Thursday, April 06, 2006

At times, my new life is a television show, not the kind that looks like reality but the kind with laugh tracks and voiceovers.

The cleaning lady never showed up yesterday. When I was leaving my apartment at 9:45 this morning. I saw my old apartment door open, Jo's new digs. I went down the hall to see if Jo (the Australian who is not Maureen)had come in from her other apartment (She has two). The door was open; the kitchen and living room were freshly mopped. I called "Ni Hao" a few times because I knew Jo was not there at this point. With the mopped floor as evidence, I deduced that the cleaning woman was in the vicinity. I made my way through the apartment to the bathroom where the cleaning lady who knows no English was busy mopping.

We greeted each other with "Ni Hao"s and I pantomimed that I wanted her to come to my place. She followed me down the hall. When we stepped in the door, I started pulling out the cleaning supplies to show her. Each new item produced a fresh look of near bliss on her face. I pulled out the sponges, the scrubbers, the dish rags, the solvents, and I showed her what the bucket was for. She looked delighted. I think she assumed this was the end of the cleaning supply floor show. I then went into my laundry room (or hallway that joins the bathroom, kitchen and living room) and - Ta DA! -
I came out with the new mop (with a replacement head attached) and a broom. At this point, I thought the cleaning lady was going to have an orgasm.

After our mutual cleaning joy bonding, I showed her my class schedule which I have no idea if she understood why I whipped it out or not. I wanted to let her know that I would be gone for two hours. I presumed we were in agreement when she spoke. She could have actually been saying "Dude you have one big nose." I have no way of knowing. This is where we would cut to commercial.

"Tonight on the ABC Movie of The Week, Valerie Harper as you have never seen her before will meet the child she gave up. (Cut to scene of Valerie Harper and teen
Valerie -"I had to! I didn't want to! I had to!)
Now, the child she abandoned is at her door wanting answers.In a stirring made for TV world premier no parent or child will want to miss "Diary of a Whore Mom."

Next Commercial

"Do your whites not get as white as they should? Do you have ring around the collar? Is your husband a homo? Well then you should try HOMO RID! Get rid of ring around the collar and homo-husbands in one fell swoop. It is that easy."

I went to class and I wondered if my place would be clean when I got back home. My classes today were classes 5 and 9. Last Thursday and Friday, both classes were away on military maneuvers. I was under the impression they had a holiday. When I asked them how their holiday was I thought I might get lynched. They made it quite clear they had been out doing their civic duty as 15 and 16 year olds.

I continued the name game. The first up was Fool Bark. When he said his name and I repeated his name the whole class started laughing which made me laugh which made him laugh which made me laugh harder. My classes seem to have a lot of laughter. This is the new show this season "Welcome back to the People's Republic Kotter."

I heard talking and I wrote 'instigator' on the board and asked if they knew the meaning. I told Fool Bark he might be the instigator. I threaten the talkers and tell them they will have to get up and sing a song if they do not behave. The rest of the class loves when this happens. The talkers always stop talking. I think Boom Boom Washington could walk in at anytime.

Later Zhang Ming Wei told me I could call him 'King of the Chickens.' This made me happy to know that poultry everywhere had representation. Bernice then told me that she is the 'Cat King.' At times I wonder if the class really speak English fluently and they just act like they are beginners to screw with me.

In class 9 which is immediately after class 5, we have the eye exercise. Before class starts, everyone scurries in like mice. Some of them carried Chinese pizza which they had ten minutes in between classes to nab from the cafeteria. When they scurry in, there head is down and their arms are at their sides. Today, the person in charge of pulling the string which seems to turn on the sound for the eye exercise was slow on the draw and missed the opening of the eye exercise. When it started midway through, the entire class booed him. They look forward to these eye exercises

Class 9 was quite ill-behaved today. At one point, while I am writing on the board, I see a paper wad whizz by. I think it is coming from broken footed Gavin's direction. His table all pointed to Freedom who was sitting at the desk behind Gavin. Freedom is the Chinese John Travolta. He broods when he sits and swaggers when he walks. I asked Gavin how he broke his foot. He told me that he broke it playing football. I asked him if he kicked some concrete instead of the ball. He looked at me with a blank expression.

I love when a student is asleep in class because I stare at the student until the whole class notices and then, as in the case with Potato the other day, I will call the students name like I am yelling into a valley for an echo. Ricola! For students with names such as 'Potato,' this works perfectly. I love yelling 'Potato' anyway.I get as close as I can to do it and make it very dramatic. Once they are roused, I tell them to go back to sleep.

I had to keep threatening Chen Ye today. He kept talking to the girls behind him as did his friend Ray. I would stare Ray down and he would throw his hands in the air with a "what?" expression on his face. Their friend Pig was quiet except when his friend beside him told me I could remember them because Pig is his pet. The whole class laughed. I laughed. When they say these tidbits that are usually funny, they are funny because they take an excruciatingly long time to come out with the punchline.

I kept calling Pig Head during the class. No one answered. I asked if Pig Head was sick. Everyone looked at me strangely. Pig told me he was Pig. I wanted to get to the bottom of it but the bell rang. Afterwards, Harry Potter (a girl) came up to me and said:
"I play joke on you. I wrote Pig Head in your book. I am sorry"
I told Harry Potter that was okay and I thought it was funny. She smiled.

I then walked back to my apartment after I picked up a Chinese pizza and a milk drink with tapioca balls from the cafeteria. Hoping I had not miscommunicated my need for cleaning to the cleaning lady, I warily opened the door. When I opened the door, I got a nice surprise. My floors were swept and mopped. My bathroom was somewhat in order. The dishes in the sink had been washed. Some of the dishes were put away. I was very excited to have a nice clean apartment.

(I bought a bistro set -for my new kitchen balcony - last night at the Lotus superstore which I lugged home in a cab with Maureen in tow.) I sat out on the balcony, waved at the construction workers who are now level with me in their constuction of the new building and I had lunch.

After lunch I tried to track down the cleaning lady to pay her. I thought I saw her walking near the football field but then I thought that might be Mrs. Gao. I now realized I was not sure who was who. I had forced biscuits on Mrs. Gao yesterday. If I mistakenly tried to give her money, I believe she would take the money to not offend me. I then saw Dong Qian who lined up the cleaning lady for me. I told her that I thought I saw her but it may have been Mrs. Gao.
"You didn't give the money to Mrs. Gao did you?"
"No. No. I haven't given the money to anyone," I said. "I am not sure if I know who is who." I tried to say this as delicately as possible because I did not want to appear to be a bigot. If I was being a bigot, Dong Qian kept it to herself. She told me she would tell the cleaning lady I was looking for her to pay her if she saw her. I told her thank you and then I stumbled all over her name trying to say goodbye. In this part of the show, I am definitely 70s super psychiatrist Bob Newhart.

"Now Emily, who is Mrs. Gao?"
"Well, it's simple Bob. Mrs. Gao is the one with the biscuits."
"Emily, I understand that she is the one with the biscuits but how do I know if she has eaten the biscuits?"
"Bob, I can't do everything for you. Some things you have to figure out on your own."

This I had to figure out on my own. They were approximately the same age I think. Mrs. Gao had more authority perhaps. I think the cleaning lady was wearing some hip clothes this morning. She really does not look like a cleaning lady when I stop to think about it. She does have a certain salt of the earth quality to her.

I thought about this until it was time for me to go teach my geography class. I told the students about tectonic plates - continental drift, earthquakes, volcanoes, mountains, oceanic trenches. They stared at me blankly. I wondered to myself at what point I became a boring high school geography teacher.

After class, I came back to my apartment. The store room was open when I walked by. I found the cleaning lady. I took my wallet out and took out two 10s and handed them to her. She looked like she was refusing them. Now, I really was wondering if this was the cleaning lady or Mrs. Gao. I then went up to my apartment to get the biscuits I had meant to give her. When I went back down with biscuits in hand, she had disappeared. I am still not sure if that was in fact the cleaning lady to whom I handed 20 kuai.

At 6 pm I became Monty Hall, Bob Eubanks, Richard Dawson. I am tutoring Miko and Max. We are on the couch in the office. I have thirty three vocabulary words from the Howling Man Twilight Zone with which I am quizzing them. One of the words is 'delirium.' Miko is trying to say to hallucination. It is not going well. I say it and then she says it one syllable shy. I say it again. She repeats it exactly in the same wrong way she has just said it. I know I should not laugh but I laugh and I have trouble stopping. This is a bit like seeing someone fall down and you really don't want to laugh but you just can't help it. What would Bob Barker do? I don't even want to think about this showcase showdown.

Max gets 6 of the words right, right in a row. Miko gets flustered. I am keeping score and laughing somewhat maniacally the whole time because it is one of the funniest scenes I have ever witnessed. Both of them are hitting and poking me the whole time. Max keeps hitting his head trying to think of the definitions. 'Unsteady' is one of the words. He says "Shocky."
"Shocky?" I ask. I have to think for a minute.
"Shaky." I tell him.
"Ah, Shaky."
Sometimes when I look at Max, I try to negotiate from which comic book he has escaped. At times, I think he is Peter Parker born in the People's Republic. Most certainly, he is not Clark Kent, Charlie Brown, or Beetle Bailey. He could be the Road Runner or maybe Popeye but not Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig. Daffy Duck? Linus? Snoopy?

Everytime Max gets a definition right, I draw a slash; Miko gets it wrong and I make a buzzer sound.

When I come back home from tutoring Max and Miko, I sigh as I walk into my new clean apartment. Life is good. Sure, the floor could be a bit shinier but then two dollars and fifty cents does not produce the sort of results that sort of dough once commanded.


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