Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's Behind Door #2?

I am definitely in China now...I am writing you from the textile captial of China, Shaoxing, and this is where I will be teaching.  Here's how it happened:
Sabrina told us that Dr. Lee, the Chinese affiliate with ACT, would be in Deqing to meet with us at 5:30 ("don't be late!"  she said). At 5:30 we were told he was "running a little late"...when he finally arrived at 9:00 with another teacher who had just arrived because he had missed his flight and another associate, they were hungry for dinner so they said they would "be right back."  Annie and I jumped on this opportunity to go with them because our dinner at the school had not been so good.
(Sidenote: we went for hot pot...a steaming cauldron in the middle of the table, half spicy broth, half mild broth, and plates and plates of goodies to dunk in and then scoop out with chopsticks..."grass" noodles (glass), mushrooms, thin rolls of beef, cabbage, meatballs, was delicious. By the way, my brother told me it was polite to burp after meals. Well, Dr. Lee, a very refined man who was very excited to tell me he knew Gary Locke because he had opened a language school in Beijing with him, well - after hot pot, he let out three rather sharp farts.  Annie and I just stared straight ahead, and when we got outside, we just busted up.  Brian, is that polite too??)
Anyway, back to our meeting, which finally happened at 10:30.  We were told that they were just informed that the school in Deqing had very low attendance for the summer and that they only needed seven teachers (eight of us were in Deqing) and that they were "figuring it out" (they had been involved in much conferencing in Mandarin during hot pot). We also found out that we would be teaching 14 days straight, only two hours per day. These facts, among others, did not thrill me. Most of the older, professional teachers had been placed elsewhere and I was with mostly college students and Annie, and this very cool new guy, John. So after the meeting, I told Dr. Lee that I wouldn't mind switching schools if they needed a teacher in another location.  His eyes lit up.  "Can you pack now?"  By 11:30 I was on my way to Shaoxing. 
It was like I was experiencing Door #1, and knew that Door #2 had many possibilities...much more possibilities and a better fit for me.  I had been reading about Shaoxing earlier in the day and had felt regret that I had not been sent there.  I was sad to leave Annie...we had just had a great couple of days. Yesterday we rented "used" bikes (ten cents for an entire day's rental) and rode all over Deqing, even out to the mountains where a couple of scenes from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed. Talk about getting stares!  People would just stare and then laugh out loud at the two Americans riding old bikes with baskets, holding Sprites with straws in one hand (the brakes didn't work well anyway). Here in China, every city I have seen so far has a partitioned part of the street just for rickshaws, bikes and parking...very civilized! Anyway, Annie and John are planning to come stay with me in Shaoxing during their three day break and at least they have each other.
So now I will see if my gamble has paid off...the hotel is much nicer, out of 10 I will give it a 7.  In Deqing, the hotel was a 0. It is the morning, and I haven't seen any teachers, and don't know how to get into contact with them (they just dropped me off at 1:30 am and I fell into a deep sleep), but I guess, like everything else, I won't rush it and will just find out what is what when it's time.  I do know that none of us will begin teaching until tomorrow and that there is a good chance I will be teaching small children)!  I have been walking the streets all morning...textiles everywhere.  Unbelievable.  I am hoping I can find a seamstress to make me a dress, since seamstresses are lining the streets; I would have EVERY style/pattern to choose from for sure.  As a city, Shaoxing is much more exciting, and much more CHINA! I hope I chose the right door!
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Anita Fieldman said...

How adventurous, Marjie, and good for you! Sounds as if you traded up. I checked to see if the bamboo textile factory we were working with was near you but it is in Suzhou, east of Shanghai. You still may see quite a bit of bamboo, though, unless it is all being exported.

Enjoy! I can't wait to see what's next!


Karrie Riemer said...

Thanks for the updates. I feel like I'm there.. well, except for the heat and the food :)
Can't wait to hear about "door #2"

Brian Bowker said...

Why would you assume that I would know anything about farting? Should I be insulted here?

I did a little searching and found that it may be a common cultural problem over there, as posted by someone to another blog:

"We spend countless hours trying to convince a Coworker from China to stop farting in the Room at work."

Farting doesn't appear to be something that the Chinese totally "blow off" however, as reported in Harper's on July 5th:

"A primary school in China was fining children five yuan per incident for farting in class."

If farts are worth five yuan each, perhaps Dr. Lee was just leaving a 15 yuan tip?

Wanda said...

We got your BLOg and want another!

Brian Bowker said...

I went to the site for the America-China Teaching Center and noticed that they on the front page they have a bulleted list of the many benefits of joining the program. The very first item on the list reads:

"Try exotic delicacies from authentic Chinese restaurants"

It sounds like they tailored the program especially for you, Marjie!