Thursday, August 24, 2006

August suddenly becomes October...

Here in China, I am sure I have said this before, everything is much more difficult than you expect. I did buy the television on Saturday. Today is Wednesday. I am waiting for it to be delivered. I have been waiting all day for it to be delivered. There seems to be no concrete time when it will arrive. When I went to the store yesterday to inquire they told me sometime today my television would arrive. Frustrated, yes, I am frustrated.

The television saga so far….

Saturday, I went to check my balance and realized I could buy the television without draining my Chinese bank account. Good, I thought. The television is a good deal. I will enjoy it. It has a three year guarantee. It will be nice in my new apartment. They are basically knocking three hundred dollars off of the sticker price.

I went back a little after 7 pm and purchased the television. The salesgirl, English name Winnie, told me that the one that they promised me with the USB was not available. These were all sold out. This was a bummer. I had looked forward to putting my thumb drive in the television and playing some tunes that I have stored on my computer. Oh well.

The television that they have is better than the display model it has a metal frame. Okay, I think. I really was jazzed on the one with the USB but that is how it goes. The television is still a good price. I had thought about it long and hard. I buy it.

She then comes back to tell me all of the televisions are sold. The television will not be delivered tomorrow. They will not have any until Wednesday. They will have one then. It will be delivered on Wednesday. Okay, I whine a bit but that is okay. I will get the television on Wednesday. Really, this is not that big of a deal.

As I write this birds are singing outside my window. All is not dire. I have been waiting all day for the television to arrive.

Winnie writes out a ticket and we go to the cashier to pay. I am very excited to have a new television. This is the second television that I have bought in my lifetime. Back in 1993 when the Kittens just signed to Atlantic, I was living in the most fantastically ghetto garage apartment in an alley off of Boyd street. Looking back, I was not making that much money but it seemed like I had a lot of money. For weeks, I looked at televisions driving my pal the Jennerator nuts. I finally decided on a 27” screen from Best Buy. We took Jennerator’s Ford Escort to grab it. That television served me well for many years. If this television serves me as well, I will be a very happy man.

The television I have now is actually fine for the most part. It is just an old television. However, since I watch so many movies and I do not really spend that much money, I would like to have something that will make movie watching even better.

I do not buy some random gadget every time I get the urge. Do I need a Blaceberry, Ipod or whatever the latest novelty is? Probably not. That is fine for those people who have those things but not for me. I barely have a mobile phone which I mainly use to tell the time when I forget to wear my fake Omega watch that I bought for a little over six smacks. After years of trying to pass myself off as this complicated person, I realize I am a fairly simple guy. Bells and whistles, I do not need them.

As I leave the store, Winnie tells me again the television will arrive on Wednesday. I leave the store. At this point, nightfall has hit the city. In front of the store, the stage that had earlier featured dancing girls now has random children playing, doing what children do on a stage after the performers have left. The parents and bystanders watch the children as if they are a professional ballet troupe.

In the evening, Shanghai is wonderful. The streets are alive with friends, lovers, families. The neon lights of the noodle shops light the passersby. I stop and look at DVDs at my favorite stall. When I walk up to look at the movies, the boy there smiles his usual forget-all-of-your-troubles smile. Sometimes, I feel like the luckiest person in the world. Sometimes, the magic of life overtakes me and I cannot help but smile the biggest smile ever. I live in Shanghai. I am Tyson. “I wish life could be Swedish magazines.”

At the DVD stall, I grab Evil, a Swedish movie that takes place in a boarding school. The movie is good. However, I have one huge problem with it. That problem is that it is supposed to be set in the 1950s. 1950s rock music does not make a movie a 1950s movie. I think of the outrageousness of the Beatles hair on the Ed Sullivan show and unless Sweden was really cutting edge, I do not think the haircuts in this movie are historically accurate. I know this is a little thing but we are not talking Napoleon-era France here. We are talking the 1950s in which photos of that time period exist. How hard is it to get some 1950s prep school hair and be done with it?


On Monday, 28if-Paul comes over to watch the Beatles in Help. Before we settle down to watch the movie. He pulls some white tea out of his backpack as a present. I thank him and add while I am thanking him that I never know what sort of tea to buy.

We watch the movie with English subtitles so that he can read as they speak. The humor is somewhat abstract. He asks me what ‘brain drain’ and ‘outrageous’ mean. I try to explain both meanings within the context of Help. He loves the Beatles but he has trouble differentiating between George and John. At the end of the movie, he asks me why it is dedicated to the man who invented the sewing machine. I try to explain. I think he understands.

There is so much I want to tell him about the Beatles but I never even know where to begin. I do tell him what an enormous impact they made on the world. Feebly, I try to explain John Lennon’s importance as a spokesperson for the young people of the world. Of course, how can I say world when China was not impacted by Beatlemania.

China is a major part of the world. According to the people here, China is the center of the world. But then, I suppose in the States we are raised to believe we are the center of the world.

When 28if-Paul is leaving, he asks me if anyone has told me that my apartment is bad luck. There are a lot of 4s in the address. I tell him no one told me this and I really did not need to know that. He adds that the word ‘four’ in Chinese sounds similar to the word ‘death’ in Chinese so it is bad luck. There are probably many ghosts in my apartment. I tell him I did not need to know this.

I get a message from Sailor. He wants to know if I am free Saturday. He has been taking an SAT preparatory class. I had told him I would help him. He tells me he will bring his guitar. We may not be preparing for the SAT after all. All is always a mystery here.

I get a call from one of the organizers at the school. Sophie, my contact at the school, wants to meet tomorrow at 1:30 pm. Can I make it? I tell her I will be there.

A week ago, I sent her the grade criteria for the classes, using the International Baccalaureate Organization criteria as a guide. I decide to go ahead and finish the subject lesson plans so that most of my paperwork will be done. Taking breaks from a Russian film, I finish the paperwork. I send this off to her. The time is 2 am.
The days are zipping by at such a rapid pace. This is like summer as a child, those long Oklahoma un-air-conditioned summers that were never really long enough, slow (but fast at the same time and you really wanted them to last forever). Before you knew it, school was starting again. Structure came and firmly set itself right in the middle of life again. Today, the same thing is happening. August suddenly becomes October.

The school is a five minute walk from my apartment. It would be a two minute walk but I have to walk all the way through the apartment and all the way back up the block to the school. I leave the apartment at 1:15 to give myself plenty of time to arrive at the school.

As I am entering the school gates at 1:20, someone is leaving. I pay no attention. I am hoping that the guard will let me pass with no problem. He stops me. He does not know English. I am trying to explain the situation by saying Sophie over and over. Probably, he does not know her English name. The young woman - who was leaving as I was entering - turns around and asks “Are you Tyson?”
“I’m Mary. Are you meeting Sophie?”
“Yes, I am. Are you?”
“Yes, but I thought we were meeting at the East campus.”
“Oh, well I think we are meeting at the West campus,” I respond. “That is how I understood it but I could be wrong.”
“I’ll call,” she pulls out her phone and hits a callback button. She briefly converses with someone.
“You are right. We are meeting here.”
“I was not positive because I do not even know which campus is which but I thought this was the right one” I tell her.
We make small talk on the way into the building. She is a mathematics teacher from the Philippines. She will be teaching a reading class too. She has just arrived from Beijing where she was teaching at a high school. We are both on a virgin voyage into the rocky waters of middle school.

We wander around the building. Assuming she knows where we are going, I follow her. We land in the dormitory area of the school. I meet two other teachers Peyton (male) and Andrea. Everyone, so far, seems fairly young which is really nice. Already, I have a really good feeling about the approaching year.

Odd, when you are an adult, you have many of the same reservations that you once had as a child. You hope to make some new friends. You hope that there are no mean people. You have more of a perspective. You tell yourself you will be liked because people seem to like you. As an adult, you laugh at the awkwardness that embarrassed you and mortified you as a child.

Mary and I find the place where we are to have the meeting. We sit and discuss our hopes for the year. Both of us are anxious. We are ten minutes early.

Sophie pops in. She is surprised we are already there. She tells us she will be right back.

The meeting is spectacular. I could go into the particulars but I won’t. The attitude is so much different than the one that I left in Songjiang. All of my ideas were greeted with enthusiasm by both Mary and Sophie. Mary presented some options for the next year that were really fresh and she presented them with a ton of energy.

In Songjiang, it seemed as if it was the older teachers versus the young at heart. Jennifer was usually the only one in my corner. The older teachers would get stuck on some inane topic which led to Jennifer and I doodling away most of the meetings. We would always compare doodles afterward.

Sophie tells me that the paperwork I turned in was perfect. She noticed that I sent the email at 2 am which was impressive. She called the principal to let him know how hard I worked on it

While I am in the meeting, my phone rings three times. The caller is unknown. I press ignore each time it rings. Nothing could be more important at the moment. After the meeting Sophie gives Mary and I both treats which she bought for us at Christine bakery. This is such a sweet touch. Yes, I am looking forward to teaching at this school.

After I leave the meeting, I get a text that my television is no longer available. I am about to blow a fuse with the television business. I gear myself up for whatever is about to transpire at the Suning Electronics.

With the meeting looming over my head, I did not eat. I had coffee and toast that was it. I am hungry but I decide to walk the mile or so to the store in the heat to find out what in the hell is going on with this television.


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