We had a substitute teacher for our Newspaper Reading class today; I hope we never have her again. She would be wonderful as a grammar teacher, but in a class that’s supposed to emphasize speed-reading and comprehension and skills like that, her teaching method was ridiculous. I came in 10 minutes late, and we were still talking about the title of the article! It’s not Shakespeare, lady! She even explained each [obscure] character of the author’s name – it was really painful.
After lunch, I met a new Chinese friend for ‘coffee’. Shawn is a masters’ student in advertising, and I contacted him through a poster looking for Americans to help classifying some commercials. He was offering 300 kuai for the work – not bad pay at $50 or so, but more important because this is an item on my bucket list. Getting paid basically to be a foreigner seems to be an integral part of the China experience, at least in Xiamen, and I wanted in. A lot of my friends have worked in bars, taught English, acted in movies, modeled clothes, served as translators, etc. This may not be the most glamorous foreigner job, but it totally counts. Check!
Anyway, we went to the little cafe in CaiQingJie and I was immediately happy that I had contacted him. Unlike many Chinese men, Shawn is calm, confident (even when speaking English), and courteous. He knew enough about America to say that Minnesota had a lot of lakes, where most Chinese only know the Timberwolves (if that). He voluntarily asked to switch to Chinese, even though his English is about as good as my Chinese, instead of fighting with me for control over the language. He suggested we get together again but, instead of simply saying it knowing full well it will never happen, he suggested we choose a day and have dinner every week. Very interesting! Silly me, but I honestly thought I was done making Chinese friends . . .
Deni’s birthday was today, so a bunch of us went out for dinner. I tend to think this about most of the big events we foreigners have here in China, but I feel like the staff at this restaurant is going to remember this dinner. Eighteen foreigners crammed into a tiny room that literally held a huge island of a table, with chairs added as if an afterthought. We ordered a ton, drank a fair amount, and made a lot of noise.
I was seated next to a Canadian friend (dual US citizen, actually), which led to some really good conversations. At one point, she said “Not gonna lie” which, not gonna lie, made me realize how long I’ve been away from America. Dang. What are those young folk saying these days?
Another example to illustrate the length of my expatriation: one of my friends was wearing a shirt that said “Hotmale: Try it for free”. Obvious innuendo . . . that I totally failed to pick up on. I’m just used to English on t-shirts not making sense, so I just asked him what it meant – and there was an awkward pause as he tried to figure out how to explain the joke.
We talked especially about immigration-related issues. I’m following the news back home as best as I can, but in some ways it doesn’t even seem like news. ‘Hispanic’, ‘immigrant’, and ‘illegal immigrant’ are used as synonyms; some people would get rid of any difference by making all illegal immigrants legal, while others would get ride of the different by getting rid of all illegal immigrants. What else is new?
Living in China this year has given me a new perspective on this issue. I have come to China for one year, but if/when I were to return to China for a much longer stay, I think the situation would be about the same. I have made my absolute best effort to learn Chinese. I don’t expect government agencies or private businesses to cater to me as an English-speaker. While I often choose to use English in my personal life, I accept that dealing with the outside world requires a basic knowledge of the local language. I even get annoyed with other foreigners who make no attempt to learn Chinese (although I’m equally frustrated with the government when they bring foreign students here to study other subjects in English and don’t give them the resources necessary to learn Chinese).
In a similar vein, I understand that as a visitor to this country that I should carry identification on me. Except for a quick run to Baicheng to buy fruit, I pretty much always have a photocopy of my passport and visa. While I definitely have complaints about the paperwork requirements here (for instance the visa, which costs twice as much for Americans as it does for anyone else), I understand the need for a country to know who is inside, and [roughly] doing what. With that said, I would be incredibly mad to be stopped on the street and asked for papers; I’m fine with ID requirements for getting things done or ID checks when people are stopped for other reasons, but not ‘random’ checks that wouldn’t be random.
Regarding immigration in America, I could pretty much care less. Let people come to America – to visit, to study, to work. I have no problems with it as long as they do it legally (which, by the way, I am in favor of making easier). Illegal immigration, however, pisses me off to no end. I hate the conflation of ‘Hispanic’ and ‘illegal immigrant’ which, no matter which side it’s used by, is incredibly offensive. I’m scared of all the unknowns it involves – many fine people, I’m sure, but there are obviously bad guys as well. And I just can’t understand a society in which the sentence “a state law enacted in 2005 that allows illegal immigrants to pay the same tuition rate as legal, in-state residents” makes sense.
I view the situations in China and America very similarly. I wish that entering the countries were easier, even though that means submitting to restrictions governing residence in the country. I think that, upon discovering an illegal immigrant, they should be set on one of two paths – towards becoming legal, or back where they came from. I would like to see more proficiency in the local language, because the language barrier has a way of becoming a racial or cultural barrier.
Speaking of language barriers, I may or may not have just been asked by a Chinese guy to be his girlfriend.
Correction: I may or may not have just been asked by the same Chinese guy to marry him.
Zhang LiBin is a guy I met in the Beijing train station who asked me for my QQ number. It sounds like the opening scene of a chick flick – but it’s not. He’s the one who came to Xiamen last week and took me to lunch, and the one with whom I was discussing drinking habits last night on QQ. Tonight he told me he’s drunk, and then asked me if I would consider being his girlfriend. Highlights of the conversation include:
- 还想问你下，如果让你做我女朋友，你会考虑吗？ (I want to ask, if I asked you to be my girlfriend, would you consider it?)
- 噢，说实话，我想和你结婚！ (Truthfully, I would like to marry you!)
- 真的，只要你不闲弃我，我的想法一直不变。 (Really, as long as you don’t reject me, my thoughts will never change.)
- 我等你，只要你不结婚！我张立斌一直不结婚。 (I’ll wait for you, as long as you don’t get married! I, Zhang LiBin, will never marry.)
- 你好好考虑下，只要你需要我，我会第一时间出现在你面前！ (You think about it. If you need me, I will be beside you in a moment.)
I am a master of the hilariously awkward boy drama; there will probably be a book someday. I’m now wondering if tomorrow I will get to see what a Chinese guy does when he realizes he said something stupid while drunk the night before?