CHINA JOURNALFriday, May 10 through
I said that Liu Jian Goa took me to school on Thursday afternoon, but actually it was Liu Yong, the newest man on the staff whose abilities I admire greatly. He made an opportunity to talk to me at the office to ask my advice. He has had several companies aggressively pursue him to work for them. One was really pressuring him, giving him money for a new phone if he had to give back Bohan's phone, giving him money for a train ticket, etc. It is a new company but in his line of training, however he really prefers the Bohan job (even though I don't think they yet really appreciate his potential value to them). The new job would take him to Nanjing to work. He couldn't take the family because they have to pay off their apartment in Tianjin. He said that he took a drop in pay from 3.5K to 2K when he came to Bohan because the company is fairly new and hasn't had much money coming in yet. The Nanjing job would pay 5K. Right now he pays half of his income to pay off the loan. I'm still reeling over the figures. 2K a month is what they pay meŠ$250 dollarsŠand my room and board are furnished. Anyway, it worked out well that Liu Jian Goa was tied up so Liu Yong drove me to school, and we had a chance to talk some more. He ended up going down to Nanjing for a week to look over the situation. (They had already called in a train reservation for him.) I'm anxious to hear his decision.
An interesting comparison of Chinese and American economy as well as living arrangements is that the tour Cui Hua and I took, all expenses covered, cost a little under $200. The same tour in the American catalog I brought along was $925, staying at Western caliber hotels and eating Western food. It was cheaper to pay for someone who speaks a little English to go along with me than it would be to hire an interpreter or put me on an English speaking tour. It is cheaper to live in China as a Chinese, but I'm still surprised at that 2K figure.
It was raining on Friday. After being away, there was a lot of work at the office that needed attention, so I worked at the office until class time. Liu Jian Goa drove me to the primary school (I only had one class) and waited for me. Then he drove me to the middle school so they could take pictures. After all the photography sessions on the trip, I realized that this posing me in all sorts of non-real settings is part of the Chinese game. We interrupted the class of students I teach at the middle school before the period was done for pictures in the classroom. Then the director trooped all the students and me up to the computer room and then to the library for pictures there. Really funny. Then Liu Jian Goa and I went back to the office.
Saturday we spent from 8:30 in the morning until 7:15 at night working at the office. We finally got three contracts and a letter of explanation written and approved and the first one sent off. Finally I got Sun Zhi Hong to understand how he could use my canned sentences to compose replies. Fu Ling was saying, ``We can't let you go home.'' I told her that I felt like the mother bird trying to push them out of the nest so they could fly on their own and be independent. I think we are getting thereŠthough I'd feel a lot more confident if Liu Yong remains on the staff. The reason for three contracts is funny. It is all for the sake of the Chinese authorities. The first one is the real contract with Bohan company. But in order to get a work visa most efficiently foreigners need a contract with a school. So after Bohan hires them and makes arrangements for a school to take them, the school will sign exactly the same contract but with the school's name on it instead of Bohan's. That is the one that gets submitted for the work permit application. However, a school can't sign a contract with someone unless that person has a teaching credential. (Sun Zhi Hong was supposed to find out this week if the government would accept any of the several teaching-English-as-a-foreign-language certificates.) For those people, they will sign a second contract with Bohan which will hire them to do ``office work in cultural exchange'' but will not mention teaching. It will be harder to get them work visas (i.e. take even longer) and they are not to mention that they will be teaching. I find it very difficult to deal with this kind of subterfuge but I did come up with the three contract approach which seems to answer the question. We'll see.
Sunday was a ``recruiting fair'' for the middle schools. When Sun Zhi Hong asked if I could go, he didn't warn me that it would be outside and in the sun. It was the only hot day we have had. Fortunately after a couple of hours they got smart and moved their tables to an unassigned shady location. It was Sunday, and as we walked into the quite large park, we came upon the Buddhist temple. It was the first time I have seen Buddhists in a congregational service. People were lined up neatly on the porch as well as inside and there was communal chanting/singing going on as we arrived. The incense was burning and they were all down on their hands and knees at the same time. Another nice Sunday happening. I took a quick tour of the grounds, which had peddle boats on the waterways, and found the zoo and the little amusement park. The merry-go-round was a bit sad. For all the normally bright colors that the Chinese use, the not-very-fanciful animals were each basically a single color. Then to top it off, there was no merry-go-round music! Can you imagine! There was one clever ride thoughŠa monorail up high. Only on this monorail, you move the car forward by peddling, just as in the water boats.
After making the grand tour I went back to the recruiting tables. I had been resisting a bit because I knew what would happen. I sit quietly at one end of the table. The three men from the school are talking to parents. Then I hear the words Meiguo (American) and laoshi (teacher), at which point predictably the parents turn and stare at meŠjust like he monkey in the zoo. Unlike the monkey, I'm very good about smiling back.
Mother's Day was topped off by flowers and a cake. Fu Ling had bought a Western style cake and had ``Happy Mother's Day'' written on it in English. I didn't know they even knew about Mother's Day. She knows little about Western food so she didn't realize that the cake undoubtedly had eggs in itŠbut I didn't mention it. I just enjoyed it and the message it sent.
On Monday Zhang Jie and I finally got to the post office. They took my two swords and wrapped them like you wouldn't believeŠmuch better than I would have and with at least a half roll of tape on them. They built the box out of their heavy corrugated cardboard. The total price (wrapping and mailing) would be $50 if I sent it by air (10 day delivery, ho ho), $26 if I sent it by surface and air (2 month delivery), and $19 if by ship (4 month delivery). I opted for the middle price. I also bought two boxes and had them tape the bottom closed so I can pack them up and bring them over, unsealed, to send.
Down the street from school is a young man who sits on a stool on the bank steps to carry on his shoe repair business. I have watched him with quite a bit of business and decided to take my black gym shoe to him. It was a new pair of shoes when I left home, but I apparently walk with my right toe pointing up because I often poke a hole through my shoes there. This one was getting thin and I was hoping to keep it from breaking open through before I got home. I showed him the problem (great charades) and he knew right away what to do. He motioned to me to sit down on the little stool. (It was so low I could hardly get down, let alone up.) He cut an oval leather patch, put glue on it and waited just the right amount of time before sticking it inside. Then he got down on his haunches in front of his little sewing machine on a short tripod and fitted the shoe on. With a very slow hand crank, he stitched so carefully that I have trouble seeing where it is stitched differently. He charged me one yuan (13 cents). I tried to give him two but he wouldn't take it.
The road repair crew went by while we were there. It is a very small truck with several men riding in the open back, pulling an asphalt wagon. The wagon is not even as large as the smallest tent trailer you can imagine, but you can see the flames of the fire burning inside. On top of that is a small container that has the asphalt heating in it.
Tuesday I was furiously finishing up the preparation of my two hour talk on the history and geography of America. I don't think Sun Zhi Hong has any sense of the amount of time it takes to do a good job on a talk that lasts that long to people who can barely understand the language. But I finally got it whipped together with lots of appropriate pictures and maps (thanks to Gaylen Lewis, a history teaching friend from B.C. who put maps in a form I could use and sent them to me via email).
Sun Zhi Hong who is officially the headmaster of both the primary school and the middle school came to do an observation of me with my 2nd grade class. I'm anxious to see him with an interpreter handy so I can tell him what he was witnessing (since he doesn't understand English). After the first opening sentence, I hardly said anything for the next fifteen minutes. For that whole time the little second graders were communicating completely in English, spontaneously, with sentences that are not memorized from the book, and having a good time doing it. It was mostly, ``What is this?'' or ``What color is this?'' and then calling on someone to answer with a complete sentence. They would thank each other and say ``You're welcome.'' Then the new person got to ask a question. They were so cute. They were all over the room pointing out different objects, and everybody had a turn. I was really proud of them! Šbut I had the feeling that Sun Zhi Hong wanted to see me ``teach''. A whole different concept of what it is about.
The Wednesday talk went well. It was a rainy day and it was held at a different locationŠthe primary school associated with the Tianjin University. I was glad to see the campus of the oldest university in China. You could tell the difference that University associated schools usually have, if only in the equipment. They had the same arrangement where I could plug in the computerŠbut their man knew how to make it work! I repeat that talk next week. Then I do one more talk combining the American family for one hour and my impressions of China and the differences between the two countries for the second hour. So that it doesn't press up against my time at the end, I will give that talk only once to the combined teachers. Hallelujah!