The kids in the Kindergarten are just adorable. I was instructed to sit with the kids in a semicircle to observe a class today. Immediately after I sat down, the boy on my right put his hand on mine and started cuddling into my side. This progressed into a full examination of my clothes (including the cables of my knit leg warmers and the buttons on my coat), my hair, my face, and my fingernail polish (lavender colored). I was grateful when he got to my nails because he took both of my hands in his and warmed them for me. My hands tend to turn to ice when it’s below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
I wondered if he was one of the kids who lives at the school Monday through Saturday because he was acting so attention starved. Another teacher told me he isn’t, he’s just an only child like many kids in China and used to receiving more attention at home than he does in a classroom at school. (A note: Many of the students at my school have siblings because their parents can afford to pay the government fines for additional children. I work at a prestigious private school.)
The same teacher pointed out the extremely high child and teenage suicide rates in China as consequences of poor social development and competitive pressures. I haven’t done any research or checked the facts myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if any of it were true.
After lunch, the head teacher took me to open a bank account and buy a bike-rental card. We were hoping to get to the hospital after that to catch the doctor before he went home, but I ended up spending so much time at the bank that we had no time left over to go to the hospital. Looks like I’ll have to go to the hospital on Saturday. Alone. Or at least without any of the Chinese teachers because they work on Saturdays. The head teacher said she’d write me a note in Chinese to give to the doctor so that he understands what I need. Wish me luck! This could be a little difficult.
I spent an hour and a half (at least!) at the bank just to open a simple checking account because…well, I’m not exactly sure. When I showed up, the ladies behind the counter got really excited and started giggling all over themselves. One of them said “Oh my God!” After everyone in the back office got a good look or two at my passport, my teller explained that they don’t see foreigners very often in Foshan and that she isn’t sure how to enter my information into their system. It took four people to figure it out. Then there was a problem with the computer or keyboard that she was using, so I had to move to another teller to start the process over again. That teller explained to me after a while that my name is so long (it’s true, I have a very long name–five names in total) that it didn’t fit into the information box. The solution: Use only the ‘K’ of my first name; however, eliminating seven letters of my name created another problem! My signature wouldn’t match my printed name anymore! Somehow, they found a way around that last obstacle and gave me a bank card.
Before I left, I asked about setting up an additional savings account to help me budget my money. They didn’t like this. I tried to explain why I wanted a separate savings account to three people and nobody liked the idea very much. They all told me, “I think just one account is better.” Never mind what I thought was best. I tried to convince my teller that if I had a savings account, I would save my money instead of spend it. Her advice to me was to not buy so many things. At that point, I just wanted to get the hell outta there. I may go back later and demand they open a savings account for me, but with a smile so that I don’t lose face.
On the walk back to the school, the head teacher and I practiced a simple dialogue: Wǒ shì xīxuèguǐ. (I am a vampire.) Nǐ búshì xīxuèguǐ! (You are not a vampire!) We went back and forth about five times. She has been obsessed with a tv show about vampires recently. I think it’s True Blood, but I’m not sure because she doesn’t remember the name of it. At breakfast, she declared that she is a vampire, a special kind; instead of the blood of virgins and other innocents, she drinks milk. I told her she’s a baby, not a vampire.
After work, the other teacher and I went back to the tailor on the business street to pick up our altered clothes. And Stars Teddy! He looks great! I’m just grateful he’s still alive! I realized last night after I left him there that there was a chance I would never see him again. I felt really torn up about that. My pants fit perfectly. For everything together–2 pants and Teddy’s armpit–I paid 37 Yuan, which equals $5.85.
While we were out, I picked up a mop and bucket because my floors are already filthy. In China, everything falls to the ground. The roads are constantly littered with trash, baby poop, spit, animal blood…you name it. There are also street cleaners that work around the clock to clean up the trash so that it doesn’t get too out of control. During normal working hours on weekdays, the streets actually do look clean; however, I am very leery of anything that has touched the ground. What’s on the street eventually gets tracked into my room, so I’m very happy to have a mop.
I also bought a dragon fruit! In Chinese, it’s called huǒ lóng guǒ, which means “fire dragon fruit.” Just a half hour ago, the Chinese teacher who was with me when I bought it came to my room with her own dragon fruit and showed me how to eat it. The method is to pull the skin back on half of the fruit and scoop the rest out with a spoon, making your very own fruit bowl. It tastes a lot like kiwi. I think I’ll get some more!
I think this teacher is going to be a good friend. She is very sweet and curious about my life and culture. She is also as new to Foshan as I am, which is something we can bond over. We hung out for a bit in my room. I tried on my tailored pants for her, we shared pictures of friends and family, she told me about the music that she and her friends listen to. I invited her to see some bands play in town this weekend with me and the other foreign teachers. She offered to take me to Guangzhou (a very big neighboring city) this weekend and show me around.