet to mention anything about English corner to the school leaders, this is somethihg I am doing on my own steam for my dedicated students and because we all have fun.  I have even asked some teachers to come, they show up for a minute and make sure I see them and then leave.  So it is all me and the kids who are into it and I dig that.  Last week we tried to convince the kids that Brett (who clears six feet) was not nearly as tall as I am.  Brett tried to tell my kids that he was standing on two students.  That had them laughing.  Last week a boy and a girl who I taught last semester told me they wanted to start their own English club, I said that was the coolest thing ever.  I also asked if I could joing their team,……..official member.  That’s right. 

Meanwhile English corner involves me hollering over the din of questions and laughter from the kids.  And there are so many, now I am having to holler louder and louder and if there is still circle of kids making fun of us outside our circle we can’t see or hear them, and I promise we out number the haters and even if they are there nobody notices or cares anyway. 

 II

The week before I went to South East Asia (back in the summer) I met a man from Ghana at the gate of my school.  He saw me and told me to hurry, we had to talk and it had to be fast, did I have someplace we could go?  I said sure and we went into my school, he was looking over his shouldier.  Micheal had been studing in Moscow, a friend had told him about a great school in Shangqiu.  The great school turned out to be best foriegn language school and also turned out to be run by a souless mother fucker who explained that the terms for the job would be discussed on arrival.  So, of coarse on arrival it turns out that the terms are you get to sleep on the floor of the classroom and eat three bowls of rice a day for free and teach as many classes as the souless motherfucker says.  Here I will point out that only an idiot would travel all the way from Moscow to China with no way to go someplace else and not know the terms of the job in advance, but also that only a souless motherfucker would prey on and victimize them in this way. 

So Micheal told me his trouble and I sympathized with him, I think I understood most of what he said, his accent was heavy.  He begged me to help him find a job and I agreed to try.  After he left my appartment the souless motherfucker was waiting in the hall, he looked frantic, like a bounty hunter tracking his querry.  “I looked everywhere for you.”  he forced a smile when he saw me.  The guy is short and fat and bald and has human shit in his heart and veins instead of blood.

After asking around it turned out that most of the people in Shangqiu are totally racist, an obvious by product of growing up in a small city and never ever ever seeing a single black person.  Not an excuse, just an explanation.  I told people his qualifications and people seemed all excited until they found out he was from Africa.  “Micheal couldn’t be a good teacher because the children would be too afraid of his skin”.  Direct word for word quote.  Maybe they would have been too, and of coarse I argued that Micheal could win them over and forever break this chain of ignorance.  Deaf ears.  This pissed me off but they don’t really have any kind of anything like they have in the United States for that sort of thing, can’t sue, can’t call the news, news wouldn’t care even if the government gave them permission to cover such a subject, which will never hapen in a million years.  So not really much I could do about it.  A week went by and I left for South East Asia.  When I got back my friend Micheal was gone.  I never learned where.  I guess it stuck in my craw a little, I wanted to help the guy and I couldn’t.  Hell I tried right?

The week after Halloween brought another knock at my door revieling another man from Ghana, same deal, all stuck, spent all his money coming to China from Moscow.  His name is Emmanuel and he said he had a masters, I went to the school that night to see him and I found him locked inside the empty school.  I talked to him through a crack in the door.   He told me he didn’t have the key and couldn’t get out.  He told me he held a masters degree, and as proof he passed me the sylabus for a class in administering care for someone suffering from diabetis, which I felt didn’t really prove that he had a masters degree.  I pointed out that now that he had given it to me I could just as well have a masters degree by his logic for all anyone else knew.  I didn’t press the matter.  He asked me to write him a letter of recomendation, which I said I couldn’t do as I didn’t really know him.  On the wall was a bulletin board of pictures of the students at the best foriegn language school, many of which had the faces of African teachers.  I saw Micheal in a few of them, and a couple of guys I didn’t recognize.  Clearly this was the souless motherfuckers game.  Get them to come to China on their own dime, and treat them like shit until they figure a way to escape, then find another poor sucker who will be trapped into being a free teaching slave for a few months.

I told Shannon this story on the phone and she said I had to contact their friend Avros, the Indian foriegn teacher at their college.  Avros is sort of a legend around here, everyone seems to know him, his name often mentioned always with respect.  He has his own foriegn language school, and he seems to know people in the Shangqiu government.  I told him what was what and he agreed to take Emmanuel to see some of the people in the government to take this dude down.  I was all happy to find a good fat cat to pick a fight with, and Shannon and I agreed to help buy the guy a ticket to Beijing where he would have a lot better chance of finding a job than here.  I offered to let the guy sleep on the floor of my tiny appartment and Shannon lent me some bedding for him.  It would only be for a few days, I reasoned, and then he would be on a train and gone.  Best of all the souless motherfucker would be out a teacher.  I noticed that he only had leather dress shoes and no socks so I took him to the outside shoe market and got the guy some sneakers and socks.  I gave him the food card for my school cafeteria so he wouldn’t go hungry.  That night Emmanual and I stayed up talking about the souless motherfucker, all though Emmanuel would never use such words.  To him he was a very bad man, very bad man, Which he said over and over.  He stood in my office, paceing as he talked with indignation.  The point which he often returned to was that it was human exploitation, he said that again and again, and I said yeah!

So the next day, I took him to meet Avros, we went right before their English corner started.  Emmanuel told him his story about what had happened and his conditions and everything else.  Avros explained that the three of us would go to the city and talk to some people and get this guy busted with the authorities.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, uncharactoristic of anything he had said before, Emmanuel refused to go.  He would not help us, he didn’t want any trouble.  Avros asked why he expected us to help him if he wouldn’t help himself, which I found to be a paramount question.  His feet were dug into the sand, even when we reasoned that we could put him on a train to go away for ever that same day, he still wouldn’t budge.  Mind you that as far as anyone could see, the souless motherfucker wouldn’t be able to touch Emmanuel, please do not think this guy is somehow dangerous with connections like in a movie, he is just a shit bag low rent con man.  I would guess the ones at risk were Avros, who was sticking his neck out by asking a favor of his friends in the government, and me because the souless motherfucker knew where I live and could concievably show up with some boys if we managed to fuck him up enough.  But Emmanuel wouldn’t help so nothing was done, so I expect another man from Ghana who came by way of Moscow knocking on my door any month now.

I had gone from having a mission to having a man on my floor and I was ready for him to go.  He spent the next three days on my computer, hunting and pecking, asking for help over and over.  The final straw came when by buddy Ryan Burke called from America and he acted like I was being rude for talking so long, as though it was somehow his computer.  That was that.  He had a few Chinese friends that picked him up that day, and I gave him some money for a ticket, not a lot but not a little either, almost enough to take him all the way down south to Guangzhou where I am told many people from Africa live, his Chinese friends helped him out with a little money too.  And so he showed up the next day looking to crash and had no explanation for why he hadn’t gone to Guangzhou yet, I told him he could get on the train or stay some place else, I had already done enough and I wanted my appartment back.  His Chinese friend offered me a ciggerete and I told him I don’t smoke.  So the guy lit up in my appartment and suddenly it wasn’t cool at all anymore and I told him to go.  I started dragging his shit to the door and he argued with me and I turned to homeboy and in a not very nice way said ‘could you please not smoke in my house?’.  That day I finally broke down and let him leave his shit in my place but not but he had to stay elsewhere.  Mind you I have taken the train to Guangzhou, it leaves everyday at midnight, a fact.  I was willing to take him by taxi to the train station, but I am not running a youth hostel, you will not find my name listed in lonely planet.  He came back the next day and I think the whole reason for not leaving was he thought I would let him use my computer which I would not.  I told him to go to an internet bar.  Internet bar in China is really cheap.  He could sense the tension so he showed me pictures of the wife and kids he has back home.  He showed me pictures of him taking care of AIDS patients.  This made me think more of him, but I still wanted him the hell out of my house.  Move along, rollemout.  So I helped him catch a cab, we took the cab into my school and I ran in front clearing kids out of the way, sort of mother hen of me but I am so scared about how Chinese Taxi drivers work.  I hear he is in Guangzhou, and I hope he is ok.  I realize that he can’t speak Chinese and has no money, I tried to convince him to go to Beijing to get to his consulate, but he wouldn’t listen.  And I sympathize and hope he has found friends and I hope he is eating but at the same time I have been to Guangzhou and it is bigger that Shangqiu so there are more chances than Shangqiu, and it has many Africans so there is hopefully less racism than here and more people who will help him.  And may I remind you that you do not come to a foriegn country if you don’t have any garuntee of a job.  I feel like I helped him the best I could.  Yeah, he is in a shitty place, but I think it is at least as shitty as being here.  I am waiting to hear from him, I hear he is in Guangzhou now. 

 

III

That week I think I got over the cold symptoms but the sore throat was getting worse.  It was aching at the end of each class, I felt like I was tearing my throat to pieces.  That week was much more subdued.  I Hung up a map of the United States and took them on a state by state tour of my country.  I also taught them a little spanish when I got to Mexico (Mushaguo in Chinese).  That weeks English corner at my school was even bigger than the week before, which was amazing.  Now I am giving kids English names, which they want me to do all the time. 

And last week I went to a resturant that I hadn’t been to before.  I try to do this from time to time as it forces me to speak more Chinese.  The guy was pleased to see me, he brought me an entire medium sized bottle of Chinese rice wine, bi zhou (pronounced byjoe).   Then one of those one in a million chance things happened.  The weekend before had been the night of the big Halloween shindig at the college, and that night me and Brett opened the bottle of Jamison we had found the week before that in Zhengzhou.  See, the week before Haloween me and Shannon and Brett had gone on a 3 hour train ride essentially to eat at Mcdonalds and shop for stuff we can’t get here like Cheese and bacon.  We also found an all you can eat pizza shop which also had buffolo wings.  We asked how much was the beer and it wound up also being all you can eat, so we had several.  But amoung other things we found a bottle of Jamison whiskey.  So the night of the Halloween party Brett and I stayed up all night finishing it.  I hope I didn’t make a rambling ass of myself but I am pretty sure enough that I did.  Brett and Shannon are so cool they didn’t seem to mind.  The point of the story is that the Jamison came with a tiny airplane bottle which I had put into my jacket pocket.  So here was a guy giving me a whole bottle of bizhou, and it occured to me.  I pulled it out of my jacket pocket and in exchange presented him with a miniature bottle of Jamison, fine fine whiskey.  So he sat down and we drank a few shots together, him the whiskey and me the bizhou.  Clearly he got the better bargin but it was ok, he seemed so happy with this.  All the cooks came in from the back, and the waiters stoped what they were doing and a few of the costomers came to check things out.  Then they poured out more bizhou and I tried to refuse but they weren’t hearing it, then they brought me beer, and I toasted them all in Chinese and they smiled and bowed their heads and I downed another shot, and I went home and slept until diner time.  I am happy to say that now when I go in there I am treated like a foriegn dignatary, a foriegn dignatary that likes to drink a little with lunch.  Byzhou is not good for a sore throat.  Neither is beer.  I was drinking plenty of both last week.   

Jane sent me a message that she was sad, and she said that she wanted to be alone for a few days.  This was not good news.  I emailed her each day trying to see what was wrong, but respected that for some reason she wanted to be left alone so I didn’t call her.  I didn’t know why she was doing this but I was worried about her, and I had a bad feeling about things. 

But I was distracted, I was all set to go to Keifeng.  Shannon and Brett and I went last Friday night.  Kaifeng is about an hour and a half train ride away and was once the capital of China, way back in the day, about 1000 years ago.  At some point invading forces caused the Emporer of China to flee the city and he took up residence in Shangqiu, so the capital seat of China was actually briefly in my home town, you can still see some of the remnates of which in the south of our town.  At any rate, Kaifeng is the city I wrote about in the the third Blog I ever wrote on this websight, back in January when my sorry ass just got here.  The blog is titled “one item one should never find one’s self for want of when paying a visit to the docter in Zhengzhou”, go give her a look, blog believers.  I just reread it, and it’s a trip to think how strange my whole world was back in January.  Now it is all normal, I am hardened to it.  The novelty and the shock have long since vanished and I am existing on my own terms in another planet.  Life in America seems like a distant dream or memory which I recall everytime I get an email or call from a good friend. 

So anyway, where the hell was I, anyhow?  Oh, ok, yeah.  Right.  Back in Kaifeng.  The first thing we did Friday night was to go visit the night market.  A night market is a place in a city where the streets are lined with little carts that have foods of every possible description.  Lots of meat roasted on sticks over fire, lots of interesting things we couldn’t identify.  Lots of cool stuff.  We found one guy who had sheep eyes on a stick so of coarse I said we should try em.  Brett agreed and Shannon was grossed out, so her and their Chinese friend who (I spent last weekend with but whose name already escapes me) went to KFC.  It was gooey, and chewey, kind of like fat on a steak but round in a ball.  The idea made me gag at first but aside from that it was really tasty.  I must say, a fine juicy meat, sheep eye on a stick.  And yes I know it was the eye and not the testicle, you smart ass, you.  It looked like an eye, thats why I know.  Shut up.   And even if it was the ball, so what?  People in other countries do it, so what.  It wasn’t though, I am sure I ate a lambs eye shish kabob.  Nothing gross like testicles.

So we wandered around the night market, had a lot of food, a lot of which can be found at most night markets in China, the one in Kaifeng is mainly famous for its size I think.  Brett and I sank a few beers talking to a guy from the autonomous region of Xinjiang, which is an area that is in many ways outside of China.  The language, for example is an entirely different linguistic family from Mandarin or cantonese and they all wear long beards.  When I had a long beard many Chinese people guess I was from Xinjiang, it made more sense to them than America.

So we talked with him the best we could and ate meat on a stick and sank a few beers.  The girls were going to bed and the temperature was droping fast so I recomended to Brett that I pick up a bottle of the homemade bizhou I saw on the street and we just head back to the hotel.  Having an extra girl (what the hell was that girls name?  Christ! Its driving me nuts, you know?  Just give me some time, maybe I’ll get it.)  Meant that we were sleeping boy boy and girl girl, so we had two rooms with two beds.  The homemade bizhou stand had pulled up stakes when we came to it so I grabed a cheap brand bottle from a cart with wine and cigerettes and we started heading home, maybe 20 minutes after the girls.  We went around the corner of the building to an alleyway to get into our hotel, and Brett spied what was sure enough a dance club, neon lights pouring, base bumping.  So I tucked the bizhou safe in my jacket pocket and we went in.  The music was too loud to talk and the dance floor was packed.  At the bar stood an American who bought us all a round of whiskey, we’ll call him Gill.  He was in town visiting his girlfriend, but alas her grandfather had died that very day and it turns out that her father hates him so here he was at the bar.  He was a young dude, certainly not a bad looking guy and soon one drunk girl started sashaying her way up to the bar and she grabed his hand and drug him to the dance floor.  While his was gone I picked up another round of whiskey and a two coronas for Brett and me, the first corona I tasted in 10 months as of November 7 kids.  It was good, I fucking love that beer.  I miss it, you know what other beer I miss?  Red stripe, I fucking love me some red stripe.  Gill managed to shake himself lose from the girl, he didn’t seem into her.  She was a little on the fat side, and I reminded him that it is shitty to cheat on your girlfriend the same day her grandmother died, he should at least wait until tomarrow.  Gill pointed out that it was almost midnight and Brett ordered another round of whiskey.  The drunk girl grabed once again grabbed Gill’s arm and drug him out to the dance floor again and this time a tall girl stood up and started pushing the chubby girl.  It seemed to us that the tall girl was pissed at the chubby girl and wanted all the gill for herself, they pushed each other a couple of times and then the chubby girl won and off they danced.  Gill didn’t want any part of either one of them so he escaped and talked to us.  So then the girl drug me out to the dance floor and I told her quick that I have a girlfriend and wasn’t into it and sat back down.  I recomended we go to the parking lot and drink bizhou, and Brett and Gill’s eyes lit up like Vegas.

In the parking lot we stood in a circle and passed the bottle around.  Gill said it was so cool to drink with foriegners and we agreed.  The drunk fat girl was annoyed and started pushing Gill, she demanded to know where we lived and which one of us was going to take her home for sex, right like that.  Gill told her to get lost and she stormed off.  His Chinese was perfect too, he studies Chinese in a University, he told us.  ”thass what I neeed ta do two.”  I said shaking my head with utter conviction.  Taxis started collecting to pick up people letting out of the club, we started trying to get the drivers to drink with us and I remember my relief when none of them would.  We passed the bottle around for a time, I can’t remember what we talked about but we talked about something.  The last drop burned my throat and that was that, I threw the bottle across the parking lot and heard it shatter some place a million miles away from my consciousness, a good thirty meters away.  Then the fog crept in.  The next thing in my memory was Gill laying face up in the street his face placid like a charub, I don’t know how far later this was.  He didn’t want to get up, and we were trying to find his hotel, we were going on a conversation from a few hours ago when Gill off handedly told Brett that he was staying a few blocks that way.  I remember pulling on his arm and I remember him not gettin up.  He wanted to sleep there, and I told him he would be run over by a car.  Next I remember walking with his arm over my shoulder, Brett supporting his left side.  In Canada Brett was a paramedic, so it is good to have him along on such a journey.  Now that I think about it, I would say that Brett did most of the heavy lifting and I did most of the heavy dropping.  I was living proof for all Chinese teachers that boys are not always strong.  I remember singing the song ‘I remember Halloween’ by the Misfits, I don’t know how long that went on, it couldn’t have been very pleasent for anyone else.  Gills legs started going all limp and he fell face first.  We tried to drag him up and he wouldn’t go.  We tried to reason with him, but then he started cursing me out and told me to fuck off and to leave him there.  I remember that made me mad so I yelled at him.  I remember trying my best to sound like a drill sergent and screaming at him that he may curse me but we had been trying to find his hotel for, I had to ask Brett, (who like a rock could still tell time) said it had been almost an hour and a half that we were trying to get him home.  I gave him a swift kick in the side, after all the man was clearly down, what better time?  And Brett ran off around the corner and I sat on the sidewalk next to where he Gill was laying and we talked about our Chinese girlfriends and how sweet they were and how much we missed them and how happy they made us and we smiled.  Then Brett came back, having found a hotel that claimed to have a foriegner guest registered.  Brett grabed Gill’s shoulders and I grabbed his legs and we started carring him that way, which he hated.  He protested and I remember screaming something in his face to the effect of “than stand on your own two feet and walk like a man!” Just like Full Metal Jacket.  I was as drunk as he was mind you, but at least I could walk.  And we still carried his arms over our shouldiers but it worked and he got up and the people in the hotel walked us to his room and we put him down and took off his shoes and Brett the man had the presance of mind to ask them to check up on him every hour.  He also thought to get us bottles of water and we stayed up drinking two bottles each.  Gill emailed me today, he seemed very sheepish and embarrased about the whole thing.  I told him we’ve all been there and he should just relax.  He also asked if we could all get together around Christmas, and I told him that sounded fine. 

IV

The next day, Brett was mad hung over and I was more or less ok.  This was strange as I have witness Brett drinking a lot more than we had the night before and I have always seen him come back grinning, on top of that I don’t think he had nearly as much Bizhou as Gill and me.  He looked like hell itself, and he said he felt much worse, subsequently we were off to a slow start that morning which was cool.  Another problem was my throat had gone from bad to worse, it felt like I had ripped a huge hole in the inside of my neck and when I tried to talk I had a growling whisper like Miles Davis.  I turned on the TV while I waited and found some totally rad looking Chinese sci-fi show with dudes in space suits flying around and landing on a moon like planet with a cool rocket ship.  They were exploring the planet cautiously with scientific devices and laser guns drawn when Shannon showed up with really sweet hamburgers from the local fastfood place called best food, the logo for which was a smiling monkey with some kind of wierd tribal war paint on his face.  But that was such a good fast food burger, rememinded me almost of burger king but better, and the fries were good and she brought sprite and asprin.  As I munched my awesome burger, the astronuaghts found a deep hole in the planet, something in the hole made their scientific devices go all crazy.  Then a giant monster jumped out of the hole, they started zapping it with their lasers.  Brett came emerged from the Bathroom groaning.  Karen was up at this point too, and we talked about what we were going to do first that day.  Then Ultraman jumped out of nowhere and started battling the giant monster to save the Chinese cosmonaughts, I was all “Ultraman, awesome!” Then Shannon told me Ultraman was gay.  That was just crazy I told her, she kept saying he was gay though, just to get my goat.  Anyway by the time the monster had died so had my hangover, Brett wasn’t looking so hot though, and as the day went on Brett looked worse and the pain in my throat started getting better but not by much.

Both places we went that day were the same places I have already written about in the third blog I wrote here in the adventure, “one item one should never find one’s self for want of when paying a visit to the docter in Zhengzhou”, so I won’t get to into it.  Also, I think if you look in the comments after that blog Carson left a couple of links of sites where you can check out the pictures for yourself, which I recomend you do.  I will say that this was the big flower festival and it was totally wonderful.  Everything was covered in chrasathimums of every shape and color, bees going ape shit, this is their Christmas.  In the middle of the walkway (surrounded by two large lakes) which takes you to the palace was a dragon with gold flowers for skin, mind bending gardens on either side.  It was so great.  When we went to the Temple it was even better, and at first I was worried that it was so crowded it couldn’t be as great as the first time I was there, but I was happily surprised.  I felt the same calm and peace as before, and now there were wonderous flowers everywhere.  I prayed to the Buddas for Jane’s happiness, I was still a bit worried about her cryptic email from a few days ago.  And I bought a Mao Ze Dong Show globe with gold glitter.  Along the bottom were fake American pennies, and on top of everything else, I bought this thing at a Buddist temple, from a Monk! 

We took the train home at 6 that night and we were all tired.  Brett had actually gotten worse which told us that it was more than a hang over.  Hang overs tend to go away, not increase with time.  I talked to him today and he still has a cold, he figures that his body could have beaten it if he wasn’t tearing around drinking beer/whiskey/bizhou all night.  On the train ride home we both slept in our seats. 

V

That night when I got home I tried to email Jane, she text messaged me.

I got dumped.

It’s ok though.  I have been increasingly worried that it would hurt to go back to America and I was afraid of doing that to her, now I don’t have to worry as much.  Her rational was that were are too different, I think she never really figured out what to make of me.  She said it brought her too much pressure, and I understand.  I am fine, really, honest. a little sad, actually a little relieved.  I am sure that she still has feelings for me and I still do for her, we have talked a lot since, and I am doing my best to make sure she is ok with everything, She has been crying a lot and I have been comforting her about it which I am still glad to do.  But I had a good time dating her, she was a sweet girl, maybe the sweetest and most honestly sincerly kind and sweet human being I have ever known.  Pure sunshine, and now its gone,… sigh.  Thats all I have to say about that. 

And yeah, I am still staying in China for another six months.  I am sorry blog believers, good friends.  I love all of you so much and I am coming home sooner or later, now I must beg for your patience.  Nothing is in America that will not be there for me come September or next November.  I know that all my good friends will be there, I know your love will be there then as I feel it from you now.  But don’t give up on me, good friends.  I will see you before you know it, so keep calling and keep emailing.   

VI

Funny thing about the next morning, last Sunday, I woke up in screaming pain.  Well, I guess its not really funny ha ha.  I couldn’t talk, instead I was making a wierd squelling noise.  So I went and waited outside May’s class for her and asked her (via notepad) to take me to the hospital, damn I was in so much pain.  We went to the main hospital and waited endlessly.  I taught May how to play hangman, which was fun.  The doctor looked in my throat finally and a few seconds later I was pushed back out the door.  I was to take a pile of pills which were so expensive, although the doctor visit itself costed $0.38 American.  It was 1 in the afternoon before I could whisper without it hurting.

Next we had to go to another clinic where I would get the penicilin IV drip.  The clinic was a small shopfront near my school which I pass by all the time and have never really looked at.  The front out side is lined with people sitting on the ground with tubes hanging out of their arms leading to IV jars hanging from hooks in the wall or tree branches.  We stepped inside the clinic just in time to witness a baby shitting bright orange chunky liquid all over the floor.  He mother held her and people stood around watching, many of whom had IVs haning out of one arm, the other arm holding their own IV pouch above their shoulder level.  The room was small and dark and packed.  Dingy.  Everyone was waiting around in pergatory.  In one corner a frail old woman layed in a stretcher with an IV, and her Frail old husband sat next to her holding her hand, they both looked so sad and so worried, so unable to fight what ever was happening to her.  In the center of the room behind a cluttered destk sat the doctor, a stout fellow who smoked with one hand and picked his nose with the other punctuated with what quickly seemed to be compolsive spitting in the same spot on the floor. I stood there taking in the scene for a while, then the doc glances in my mouth for a 10th of a second at best and decides that penicilin isn’t the right thing, how about this other medicine that none of us can tell you about, wouldn’t you rather let us pump that through your body an hour a day for the next three days?  Doesn’t that sound like a good thing?  What if I tell you that the other medicine is much cheaper?  How about it?  I walked.

So me and May went to a third hospital, an out of the way clean hospital.  And I argued for the longest time that they wear gloves when they stick me, and I wanted to see the needle come out of the package.  This made them crazy mad, and so they all laughed and discused how stupid I am.  Nobody ever got AIDS from a hospital, they reasoned.  They also argued that their medical skills were not enough if they used rubber gloves.  May said that they don’t use gloves on every patient in American.  Yes, they do May.  Well, if they use the same glove all day than it will become dirty and contaminated.  Well, they put on new gloves with each new patient.  This news was a stunning blow for everyone in the room.  Finally they did put on gloves, the gloves were a little on the big side, but still rubber gloves.  And for the last three days I have sat in a chair for an hour each morning waiting for the juice to flow through my body.  I have been reading the books that Carson sent me, he sent me a ton of books, ya’ll.  Maybe 20 books!  Amazing!

And today was the last time I had to go, they had run out of the other gloves so they used giant cafeteria lady gloves, the kind that would be too big for Andre the Giant.  It was like the key stone cops trying to stick something sharp into my body.  They did it though.  And even though I didn’t make them happy they did it smiling, I know they still think I am crazy, but lots of folks think that. 

And I have had no classes this week to save my voice, which is steadily healing, thankyou.  And I promise to try to take better care of my voice, I have ways of making the kids quiet down without yelling, sometimes I get so into it with the class that I forget myself.  And yesterday I spent 11 hours and the past 4 today writting what you just read, thank you very very much for reading it, and thankyou very very much for being my friend. 

 

Love,  

W.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMY BUGG!!!

Footnote:

*Just now as I was writting this I whipped out the text book for age five students that the school gave me.  I haven’t looked at it as I tend to come up with my own stuff, mostly games and songs in English for kids that age.  And I am now looking at Lesson 25.  Lesson 25 shows a picture of a boy punting a soccar ball into a net.  Next to the picture is a drawing of a girl asking the age old question ‘what can a boy do?’  in bold we have our answer ‘A BOY CAN PLAY SOCCAR‘  next to the other picture in Lesson 25 a drawing of a boy asks What can a girl do?  THE GIRL CAN DANCE to go along with the picture of the girl dancing with two fans in a pretty flower garden.