I wait until 10:10 am for the delivery, no show. Disappointed, I head across the parking lot to the office. I pop in on Jessie.
“The coffee table was not delivered.” I say a bit bummed.
“I called this morning. They will deliver this afternoon.” I make some tea and head to the Shanghai 90210 listening class.
My listening class with the Shanghai90210 is painless, even bordering on enjoyable. Allen participates fully. I am very pleased. Any sort of conflict makes me crazy. Some people seem to love conflict. I hate it. Yes, she is spoiled but she is good at heart. Her whims, she cannot help.
Class 3 made me beam. Jacky brought her cheap Chinese guitar she bought for 50 bucks (I would later learn) which actually sounds good. I played “Savior Boyfriend Collides” and “Feel like a Drugstore.” I wrote the names on the board. When I wrote the word ‘drugstore’ a murmur swept through the class. A few of the students punched the words into their electronic translators. I thought about explaining my drug days but I thought that might really confuse them and possibly get me ejected from this country. After I played the songs the class applauded me enthusiastically.
I then tell them we are going to play a game that I like to play on road trips. I write ‘road trips’ ‘kill time’ ‘2 or 3 hours’ on the board. Then I tried to explain the game which proved to be a challenge.
“You write a sentence, any sentence you want and then you pass it to your neighbor and your neighbor writes a sentence,” I say “You pass the sentences back and forth. Do you understand?”
I wrote ‘The boy went to the market’ on the board. Blank Stares. Someone had written ‘hero’ on the board in the back of the class. I wrote ‘The hero saved three children.’ Blank Stares.
“Stephen Roger, do you understand?’
“Freestar, do you understand?”
“You do?!” One person understands, maybe he can help the others.
“No.” Oh, this one person does not understand.
“You can write anything you want and then pass it back and forth.” Somehow these are the magic words. The majority nod in understanding. The writing begins. I walk around the room. Killback hides something in his desk. I do not ask what it is. He looks at me sheepishly. I ask him if his desk-mate, a girl, is causing trouble. He just smiles. His English is not good. I do not think he understands me. Freestar is sitting in front of him. I ask Freestar if they are misbehaving. He does not understand. His English is better than Killback’s. Nevertheless, he still does not understand me.
At Jacky’s desk, I stop and ask her about her guitar. Her guitar teacher found it for her. I tell her it was a nice one (which it is for a cheap guitar). She tells me her teacher has many. Maybe I could go with her to meet him. I tell her I would like that.
She says “He would think it pleasant to meet you.”
“Yes, I would most certainly like to meet him.”
She writes his number down in my journal which does me no good after she tells me he probably does not know any English.
At the end of the class, the students hand me a pile of notes, their masterworks.
An example, which seems as if it could be a song by the Sugarcubes:
“I saw a dog in the road. - (verse)
It has three legs
And it has no tail
And I walk beside it
She barked at me
Oh, too strange! - (bridge?)
I’m so nervous
I gave a piece of meat to it. - (chorus)
It didn’t eat the meat. It bit me!
Oh – No !
It wants to eat me
Then a ugly boy appeared.- (verse)
He ate the dog and me.
The dog was very delicious. I was dying!
And I went to heaven.
The toilet is near.
The last line is the perfect finale. I didn’t add the final commentary which was a ‘Fuck, too!’ which appeared on a few of the round robin notes. The author of this two word slogan I assume was looking for a post-modern phraseology for ‘Fuck, yeah!’ Perhaps he is reading all sorts of Derrida, Nietzsche, and Sartre late at night - when he should be working on Chinese arithmetic and memorizing Mao quotes. Or maybe he just wanted to write the f-word on every paper that hit his desk.
After class, I come back to my apartment and make dumplings. I eat them on the balcony. The construction site has been tidied. The first two floors are clear of boards and construction debris. The construction workers are on their lunch break.
I go to my 1:30 class. I explain the note passing sentence game to them. They understand. This time I felt like I explained the game more in depth. Some of the students do not start writing, nor do they pull out papers and pens. I walk around and ask them why they are not writing. They then start writing. Halfway into the class, I realize most of them seem bored. Many of them are not doing the activity. These students are talking to their desk mate or talking to the person sitting behind them. I just want to ride it out. We are only fifteen minute into the class. I look up and the back of the class have become motivated. They are writing like fiends. Later I look through their papers and they write sentences where girls in class are fat fish.
Dong Qian stopped by my apartment. She lives above me. I have not mentioned her very much. She is nice. When I first moved in she asked if I could not run my air conditioner (what they call the heater) at night because it was too loud. The heater is like a window unit stuck in the wall. Mine happens to be at the top of my bedroom wall which she lives above me so it is under her floor. I told her I would not run it. I did anyway.
She came by today because she has English questions for me. She has questions about cards. She asks about Jacks, Queens, Kings. Which is higher? I tell her Kings but sometimes Ace is the high card depending on the game. This makes no sense to her; Ace is a one. She then wants me to help her understand lyrics from a song. As I am reading, I assume the song must be from the Back Street Boys catalogue. “I am numberless. I am innocent.” She says these lines contradict the rest of the song. I tell her sometimes songs are supposed to be contradictory. If you ask a songwriter what a song means a lot of times he will say draw your own conclusion. I then look at the top of the page and see the song is by Sting. How do I explain songwriters? How do I explain Sting? How do I explain the Hallmark card sentiments of his lyrics?
At 4:00 pm, Jessie calls. She says the coffee table is right outside my door. After I hang up the phone, I put my shoes on and a young Chinese man wearing a blazer and dress pants is standing there. I do not talk to him but it is as if we are talking because afterward, I know I will remember a conversation between us that never existed.
Later I will remember him saying that he was surprised I opened the door because he put the table in front of the door down the hall, my old apartment where my sofa was delivered. He points to the sofa. All of this, he says telepathically. Or maybe he just does a lot of pointing and grunting. I pay him the 300 rmb balance. He says ‘bye’ five times and leaves. After he leaves, a strange odor permeates the room as if something has soured. I smell myself. I smell the new table. I then assume it must have been the delivery man. He took off his shoes when he came in. I spray the Osmanthus air freshener to rid the room of the odor.
I read the Shanghai Daily. I read a blurb about an illegal dentist who is sentenced to 10 years and has to pay remuneration because he pulled 10 teeth out of a woman at his roadside dental stand and the woman’s lung collapsed and she had a heart attack. She died. Another interesting story involves lucky plates, as in license plates auctioned off in Guangzhou. The Chinese look at the number 8 as being lucky. A middle-aged woman in Guangzhou paid 237,000 rmb ($29, 625) for an ‘888’ plate.
An unlucky woman, who obviously has no 8s on her plate, was arrested for jaywalking and sentenced to 10 days in jail. The story says Liu (the woman’s surname) berated the cop when he stopped her. She refused to be given a ticket. At some point she scratched the officer. Three female officers were needed to take her into custody. “Liu, who holds a master’s degree from a British university, has allegedly accepted the punishment and told police she is very sorry for the way she acted.”
However, she should look on the bright side. Her husband did not hang himself in their apartment. And - her landlord is not suing her because the apartment is devalued now. “Lin Xiao and her husband, a Frenchman (FAKE OUTLAWERS!), rented an apartment in March 2004 for two years. In November 2005 (the expiration date on the chicken chunks that I bought at Lotus the other night. I have recently realized I should check all expiration dates on food that I buy because most of the time the items seem to be expired by 4 or 5 or 6 months), the Frenchman hung himself from a beam in the apartment.” The landlord told Lin she could rent the apartment for two more years or buy it. She declined. That’s weird, why would she not want to live in the place where her husband hanged himself?
She may think about getting another part-time job like being a snack deliverer. Two Shanghai Jiao Tong University undergrads have started a snack delivery business online. The students must submit orders – for omelet pancakes, danbing (Chinese pizza), bacon rolls, and pearl milk tea - before 9:20 “so that staff have time to buy snacks from nearby stores and deliver them from 10pm to 10:30pm.” Pizza shuttle be warned!
Another interesting tidbit: “Some farmers in Chongming County were poisoned after eating an improperly prepared puffer fish at a self-cooked banquet on February 27. One person died afterwards.” Yes, ‘farmers,’ ‘self-cooked’ and ‘puffer fish,’ need I say more?