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Teacher’s Notes



I am 26 year old philologist working in Chinese college as an English teacher, and also as a freelance translator for some Chinese translation agency.

Practically, I live in Beijing. “Practically” because the college I work in is located 50 kilometers away from the city center, in a wonderful area called MaPo.

Actually, here one can discover real China that is very much different from what you can see in the downtown.

Note #1: Being a Teacher

First thing you notice – the rostrum (sort of a platform). Teacher works as if from a stage.

Supposedly, teacher is more important than the student, so a teacher towers above the students and thus is respected more.

In fact, students are different. A school represents every section of society, here one can find educated, intelligent, constantly developing pupils

as well as those who don’t care and it is not clear why they are here and what brought them here.

When I arrived to China I expected to be treated with respect. A teacher in China is not just a word, a teacher is a mentor, a wise man. As it turned out, it all depends.

Most classes are hard to teach. The parents, in the hope of a better future for their not too bright children, send them to private colleges and pay money for it.

Many children do not share the hopes of the parents, they have their own ideas about their future, or maybe they have none.

. Therefore, the majority of the students completely ignore everything I say and sit buried in their phones, or even playing a laptop, without turning off the sound.

As a teacher, I have no authority over them, I cannot contact their parents, I cannot scold them, I cannot complain to anyone.

My task is not so much to teach them something but to make them like me and continue their studies.

Note #2: An Ideal Man

Today's class topic "What is your ideal man like?". I teach English so the originally answers were in English.

The most popular answer - the one who has "filial piety" – a very Chinese Confucian term, I didn't know it exists.

• 'He 1.78' or 'tall' or 'taller than me'

• 'He is very thin' or 'not fat' or 'he can't be fat'

• 'He is TWO (!) BIG eyes'

• 'Skin is very well'

• 'NOT DIRTY' 'cleaned'

• Some wrote 'small mouth' (?)

• Someone also wrote 'bed-tempered'

Note #3: Names

Some students choose weird English names.

They can take anything as a name – numbers, brand names, food, color. Originally the names are in English, when translated in Russian they seem even more stupid:

• Eleven • F (just 'ef') • Seven • Hong10 • Lilou/Leelou (it's a guy!!! doesn't react to '5th element') • Boss • Song

• Lee (ignores my questions about jeans) • Cedric (just pretends not to know Cedric Diggory from Harry Potter) • Windows (because he likes computers) :'( • Smile (a guy)

• Lucky • One • Four • Milk (she likes milk) • Apple (she likes apples) • Chocolate (she likes chocolate)

And some other too 'sexy' names that just annoy me like Heaven, Sunshine...Seems like I work in whorehouse.

Note #4: Honesty

China is the place where they want to cheat you everywhere you go and get your money. In Shanghai Chinese girls tried to scam me.

One of them was talkative and spoke really good English, another - was silent and served as a decoration.

The first one started with a 'compliment': "So you are from Russia? In my native town there are a lot of tall and beautiful Russian girls. You are ALSO OK".

And after that they expected to get my money? Somebody needs to teach them some manners really!

Note #5: Honesty-2

Today after the class a student comes up to me and says "I am sorry, Teacher, I lied to you.

You asked me what I had for breakfast and I said I had only milk. But I had something else but I don't know how to say in English. I am really sorry I lied"...

The guy is 19.

Note #6: Dirt

Dirt and poverty lovers would feel great in here! You can take pictures of it everywhere (like generally in Asia). But I can't.

Sometimes I feel it's just impolite and I miss a lot of opportunities to take picture of something really gross.

It doesn't excite me too as most of the foreigners here.

Until I turned 15 I lived in a very interesting building (and neighborhood too). It was very long and had 12 entrances all facing south.

So the north side of the building had only windows and there was small forest behind. So usually people would not walk there but if you do - you discover just piles of trash!!

Plastic bottles, packets, banana peels, condoms etc. Why bother to put it in a trash bin if the window is just so close?

Also when one drove to Krasnoyarsk you had to go through the back side of Berezovka village. It stands a bit uphill and you could see loads of trash that people threw away right down the hill.

Often poverty goes together with lack of education and common sense. It's typical for people to be selfish and limit their concern to the place they are actually living in.

If you are poor you can still do your best to keep things clean.

Note #7: Fight for/Earth hour

Told my students about Earth Hour today.

I tried to explain them the concept of not using the electricity for one hour for the sake of better environment.

Instead they got really scared that tomorrow the electricity will be cut off.

Anyway when they got what I mean (I also mentioned putting trash in proper places and trying to use as less plastic (bags and stuff) as possible)

they argued that they and their relatives have something more important to think about like their family, work and everyday routine.

. "That's not our thing!". And also "Plastic is clean!". And also "There are garbage men who pick up the trash!".

Thanks God it's Friday. Maybe I will not save the planet but I'll go buy candles for tomorrow. It's gonna be the most romantic evening this year.

Note #8: Sightseeing in Beijing

It's weird. Just today I asked my student "What is your favourite place in Beijing?".

And he answered "IKEA"...

Why? Because there are very comfortable beds you can sleep in...

Note #9: Traditional Chinese Medicine

1. Today I learnt my students actually do believe that drinking human milk is good for your health (for adults' health). It keeps you strong and young.

Especially it is nice to suck on some woman's tit I guess. But unfortunately it's very expensive.

Also "that's how poor women can make money". Some nice friends of mine told me about this sort of promising business here...

But I had no idea normal (or what is normal really?) people believe these kind of superstitions .

2. They really believe it is important for a woman to stay one month in bed without washing herself (no shower, no washing hair) after giving birth.

I have heard about this tradition before but now I know it is still real!

As I mentioned it in my class and started to laugh at the stupidity of the people who believe crap like that

my students shut me up saying "well if you don't do this you will be weak and in pain when old".

Note # 10: Smell and Hygiene

I was discussing with my students fake stuff in China, shopping, what is popular and so on.

I mentioned that in China it's difficult to find my favourite perfume (well, I couldn't)

cause it seems like here generally it's not very common to use fragrances. As well as deodorants.

And they said: "Yes, in the West people use deodorants because THEY have body odor. In China it's not common"

So they think WESTERN people have body odor. And Chinese people smell like roses.

But in the buses and subway (which is terribly crowded by the way) I cannot smell roses. I can smell something else. Not good.

Note #11: Crotchless Pants

All the Chinese parents dress their children in the pants with a hole in the crotch, The reason might be saving money and energy.

Actually, one can encounter children of different age dressed like that.

If the child wants to the toilet they just make him do the business right here. When standing in a line to get on a bus, for instance.

What happens if a child (especially girl) wants to go to the toilet inside the public transport I don't even know.

Once I saw an eight year old boy wearing jeans like that in a subway. Exhibiting his naked butt and else. Maybe that's why they have all the problems.

Also, despite the fact that in China there is a good system of public toilets

one can often see a man relieving themselves in the street, twenty meters away from the toilet.

Note # 12: Internet

Internet, of course, could have saved my days, but China is famous for its shitty Internet.

Similar experience I have had in 1998, in a first ever Internet cafe in the main post office in Zh city

(you would pay for an hour and happily download just 5 photos of Backstreet Boys).

But I am not a girl anymore to waste half an hour for loading just a web page with text information. While I am hopelessly trying to load the page the tickets get 3 times more expensive.

Note #13: Manners

Manners, as we know them, do not really exist in China. Actually, many Chinese are aware of that. The level of awareness probably depends on education and influence by Western cultures.

1. Everyone is spitting everywhere. Several times people almost got me with their spit (not intentionally but still).

Not only men are doing this but women as well. I had some students (guys and girls) who spitted in a classroom DURING a lecture.

2. They are very loud. That is of course more common for those who lack education. Feels like an endless market place.

3. They do not let other people exit the subway train before coming inside. Russia has the same tendency but in China the competition is higher.

Public transport (especially subway) is almost all the time overcrowded. I try to avoid using subway as much as I can, the buses seems to be a better option (just not during rush hour).

4. They like to stare and do not look away if you stare back. Of course it's true if you are a foreigner, the whiter you are, the more eyeballed you'll get.

5. They ask awkward questions. They don't need to know you very well for that. They can ask you about your private life, height, weight, children, salary etc.

6. They say what's on their mind directly. If they think you are fat, they'll just tell you that.

Actually in China many people suddenly find themselves being fat, because here people are kind of shorter and are not so big generally.

Note#14: Beauty

Chinese beauty...That's a special thing. Many times they would show a photo of a Russian girl and tell me "she is so beautiful".

This girl would be thin tall blond with pointed facial features and, of course, white skin. It's nothing beautiful for my taste. But it's not ugly as well.

But these people have their own views on what is beautiful. First, one has to be thin. The thinner the better. No one really wants to have curves, so it doesn't matter if you have breasts or butt.

Being lean is a dream of both women and men. Surprisingly, I found many of my male students kept the diet trying to lose weight.

Second, it is, of course, the white skin. They protect their body from the sun as much as they can, they walk under the umbrella, use sunscreen for all the open skin.

Besides that, most of the cosmetic products have whitening effect. Although some Chinese people I know complained that it doesn't work anyway.

Third, being tall (for men and women) is important. My height is 1 meter 67 centimeters and not once I was called 'tall' (seems like it's a compliment here).

It's strange that most Chinese men are not that tall but still they prefer taller girls.

Fourth, big eyes, pointed nose or even hook nose, blue eyes, fair hair and other features that are uncommon for Asian appearance.

The most common way to change one's appearance is to dye one's hair. The worst is when a Chinese person attempts to be blond and gets red color instead.

Note #15: Names Again

I couldn't help writing about my new student who chose a very unusual name for himself.

His name is God. My joy knew no bounds!

Cause now I could talk to God practically anytime.

Although, in a week my student decided to change the name from God to Silence. Anything that happens in China seems to be a weird metaphor of life.