Monday, November 24, 2003

I’ve Been Robbed!

It was bound to happen sometime.

I’m 48 years old and I’ve been in some pretty dangerous cities and areas known for pickpockets and thieves, but I’ve been lucky until now.

It’s my own fault….backpack, zippered compartment, wallet in zippered compartment, crowded area….

I felt the guy rob me, checked my backpack, found my wallet gone and turned around and spotted him. I followed him and knew it was him because he kept looking behind at me and once I had him cornered on the street, he bolted and ran.

I chased him across one of the busiest streets in Guangzhou and luckily I didn’t get hit. Eventually I lost him, which I was told by the police was good, because most robbers have a weapon and will use it if cornered.

I don’t care about the money, that can be replaced, but the hassle of contacting my credit card company and the bank here in China was not a fun task. But, it is done and I am safe.

Lesson learned. Now I travel without a backpack and use a hidden satchel to carry my person effects and money.

It’s a shame that some people have to feed off others to make a living. I’d love to pound that guy into a pulp and humiliate him as much as possible if I had a hold of him, but alas, he is left to live in his misery of bottom feeding…


My Friend Derek

When I first arrived in Guangzhou, I was hot, exhausted, confused and suffering from that bewildered feeling that 16 hour flights have a tendency to produce. I retrieved my baggage from the baggage claim and then tried to find my way out of the airport.

I had to go through four people who spoke no English before I finally found someone to direct me to the exit. Discouraged, I headed through yet another check point amid all the stares, as mine was the only foreign face in that airport at that time.

Finally, approaching the exit, I saw a widely smiling face bearing a sign that said, “Welcome Jim Anderson!”

I can’t tell you what joy that brought me. China can be very intimidating and unfriendly at times and this was a welcome sight. This young man, whose English name is Derek, was to become my colleague, my friend, my confidant and at times, my royal pain in my ass.

This blog is dedicated to him.

Derek is 23 years old and speaks the best English in this school. He’s bright, pleasant, always has a smile to offer and his work ethic is phenomenal. Over the course of three months, Derek has been more than a friend. By all means and purposes, Derek was assigned to me. A virtual watchdog, to make sure I didn’t end up in jail or worse.

Sure, at times he’s had to endure my stubbornness, my anger, my frustrations and my nasty attitude in response to the Chinese methods and culture, but he has always stood firm in his friendship with me and has always helped me to see the brighter side of things.

Derek is leaving this school. He, like so many others, is tired and just plain worn out due to the demands this school puts on their Chinese teachers. Working until 12:00 midnight or 2:00 in the morning and then getting up early to ensure the kids get on and off the busses okay and line up to get to breakfast.

I’ve watched Derek slide downhill, like so many others here, his pleasant smile fading away week by week, until I was informed two days ago that he has put in his notice of resignation. I don’t believe this school realizes the loss they are about to endure.

The kids love him and refer to him by, “Mista Joe,” in regards to his Chinese name which I could not begin to pronounce. He is wonderful with the kids, a natural at teaching young children. He has been very helpful to me in all aspects of my job here but more so, he has been a good friend to me during my more difficult times here.

Derek might be 23, a mere child in comparison to my 48 years, but his philosophy in life and his helpful words when I was down and depressed after receiving some very hurtful news from home, has helped me to endure.

We’ve fought like an old married couple at times. His inability to make decisions versus my bull and thrash attitude, has collided many times but we always end up laughing about it later. I have learned much from this young man and I wish him well in his pursuits in life.

I will sincerely miss him.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Chinese Traditional Medicine

I am sick.

It’s no wonder with all the pollution, recent temperature changes, unsavory foods, unclean conditions and general differences of China as a whole. On top of which, I’m prone to pneumonia anyway and get a dose of it every year.

At first, I visited the primary school doctor here and received two boxes and one bottle of pills. Traditional Chinese medicine it’s called. Licorice pills and god only knows what else. I took them religiously, as ordered; to no avail,.I was still coughing my head off.

I coughed and coughed until I finally discovered that the pharmacy carries a line of cough syrups to combat that annoying cough. You wanna know what is GOOD about that? Well, I’ll tell you….

Madame Pearl’s COUGH SYRUP!

This stuff is great.

It contains 0.090% Codeine Phosphate, along with a healthy dose of Ephedrine Hydrochloride. This stuff grabs you by the balls and throws you into action! Yeah Baby!

“Uh Sir? I’ll take fourteen bottles of that stuff please?”

Life in China suddenly isn’t so bad!

But, I remain sick. Chinese traditional medicine reaches limits that I cannot handle. My colleague across the hall is sick too and this is a picture of the crap that she has to boil and drink.

I was brave one day and decided to try this “tea/broth”….I almost threw up.

God, I don’t know what is in this “stuff” but it is lousy tasting and awful smelling. It’s unexplainable what is contained in this bag of “stuff” you have to boil and eventually drink.

No way José!

I’m going to hold it out, eat wisely, down many bottles of Madame Pearl’s Cough syrup and try to get to bed early. Hopefully this ailment will get better before I have to seek out some Western medicine at my cost.


Monday, November 17, 2003

Image1 named j1smaller.jpg 'The kids were getting tired'
The kids

It’s impossible to thoroughly document my “China” experience in a few random bloggings, so I’ll try approaching the subject by posting a series of blogs addressing different subjects that are relevant to my life here in China.

The easiest subject for now, is my kids.

I say My kids because I take possession of them as they take possession of me.

Every morning, as soon as I’m spotted walking from my apartment to the office, the kids break out in, “Hallo Jeeem! How are you?” Or “Hallo Missa Jeeem!”

Even on my worst days here in China I can’t help but smile at the enthusiasm of the children. They brighten my day and give light to the dark days when I’m suffering from from the harshness brought on by this strange and different culture.

Some of them spew dialog from past classes…”Who’s got the ball?” Or the now-famous, “Bingo!”

“Bingo” is a puppet I created out of pair of socks given to me on Cathay Pacific airlines. I made a little dog out of the sock with some construction materials, glue and some vivid imagination and introduced my invention as “Bingo the talking dog”. Bingo is famous with the kids in the primary school, from grades one through grade five.

I’ve even heard some parents on the Phoenix City bus mention Bingo.

I’ve created two puppets, Bingo (a happy go lucky dog) and Brutus (a mean, nasty, angry dog who hates Bingo).

The kids will wander into my office, gather at my desk, see Brutus hanging off my cubicle wall and literally freak out, saying, “Brutus is ANGRY! I don’t like Brutus!” (Which usually comes out as: “Brutus is ANGRY, I doone like Brutus.” Ah…pronunciation in an Asian atmosphere!

These kids are awesome.

Some days here in China it’s the kids that keep me going. Unlike most American kids, these kids are gracious, polite, full of gratitude, humble, honest (sometimes) and full of smiles and happy remarks. I never hear backtalk, am never confronted with negative behavior nor do I have to deal with derogatory remarks or gestures.

But, these are kids we’re talking about and they are NOT exempt from mischief. They unscrew the drain cap from the sink drains, hide someone’s milk, steal someone’s book bag….but everything is in clean, harmless fun.

Lately I’ve struggled to stay upbeat here in China. Bad news from home, the massive Culture Shock of living in China, and the freaking pollution here….but the kids always manage to cut through my funk and they give me a spark in my step and a reason to stay here in China a little bit longer….


Sunday, November 16, 2003

Living in China…

Living in China is a freaking trip.

My senses are flooded with new, awesome, sometimes awful, smells, tastes, sounds, sights and feelings…..

Some days are good….really good.

Some days are bad…..really bad.

Things here in China are the same and yet different. When they are different, they are REALLY different, like seeing a tub full of ‘ready-to-eat’ dried scorpions or a container full of dried snakes…complete with heads, ready for the frying pan, at your local market. The open markets here would send the FDA scurrying for their rulebooks in a New York heartbeat.

However, above all, I’m a teacher and the children are both my focus and what keeps me together during the toughest days here.

The kids always have a smile, a wave, a comment.

“Hallo Mr. Jeeem! How ah you?”

If it wasn’t for the children, I’m not so sure I’d be able to keep my sanity while living here.

There are days when I wonder what the fuck I was thinking, moving to China.

There are days when I feel connected and all the universe is one with me. (God help us)

There is no way I can explain this experience in one posting, but over the next few months, I’ll attempt to put China into perspective.

Currently, my perspective is….no one person can describe a country such as this. I’ve read book after book after book, prior to coming here. Books written by teachers, such as myself, living life in China…

None of them hit the nail on the head for me.

You need to experience China yourself; China cannot be, by any stretch of the imagination, encapsulated by one person.

Moreover… Annie….I have NOT eaten a Durian yet. However, they are present in the market and a person can smell them from five feet away!

My God, they stink!

Asia…..I love you!



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