TEFLChina Teahouse: Life: Gripes:


Lines at the post office? --Wynne Cochran, 6 February 1998

I have never enjoyed standing in line at the post office or the bank. Everyone wants to be first and can't seem to make a decent line. I myself now push my way through at the post office and surprise those around me. I now stick my hand in there and ask for a stamp like the rest of them. The only thing I don't do is yell like them.

Trashed classroom -- Roger Chrisman, 30 December 1997

My pet peeve is the lack of garbage cans in the classrooms and the trash on the floor and in the desks. Hhaii-yahhh.... I bought my own two trash baskets for our classroom. Then I locked the door after class with a bicycle-lock-cable to keep the trash baskets from getting stolen.

Gradually I began to keep more things in the classroom too -- books in a bookcase to lend students, a case of mineral water, scissors, glue, colored pens, posters, a calendar, my office! However, no one else was doing all this. I am the foreign teacher, apart -- I have my computer, hot water, summer trips to other countries. Yes! Power to progress. Garbage baskets are easy and help.

I think April 22 is Earth Day. Does anyone know more about that?

related >> Positive energy and trash

Culture shocked -- Xiong (Dave) March 28, 2000, from the TiC email list.

Dear Friends,

The novelty has worn off and I am culture shocked. Last night was the final straw. I had been to see one movie, a month ago -- Disney's Stuart Little, not my choice. I understood three words of dialog, but the plot was transparent, so my suffering was confined to boredom and did not touch upon confusion. For many years, I've gone to the movies about every week; it's my standard remedy for depression. So I decided to chance it again.

I couldn't remember where I saw Stuart, so I wandered the city until I stumbled upon a theater. At least, it resembled one. There was a box office, with four posters. One poster included a photo suggesting a drawing-room romance; two had no illustration at all, only characters. The fourth had a large photo of some sort of busty Amazon toting gold-plated .45 automatics. OK, I thought, it may be trashy, but at least I won't have to worry about following the plot. And it starts in -- lessee -- just 25 minutes.

I should not have asked if it was a movie. The ticket girl said it was not, when I showed her my Berlitz, the Chinese characters for "cinema." It could hardly be something very different; I figured out that it was a sort of pocket theater, showing videos. Indeed, when I bought my ticket, I was shown upstairs to a small room with a video projector. OK, if that's what they've got, fine. I still had time for a pee.

When I returned, a girl asked me in passable English if I was here to see a movie. I said Yes; she said Follow me. She led me to another room, where -- presumably -- the stale drawing-room romance was in progress. I went out again, saying No, no, I'm pretty sure I was supposed to go in *that* room to see *that* movie. She argued. The movie would be in Chinese; could I understand it? Did I want to see a Chinese movie or an English movie? I was confused; one does not expect to have to make a choice after buying a ticket. But, I was intrigued, too -- did they really have movies -- even videos -- in English?

The girl said Yes, in English. What movies do you have, I wondered. She could not say. I said, Then show them to me. She led me into the room and said Wait-a-minute. No, no, show me the movies and I'll look through them. Oh, what a mistake! I spent the next half hour explaining the difference between *watching* a video on the screen and *looking* at the video itself.

We found ourselves in a booth, with several videotape machines and what was clearly a cabinet full of tapes. Please let me see the tapes. OK, sit here and we'll play them for you. No, no, just let me look at them. Finally, the -- projectionist? -- handed the girl three tapes. I was already on the verge of tears. The soundtrack may be in English, but these are bootlegs with no boxes and the labels are in characters.

What does the first one say? In English? Uh... "Dance..." Looks like about five characters. I take a wild guess. "Dancing with Wolves?" Yes, yes. OK, what about -- she cannot translate even one word; there are but three characters. Are these words or names? Names. OK, we'll never figure that one out in less than an hour. The third: five or six characters, in pencil. She can't get started. Can you read it in Chinese? Of course, I can't get a yes or no. Can you read *any* of the words? The girl says that one of them is "killer." OK, let's spin it. At this point, I'm ready for Stuart Little again -- or Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

The video is *not* anything-killer-anything. It is titled "The Prophecy" and is yet another warmed-over return-of-the-antichrist bastard child of "The Exorcist" and "High Noon." The only bright spot is Christopher Walken as Gabriel, driving a beater convertible through Arizona, playing a trumpet along with the radio. Why he lends his name to this kind of shit, I'll never know; I think he promised himself, many years ago, never to turn down a script.

I would have been so much happier watching the Amazon shoot everybody in sight.

Now, I've been here long enough to be outraged at four-kwai Coke, but not long enough to swig the one-kwai orange soda that smells and tastes like fancy liquid soap. After steeling myself to try some of the most revolting-looking food in the world, I can't choke down another bowl of boiled dumplings stuffed with lawn clippings. I really need to learn how to say, "Please, I don't like it spicy"; the sidewalk barbecues slather on the fire sauce.

I always complained that too many food choices in US boiled down to which hamburger. I've had two hamburgers in the last month; they were both made of pork and, though the last time I insisted that they not put mayonnaise, they just come that way. This is not Burger King.

A friend finally took me to the big foreign language bookstore. There is really quite a selection of English teaching materials, but only one tiny shelf of books in English. What will I do when I read the last one?

I've been here long enough to know when the motortrike drivers are trying to cheat me, but not long enough to know how to bargain them down consistently. I'm tired of walking and too cheap to take taxis everywhere.

At the bank, I tried to rent a safety-deposit box. After a week of one sort of delay or another, I finally got *almost* to the point of paying over the rent. They demanded not only a year's rent in advance, but two year's worth as a deposit. Special rule for /waiguoren/.

Now that I'm working, I have ordinary business tasks to complete. Even photocopying is a problem; I don't understand the paper sizes. I wonder how long I'll have to study Chinese before I can say, "I'd like this blown up to poster size and mounted on foam-core."

I should be honest: I'm frightened, lonely, bored, and angry, by turns, unpredictably. I feel sick even when I'm not. I can't sleep when I'm tired and I'm tired when I can't sleep.

It really does not help much to know that this is all perfectly normal. I did anticipate this; I expected it, in outline if not in detail. I guess I'd just hoped to tough it out.

Well, I feel better having said it. Please don't spoil it by saying it'll improve. Thank you!

Xiong Changnian (Dave)

see Liz in Changchun's reply >> Re: culture shocked!

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