Day 122 - Wednesday is Friday

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016
Smog Level: 0/3 Mountains

Student Reviews

Apparently we have to write reviews for all our students every month. Obviously, we shouldn’t copy all of the same reviews for all of the students, though some teachers do it anyway. You kind of end up repeating yourself, but it makes sense to categorize some of the kids with the same remarks. A handful are “among the top of their class” and a few “have trouble focusing because they have too much energy.” It seems like a common theme through most classes that the boys generally underperform the girls. I wonder why that is.

First class, they have a party, allowing me to write all their reviews. Second class does homework, so I do my homework and.. write more reviews. 

Chinese Holiday Shuffle

This week is the “Dragon Boat Festival,” and it takes place on Thursday because it's based around the lunar calendar. The Chinese government tends to connect those days to the weekend by shuffling the days off. So today, being Wednesday, is basically Friday. We have the next three days off, then we have a 6 day week next week. Not my preferred, but it is what it is.

Teacher's Lounge
Mandarin Difficulties

Between classes, I spend time in the teacher’s lounge, trying to figure out this “advanced conversational mandarin” book that Aurora had lent me. I make it through the first two pages, and save a few useful words in my Pleco app.

Ok, here’s another thing that also makes Mandarin more difficult. They have 4 tones for each word, which already multiplies your fundamental words by 4. But then they also use the same words for other things in different contexts. For instance, xià is “down” but if used as a verb, it means “to scare.” Same tone, different character. 

Then there’s performance side of the language. You can know all the tones, the words, the grammar can be perfect.. but then you actually have to say the words like they’re supposed to be. I’ve screwed up sentences a few times just because I thought I was saying the correct tone, but wasn’t. Tried for 4th tone (downward) and ended up sounding like I was doing 3rd (down-up). Frustrating, but it’s coming.

Western Hookup

I return Flo and Aurora’s thumb drives, pumped up with Western movies and music, as requested. 8GB isn’t much room to work with for both of those fronts, I can say that. The sheer volume of music will take them forever, though.

At lunch, I discover that we don’t have afternoon classes because of the holiday. I forgot about that, so I’ve been hanging around for no particular reason. Time well spent, either way.

Socratic Method

Random Art on Campus
The conversations at lunch was a little more involved, using the socratic method to probe what Flo and Aurora thought about a couple topics. Again, I can be a bit of a shit sometimes, taking a strong stance on something that I actually don’t care about. Why? To see what kinds of arguments people will come up with to change my mind. I used to tell people that I would never get married. Men usually don’t really care, but women will often engage that topic.

This particular conversation started when talking about gay people, which the Chinese government doesn’t seem entirely in favor of. Aurora had been shocked by two men kissing in the club on my birthday. I pointed out that, while I'm not particularly into that, it doesn’t make it wrong, and is still an act of love. As cheesy as it is, I feel like allowing more acts of love into the world and less acts/thoughts of hate will overall make the world a better place. That seemed to make sense to them.


They then asked me about marriage. I said I didn’t know if I ever wanted to get married, though others could do as they like. Instead of positing why I thought I shouldn’t get married, I threw it to them to argue why I should get married. The default is not action, but the lack thereof.

First, they said it is a promise. I asked if I could do all the same thing without signing a contract. Wouldn't it be the same? They said it would stop each partner from having more significant others. Do married people not cheat?

Flowers continue to randomly bloom
They said I couldn't have children. Is sex impossible outside of marriage? If not, does sex not beget children unless you've signed a government contract? If that's the case, why hasn't anyone ever told me that!? Bit of a blind spot!

Look, marriage is a social construct - it just means that we're all just going along with the same game of pretend. I asked if they was capable - not allowed - of driving a car without a license; if you get in, turned the key and put it into drive, would it not move? It would, but you wouldn’t be allowed. Right, but you are still able. Thus, it's a social contract, not a natural law. They don’t actually exist unless we agree they do.

They said marriage makes a relationship stronger. What if she spends all her time at the mall, and he gets drunk every day? Would that make it stronger? Obviously not. "Good experiences, then! That's what's required!" Aurora concluded.

I couldn’t even agree with that. Bad experiences that are overcome together can make a couple stronger. 

Maybe listening to Philosophy is a bad idea for my social life. Hah.

I pointed out the origins of marriage as a political or business contract, and the more recent morph into romantic ideals. Honestly, they picked the wrong time to ask me these questions because I've been listening to Alain de Boton's talks about marriage, love, and sex a lot lately. I think he hits the nail on the head.

Knowing Too Much

The conclusion of the discussion was that I “zhīdào tāi dūo”, “know too much.” I later ask her how I have a “bad memory” but also “know too much.”

On my way to the gym, I appreciate the benefits of the “Foreigner Force Field” that I keep forgetting to write about. Because salespeople on the street assume I don’t speak the language, they don’t bother approaching me or pushing their products on me. The ambitious ones will hand me fliers, but that’s equally useless. Instead, You walk through with a crowd of people, all of whom will be approached and stopped, while you walk freely through. I laugh when it happens.

Words of the Day
English - Mandarin [pronunciation]
To Scare

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