Butter: My Little Yellow Friend

I don’t speak Mandarin. I can (incorrectly) say a few things, but I don’t speak it. I also can’t read it. I can recognize a few words (pictures to me) in Chinese, but I don’t know what words they mean, just what they mean. Oh, the box with two x’s [网] means there is probably internet here.

Once in a while, I do pick up something new. Today, it was the word for butter, because I was trying to search for butter to buy online. XX gave me the pinyin (romanized alphabet for the Chinese characters), “huang you.” Two words I know, “huang” means yellow, and “you” means friend.

Butter, you are my yellow friend. Yes you are. Sad to say, butter, you are probably my best friend. You will be there with me right to the end (and possibly be the cause of that end).

I was disappointed when XX explained it to me though. It is “huang you,” but the “you” here means oil (油 Yóu), not friend (友 You).

But I don’t care! Don’t worry butter, I will always think of butter as my little yellow friend, and no linguistic rules can tear us apart!

 

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New Year’s Visit

The holidays have come, and are now going. This was my first year celebrating the Chinese New Year since coming to China, or ever for that matter. The first year I was here, I was travelling, and didn’t do anything … Continue reading

Working with Kids

Today one of the kids from class came running up to me, “Hi, hi, hi, hi! How are you?” When I was opening my mouth to answer, the kid popped a lychee out of her mouth, all half chewed up, and crammed it into my open mouth, “This is for you!” Then she gave a great big grin, and her grandmother shoved a bunch of peaches into my hands, and off they went.

Thanks… I guess?

Of Course I Know Kevin

I just posted about our decision to stick with the devil we know for our job in China. We don’t really like it a bunch, but there are things we like. The new place would also have things we liked, but new things to dislike too. When we were being toured around the city, the woman in charge of seducing us to come there mentioned a Kevin for a foreign teacher they previously employed. Bella said, “Oh, I know Kevin.”

The woman was certain it was a different person. After all, there are 600,000+ foreigners in China, and 1.3 billion people in China, what are the odds you would know a specific foreign teacher in this ocean of people, 15 hours away from home. The woman started to describe Kevin in order to show it was a different Kevin, “He this, he that, he the other thing.” We said, “Yup, yup, yup.” She continued, “His wife is Chinese,” we said, “yup.” Sure enough, it was the Kevin we were looking for, or at least knew.

She shot a message off to his wife with the picture of me from WeChat. She responded quickly, “Oh yes, we know him!” We made plans with them for the next day to go for some coffee.

It was nice catching up, and having a chat with someone familiar. I don’t know many people in China. We had already made our decision about sticking with our current job before we went out with Kevin, and his wife. When we were out with them, he told me about how he used to work for the company we were interviewing with in the city.

“I used to work with the school you are here to visit. They treat their teachers pretty well. The problem was when they got their new headmaster [the current one] he looked at how much money they were spending on the several foreign teachers at the school. So, he said they were doing away with the foreign English teachers because it isn’t worth the money. They didn’t even wait until the end of the semester, he just fired us all right then, and there.” was the story Kevin had to tell. This story was not meant to scare me away, just making conversation, and answering my question about what it was like to teach for this company.

His story did not make our decision, but it was one more piece of evidence we had made the right choice. If the headmaster killed the program once, there really was nothing stopping him from killing it again without giving us any notice.

What a small world it is though. A random city, chosen from a pile of job offers, and we happen upon one of the 4 people I know in this country.

Job Hunt

A couple of weeks ago Bella, and I decided we were going to go to another city to have a job interview. There were several factors motivating us to do this, but the main one was the company where we are currently working told us one thing about my next contract when we talked about the future last year, and when we were negotiating the contract they told me a substantially different thing. The thing they clearly told me last year (I wrote it down), was met with, “That is not possible with this company, you are mistaken.” When I told her exactly what she said last year, she didn’t respond, and said, “This is what we are offering you, take it if you want.”

Take it I would not. So, I threw a resume up on a job hunt site, and found a few offers I was interested in looking at further. The one in the other city would provide a little more than what I had been falsely promised here, so I decided it was the one to follow. Included in the contract was a very large house (4000 sq. ft.) with a private yard. This sounded good. The pay was right, the schedule was right, and the classes sounded pleasant as well. All said, they offered me the job over email, and we accepted. We were ready for me to sign the contract, and move there in the fall, giving our resignation for the second half of our current deal here.

“We will send the contract tomorrow.” Then tomorrow we received a request to come visit. “The headmaster wants you to do a sample class for the high school to be sure you are suitable,” they said. They paid the hotel, and we paid the train tickets, off we went to the most polluted city in China.

We were taken to the hotel, endured a meal in a restaurant where the goal was to wow us with their hospitality (I do not enjoy these showy meals, but when in China one must participate in them from time to time). After the meal, we went to see the house… The house was actually a mansion sized duplex. The large yard was being used by our neighbours to be, the Clampetts. They had geese trying to make more noise than their dogs, trying to make more noise than their generator pumping the water to water the garden which covered 90% of the non-cemented ground. The large, jumbo picture window at the front of our half of the house had a large crack in it, with a chunk of glass missing from the top corner. This was not mentioned as something to be fixed. Inside the house was covered by a good 2 inches of dirt, with shuffle trails through it where the people who were living there had been going from room to room. There were about 12 pieces of furniture for the whole house including the broken ping pong table. It was an unattractive house they were trying to sell us on the whole time. We smiled, we nodded, but we didn’t bite. They saw our dislike of the house, and the offer was made, “We can get you an apartment instead. However, you will need to pay the internet/power/gas bill there.”

The class was great fun, and while I know they assembled the best, and brightest to be in the classroom, I was impressed by their communication skills. I am used to teaching primary school, so it was nice to have a conversation beyond, “Hi! What can you see?!?”

The city wasn’t wooing us at all. We were both of the mindset, “Meh, a year, maybe two, then we will be out of here.” They took us out for another ceremonial meal for supper. This is where the road started really becoming rocky. I noticed for about 20-30 minutes they were talking to XiuXiu in Chinese, and the words, “Shawn/Canada,” kept coming up. I assumed at first it was just about travel, but that long seemed like something else. XiuXiu’s face was getting more agitated by the conversation as time went on, but she wouldn’t tell me what they were talking about there because everyone spoke English, we wouldn’t have our normal cone of silence when we talk.

The goodbyes were said, and they pointed us back to the hotel with, “Assuming the headmaster signs off on it, everyone was happy with your performance here today. I am certain the position is yours. I must leave early tomorrow morning, I will leave the contract with the hotel’s front desk if it is a yes.” We were glad for the short walk back to the hotel. It was the first privacy we had enjoyed all day.

I asked her, “What was the conversation about, ‘Shawn, and Canada?” She said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” Which of course means we are going to need to talk about it. Short story of the conversation, they spent 30 minutes trying to get her to admit she married me so she could get Canadian citizenship. “Marrying Shawn increased your value to a half a million dollars,” they told her in reference to her ability to get Canadian citizenship much more easily now. Even though she protested the whole time, they would not let go of their theory. When she said, “I married for love,” they said, “Nobody marries for love, they marry for what they can get out of a relationship.”

Morning came with the contract at the front desk, and neither of us were excited at the idea of moving there anymore. What to do, what to do. XiuXiu came up with the best idea, “Call the boss of the company, and tell him I would like to stay in my hometown, but Shawn is set on moving because he is angry about the boldfaced mistruth he was told about future contracts. If he was interested in keeping us there, then he would have to offer us more.” She made the call, “Shawn has a contract in hand, blah, blah, etc, your call.”

“No problem,” he said,  “the new contract will be waiting at your home this week.” We told the school we had interviewed with there we wanted to think about things. “Thank you, blah, blah. We will let you know in a few days after we process the weekend.” This of course was polite code for, “Assuming we get the contract we were offered, we won’t be moving here, sorry.” The contract came, it was signed, and we are sticking around XiuXiu’s hometown for a couple more years.

It is funny to think of how the weekend swayed things. Had they not insisted on us coming to visit, we would have gladly signed the contract over the internet with them for fall. It took things from us sure/them unsure, to them sure/us unsure. Knowing we had a new contract in hand moved the owner of our current company from unwilling to negotiate to why don’t I honour the foreign teacher supervisor’s word from last year.

*Some of you may be saying, “How can you trust what they said this time with the new contract? They lied before.” You are right, they lied before, but it was one of the managers who lied to me, not the owner. China likes saving face, and XiuXiu told me if the owner was planning on lying to us he would have had the manager call us back with an offer. Then he could say she made a mistake. XiuXiu said he wouldn’t lie to us directly because it would make him lose face. Lies/Mistruths are filtered through others so the blame can be placed elsewhere.

Stupid Foreigner!

Earlier tonight I had a phone call from a number I didn’t know. Usually they are advertisements I don’t understand, but I decided to answer this one. This was a mistake. Buddy started his spiel, and at the first comma in his speech I interrupted, “I don’t speak Chinese, can I help you?” Apparently he has an issue with English, because he lost his mind at me when I spoke to him in English. He shouted into the phone, “Stupid foreigner, you are worthless to me!” Then he hung up on me.

I may be living in China, but you called my phone. Just another day in the life, just another day. 😐

Not gonna tell me what to do…

… and vice versa. 

Living in another country can always lead to some entertaining, frustrating, or absurd situations. One of the “norms” in the culture in my small town (and China as a whole so I’ve been told) is the gal tells her fellow what to do. 

It isn’t a discussion, or a debate, just a simple, “You’s my man, now jump.” However, Bella doesn’t treat me like this. We have a back, and forth. I don’t make her decisions, and she doesn’t make mine. 

Now, as I have mentioned before, I live in an area with a population of 1,000,000 people. There are only two registered foreigners here. If someone wants the foreign monkeys to dance to draw attention to their school (whatever) the pickings are slim. 

Bella got a call the other day from one of her teachers from her school days. Her teacher was hitting the guilt, favour, respect train hard. “Bella,” he said, “you’re with the foreigner now, right? So, I need you to get him to come teach classes on Friday evenings at a small countryside school.” The intention was Bella would be embarrassed to say no, so he didn’t call to talk to me about it with her translating, he called to set up the whole thing so I would have no say in the matter. 

I have been made aware of this (my word) manipulation. I don’t care for it really. As I said before, we don’t make each other’s decisions. The old, “ask the girl to force the boy,” routine isn’t gonna fly here. It isn’t even gonna leap over tall buildings. 

She politely said, “I’ll have to ask him A. if he wants to, and B. how much he would want to charge.” Her former teacher’s response, “Why would you need to ask him? Just tell him he is doing it, and tell me how much you want him to charge (hoping for a price similar to hiring a local teacher rather than a foreigner).” Bella once again told him how I work, and she would have to call back. 

At first Bella was a little shy about answering for me like this, but it easier now because I have started her on the habit of making an obscene number of “he” statements. Her main concern was people would think she was talking. When it’s me, I have a bit more wiggle room to say nope. At least I take a little more wiggle room. 

“Donation” Day with the Police

The cops were out in full force today in my town. It is the biweekly (sometimes monthly) street cleanup. They drive up, and down the streets grabbing all the stuff people are selling on the sidewalks. 
The people aren’t allowed to set up shop on the sidewalks, they just do it anyways. They do their best to make a getaway when the cops are coming, but they don’t always make it, especially some of the older people. 

The police truck rolls down the street while 3, or 4 cops walk along on both sides grabbing bags full of watermelons, and knick knacks, trinkets, toys, and veggies. Once they grab them, they toss them into the back of the truck. 

Now for the shakedown. The people have lost their stuff, this is already done. This is why they just bring an acceptable amount of stuff to be lost (cost of doing business). Some people are selling cooked food, and those people have equipment for cooking. After the cops grab their food, and toss it into the back of the truck, they offer a deal. The deal is simple, pay us a “donation,” and we’ll leave your equipment in one piece. No donation, we will smash the living crap out of it on the sidewalk. 

Some people have the money to pay the donation, some people don’t, and you get to see them go Conan the Librarian on people’s equipment. If they pay the donation, then they will leave your equipment alone. 

Should be another show first part of October.

Red Lights, Hot Tempers

Yesterday I was driving to school, and the light at the last intersection before the school was red, fully red. It had not just changed, it was long changed, and timer indicated it was halfway through. The green light for going straight across the intersection was in full bloom.

The law would state that traffic lights control all traffic through the intersection, whether foot, bike, car, or other. The practice is (largely), “I’m not in a car, so I don’t follow the traffic signals.”

Noroads-HQ-1

An oldish man on an electric bike flew across the stop line and into the intersection. His head did not glance left, right, or any other direction. I saw it coming from a mile away, “Bango!” He hit the passenger side door on little silver car. The bike tumbled over, and so did the man. The door had a huge dent in it, and the silver paint was scratched off to expose a metre stick worth of metallic door.

The man quickly jumped to his feet, with his bike still on the road. He was unambiguously the cause of the accident. This little matter of fact did little to deter his fire. He started raging across the young woman in the passenger seat, at the young man in the driver’s seat. The young man got out to help with the bike, and see the damage. The old man was yelling at him, things I picture to be, “Watch what you are doing you idiot. I am old, you should have waited for me first.” The young man started gesturing at the door panel, I am assuming the words were similar to, “Who is going to fix this mess?”

After a couple more gestures, and loud words exchanged, the old man shooed the young guy away, got on his bike, and drove away. The young man, possibly shocked, slowly walked around his car, and got back in to drive away. By this time, I was through the intersection on my green light, ready for another day.