Teaching in Wenzhou / Travel: China

All Springy

These days the sun is shining, the birds are singing, the trees are blooming and last night a mosquito came at me for the first time in ages. (Forgot about those things. Word is that the comeback of the pinkie-sized cockroaches is next.) I walk down the street and want to knock off my knee-high boots but have to settle for peeling away my scarf instead. With spring unfolding all around, little things here and there, little things, that are actually nice and/or amusing about this place come to mind, such as…

…how the Chinese make the cutest babies!

…how the street-sweeper trucks chime melodic ice-cream truck tunes like Happy Birthday (no ice cream trucks to speak of though)

…how all food places will have an eggplant dish and how it will always be good

…how even the vegetable dishes will always have sprinklings of meat in them, like dustings of cheer

…how motor and foot traffic are never-ending displays of chaos and selfishness, yet synchronized activities involving tens of people, like ball room dancing or tai chi or aerobics or the dancing-with-fans, are year-round passions

…how I can dance however I want on the few occasions that we go to the clubs, because a) don’t nobody know me here, and b) I’m pretty sure I look like hot stuff…compared to the competition

…how wedding favours are envelopes of money and a 20-pack of cigarettes

…how the children become really disturbed and agitated when you suggest the idea of a green tiger or a purple elephant (not because you’re on acid but because you’re trying to liven up a lesson about colours); or how they refuse to acknowledge your sevens and nines as sevens and nines because you happen to write them differently from the way they’ve been taught to write sevens (no dash) and nines (no curving in of the leg) and, really start to lose it when you (gasp!) go so far as to write the numbers in different ways (one with dash, one without and one with curve, one without) in the same lesson; or how they look horrified and have to be encouraged for several minutes before they will tear off the corners of their paper triangles in a lesson on shapes and corners (but, once they’ve torn off that first corner, proceed to tear the whole thing to pieces in wild joyful abandon, which is great except it defeats the whole idea of “corners” and they’re not yet at a level advanced enough for “pieces”)

Well, that’s it for now but I’m sure there will be more – thanks to the sentimentalism that kicks in as the end draws near.

In the meantime, there are still the everyday things that make me stupidly fleetingly happy, such as…

…when I manage to pour my coffee without getting a single grain in the cup

…when, failing the above, I manage the last sip without a mouthful of grain

…when the first sip is perfect temperature (a little too hot)

…when the last sip is perfect temperature (still hot but not yet warm)

…when the hot water lasts through my whole shower

…when the last hit of water in the shower is perfect temperature (a little too hot)

…when I turn off the water at just the right moment (after a good burn, before a permanent scalding)

…when it rains, because an umbrella here is much more than a water-diverting contraption, it is also a piece of stare-blocking engineering genius. My relationship with my umbrella is near sacred. You can tell in the way that I roll it up to look like brand new after every time I use it, almost as if to say “Thank you.”

…when the bus arrives and it’s nearly empty, which is much more joyful than you’d think because it has nothing to do with getting a seat and everything to do with boarding and taking your place without running a gauntlet of ogling and pointing and multiple-turning-around-and-ogling

…managing to walk past people on the street undetected and therefore un-inspected. Oh, the sweet victory!

…showing up at the cash register with a $10 bottle of (what has turned out to be pretty good) Chinese red and they place a second identical one next to it, telling you that it’s a buy-one-get-one-free deal. Oh baby. Somebody just became a regular.

 

 

 

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