So for those of us new to the class, I’m living and working in Handan, China, the Heibei Province, for a year. Once again, I’m speaking a language like an angry baby “Me llamo es Jonny. Mes gustan los tacos por favor” como mis professores de Espanol le dijo sobre mi abilidad. I’ve been here about 23 days now, so for now I have nothing short of a fumbled impression to share with you.
As the job goes, the people I work with are pretty stellar. They are probably the nicest people I have ever met, at least by the first impression. The Maple Leaf English School cast of foreign teachers is as follows: Grant, headmaster, Karen, head foreign teacher, Mike, Jason, Mark, Josh, Irish Michael, Elsa, and Kelly, muy anti-social-red-headed girl. But I get that. The Chinese teachers: Liu, headmaster, Joanna, Peley, Alice, Ivan, Tony, Crystal, Lisa, Lydia, Helen, Jo, Tracy, head of Chinese teachers, Ice, Ruby, Jilly, Susan, Sara, and Ann. My best Chinese friend so far is the office boy, Peter. I feel like he and I are in the same kind of life situations (in Master’s school limbo) and are the same age, and might even act the same, if I were too shy to live. Sometimes he asks me “Have you eaten dinner?” and I’ll respond no, with nowhere leading from that conversation. I assume he means to ask me to eat with him, or I assume somebody’s making him ask and then laugh to myself about it all.
I’ve never been called handsome so much in my life. What’s most annoying about it is I’m not, really. Cute at the very best. Over here, it’s a chant that I can’t get away from, every day it happens at least once, if not a million times. Hundreds of people have asked me to take their picture with them, so I try not to stay still for too long for that reason. I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. Maybe I’m just over it. Yes, of course it would be nice to hear that kind of stuff from people, but most importantly I don’t believe it. I can’t equate the feeling to any experience, but to me it feels as though people are saying “Hey black guy! You are so black!” I’m thinking yes, right on, that would be really fucking cool… but no, I’m super white man, sorry. The handsome thing has lost its “umph,” just like the North American phrase “how are you?” I suppose I could say it’s just the feeling of being lied at on a regular basis. Here I’m just different, not especially great or anything, and I hate toady people who try to get on your goodside like that ANYWAY, so why would I be patient about it now? So many sad foreigners I’ve met eat this stuff up. At the end of the day, I’ve never cared for who is or isn’t aesthetically beautiful, and now it’s being stuffed down my throat. There’s something to be said for a nice mind or a quirky personality, and I wish more people said that more often… no, not the beauty queens clawing for a crown or Scumbag Steve trying to get in Friendly Fiona’s pants. I wish more people knew raw beauty.
On top of that, it’s commonplace for men to point out how attractive other men are. Grown women often hold hands or hold each other crossing the street. They’re so Pagan and so not that the word gay or homosexual probably doesn’t appear in their vocabulary… and if it does, most of these people don’t know what it even means. Sometimes it’s nice to not have to worry about the Western fear of homosexuality, but at other times, I know they’re only like this because being gay is so socially invisible. I wonder what a downtrodden or secluded life gay Chinese people may live. I worry for them, and then remember it’s even worse in other countries.
Alright, enough of that. The bathrooms here smell awful. I’ll never forget it for my entire life. I could probably never describe it to you. Lately though, I can’t really smell it anymore.
I’m already picking up Canadian mannerisms and British quips from my coworkers. My chameleon instincts will likely translate me into this unclassified dialect, and I’m okay with that. I haven’t really made a best friend per say; you’re kind of forced into this family whether people like your or not due to the small island syndrome. OH HEY, YOU’RE WHITE, RIGHT? OH YOU SPEAK ENGLISH. My hang out sessions feel like a meeting of the world powers, or something quite to that effect.
I miss my friends. I just want to be in Morgantown playing Balderdash right now. Or eating a god-damned real piece of cheese. Maybe a Big Mac or pizza, even though I can get that stuff here. But traveling does that to a person. I am certain, as soon as I leave China, I’ll want to have some pulled noodles with spicy sauce and beef, or a mushu pancake with vegetables and eggs. I’ll feel more confident about speaking Chinese and I’ll wish I would have taken more opportunities. But I guess that’s how life is. There are regrets that evolve into nostalgia over time. i Hasta luego !
There are women screaming above me. I’ll seize the moment and check it out. Hopefully I don’t get killed… or interrupt… er… something. 哎呀。