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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Tuesday: The Day of Feasts.
Today has felt like a magnificent holiday. It is not very often that one eats two big feasts then receives a large monetary bonus, but this day I have received both. Waking up around seven o¡¯clock this morning, I took a quick shower and dressed then rushed out to the street corner to meet Dragon Lady for my first class with the senior middle school students. At first, it was hard to get excited about the class, but after talking with the students and seeing their excitement, the class went farley well. Although, it must be mentioned that four hours strait of teaching is a little hard on the vocal cords. The students were all wonderful though it is often times difficult to get them to understand that when they go for an interview one should concentrate on how they can help the group or company and not how the business can help them. I stressed this point over and over, but they were not wanting to listen. Finally, some of them started to understand, After class, my stomach was growling very loudly, so Dragon Lady and I headed to the restaurant next door. Little did I know that she knew the owners. We had an amazing though large feast. Two types of eggplant, boiled peanuts with vinegar carrots, celery, tofu, and fungus, and five types of dumplings. The first was pork, then pork and carrots, egg with scallions, and finally my favorite was pork with bell pepper. The meal was huge and impossible to eat. Dragon Lady insisted that I bring home the Dumplings which I did. Afterwards, I went for a walk and tried to find some homeless people to give them to, but it was quite unsuccessful. This is the first time that I have not seen any beggars. It might have been because of the heat, It was rather hot outside though the sky was blue. Coming back home, I went to Laura¡¯s office. She gave me my papers and paycheck while we looked at photos. The money was 1000 Yuan more than normal. It was my travel stipend which made me quite excited. We talked and enjoyed ourselves then I went and took some pictures. I came home and did some writing then went and met Laura and other administrators for dinner. It was a huge meal with lots of whiskey, beer, lulu, and tea. I feel somewhat drunk right now, but it is ok. The President of the school was there, and we talked. I had to chase all of the alcohol with Lulu which is the official drink of Chengde. This is almond milk and quite delicious. The take the juice from almonds, peaches, and milk then mix it all together. We were at the Lulu hotel of course which is the birthplace. It is famous all across China. The meal was incredible, Almonds, sweet potato covered in caramel and sesame seeds, vegetables with bean sauce, pork kidney with onions, horrible pork skin Jell-O, fish, an amazing pyramid shaped dish of shredded pork and ginger, and tons of dumplings. It is certain that I have missed several dishes but in my current state it is O.K. After we talked and enjoyed ourselves, Mrs Yee the head of the English Department walked me home. It has been a wonderful day, and I hope that the next several days prove to be as amazing.

Wednesday: The New Indentured Servitude.

Today while teaching my new classes of young adolescent teenagers, a flash of confusion came over my face as I realized that on some level I was participating in a new and more evolved form of slavery. I am simply calling it the New Indentured Servitude as a better word choice seems to be failing me at the moment. Standing in front of my collection of students, they were all quite excited about the coming test in which they would participate in the next few days. This examination will test their English speaking knowledge as well as other practical skills. If they pass, they will be allowed to travel to Singapore and receive a free higher education for the next eight years. Everything will be paid for them including food, board, and tuition. They simply have to show up and prove their abilities. In return, they have to agree to work in Singapore for six years after they graduate. During this time, they can travel to see their parents once a year, but the rest of the time must be spent focusing on their studies. All of the students are quite excited about this prospect. If they are chosen, they believe that they will no longer be a financial burden to their parents, and this opportunity will help them become more independent. I agree that this will help them do all of these things, but on the flipside. They will have to commit to a fifteen year contract in which they will only see their families once a year. This is the equivalent of their present lives. Can the ties of family and love last for a fifteen year absence? It is impossible for me to fathom committing to anything for fifteen years. When they finish, these young teenagers will be thirty year old adults. They will have spent the majority of their young lives away from not only their family but their motherland as well. For their free education, they are committed to accept any job which is offered by them by the country of Singapore. I am not sure what the wages will be, but I am sure that without competition, the salary will be lower than what they could normally make. I keep asking myself is this a good practice? Am I contributing in some form of modern slavery in which the students have become tied to the whims of the school where they receive their education. For most Chinese people, this is not all that new of a process. I learned several days ago that China used to also have a similar policy. They paid for the students entire education, and in return, the people took whatever job that the government gave to them. This policy was abandoned when the people agreed to pay for their schooling if they could choose their jobs in return. For this, they now have soaring educational costs, no job guarantees, and a growing divide between the rich and the poor. For me all of this is horrifying. This is not to say that anywhere else is any better as American has become the leading Capitalist whore who has chosen to lay down to big business while the average workers get raped by their employers. But, this seems different. At least on some level, most workers have some form of free agency, but this contract seems quite binding. It just sounds terrible, and there has been a build up of guilt within me for a couple of days. All of the kids seem to want to do this, but do they really have the mental capabilities to make this decision on their own? After class, I though about this all through my lunch. It was quite strange because I went out with the head master and several of the teachers. It was like we were these huge grandiose figures. There was an eleven dish meal sat in front of me that screamed aristocracy. We had pork, egg, and seafood dumplings, there were peanuts in vinegar, sour melon, fried pork pieces, barbeque ribs with corn potatoes, and corn bread stuffed with vegetables, barbeque chicken, Skillet fried beef kidney with onions and bell
peppers, and a wonderful stir friend potatoes with onions and bell peppers. On top of this, we drank 10 cans of Lulu and seven bottles of beer. It was a wonderful crazy meal, but there was an overwhelming sense of guilt inside of me that made it feel strange. Afterwards, I put in all behind me as there were other tasks which needed to be done. Mainly that I went and picked up my paycheck from Laura then she helped me get Medicine to take with me as well as fix my computer. After this, I still put all of the thoughts in the back ground as Nancy and I went and picked up our train tickets, but after she left, I went for a long walk, and it hit me that this was wrong on some level. I am not sure what to do. I am contracted into this class for a few more days but I am going to try and make this kids think long and hard about the decision. They need to be sure that this is something that they want to do. Fifteen years is an incredibly long time for anything. Oh well, there is packing to do. Talk to everyone later,


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