October 5, 2011
Up from the 36 chambers! I have been extremely lazy as far as writing journal entries is concerned, so forgive me. I have been busy. I will recount that which I can remember…
I had to teach a demo course at a different school. In some ways my failure at the first school was a good lesson in what not to do, so I guess I am somewhat grateful for that experience. Also, fuck Rachael. The second demo class went well; they gave me actual kids and a lesson plan and I went in and did my thing. Great stuff. The kids were three years old and very funny. Laurel watched. No homo.
I started work there a week ago. I’m not crazy about all the foreign teachers. Jobs like foreign schools, which have low requirements and good pay, tend to attract random, uninteresting people. Something akin to restaurant work in the states. I feel like an asshole for saying that, but it’s the truth. My first several weeks of work have, and will, consisted of me observing other teachers teach class. It’s been helpful so far and it’s nice to ease into actually teaching. Plus I’m being paid. One of the guys who works there, Jorge, is from Florida. I’ve been calling him Gorgeous George. We run into him a lot at the other university which has an outdoor area where Internationals go to drink and flirt and talk about various unimportant things. Yeah, so work is good. They don’t have shirts that fit me, however, and they struggled to take an adequate photo of me for my bio. It can’t all be perfect. On the bright side there is a great baozi [baozi, pronounced bow (like to take a bow) and zi pronounced like zip minus the p and maybe throw a little t action between bao and zi, is a type of steamed bun filled with meat or veggies. Something like dhim sum (which I don’t know how to spell). Back to the show.] place right outside of the school, so that’s a win.
I got to admit it’s getting better. We branched out and found some great options that are closer to the dorm. On the west side, where are dorm is, there are several stands during lunch time. There’s this wrap thing that we eat for 3.50 kuai ($0.50ish) that is very filling. This guy cooks them on a grill but that’s misleading. It’s actually a large, flat, round surface that is very hot. With a flat stick he smears on some batter and then cracks an egg and let’s the batter cook and solidify. Then he folds it and adds a piece of lettuce and some stuff that looks like really short noodles and a couple other unidentifiable (not in a bad way) things. And then he adds a piece of crispy, wonton-y type stuff that he breaks in half. At some point he asks if you want some spice and I always say yes, but I have no idea what it is. It takes him about a minute to whip one of these bad-boys up and he’s always sweating (sometimes a drop of flavor is added to your wrap). They’re really good. We got a couple the other day and went to buy a drink. We were walking alongside the lady who is kind of the cook’s assistant [she brings more ingredients and she collects money and (probably) talks shit about us.] and I saw her reach into a bucket of murky, like actually gray) water and extract lettuce. Yay!
The north side of the school is street food heaven. Laurel had been sick and last weekend he stayed at his family friends’ house to recover. I didn’t want to eat alone so I got off of the bus from work, bought a beer and a baozi from the convenience store (Chinese 7-11), and then started walking. I bought a couple rice dumplings [shoumi (show-me), which means literally hand rice] and some mantou [(man-toe), steamed bread. It’s kind of bland.]. That’s not a ton of food, but it was filling. I was standing by a fruit stand eating when I saw a guy buy this sandwich type thing. It was like a pita filled with chopped beef (obviously it was not like this at all, but that’s pretty close to what it was I guess) and you could add an egg if you were so inclined. I was. 5 kuai ($0.90). That whole walk cost me 14 kuai ($2.50) with beer.
Other than that, we figured out how to say kung pao chicken [gung bao ji din (gung bao gee deen) which has more peanuts than chicken] and steamed rice [mifan (me f-AwN)]. And we found a different dumpling shop and a different muslim noodle shop. Still, we manage to fuck up occasionally. One time I was trying to learn how to pronounce a dish and instead of saying the phrase for “how do you say”, I pointed. We ended up with double portions. Another time a lady made fun of us for trying to speak Chinese and everyone in the restaurant laughed [I cursed at her in English for the rest of the meal.]. The other day we were taken to a pizza place that was terrible. Some of the pizzas had bananas on them. Still learning.
I’m really liking the challenge of learning Chinese. My pronunciation [fayin (fayeen)] is decent and my character [hanzi] recognition is good. I’m actually thinking of staying here and getting a Master’s degree in film theory. Like I already applied for a scholarship that they offered me, so I guess that’s more than just thinking about it. I really want to learn Chinese.
Laurel and I were asked to make a introductory video for a party that they were throwing for the internationals. The video from the year previous was two minutes long. We made a seventeen minute film [The film is titled “A day in the life of a fool.” I shot Laurel doing various activities and we intercut it with interviews of the international students talking about themselves (the best of which are the interviews of the Japanese girls). I sent the video to a friend in the states and hopefully he will throw it up on the web soon]. In English, no subtitles. We had to show it at the “party”, which was four hours long and involved games, food and no alcohol. One of the games was lentil relay, a game in which you dip your face into a bowl of water and then into a bowl of lentils and you try and transport the lentils across the room. The winner is the person with the— oh yeah, I forgot, there is no winner because they didn’t keep track or tally the lentils. None of the games had winners. And it lasted four hours. Did I mention that there was no alcohol?
The teacher [laoshi (like bao but replace b with l and shi is shhh)] yells at the Japanese guy all the time. It’s pretty funny. The other day, when Laurel was sick, he slid his desk clear across the room, away from Laurel. Also he accidentally called Laurel a Canadian. A beef is brewing. Mar Mar, our other classmate, got a stern warning because she missed a week of class and she’s been coming back to the dorm at odd hours, like seven in the morning. She goes to the clubs several nights a week and turns up in the morning, too tired to go to class [She went one time after doing this and she left halfway through class.]. We’re going to try to guide her a bit. She’s from an island and I think the exposure to a place as wild as China is difficult for her educationally speaking.
Howard has a new name: Zhao shushu [Uncle Zhao (Zhao = jao, and shu-shu is straight forward). He was a bit standoffish at first, but he’s come around. He gave me a Chinese name, but I can’t remember what it was; it meant enormous knowledge. Very nice of him to do that. Shushu is a good guy. He’s got a little kid at home that cries four times a night, requiring him to get up and go to the room, and he is studying for a Phd and working and giving lectures. I think I understand his cynicism a little more now; he’s just tired.
Laurel landed a teaching gig at the school. It’s on the weekends. He’s a bit nervous. I can’t do it with him because I have the other job. I think he’ll be fine. We both found language partners to work with and learn from. I meet my partner next Monday.
We wujiao everyday. It’s pretty sweet. Random days of going out set to commence now…
….Laurel was still sick and I went to the beer garden by myself. I bought a beer and some baijiu [bye-geo] and sat at a table by myself waiting for people to talk to me. Some Chinese kids came up and asked me why I was sad. They invited me over and told me a phrase which means literally “horse spirits are all like flying clouds.” Figuratively it means “this too shall pass”, basically. There‘s a whole back story about the phrase that I‘m not going to get into right now because, as was stated earlier, I‘m lazy. I drank with the kids until around one and then I went home.
…Some Chinese kids invited us to hotpot which is like Korean barbecue except that the food is cooked in a boiling pot of water. It’s decent. We drank beer and they wanted to play truth or dare (we had a private room). It was the most mild game of T&D ever and involved questions like “How many girls have you kissed?” and dares like “Make sexy with the door.” [This, coupled with the International student party, has led Laurel and me to conclude that Chinese youth are somewhat infantilized or puerile, to use one of Laurel’s new favorite words.]
…Went to a bar with some British girls. Stayed there until eight in the morning. Argued about America quite a bit. [At some point I said that time will vindicate our invasion of the Middle East and I compared it to World War II. I’m going to say that the alcohol made that happen. Jebus H. Christ.] Danced. Made fun of the French.
…Talked to some mid-west folk who were pretty bland. Laurel made a joke about a sequel to The Passion of the Christ. He failed to notice that they were carrying a bible.
We’re pretty settled in with work and what have you. Since Saturday is has been National Day. National day lasts a week. No school and no work. It will be my last break until the semester ends, so we are soaking up the freedom of sleeping late and drinking copious amounts of booze [The eight in the morning evening was had a night ago].
The water in the dorm smelled funny so we told Zhao shushu and they fixed it. Kind of; it still smells a little strange, but we mostly drink bottled water anyway.
Our internet cut off today. Like the electricity, you have to pay upfront.
Tomorrow we are going to IKEA to buy coffee and heavy sheets (Like winter sheets, which I didn’t know existed. I’m from California.)
I think that’s everything. We often play chess now. Luciano’s playing style can best be described as blitzkrieg. I’ve started watching Chinese movies. Very interesting so far. Laurel’s family friend lent us some books and I’ve read a couple of those. Laurel and I are starting a zine, so we’re tirelessly working on that. We’ve got something else in the works that I’m pretty excited about. Alright. I’m tired. Zaijian [zye ge-in, goodbye].