Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It is not a big deal, isn't it?

Monday, the last week of classes, next week is finals, I go to teach the oral class with the Shanghai90210 at 11:10. Miko and Tess are not there. I am told they are taking exams all week in their hometown. That means I will only have the lovebirds Allen and Max this week. This should be so easy but it is very difficult to take class serious when you only have two students who do not particularly care to learn anything. I had planned to review for their finals this week. For 9 hours a week, I have them. Yes, I could spend all week reviewing but that is not fair to Miko and Tess because they will not get the chance to review because they are taking exams in their hometown. To me, as long as we are studying English, I feel as if I am accomplishing something. I declare this week movie watching week. We watch the latest ‘Wallace and Gromit’ movie.

I go home for lunch. I make a tuna sandwich. I failed to notice I bought the tuna with black bean which naturally makes my sandwich a tuna and mayonnaise and black bean sandwich. It is actually not bad, nothing I will ever eat again, but not bad. I will file it under the As with the KFC burger. A is for avoid.

At 1:20, I head to the international building. I left my briefcase in the Shanghai90210 classroom. I duck in to grab it. Bird Flu is there about to start her lesson with Allen and Max. I ask her if indeed we do have classes in the public school because Jennifer told me she did not teach them last semester because they study for two weeks at the end of the semester with their Chinese teachers. We do not them then.

She tells me in a haughty voice, “No we do not teach them.” She then adds “Elizabeth told us we do not teach the oral classes the last two weeks of the term at our meeting.” The meeting in question was held more than a month ago. Of course I do not remember her telling us this but if that is what she said, that is what she said.

If we do not teach the oral classes, this means that my class load has just been drastically lightened for the week which is really nice. This in turns means that next week will be the same because I do not teach them during finals week. My summer vacation is starting early it seems.

I email a contact that I have met through Brain Transplant. He is Chinese but says he’s American. He still has a thick Chinese accent. He is gathering teachers for a summer camp in Huzhou. I tell him I would like to know more about this. I tell him I have to have my own hotel room. He emails me back that I will have my own hotel room. I tell him I will do it. I will be teaching kids from primary school who know little English.

The rain comes as sudden as death. I did not even notice a cloud in the sky. Now it is a downpour. At first, it does not register that it is raining as hard as it is raining. I wonder if Shanghai has typhoons. I start to wonder if I even know what a typhoon is. I listen to the rain. We even have lightning.

The rain stops as sudden as it began. Jo, the fussy older Australian woman, tells me our boss Elizabeth is leaving. She tells me Elizabeth says she needs a rest. I go into my apartment and immediately call Jennifer. What does this mean? Has Edgar – he owns the company – pissed her off. Is she really leaving because she needs a rest? She has worked for the company less than a year. She has worked for the company since September or October at the longest.

When I talk to Jennifer, she too wonders why Elizabeth is leaving. No one seems to stay with this company for longer than a year. I tell Jennifer I love Target. She tells me Target originated in Minnesota. I tell her Bai Ren Fa reminds me of target. Somehow Bird Flu’s name is mentioned. I tell Jennifer that usually Maureen has no clue when we teach and when we do not teach and she had the satisfaction of telling me we are not teaching the oral class this week. Jennifer then tells me she was the one who told Boo Flu we are not teaching and she would not have known otherwise. We both laugh.

Later, there is a knock on my door. Jo is standing there. I ask her when she heard the news that Elizabeth is leaving. She told me that Fairy (who works in the Pudong office) whispered it in her ear today.

Jo goes on to tell me Elizabeth comes from an influential family of academics. Her father is a well known professor. She comes from a long line of well known professors. She then asks me if I have read ‘Three Swans.’ I tell her I have not. She tells me it is a wonderful book about the three generations of Chinese women. I want to ask her if there are any whales in it but I do not.

Perhaps, Elizabeth is taking time off to write the family history. Jo tells me this as she is packing her things. She is moving out of her apartment. Her IELTs class is over. Her other apartment is near downtown Shanghai. She asks me if I need a power strip and two new pillows. I tell her I can use them. I now have six pillows on my bed which is the ultimate for reading.

I take a trip to Bai Ren Fa, to buy more pillowcases. I walk around Bai Ren Fa. They have a limited supply of pillowcases. Of course, when I think of limited supply, I think of Beefheart’s ‘Big Eyed Beans from Venus.’ Maybe Don wrote the song about the folks in China while he was here wandering around looking for pillow cases because sometimes I feel like I am among Big Eyed Beans from Venus especially when I am looking for the right pillow case.

I find a few different varieties of case. However, the ones that strike my fancy are white with big orange and yellow swirls. They remind me of Twister except Twister is oversized dots. I put them in my basket. I look at toothpaste. I grab lemon Colgate. Here, company’s like Colgate experiment more with the introduction of products. In America, Colgate seems to have flavors that are all based in mint. Here the flavors range from mint to green tea, to lemon. Lemon seems like a good choice. The tube is 50 cents. Afterward, I get a spare can of Shanghai brand coffee, I put my cart on the diagonal moving sidewalk and go downstairs.

Bai Ren Fa has two floors, as does Lotus. At Lotus, the diagonal moving sidewalk is near the produce section. At Bai Ren Fa, the same sort of diagonal moving sidewalk is out in a mall like area of the building where there are shops akin to Claire’s, Hot Topic without the punk attitude, and cheap women’s clothing stores. The top floor of Bai Ren Fa is CD /DVDs, cameras, mp3 players, televisions, stereos, men’s and women’s clothing, bicycles, scooters, backpacks, furniture, cleaning agents, kitchen wares, two aisles of noodles, and imported canned goods and condiments such as French’s mustard (small size), brew coffee, pasta sauce (two kinds of Hunt’s), tuna (including the aforementioned black bean).

When I get back from Bai Ren Fa, I hit some jobsites to see what sorts of summer teaching jobs are available. I see an English camp in Hohhot - which is in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region - that looks interesting. The pay is dismal for 14 days but I could look upon this as a vacation of sorts. This might involve sleeping in a yurt. This is when I get to broaden my horizons and all of that crap. Inner Mongolia is a place where I would like to fall in love. Later I will say, “Oh yeah, we met when I was working out there in Inner Mongolia.” With a wink, I would add “We shared a yurt.”
I blast off a short email and I send a picture. The picture I send is me with my Fender Telecaster. I could be at a dive bar or at an arena. There is no way to tell in the photo. I am in a dive bar. I emphasize that I am an American pop singer. This could prove to be intriguing to my future camp employer.

I put in a Korean vampire cop kung fu superhero movie. At points, I laugh out loud the acting is so atrocious. Pamela Anderson’s V.I.P. is Ingmar Bergman in comparison. The production quality is UPN at its most UPN-ness. At points, I want to just switch it off but I know like Jaws, Moby Dick patiently awaits my return. Oh, Ishmael! Oh, Stubbs!

Tuesday, an email is waiting for me from the person hiring for the camp in Inner Mongolia:

Dear Tyson(musician),

You are absolutely the first one we chose, today is the firstr day, but so far we have received more than 30 applications. I like music and play saxphone myself. We hope that music will bring the students some fun for the program and i believe you will.Please stay in touch and we will let you know when exactly you need to be here.


Waking up and getting this email is quite exciting. I had put English Professor in the subject heading. I did not put musician by my name anywhere. That was purely Frank’s invention. Am I actually a musician? Sometimes I wonder.

When I sent the email last night, I thought it sounded like fun but I did not know if I wanted to actually do it. Now is the time when I need to decide. I talk to Jennifer about it. She tells me that it will cost what they are paying me to get there. I travel overnight to Beijing and then it is another 11 hours from Beijing. Naturally, I would have to travel first class sleeper car. This I have to think over. The job posting stated ‘Transportation to the camp is not compensated.’ I do not need to make a ton of money. I am going for the experience but I would like to make some money. Jennifer tells me to ask them for compensation for traveling.

So it looks like I am not just trying to get something for nothing, I fire this email back off to Frank:

Hello Frank:

If you could compensate me for the transportation, I would love to come. Maybe I could even do a show to help cover costs? I would love to try to work this out. Just let me know.


Frank fires this email back to me. At this point, I am starting to feel like the new exhibit at the zoo or a circus act.

Dear Tyson,

We would like to conpensate you for the transportation because we hope to see a real American singer. However, it is almost impossible to have a concert. you may know that we need to apply for doing that, and we have to deal with many kinds of people. The show for our own students can't make money.

Anyway, we hope to have this opportunity to work with you this summer.


I do not know the concert promotion business in Inner Mongolia or, if the biz there is the same as the biz in the rest of China. It is almost impossible to have a concert? What? Do they think I am going to wreck the region? They have to apply to have this happen? They have to deal with many kinds of people? This gives me pause. I am stunned. Who are these people? Are we in Narnia, the Middle Earth, Oz?

During these Inner Mongolia negotiations, I receive an email from the connection through Brain Transplant regarding the camp in Huzhou. If you are listening the Inner Mongolia soundtrack - Beefheart's Clear Spot - has ended. The following Huzhou sentences should be read while metaphysically blasting Grand Funk Railroad's 'We're an American Band.'The connection has sent my picture to the young Chinese female teachers who will assist me in Huzhou. One of these young ladies, ‘the aggressive one’ as he puts it, sends him a picture to send to me. The picture looks like those pictures you see of mail order brides.

'Now these fine ladies, they had a plan
They was out to meet the boys in the band
They said, "Come on dudes, let's get it on!"
And we proceeded to tear that hotel down'
y two weeks in Huzhou may not be quite like what I had originally expected. (We're An American band WooOoou). From Huzhou, I tentatively take the train to Inner Mongolia. This is unfolding into quite the ramshackle epic adventure.

Frank in the middle of his last email seems to sum up my place on earth; this man fastidiously writes my life in one ill constructed sentence and a double negative wrongly worded question:

You are the only person we give the compensation for the trasnsportation because you will be bringing us more fun. Anyway, it is not a big deal, isn't it?


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