Category Archives: China

The Girl I was Stalking

a pretty Chinese girl is looking at her phone, from Shenyang China

Drawn from a photo I took for my friend Ezio in Shenyang, China. Despite having taught Ezio how to use the camera on his phone a few time, he can’t seem to stop taking blurry shots of his fingers.  So while we were in Shenyang I was in charge of taking photos for him. He kept on telling me he wanted to capture the “beautiful Manchurian faces” around him. Which means I had to walk around on stealth mode and sneak photos of the good people of Northern China.

My Drunk Third Uncle

My dad grew up on a farm in Peng Lai (a.k.a. The middle of nowhere) and most of his extended family still lives there. The village he’s from is called Dai West Village and almost everyone there has the same last name as me. My dad has a sister and 5 brothers.

This is my drunk Third Uncle. Middle Aged Asian man with dark thick eye brows. He's kind of on the fat side.  He's red in the face most of the time and it seems like he can never blink both his eye simultaneously.

Third Uncle is the family drunk.

First Uncle used to be the family drunk. He died of liver failure. Then Second Uncle was the family drunk. Several years ago he got severe diabetes. Now he drinks weak tea, eats vegetables, and looks sad.

Rice with veggies and some cucumber. There's also tea in a Jar. We're not fancy folk. Chops sticks in front. This is what my Diabetic Second Uncle has for dinner.

As the family drunk, my uncle goes to the only bar in town everyday and meets the “Heads of Drinking” of other prominent families in the village.

My Third Uncle is really red in the face and rowdy when drunk. He tries to bully everybody into drinking and calls anyone who refuses a little bitch. My diabetic Second Uncle is the only exception.

My (Betty) Family Tree. My grandparents had 7 kids so the tree is quite big. I gave everyone nicknames to protect their privacy and also I don't remember their names. I am the daughter of the fourth son.

His son, my cousin with the super long pinkie nail (hereafter Pinkie Nail Cousin or PNC), leaves the room whenever his father drinks. After a few drinks, my Third Uncle points out what a colossal failure PNC son is. This is why my Pinkie Nail Cousin has never touched a drop of alcohol in his life. PNC is funny, soft spoken, and very nice.

In this cartoon I'm telling my PNC "I don't think you are a failure. You've got a wife who is way too hot for you. Please Don't touch me with your long ass nails". He has his hands on my shoulder displaying his long ass fingernails. It's a pretty bad self portrait.

When my family went to visit the village during Chinese New Year, Third Uncle became drunk and started yelling at me about shit I did when I was 5. I kept on telling him I don’t remember any of it but it only seems to fuel his anger. So then I just gave up and joined him in describing my abominations. This pleased him excessively.

Every time I see Third Uncle I always wish him health. I’m not particularly fond of him but if he dies, my dad is next in line in becoming the family drunk. Please don’t croak Third Uncle.

Another Picture of Third Uncle. This time he's really drunk. He's giving you the thumbs up.

The “Black” Teacher

I was walking to the bus station from school one afternoon and I heard two little boys talking. One of them pointed me out and said I was his foreign teacher. His friend replied:

Boy’s friend: We have a foreign teacher too. He’s black.

Boy: Really?

Boy’s friend: Yeah. He’s from the United States and I think his family used to be slaves.

Apparently there was another foreign teacher and he was teaching them about the history of slavery. How did he get these kids to understand what he’s talking about? He must be a teaching genius because I have hard enough of a time getting the kids to stand up and sit down on command. I couldn’t wait to meet him!

On the bus home as I thought about my deficiencies as a teacher, I overheard this conversation:

Older woman: Did you hear there’s a black teacher in the school. He’s going to scare the children.

Young Mother (obviously embarrassed to be having this conversation): The children will be okay.

Older Woman: I’m sure he will scare the children.

Racist Grandma

How does that work exactly? Are children scared of the color black? Or maybe she imagined that the Black teacher is going to chase the kids around in a tribal mask if they get a question wrong as a part of a proud African-American tradition. I guess you can’t really make sense of ignorance. In any case, good for the school for hiring him despite of what parents may say! I’m glad this generation of children will be exposed to people of different races. They will not grow up as ignorant as their grandparents.

The next day I met the new teacher in the staff room. I couldn’t help letting out a big “Ha!” and laugh. I met Franklin, a sweet Indian boy who spent a year living in LA. He did not in any way look, act, or sound stereotypically Black. In fact, he had a pretty thick Indian accent.

So… The two foreign teachers this school has:

“Spanish” from Australia = Chinese from Canada

“Black” from US = Indian from India

My Most Memorable Students

The Overly Enthusiastic One

The Overly Enthusiastic One
He sat at the very front of the class always looking grave and serious. He raised his hands for every question I asked. Problem was he didn’t know the answer to most of the questions. When he got a question wrong, he sagged his head and hunched. His facial expression was a cross between a lost puppy and an old man who had lost everyone he loved. It was too funny. I picked him mostly for hard questions.

The Rebellious One 
He gave me a really hard time in my first class. He wouldn’t listen to anything I have been saying and kept throwing bits of paper at his classmates. I told him stop. He wouldn’t. I told his to stand outside the class. He wouldn’t budge. At that point I knew that if I wanted any kind of control over the class, it was a fight I had to win. In the end I had to physically drag him out the door by his arms while he kicked and screamed sitting on the floor. Once he was outside, I slammed the door on him. Next class, he apologised and presented me with two origami stars. We were both relieved that it was over. I really ended up liking this one. He was quick, intelligent, and funny. After the big blow out, he was a great student. He still challenged me once in a while and sometimes I would let him get away with it because I didn’t want to crush his spirit. The world would be such a boring place if everyone was docile.

The Dirty Girl
Most of the kids at my school look very well taken care of even if they were poor. This girl looked the opposite. Her uniform was always covered with dirt and her hair always looked lanky and unwashed. While sitting in class, she would always have a finger up her nose, twisting it languidly. Once she collected enough material, she rolled it into a little ball with her thumb and index finger and sent it flying in the air. The worst part was, she kept on wanting to touch me. She would reach out her dirty little hands for a high-five whenever I walked to her corner of the class. I knew she just wanted affection. I wish I could have been more of a grown up about it but I was too busy dodging her booger hands.

Dirty Girl's Dirty Hands
Dirty Girl’s Dirty Hands

The Class Clown
He was always getting into trouble. He actually liked being sent to the back of the class so he could make faces and make the other kids laugh. His constant attention seeking exhausted me. Little dude, why do you have to try so hard? He’ll probably grow up to become a Karma Whore on Reddit. He’d be good at that.

The Know It All
Out of all my students, she probably knew the most English. She knew the answer to every question and always raised her hand high in the air and shouted “Teacher, pick me! Let me try”. If I didn’t pick her she would get this desperate look as if she was about to pee herself. Since my biggest fear while teaching was that one of my students would piss or shit their pants, I called on her a lot. In case she actually wanted permission to go to the bathroom.

When I taught them the song ‘The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round’, she kept on telling me that I got the words wrong. “Sweetie, it doesn’t matter if bus goes ‘bumpdy bump’ or ‘clickdy clack’ first. It’s the same song. Just go with it. Mmmkay?”. She kept on singing the version she learned. “Whatever. As long as she doesn’t pee herself.” I thought.

The One Who was in Love with Me
After a couple of weeks at the school I realised that I saw this Six Grader way too frequently. At least once in the morning, once during recess and two to three times during lunch. When I turn a corner there he would be. He would stand tall, raise his hand, gave me a small wave and said “Hello Teacher!” He always said the same thing. Always the same wave. I found it utterly amusing and I would always laugh a little when I saw him. I think he took it as a sign that I liked him back because near the end of the school year I found him lurking near my apartment building. Not sure if cute or creepy.

Don't look directly into her evil soulless Eyes
Don’t look directly into her evil soulless Eyes

The Devil Child
I should have known that there was something seriously wrong because as soon as I arrived, the home room teacher shot out without saying a word to me. She was the smallest girl in grade one. She had a baby doll face with beautiful round eyes. She was an angel, until she didn’t get her way. When she was displeased her eyes would fill with malice. She would ball her hands into little fists of fury, scream and run around the class like a deranged Velociraptor. She punched me with her steely little fists more than once. The beating I could take. But that scream! That horrid high-pitch scream that made all me feel like all my brain cells would burst. Her class learned nothing and watched a lot of Tom and Jerry. I was at the mercy of the Devil Child. I did her bidding.

Trophy Teacher

Kids running around at recess
Kids running around at recess

When I was looking for a job in China, I never thought I would be teaching elementary school. I was never one of those people that just loved children. I liked some kids and tolerated the rest. But teaching them turned out to be the most fun and rewarding job that I’ve ever had.

I taught at a public school in the suburbs of Dalian. I had about 14 classes a week and I taught grade 1, grade 2, and grade 6. I had about 40-60 kids for every class. Most of them were well behaved and eager to please and once I figured out the trick, it wasn’t too hard to control them. I’m really glad I paid attention in English class when we studied George Orwell though. I joke. (not really)

me and students
Taking a Selfie with my students

I had a lot of freedom with my classes. I wasn’t given a curriculum or a text book. When I started I had no experience with kids and very little time to prepare. I was offered the job on Sunday and asked if I could start on Monday. My first class was a mess. I went through what I thought was 40 minutes of material in 15 minutes. The children didn’t seem to understand anything thing I was saying. No one answered any of my questions. Half way through the class I was afraid they might boo me off the podium. Then I heard one boy whisper to his desk mate in Chinese “this foreigner is not funny”.

Thanks to the help of a Chinese teacher, I’m happy to say that my second class was better and by the end of the day I was tolerable. I quickly discovered that kids don’t seem to tire of repetition. They behave a lot better when I group them and made them compete with each other. I also made them police each other and rewarded them for snitching. Thanks for the tips Gorge Orwell.

I really didn’t need to worry about being horrible. The head of the English department and the principle weren’t very interested in what I was teaching. They were more interested in showing me off. I was their trophy “Spanish” teacher. As long as I looked and acted foreign, it was all good. On more than one occasion a herd of middle-aged men in suites would walk to the back of the class to watch me teach. They also put me in their school plays and introduced me to wealthy parents. Once I had to wait for around of more than an hour so the mayor of the city could get a glimpse of me as I pretended to guide the children to perform Mary had a Little Lamb. I didn’t even teach them that song or the dance moves. I hate that song. Then the principle introduced me as Spanish and from Australia. I have no idea where she got Australia.

For the most part, I didn’t really mind being their trophy. It was only a minor inconvenience. After all I was getting paid twice as much as a Chinese teacher and I could do whatever wanted in the classroom. I used my freedom to never give the kids any homework or tests. We also played a lot of games and watched a lot of cartoons. That doesn’t mean they didn’t learn anything. By the end of the semester most of them could answer my question in full sentences, sing a few English songs, greet me with “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” and say “Guy! Stop it!” with no accent. Everything else I have taught them they pronounce with a Chinese accent. I used to snap my fingers and say “Guys! Stop it!” so much in class that all my students have learned to imitate me in uncanny perfection. Long after they have forgotten everything else I’ve taught them, surely this will be my legacy. This will be the one thing they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Free Lunch at School
Free Lunch at School