Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Umbrellas line the hallway. For the last few days, off and on, the rain has come and gone and come again. The teachers leave their umbrellas open in the hallway to dry out.

Seven Hershey Kisses are on my desk. I ask Qi Min if someone got married. She tells me no, Ali brought them.

Yesterday, the woman who I assume is a food custodian, in charge of food cards and chocolate gift disbursements, left two miniature gift boxes on my desk that probably measured 1 inch by 2 inches. Here, as I may have said before, when someone gets married the betrothed gives everyone else chocolates. This time, a science teacher was the one who got married. All of the teachers in the school got chocolates in celebration of this. The ones passed around yesterday were tiny little rectangular soft chocolates.

Anytime someone has a baby, eggs are given.

Ali sits behind Qi Min. I tell Ali I love Hershey Kisses. She smiles. She went to America this summer. I wonder if she brought them back with her.

Jeffrey left a box of Twinings English Breakfast tea on my desk yesterday. He told me a colleague brought the box back from England. I believe the colleague of whom he speaks is this goofy funny Chinese man who always cracks jokes with me and looks a bit like a cartoon character, Deputy Dog’s Chinese friend. He has a soft sweetness in his face and eyes. I always observe him and am entertained by him when he comes into the teachers’ office. The Chinese teachers seem to be quite fond of him. They have told me he is the boss. I am not sure if they mean this literally or figuratively.

I love being back at the school. This school feels like home in this funny sunny sort of Chinese way. Friday, I came by to check in. when I opened the door, there was a departmental meeting in progress. I apologized profusely and started to shut the door.

Li Ping who is the liaison to the principal said, “Come in. you are one of us.” This gave me an overwhelmingly warm feeling.

I came in and sat down at my desk and pretended to listen to Qi Min who was conducting the meeting, conducting the meeting in Chinese. At one point, she embarrassedly laughed and stopped the meeting. She turned to me and said “So sorry, that was Shanghai dialect.”
“That’s okay,” I said. “It is all Chinese to me.”

Yesterday, Qi Min asked me if I had classes today. I told her I had three. She then told me the students are taking exams so I did not have any classes today. I told her at some point I would like to teach the students and then I laughed.

She told me a friend of hers is teaching Chinese in America, in Chicago. She told me that she does not think her friend is having the sort of experience that I am having. Since her friend is in one classroom all day she never sees any of her colleagues. Her friend is lonely because of this. I told her I like the Chinese way with the teachers’ office better than the American way in which the teachers are sequestered to one classroom.

Now, I sit and look out the big picture window that is beyond my monitor. I am only 4 stories up; yet still I can see over the tile rooftops of the neighborhood, the neighborhood that has not yet been demolished to pave the way for new construction. T-shirts and underwear hang in attic dormer windows. A worker gingerly steps down a steep roof that has no dormer window. In the rain, the tiles look like they would be especially slick.

Beyond the tile rooftops is the expressway. Beyond the expressway are high rises. Sometimes I walk to the neighborhood that houses the high rises. That is where I buy my DVDs. Movieworld is there. That is not where I buy my DVDs. Even Better than Movieworld is across the street from Movieworld. That is where I buy my DVDs.

Lunch is noodles with chopped greens and a flat round piece of tofu that is approximately the size of a McDonalds’ buttermilk pancake. I sit with a teacher whom I do not know that well. She is very nice. I learn her husband is a foreigner. They took a trip to Tibet during the summer. I tell her I had heard that it is expensive for foreigners to go to Tibet. She told me this is correct. He had to pay 1000 yuan for permission to go and then his bus ticket was five times more than hers. Any sort of ticket that they had to buy was much more expensive for him. She told me I should try to go if I have the chance. I told her I would love to go sometime.

The rain has subsided. It is simply misting now. Still, umbrellas line the hallway.


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