Cwray's Blog

The Good and the Bizarre
November 24, 2010, 5:49 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Teaching has its fair share of highs and lows.  Living and teaching in China also has highs and lows but the in-between is comprised of the bizarre and unthinkable.

High – Any teacher knows that you are not supposed to have favorites, but anyone who has taught for an iota knows that those who repeat this phrase are merely lying to themselves: you have favorites.  I, like my peers, favor the following students: the well-behaved, intelligent and thoughtful (I would have hated a 10 year old Chris, sorry teachers).  This story is about the thoughtful.

One of the things I have enjoyed most about teaching is that I have a unique opportunity to witness young personalities emerging – the sassy, the feisty, the dominant – are all personalities I witness on a daily basis and Mary is all three personalities wrapped into one sassy tomboy.  Mary is in the third grade and as my Chinese counterpart told me, “she plays with the boys.”  Today Mary was dressed in a long, bright green puffy coat, she had on black gloves much like you would see on biker headed to Sturgis, and she wears a look of that both intimidates and stirs up fear.  Mary wears this look well, but believe me, it is much more than a look.  One day a student (a boy) was acting up and Mary could tell I was not happy.  Most students would have shh’d him, but not Mary; instead Mary said something to him and lurched towards him like she was going to pounce on him.  He immediately recoiled in fear, not wanting to know the reason for Mary’s gloves or what she had learned from the boys she played with and stopped his disruptive behavior immediately.  This is partly why I like Mary; she is tough, she is respectful, and she is extremely intelligent and as we will soon see, insightful.

When I enter any one of my twenty classes I am met with the cheers of adoring fans and for a moment, all chaos ensues.  I stand at the front of the class waiting for the silence to rejoin us all the while scanning the room for disruptive students and approval from my Chinese counterpart.  One day as I was doing just this I noticed a bright green bottle on Mary’s desk.  At first glance I thought it was another unusual Chinese beverage, but upon further inspection I realized it was Mountain Dew.  I grew extremely excited and asked Mary (through a translator) where she bought this haohe (delicious drink).  She informed me that she bought it down the road from the school, but that did me little good as there are more stores in a square block than NYC has in a square mile, but at least I knew there was Mountain Dew in Baoding.

The other day I arrived at class to find that Mary had bought a Mountain Dew and brought it to class for me and asked my Chinese counterpart how to tell me that she had a surprise.  This gesture not only shocked me, but will be one that I remember years down the road.  It is a simple enough gesture, it didn’t cost her much money, but the thought that went into it and the action that transcended the cultural and linguistic barriers is enormous.  So now, as I sit here writing this to you while looking at my bottle of Mountain Dew I realize that I have just experienced one of those rare moments in life, a moment that has forever changed me somehow, a moment that will remain with me forever and all thanks to a young tomboy named Mary.  Thanks Mary.

Bizarre – Now I must admit, I have edited this post since first writing it a few days ago, because the bizarre events that happen here never cease to amaze me.  As you are well aware, the stares one encounters while in China are an everyday occurrence, an everyday annoyance, but some of them become blog worthy and this is one of those.

Lizzie and I were off to the store on a Friday evening as we wanted to avoid the weekend rush.  Lizzie was looking at the various Chinese baked good while I was wandering around looking at some of the strange things that are considered delicacies here (premade hotdog/focaccia breads) when I noticed behind me a young girl, late teens possibly early twenties, who was holding a rather large stuffed teddy bear looking curiously at me.  This, not being out of the norm, did not disturb me and I offered a smile and continued on my way to find Lizzie.  On my way to find Lizzie I noticed a teddy bear lurking behind me.  I informed Lizzie of the situation much like, I would assume, a secret service officer informs another officer about a possible threat to the president: “we have a tail at 6 o’clock”.  We headed towards the dairy section making our way through the crowds and various free-sample stands that made up our now hostile terrain and as we arrived at the dairy section I once again noticed the teddy bear bobbing up and down closely behind.

Now at this point the stalking had grown from only slightly annoying to full blown “What the____ are you doing”, so I told Lizzie I would attempt to lose the stalker.  Like Sea Biscuit out of the gates I was off, rounding the first turn and heading for the coffee section.  I arrived and turned around to see if there was any sign of an oversized stuffed animal and there was not: success!  I made my way back to Lizzie only to discover hovering behind her nothing else besides the helpless teddy bear being clutched by the young girl wearing the same she had first flashed fifteen minutes ago.

Lizzie had been wanting some cereal for quite some time (considered a delicacy here, and priced the same) so Lizzie, the bear (and the smile), and I made our way to the cereal aisle.  Lizzie scanned the selection and the prices and decided against purchasing what would be the equivalent of a nice meal out for a box of cereal, and as we turned around to see where the bear was we noticed it was facing the other direction, perhaps distracted by another victim, perhaps not.  Lizzie and I wasted no time in darting away to the candy aisle and thankfully, we were not followed.


2 Comments so far
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Mary brought tears to my eyes, I couldn’t stop laughing! She is feisty and I like that!
Now, Hearing about Mountain Dew reminded me of the look on Adam’s face when he got some brought to us to Sweden by a few friends from the states. The little gesture to make one happy, and feel a little more like home can turn a persons day, week or year around completely.

Comment by Sara Elin

I love these stories, always puts a smile on my face!
Keep em coming!

Comment by Michelle Galyardt

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