Monthly Archives: August 2009

>Is it worth 350 rmb an hour?

>(John goes to Starbucks to tutor “Rachel”, a rather rich Chinese girl, in English)

She lived down near one of the major malls, in a four bedroom apartment which her mother cleaned and her father slept in only when he tired of the karaoke bars. John had pegged them as soon as he’d met them, and though he’d tried not to pass judgment so quick, being in China this long had given him a sixth sense when it came to this stuff.

Daddy was a drunk and a womanizer. Mommy was a drunk as well. And the girl…

Well she was a racist. Just to add a little variety.

The first time he met she’d stared at him as if he’s arisen fully formed from an unflushed toilet. Then she had poked him in the stomach and asked, Are you pregnant?

He hadn’t known how to react and still didn’t. The bitch had done so without a smile or even the slightest trace of humor and had stood there waiting. As if expecting an actual answer. He had directed them to a table and they’d begun their lesson.

350 RMB an hour. That was the rate he’d quoted and the rate he’d gotten. He had given this rate to deter them. Who in the hell would pay such an outrageous price? Then again, they regularly paid their foreign teachers two or three times what the Chinese teachers made, Chinese teachers who could actually communicate with the students and who did twice the work, so he supposed that it shouldn’t have surprised him when the woman had agreed and asked for his number. Desperate people with money to waste. The entire China EFL industry in one sentence.

After poking him in the stomach, he’d started by asking her about her day and she’d started by asking him why he came to China.

Well, he said, preparing his answer. I like to travel, and I just thought it would be very interesting to live in China for a year.

She grunted.

But it’s a developing country. USA is developed. I don’t understand why you come here.

I told you that I like to travel, he said, 350 RMB becoming more expendable by the second. I like China, and I like being here.

She made to speak, but he added, I like teaching. I am a teacher.

But! she yelped. I don’t understand. Why do you come here?

A group of older women were practicing tai chi in the square, turning their limbs and waving silk scarves while a security guard stood watching them. John smiled at the guard and went inside and sat down. He glanced at his watch. Almost eight.

At eight fifteen she arrived. She came wearing dark blue jeans and a white shirt with a flower stitched in the center. Under the brim of her Adidas hat, her eyes narrowed at him and she stood beside the chair but did not sit down. Not yet. She had other business to attend to first.

Um, so are we ordering?

I could use a coffee.

She pointed at the counter. Right there.

Yes, he said. Slowly. Carefully. Then he forced a smile and went up to the counter while she sat down and began text messaging. By the time he got back, she’d moved on from texting to studying her nails.

Here you are. He set the coffee down.

Is this coffee? she asked jabbing a finger at it.

Yes.

She groaned. I hate coffee.

Oh? Why’s that?

Why’s what? I hate coffee. No why.

John crossed his legs and set his watch down. Let’s get started, huh?

Huh. She returned to her nails.

So…he muttered. How was your day?

Today? She waved her hands around. Today’s starting. It starts now.

I meant yesterday.

Okay. Just so-so I think.

I see. He sipped.

You see what?

No, I see. I understand what you’re saying.

Oh.

A sigh came bounding towards his lips. He blocked its path with the coffee cup and when he set it down she was smiling.

What’s up?

I have an English name.

Oh, good.

She said nothing. He motioned for her to continue.

What is it?

Horny.

What?

Horny.

You—do you—why did you choose that name?

I like the sound of it. It has a good meaning. Does it?

Yeah, I guess, but it really isn’t a normal name.

It doesn’t matter. I like the sound of it. It has a good meaning.

Yes, the meaning isn’t bad, I suppose, but the word ‘horny’, do you know what it means in English?

She neither moved nor spoke. She returned to her nails.

Do you know its meaning in English?

No, she said staring at her nails.

It means that someone wants to have sex.

She looked up.

If someone really wants to have sex, then we say they are horny.

A lot of sex?

Yes.

Oh. I don’t want that.

Okay. I think I can—

Foreigners have lots of sex.

He looked at her.

What? Foreigners always come here and have sex with Chinese girls and ruin them for marriage.

He stroked the edge of his coffee cup and glanced at his watch. 8:28.

Do you care if I give you an English name?

What?

Do you care if I give you an English name? English name. I give to you.

She shrugged.

How does Rachel sound?

What does it mean?

I—I don’t know. I don’t think it means anything.

Then why are you giving me this name?

What it means is not the point. In English, we don’t think of our names as having meanings like you all do.

Chinese names are special, she said. All your foreign names are so weird.

He held the cup to his mouth. Fuck, he said and the word fell into and dissipated inside the hot foul tasting liquid. He set it back down.

I will call you Rachel from now on. Okay?

She shrugged again.

Okay. Let’s talk about college life. Where do you go to school?

Wuhan technical college.

What is your major?

What?

Your major. What do you study?

Telecommunications.

I see. She glanced up at him. Why did you choose this major?

My father tells me this major is good. I don’t want to study in it but he told me it’s a good major to study.

And would you rather be studying something else?

Yes.

What is that?

I don’t know, she said, picking at her nail.

There came a silence between them in which John sipped his coffee and thought of the next topic. He had wanted to get at least three hours in with her. That much money would help fund his new laptop and pay for another couple weeks in their apartment. He lifted his watch, dreading the sight.

And what a dreadful sight it was. 8:33. He searched for topics, and at last, he came upon one.

Tell me, he said. What do you think of foreigners?

>John teaches Rachel bad words

>(John is in Starbucks tutoring a rich Chinese girl, “Rachel”, in English)

Teach me some bad words, demanded Rachel the next morning.

John had ordered her a frappucino which she slurped eagerly. He dug into a chocolate muffin and a piece hung on his fork. A chip fell and bounced across the table and tumbled out onto the floor.

You want to know some bad words?

Yeah! I want to know the real English!

Well, bad words aren’t exactly real English. Real English is how two native speakers talk to each other in various settings, and the English itself that they speak varies from setting to setting.

I want to know bad words.

He ate the piece and tapped the fork against his plate. Well, there’s the word shit. Do you know that one?

Shit. I know that one already. Teach me a new one.

There’s bitch.

Bitch, she enunciated the word. Bitch. What does that mean?

It’s used to describe a mean woman.

Bitch. Like, my mom.

Well I don’t know.

My mom is a real bitch. Is that right?

The sentence is correct, yes.

Yeah! She made the V sign and gripped her frappucino. She never buys me Starbucks or McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is not good for you.

She ignored this. Give me another bad word.

Let’s see. There’s damn.

Damn.

Yes. It means..well, you use it when something doesn’t go right. When you’re upset at something. You say damn.

Boring, she said. Give me an interesting one.

Asshole.

Asshole, she said and pondered the word’s meaning. Then she twisted her lips and tsked. That’s so disgusting! Why did you say that?

You asked for

Ugh. That’s really nasty.

He took another bite of his muffin and washed it down with coffee. The caffeine wasn’t strong enough for this. He’d have to order another.

Excuse me while I

Why can’t you speak Chinese?

He had gotten this question many times. It all came down to the simple fact that he’d never put forth the time to learn it. Beyond a few basic words and phrases, he didn’t need to. He had his girlfriend. He had his students. But to explain it to her in that way…

I never learned it.

Why?

I just… I never did.

Yeah. Why?

He lifted his coffee cup and said over the top of it, Why don’t you teach me some?

Some Chinese? Like what?

Oh, he said after his drink. Teach me some bad words.

She looked at him in disgust. Why?

Because…they’re interesting, like the bad words in English.

Bad words are not good, she said and slurped her frappucino

>Starbucks class warfare

>After my apartment was vandalized, I got to meet with the student to whom Senior Laowai sent my columns and whom he manipulated into attacking me.

Senior Laowai exploited her worldview of Divine Chinese versus The Hellish Hordes of Humiliation to drive her to cull from my columns only what reinforced her preset beliefs: that I am racist and discriminatory against China. And this occurs only in her limited understanding of English.

Needless to say, the results were…interesting.

Her: You said Starbucks is upper class!

Me: Yeah…

Her: Ugh. But you said most Chinese people can’t afford it!

Me: Okay…

Her: You can afford to go to Starbucks. You must think you’re better than us.

If you’re a toxic enough prick to FUCKING TELL YOUR STUDENTS that another teacher hates them and abuse their trust of you for your own personal gain, this is what happens. Since they trust you, they will go to great lengths to prove you right and will basically defend you, even in the face of solid evidence.

They will sacrifice themselves on the altar of dignity to prove you right, and you, knowing full well what you’re doing, sit back and let them. Just to score a victory in the battle of Wounded Ego.

So who’s really racist against the Chinese?

I did manage to settle the issue with the student. A few days later, I’m walking down the street to the bus stop and some girl calls my name.

It’s her.

Student: Hi. It’s so early. Where are you going?

Me: (without thinking) Starbucks.

…Oh….shit…

>”Foreign Expert” isn’t pretentious enough

>I am currently redoing my resume to make it more attractive, i.e. following my friend’s copy and… enhancing certain activities.

I understand that resumes contain a fair amount of bullshit, but the following blows my mind. She is describing her tenure as an oral English teacher in China:

Professor
      [school name]
      [city and province] China
      May 1, 2009- Present

I tried to do the same. I mean, I really tried. But my fingers simply could not type the correct letters. It’s like that scene from Liar Liar when Jim Carrey is holding up the pen and trying to say it’s red.

The fucking thing is blue. And I was fucking oral English teacher.

The “teacher” part being the most lethal bullshit I can stand to type.

>Nothing says I love you quite like… I love you

>With the exception of a few miserable castoffs, the Chinese by and large are not hostile towards foreigners.

When you pass a local in the street, they may speak an English word to you. Often what they say to you is the limit of their English knowledge, and quite often that limit extends only to Hello.

On occasion I hear other things. I’ve gotten hello, how are you, good morning, and jerk ass, the latter in written form only.

Then one day Patricia and I were walking through the backstreet and a man passed us. He spotted me and uttered ‘Hello’. Hello. Such a simple word, so easy to learn. As we passed, I could tell he was fumbling for other words, searching his database for what other English phrases he might have learned.

He found one.

‘I love you.’

Patricia gasped. She was right to.

You may have some competition, baobei.