Cool! Well, much warmer, actually . . . in fact, without all the drizzle, it would be perfect. But the low to high teens (Celsius) we have had here lately have been a welcome and pleasant change, and I even got to rest my heater by turning it off for a day! Of course, with damp concrete walls, thin windows and no insulation, a cool night chills out the room pretty quickly, so at night generally, the heat has to be turned back on. Still - no more long underwear!
Well, also out of the blue was the job call I got from another English school here in Wuxi, located right downtown on the 32nd (and top) floor. Unexpected, because I had sort of given up on them already, having garnered no response from my follow up email after my return from Tibet. I had been searching for some supplementary income for a while, with lots of good leads but no concrete offers. And right after I had resigned myself to having to survive on my present impoverished (by western standards) income for the rest of my stay, a ray of light shone on my beleaguered wallet. And after an interview that turned out to be a formality, I had another part-time job!
The new gig will involve me working 6-9pm in the evenings, five days a week, and getting in another 3 hours on the weekend. Well, we have agreed in principle on these arrangements - my training period starts next week, and I actually start work on the 20th. But I am pretty excited about it, even though it will mean a pretty long work day (even if I don't work especially hard, I am still at work at the primary school). The school is geared towards the business-minded crowd, and I will only be teaching adults (if one can call 20 year old chinese "adults" . . . but I will leave that one alone for now). The lesson plans are all set out and written and organised for you, so all I need to do is have a five minute look at what I will be teaching, and then teach it. This is what really allows me to take on this second job - for, as any teacher knows, half the work is devising and planning out the lessons, not just actually teaching them.
Oh yeah, and one more thing - this part-time gig actually pays more than my full time job! Well, they don't offer the usual benefits (lodging, holiday pay, etc) because I am part-time, but I also don't have to pay tax . . . and I have my apartment covered by my full-time job. So for me, it's a perfect situation, since I will have the option possibly down the road to switch to full-time at the new job, should things start to "break down" at the primary school . . .
Well, I should ammend that - any breakdown will occur between myself and my employers, the company in Nanjing, not the primary school. The primary school continues to welcome me with open arms and joyful spirit, and I receive a lot of support and praise, much of it unwarranted in my opinion. Recently, it was "Women's Day" in China, and to celebrate, the school headmaster took us all out to dinner. She rules that school with an iron, unforgiving fist, but she treats me like the golden child, as do most of the staff. We dined at the expensive and lavish Banana Leaf restaurant, and sat in a somewhat private room, furnished with old-style "chinese" wooden walls, bamboo windows, and some uniquely crafted dinnerware. In a surprise turn of protocol, before we had arrived my good friend Arthur (head of all the english teachers) had taken me along to buy drinks to take along with us to the restaurant. After a short discussion on whether I had tried the potent chinese rice wine "baijo" or not, we had procured two bottles of wine (poor quality 10% stuff) and one bottle of baijo that came highly recommended from Arthur (45% alcohol). With only three male teachers and eight women, we had made the decision to get our groove on at this after work event. When I say "we", I mean that I willingly followed Arthur's lead, being very cautious to imbibe at any work related event. It was clear from the start that only the men were going to be drinking the strong stuff, and Arthur bought cola, yoghurt (that's right!) and juice for the rest of the (female) staff. Being in China, we brought our own drinks into the joint without fear of any reprisal from the establishment, always a bonus for the pocketbook.
We ate delicious curried crab, malaysian beef stir-fry, and pumpkin stuffed with fish and veggies (this turned out to be my favourite, can you imagine!). Barbequed meat, shishkebabs and finally noodle soup was also enjoyed, everyone having to partake in the soup. It was explained to me that the noodles represented long life, and that everyone must eat them for good luck and fortune. Arthur turned out to be a closet baijo fiend, and the strong "brandy" was only drunk straight, with myself having to chase it with some water. The taste was okay at first, going down pretty smoothly for a high percentage alcohol, but the aftertaste was . . . well, unique (drinkable, but not at the fast rate that Arthur was draining the liquid). The evening turned boisterous, as Thai dancers and singers entertained us, and some of our red-faced co-workers were paraded out to the makeshift dance floor, showing off some ancient dance manoeuvers. Some magic was performed, and then a guitarist, drummer and singers entered our room, getting everyone involved. Being the only non-chinese there, I became the primary target of course, and to all the female teachers' delight, I was forced to shake a leg with a pretty young Phillipina. Climbing on a chair, she made a show to all that now she was taller than me and could therefore partner up, and I tried my best to keep up with her sharp wit and dancer's skills. We must have entertained well, because everyone clapped for a good while, a rarity in chinese culture, and I received many a compliment on my dancing (my goofy, ham-it-up dance act, that is!). Afterward we ate and drank even more . . . having emptied the baijo (Arthur - 3/5, me 2/5), we moved onto the wine. We got happy, but not really drunk, and the night ended pleasantly for all.
Early the next morning (no, I didn't have a hangover - Latvian blood courses through these veins, dammit!), I set up a slide show, and gave the second "presentation" in two weeks on my trip to Tibet. Now, this will surprise some, as discussing Tibet among chinese is usually like poking a bees nest with your finger, but it was never my idea. On the contrary, I had been wary of talking about it, but with all of the requests and questions (especially from Arthur, but he often speaks for the eternally shy female populace), I had to show off some pictures and describe my travels. So this morning, I had twice the audience of the previous week, as some college students were hanging around the school for a while to learn the (teaching) ropes.
This week, with no technical difficulties as previously experienced, I showed about 20 pictures from around Lhasa city, the buddhist temples, and the bus trip back. And finally, everyone saw some pictures of YJ, my girlfriend . . . which has turned out to be a big deal in and of itself. Since the unveiling of this secret ("How come you didn't tell us?" "Uh, you didn't ask?"), a myriad of questions have followed - who is she, is she from Wuxi, how did you meet, where does she work, how good is her english, are you going to marry her, will she go with you to Canada, have you met her parents yet, etc etc etc. Yeesh! The women just looove to know this shit . . . and as you can imagine, my answers for some of the questions were a little . . . evasive. Anyway, it seemed like the show was greatly enjoyed, and I felt like I had educated some chinese people on . . . wait for it . . . their own country. Or another country which happens to be occupied by China? Ah, better to leave the politics out of it I guess.
Hmmmm . . . maybe, when I get home, I can just turn on CCTV9, the only english speaking channel on Chinese television. There I can watch the news, and learn about how the Chinese are trying to "re-integrate" Taiwan back into the country . . . if there's ever a war there, I don't think I would hear about it. Come to think of it . . .
. . . China's not at war with anybody right now, are they?>br>
Some Chingrish Tidbits for ya:
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