Day 30 - How to Interview Well in China

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016
Smog Level: All 3 Mountains

Early morning after late nights on the weekend make for a bad combo. There are four people in our apartment when there is usually two, which makes the morning a bit of a hassle. Josh, Shimou, me, and Josh’s tutor who slept on the couch because the Subway was closed. No biggie, just somewhat unexpected.

At school, my first class goes more smoothly until...  One area of teaching them is "composition." I’m supposed to help them write their own short paragraph using a sample 3-4 sentences. It’s simple for English speakers to take a format and follow it, but the paragraph they were modeled after was.. very specific. The original message was about a girl who couldn’t fly a kite because there was no wind. 

Love Much?
Some of the resulting paragraphs were about a boy who wanted to eat meat, but couldn’t because there was no wind. That’s my fault, really, for being unclear in the instructions. Everything else went pretty well, but the resulting confusion undid the order my Chinese coteacher and I had established, making a rather disordered ending. Out came the whip. That’s right - 4 stars were erased.

I grab lunch with a couple coworkers and heard some expat stories:

1) Coworker’s bike brushed with a car. “gàn ma!” (What're you doing! Literally: Doing?!) He hears as he rides away, only to be stopped by the driver pulling in front of him, getting out, and grabbing my coworker. Coworker breaks the hold, and the Chinese guy tries saying this scratch on the door was caused by my coworker. Traffic cop gets pulled into it. Now the guy is saying my coworker punched him. Traffic cop says the scratch is clearly not from the bike, dismissing the claim. Traffic cop leaves, but the guy isn’t giving up the “punch” just yet, forcing them to go to the police station. The Director is pulled in, who tries to talk their way out of it, but they require an official translator to show up. The translator is across town, and busy. 

Insert stupid joke about wooing women or yelling "Woo!"
...Maybe something about "Woogirls?"
(The real joke is my joke commitment)
The Chinese guy is sobbing, throwing insults, and generally causing a scene. The police tell my coworker to just apologize, which he totally tries to do, but the Chinese guy isn’t giving up yet, throwing a fit to interrupt the apology whenever it's attempted. He says his heart hurts and that the punch is what caused it! Chinese guy says he is going to the hospital, but my colleagues say they’ll not be around if he does that. The police, seeing it for what it is, dismiss it. 

Best explanation we’ve got: Guy felt he lost face when my coworker pushed him off of him, and/or he wanted money and was trying to up the ante by involving the police and hospital.

Somewhere in here is a shop called "Dopamine"
2) A different coworker saw a really old Chinese woman crossing the street. Cars are just driving around her while she struggles to shuffle across the crosswalk. My coworker ventured out, and helped the old woman across the street. Other coworkers warned her that sometimes, people will pretend to be like this, then fall over when you come to help. They will say that you pushed them, and that all their health problems are from you, dear wàiguó rén (foreigner). Similar goes for people lying, “injured” on the street.

This may explain some of the “heartlessness” that the West will sometimes condemn in Chinese people. It’s not so much that they don’t care or that they don’t want to help, it’s that they don’t want to leave them/their families exposed to such financial liabilities because of scammers. The only question I have is how common this sort of thing actually is. It’s been on the news here, apparently, but that doesn’t make it common. As I’ve pointed out before: if something is on the news, then - by definition - it has to be something out of the ordinary. “Man eats dinner at restaurant and goes home feeling full” is quite a boring headline.

A random tutoring center had approached Shimou online, related to the  tutoring ads we posted. These sorts of locations are risky, and I would advise against them because they sometimes get raided to see if everyone there has the proper visa. Most international teachers only have a visa that allows one workplace income. They care about side tutoring, but don’t really do anything about it because it's so hard to track. Joining a structured classroom and teaching students is a bit riskier because it’s a set location and potential paper trail. They see your name on the books, you can get scooped up and shipped off. With that in mind, I have no intention of taking any job here, but I am interested in seeing what they’re offering for future reference. Heh.

Creepy Mascots on the Mall's Walls
The interview went.. whatever. Three of them all spoke English, but decided to do the entire “interview” in Mandarin, speaking directly to Shimou. I was tired, and sat, leaning back, with my fingers laced around on one knee, legs in the figure-4 position. Being tired and having a language barrier makes it difficult to focus or maintain interest. And, again, I had no intention of taking this job. Despite that, I answered there questions calmly and accurately. They had me do a trial lesson for 3-4 year olds, and asked if I even needed prep time. Uh, yeah, I’ve never taught that age group and I don’t know what you want me to teach. They set me up... sort of... and had me teach them how to make a milkshake, referring to a blender as a “juicer.” My best guess was that they didn’t speak the best English, themselves. I did their little song and dance, even though I really, really didn’t want to teach adults in a manner appropriate for kindergarteners. Do you know how hard it is to speak to adults as if they’re small children? They don’t react the same way and you feel even more ridiculous. I would also like to point out: when everyone speaks a shared language, choosing to exclude one person by speaking another language is damn rude. Why was I even there?!

Here's Where We Actually Ate
Shimou got upset because she felt I was rude to them. Honestly, we only went there for information, which we got. I wasn’t impolite, she just didn’t like that I was sitting the way I was, and felt I was dismissive in my answers. Man, if I wanted to be rude, I would have flat out refused to do the lesson and demanded numbers before jumping through any hoops. I played their game, I was a good little monkey. Write it off to cultural difference.

We looked through a nearby mall for food, but the only restaurants were expensive, or clothes. After riding the way up, and all the way back down, a woman tried aggressively selling cosmetics to Shimou, going so far as to grab her arm when Shimou continued to walk. I wasn’t in the best mood, and nearly said “gǔn” (f-off) to her, but held back since Shimou had just gotten annoyed with me for being “rude.” 


The Mall Where I was Interviewed
I’m still in a “whatever, let's just get home” mood when we stop at the confectionary shop beside my apartment. A Random sampling of sweets is collected and paid for, but some guy keeps damn staring at me, overtly. I wanted to give him a look like "what the hell are you looking at, this isn't an exhibit," but I resist. It's funny, I'm buying these sweets as a thank you but I'm in a terrible mood. Quite a juxtaposition. Another irksome thing: the Chinese cultural habit of cutting in/ignoring lines. You’re in a bad mood, trying to speak to the employee, when some random person steps in and starts speaking over you, asking questions. “Gún!”

The desire sure is there some days…

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
Restaurant - fándiàn [fawn de-en]
Rice - fán [fawn]
shop - diàn [de-en]

I just have to point out how hilarious this translation is. If some ignorant person said “hey, what do chinese people call restaurants? a rice shop! har har har” you’d think they’d be stereotyping and racist. Turns out it’s the truth. Fȧn also doubles as “food,” some have said it’s because rice was the main staple way back when.

Editing Music
Free Bird
Lynyrd Skynyrd

 Meta-note: Taking naps is bad for deadlines.

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