China is growing on me.
This morning I was picked up by one of my interpreters to be taken to the local police station to re-register myself with the government as a foreign national living in Fushun. I asked her about my water-heat dilemma and she supposedly remedied it by trying to connect the hot-water heater in my apartment, but so far I haven’t managed to make it work. Chinese are funny in the sense that they are paranoid about wasting energy. It’s not enough to simply turn an appliance off, or shut a computer down, no — they totally unplug anything that isn’t in use, and won’t turn on any lights unless absolutely necessary. It’s a bit silly to me in the sense that from a logical perspective, basically no power would be consumed by anything turned off — and power is so insanely inexpensive here (at least in Fushun) that it’s almost pointless.. but I suppose a penny saved is a penny earned, and the Chinese seem to be extremely fiscally-minded people.
From my apartment we then went to a local supermarket. I’ve started to realize how similar China is to the “Western world” once you get into areas of legitimate commerce. It’s just like how things are half the world away — and, in many cases, more advanced, even (fruits here are individually wrapped in foam nets to prevent bruising, as an example). We strolled through one of the malls where many familiar Western storefronts are located, as well as modern Western fast-foods.
I spent lunch at Mingshi 1 (one of 3 school locations) and shared a “traditional” Northern Chinese meal with the Chinese staff in the school kitchen — large pork dumplings with a vegetable soup. I spent another couple of hours walking around the surrounding area and taking pictures before meeting up with one of the teachers who graciously provided me with a converter for my MacBook’s charger which, thus far, is working brilliantly.
Around 3PM I hailed a taxi and showed them the address in Chinese to the new school, which I have been told I will be teaching at primarily. I was able to meet a lot of the other foreign teachers and spend time with them, as well as meet a lot of the students. I am very impressed with their knowledge, and their apparent enthusiasm to learn. I sat in on a class with one of the older teachers at the school to observe how a usual class operates, and it was a very rewarding experience. I also got an intimate glimpse at children with their parents. I feel like a lot of Americans have a distant concept of how other people in foreign countries operate among family lines, or, at least, I did. Chinese people are just like anyone else: they love their children, and want the best for them. And kids are kids, no matter what part of the world they come from. We are far more similar as a species than we are different.
After the class I sat in on, I was offered to follow another teacher to a large event (which didn’t end up having a large turnout) in one of the local malls (which is about half the size of South Park in Charlotte). It was a fairly intricate set-up, with a large stage set up in the center of the mall and lots of the chairs. The goal of the event was to generate exposure and marketing for the school. A handful of children and parents showed up to take part in events for prizes, play games, and meet some of the foreign ESL teachers. The entire thing was themed around the new Disney movies “Big Hero 6”, which, as it turns out, is INSANELY popular here in China. Apparently it’s been one of the first massively-marketed Disney movies in China, and the Chinese people are eating it up. It’s a huge market to tap, after all. It was brilliant to once again observe the children at play and the parents with big smiles on their faces taking pictures and videos of their kids on smart-phones, with kids running to their parents with toys in their hands and huge smiles of accomplishment on their faces. It’s really sweet to witness the universal love between parents and their children.
After the event, the teacher I went with (a Briton named Craig) got dinner at a local pizza place in the mall, and then took a 20 minute walk to “Bar Street” where we found a local dive. It was a really novel place, and we drank about 8 Budweisers and talked about local culture and European politics. It was a great experience, and we were serenaded by a Chinese singer and guitarist on stage. It felt like any other bar in any other city in America, just Chinese — couples at tables, friends, etc. One thing I did notice is, Chinese people drink to excess. By the time we left there were at least 2 people slumped over and passed out on tables.
While we were at the bar, a woman approached us offering us work as ESL teachers at an illegal school (never once were we asked about work visas or anything, we just happened to be white males in a Chinese city). Apparently this is an extremely common occurrence for foreigners in China. The school I am working for, I am pleased to find out, is the paramount ESL school in Fushun, and one of only a few legitimate and accredited schools in the city. We have all the contracts for working in the Chinese public schools, and are the only school to have real Americans working there (most other schools hire Russians, Thais, South Africans, among others who usually are not native English speakers). Speaking of South Africans, while at the bar 2 drunk South Africans stumbled into our bar looking for girls, making a fool of themselves. They worked at one of the other schools. Despite them being ridiculous, I felt for the first time a feeling known as “diaspora” — these were strangers that I have never seen in my entire life, from a country also foreign to me, but as soon as I saw them, I immediately felt an innate connection to them and a commonality. Like seeing a friend. We were all strangers in a strange land, and in that we shared a unique relation.
Today has been a really amazing experience, and I am feeling far more comfortable and accustomed to China. I’ve been told, however, that culture-shock usually sets in around the 6 week mark when the novelty wares off. I’m fairly determined to not let that sway me from continuing my adventure. I still miss everyone, though. It’s late, and I have to be up early to report to the school. This has been a fairly lackadaisical post simply due to not having all of my thoughts together and trying to rush together a synopsis of my day before bed. But, yeah… today has been really neat. I’ve had some great experiences.
Hopefully tomorrow I can get my hot water working, finally, and enjoy a proper shower.