Last Friday afternoon I rushed up to
Well, I tried to rush up to
Well, I got there alright, anyway.
On Saturday we did a few things to prepare for her trip. I made sure she had a stash of spare money, just in case, we bought her a few snacks and other supplies for the train ride, that kind of thing. Then in the afternoon I went to John Bull to see if they were showing the All Blacks-Ireland rugby game. They weren’t. The boss told me none of the channels they got were showing the game. Bugger.
John Bull has really gone downhill. I’ve been going there off and on for about five years now, back from when I lived in
So instead of watching rugby, I wound up talking to this American guy. The tv, for whatever reason, was tuned to Tianjin TV, which was broadcasting the opening ceremony of some
We got some dinner, a mate of mine showed up, we went to meet lzh’s coworker, then lzh and her coworker got on the train for
I was still a little hungry, and my mate hadn’t eaten, so we wandered over to a little restaurant opposite the station, y’know, one of those cheap but edible places that seems aimed more at the migrant-worker crowd. We ate and had a few beers, then we decided to find a place to watch the World Cup. I refused to go back to John Bull, but as we were walking out of the restaurant we realized that the big screen over the forecourt of the station was showing vs. , or whoever it was was playing. So we wandered back over the road, grabbed a couple of beers out of one of the xiaomaibus, and watched the game.
What a boring game that was.
On Sunday I checked out of the hotel, got some lunch, then got to Beijing Zhan just in time to catch the 1 o’clock train back to
And then on Monday lzh failed the first test of her training in
Well, on the bright side, she got an expenses-paid two day trip to
So she bought a ticket for Tianjin and booked a couple of nights in a 家庭旅馆 (somebody give me and English word for this: It’s an apartment that the landlord rents out on a day-by-day basis, as if it’s a hotel.) She left at 7 or 8 on Tuesday morning, and then, after she’d got on the train, discovered she was on the slowest train from Shanghai to Harbin via Tianjin (and, no doubt, hundreds of little shitholes in Jiangsu, Shandong and Hebei- and she did pass through one shithole I know: 常州, where I’ve been for three professional development/periodic detention sessions with my current company). She was told the train would get to
So she spent a couple of days in
On the way to Binjiang Dao, we saw the Xikai Cathedral. She wanted to go inside and have a look. We walked in the gate and then she freaked out: “But I’m a Communist Party member! I can’t go inside! But I want to have a look! Ohhhh!!!!! What do I do?” Well, so we went inside. An old lady showed us a bunch of pamphlets – free giveaways for heathen visitors like us including a brief explanation of Catholic doctrine and the Gospel of Luke (at least, I think it was Luke. One of the four gospels, anyway). She read through this then said she wanted to pray. Then she asked me how to make the sign of the cross. “I don’t know, I’m not Catholic,” I said, which prompted the old lady to ask lzh, “Where’s he from?”
“他们在那边不信教吗?” (Which I took to mean: Are they unbelievers (i.e. not Catholic) over there? Better translations are welcome)
“They believe in Christianity.”
Strangely enough, the old lady didn’t seem the slightest bit offended by that last comment, as if she accepted that Catholicism was a pagan corruption of Christianity, or something like that. I would’ve expected a Western Catholic to get upset at the implication that Catholicism is not a valid form of Christianity. Well, I’d long since gotten used to the Chinese Catholic/Christian split as a substitute for the Western Catholic/Protestant split, but I didn’t expect Chinese Catholics to accept the usual Chinese Catholic/Christian split. I would’ve expected her to explain that Catholicism is a form of Christianity at the very least, if not launch into some diatribe about the Catholic church being the only true Christian church.
Then that evening I dragged her down to Ali Baba’s to watch at least the first football game of the evening. really kicked ’s arse. And
Then on Thursday I taught my classes in the morning, met her at the school gate, took her to a nearby Hunan restaurant I like, then took her to the station in time for the 3 o’clock train, the very one I have never managed to catch thanks to my Friday timetable and downtown Tianjin’s absurdly narrow, crowded streets.
If all goes according to plan, i.e. if she gets her refund for her train ticket to
And the best thing to come out of my classes yesterday was the discovery that I have no classes today. And it was the students who told me, as always.
The worst thing yesterday, though, was having to act as translator for the mother of one of my students. The student in question, who shall be referred to as X, swore at one of my colleagues the other day. See, we’d combined classes and showed them a film. My colleague caught X using a cellphone in class. She tried to take it off him, but he refused. I wandered over to see if I could help, and as soon as he saw me, he gave it straight to me. Then my colleague and I sat down, at which point X decided to yell “臭傻B” in the direction of my colleague. I sat up and looked around. He yelled it again. I wandered over and asked “X, was that you?” Obviously it was him. I sat in the nearest spare seat to give him a talking to, but the seat collapsed and sent me falling on to the poor girl in the seat behind me. I sat back up, as best I could, and started talking to X, but the poor girl behind me said “真难受!”, or words to that effect, at which point I realized that I was still leaning on her. I sat up and tried to set her legs free, and then another of my students came and held the seat up for me while I was talking to X.
Well, after class I dragged X down to my office to apologise to my colleague. It wasn’t much of an apology. Later that afternoon my colleague phoned X’s Chinese English teacher to inform her (we can get usually get better results on matters of discipline when we let the Chinese staff know about a problem, and the Chinese English teacher is our point of contact). Of course, because my colleague doesn’t speak a word of Chinese and doesn’t even know (and seems incapable of learning) her own students’ Chinese names, let alone my students Chinese names or the swear words they use in her presence, it fell to me to explain who said what. That was the last I saw of X until yesterday morning. He’d been away from school for Tuesday and Wednesday, apparently because he was suspended. His mother was really concerned, in large part because he had a 会考 (exam he needs to pass in order to graduate, even though he’s only in Senior 1) coming up, and so she came to the school to apologise personally to my colleague, in the hope that my colleague would forgive her son and all would be smoothed over. Well, X’s mum doesn’t speak English, and the Chinese English teacher was too “busy” to do the translating, and in the process of me translating for and talking to X’s mum, I found out that it was the school, and not X’s mother, who was stopping X from coming to class. So I ran upstairs to the international office to see what I could find out and if I could help get X back into classes, but the head of department wasn’t there, and I don’t trust any of his underlings to get things done properly and quickly. So I ran back downstairs and phoned the Chinese English teacher, who explained that X was being kept out of the foreign teacher classes only in order to teach him a lesson and that he would be allowed back into foreign teacher classes next semester. It turns out too, that the Senior 1 dean was the person who had ordered this. Well, I wasn’t too happy about this. He’s my student, I was present when he swore at my colleague, I was best placed to explain the incident, and yet I was never consulted. Anyway, I was told that he could go to all his other classes, just not the foreign teacher classes, and that he could sit all his exams, including the foreign teacher exams. I explained this to X and his mum as best I could and then sent them off to talk to the Chinese English teacher directly, as she would be able to explain the situation better and more clearly than I could and she could help them track down the Senior 1 dean to try and smooth things over and ensure he could attend all his classes.
But I’m still pissed off that nobody talked to me about this until I found out, through X and his mother, that he had been away because the Senior 1 dean had decided he should be suspended. Still, I should know by now that foreign teachers are always the last to know anything, and that our students are far better at communicating with us than any of the school staff. I’m just a performing monkey, after all, so why should I be told anything?