How I saved the world part 5

I’m not sure when things started going wrong. Or where…or how…well shit, you could put any of the wh-questions in there and it wouldn’t make a lick of a difference. Why is “how” a wh-question anyway? I spent three years teaching English, and that’s the only question I was never able to answer. After all, “which” is not a wh-question, though it often fulfills the same function. The answer is simple really. A quick google search would reveal that wh-questions are actually called “interrogative pro-form” questions. There is no such thing really as a wh-question. Some jackass English teacher, much like myself, probably just made it up one day to confuse poor English students. Eventually I just started lying. “Oh…well actually, in old English, hundreds of years ago, the word ‘how’ was actually spelled ‘whow’. Yeah, we just decided to make it easier. You know, like how colour changed to color.” Fuck it, it’s not like they remembered anything I was teaching them anyway.

Allow me to tell you a story that has nothing to do with what I really want to tell you. One time, around the beginning of 2006 when I had only been in China for a few months, a couple other American friends and I were convinced by our Chinese friend to visit his hometown in Gansu province for the Chinese New Year Holiday. Now, none of us had really been too far out of Beijing at that point…and Beijing, while not exactly being Tokyo, is still a pretty modern place, especially compared to the rest of China. His hometown was a town in Gansu Province. Gansu Province, if you are unaware, is basically the asshole of China, sort of like Chechnya is to Russia, Darfur is to Sudan, Gaza is to Israel, or California is to the US. It’s the only province in China with a GDP per capita less than $1000. So of course you can imagine the answer we gave to our friend. “Hell yeah! Oh boy we’re going to see the REAL China.” The train to the city of Lanzhou took 20 hours from Beijing, and it would have been nice if someone had told us that during the New Year holiday, the chances of getting a seat on a Chinese train were akin to those of a [STRIKE]black man[/STRIKE] woman getting elected president. So we slipped the conductor a few dollars and the four of us crowded around a small table in the dining compartment and proceeded to drink bai jiu for the next 20 hours.

Upon arriving in Lanzhou, it was another 3 hour bus ride through the barren wastelands and snow-covered coal mines of Gansu Province until we arrived at our friend’s hometown. It was 1 PM when we arrived, none of us had slept for nearly 36 hours, and we had already gone from the drunk to hungover to drunk again to hungover again to sober with psychotic tendencies. Our friend ushered us into his uncle’s house, where we would be staying. You see, the town did not have a hotel, because nobody ever visited. His uncle was waiting with the “mayor” of the town. We sat down and they offered us a cup of tea. Something wasn’t right. You can always feel when something bad is going to happen in China right before it happens. Well, to be honest, something bad always happens when you meet someone, so you pretty much always have the same feeling. The word for friend in Chinese is “peng you”, however the meaning doesn’t translate exactly like it does into English. It’s more akin to two mobsters scratching each others backs. In Chinese culture, a friend is a person that can do favors for you, and in return you might also be expected to return favors to them. So you see…our peng you (he will no longer be referred to in the English sense of the word friend), who had been very kind to us in Beijing and had helped us out in many times of needs, had decided it was time for us to return the favor.

“You have done our village a great honor by coming here,” the mayor spoke. “We have never received foreign visitors before, and I hope that we can learn much from you.” “Learn from us?” we thought. What could they possibly want from us? “Please, come, let me introduce you to your students.” The mayor got up and led us out to another building. Inside of the building were sitting 20 young students of all ages. “These are the best students of our village,” said the mayor. “And with your help, all of them will be able to pass this year’s English exam.” If I had been smart enough to bring my swiss-army knife, I would have emptied my veins right then and there, spilling my vital juices all over the dirt-stained uniforms of the village’s best and brightest. Oh, they would have learned alright…a lesson in anatomy. My liver for Ms. Wang, my kidneys for Mr. Wang, the small intestine to Wang junior…of course I would have kept the large intestine to myself because, well, you know…it goes without saying.

We were in quite a bind. What were we to do? We had no idea where we were. We couldn’t cause our peng you to lose face. There was no way we could get back to Beijing ourselves. Our Chinese was nowhere near good enough to do that at the time. We were forced to stick it out, but we had our revenge. We vowed that, for everything we taught them, we would teach them equally incorrect things. I will spare you the boring things we did and leave you with my personal favorite. We taught them that, in English, we often liked to begin sentences with the phrase “vaginally speaking”. The meaning was somewhat of a hybrid between “you know” and “you see”. And we made sure to use it every chance we got. “Vaginally speaking, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of its two sides.” Vaginally speaking, I think you get my point. Somewhere in the deserts of West China, I can only hope young Chinese boys and girls are beginning all of their sentences with “vaginally speaking.”

I’m not sure when things started going wrong. You might say this trip of mine to Gansu might be a good candidate for a starting point, but you would be wrong. Why did I leave the comfort of my homeland? In the case of my peng you, it is obvious why he left. Nobody in their right mind would stay in a place like that if you had the opportunity to get out. I had it all. My own apartment on lake shore drive, a fast car, an honors degree from a top 10 university. I had not one, but two sexy latinas trying to jump into my pants. Leaving was supposed to let me clear my head. I’d drink tea instead of tequila. I’d study the tao te ching instead of the labels on my girlfriend’s underwear. I’d watch the sunrise while starting with my day with a round of tai chi, rather than watching the sunrise to end my day after a round of jim beam. I’d feel the spirit of the universe coursing through my veins, communicate with the collective unconsciousness of every living being that is, was, or ever would be, and thus I would transcend the very nature of existence and being and simply “be”.

Who the hell was I kidding? Within two weeks I had merely traded my apartment on lake shore drive for digs on chengfu lu, traded in my car for a motorcycle, exchanged my curly haired latinas for their straight-haired Asian counterparts, and shots of tequila replaced by its cheaper, deadlier, inbred cousin bai jiu. To put it in economic terms, these were not “value added” trades. I had traded in each of my US dollars for 8 shiny mao bombs. However, when the cost to your soul is also 8 times higher, you will find your new currency takes you no further than what you previously held would have.

There is no answer to the question “Why is ‘how’ a wh-question?” Interrogative pro-form question…admit it. When I said that earlier, you had no idea what the hell I was talking about. But you pretended like you did and you kept reading. Well okay, maybe you gave up reading because you thought it would be too difficult. In which case, you wouldn’t even be reading this right now and I’m just masturbating to my own thoughts. The fact of the matter is, the question itself is a wh-question. A mathematician once said he could prove that 1+1=3. It was simple really. You just had to redefine your own system of numbers that went 1 3 2 4 5 etc… After all, what are they but mere symbols? There is no inherent meaning in the symbols, just the values that we all collectively assign to them for the convenience of mutual understanding. But he was wrong. He could no more change the meaning of 2 or 3 then I could change the nature of my own inner beast.

A wh-question is a wh-question…you could change the language to French if you like. Now you have qui que ou quand pourquoi and comment. The wh is gone, but the significance remains. And I could move to Mars and I’d still only be able to read the Tao Te Ching if it were tattooed on some martian girl’s navel, vaginally speaking.

Wow, that has got to be the strangest string of stupidity I have ever seen(other then school). Really, if I ever go to China and hear “Vaginally speaking…”, I am going to freak out in laughter.

Come on, seriously.

And there are no martian girls. Some idiot let Chuck Norris loose on Mars when aliens still lived there.

I don’t understand your actions. Why would you go to China to teach English, and then irresponsibly teach the wrong things to students in a city you were brought to? That seems rather childish. Maybe there’s something I’m not getting.

oh zepp.

You sure do know how to bring a guy down. D: Sounds like it started going wrong because you didn’t really want to change, you just wanted a change of scenery.

I miss the plaid pants picture. :frowning:

How many parts are there? Have you decided what course you’re ultimately taking?

Doesn’t really respond to your story, but what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages of becoming an ESL Instructor?

so you saved it huh

You actually have to make that stuff into a book. And keep on writing longer texts. And do it now while you still aren’t sure what the hell is going on.

You should go yo Gansu 1,000 years earlier. Gansu used to be the richest place of the world when the silk road is still open.
Now it’s still one of the best place if you love archeology, or at least a good choice when you want to become a Muslim…

It’s amazing how you write like you’re drunk and high, but manage to pull it together into something intelligible so we can all be vicariously drunk and high with you. Like Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone in prose. This is good stuff.

Seconded. I think these stories are hilarious.

California=Gaza=Darfur=Chechnya ?!?

Zepp is a Hunter S. Thompson wannabe. :wink:

Thanks? I guess?

Someone always gets a little self-righteous at these posts. Maybe you’re right, it is a bit childish. I never said this was 100% auto-biographical though. As an American living in China, you meet a lot of…interesting people, and you hear a lot of stories. When you’re surrounded by a sea of 1.3 billion Chinese people, another white guy stands out pretty easily, and you often strike up conversations with people you might not otherwise would have normally met. Which parts of the story are true? Well, I don’t know entirely. Some of it really did happen to me, some of it is just stories I heard, and some of it is just plain fantasy. I can say though that I’ve never been to Gansu province before, nor do I have any particular desire to visit it either. It’s a story I was told by another teacher. Is it true? I don’t know…maybe. Makes a good story though.

I guess that doesn’t really answer your question though. What can I say? Why does a student spend $160,000 to go to an Ivy League school and then just cost along with a C average? Why does a professional football player who makes millions of dollars every year to play 16 games do something idiotic like run dog fighting rings and end up in jail? Why does a guy with a beautiful, loving wife that other guys would kill to hook up with go off and cheat on her with someone else? Most of us don’t appreciate the things we have at the moment we have them, that’s just a fact of life. Personally, I would never teach little kids to say vaginally speaking. But I have knowingly taught something incorrectly just because I was lazy and didn’t feel like fully explaining some difficult element of grammar or something. I didn’t go to China to teach English…most people don’t. If all I wanted to do is teach, I could have just stayed home. Anyway, I’ll explain more about that next.

Well, there’s a lot I could say about this, but I’ll try to keep it short.

Advantages: Hourly pay is good. The best money I ever made teaching was over $50 / hour at a British International School. It was a 6 hour day…meaning I made twice the money in one day that your average Chinese waitress makes in a month (with probably only 2-3 days off). It’s easy to find work. I worked at different schools, and I taught private students myself. Teachers are generally more well-respected in Asia then they are in the West. It’s very, very rare you have to deal with any sort of serious disciplinary issues. I mostly taught young adults, kids who were preparing to go to college abroad. They knew they had to learn English or they’d be fucked, because most of them didn’t have good enough scores to go to university back in China. Education is ridiculously competitive over here. The job isn’t stressful. You can work a 15-20 hour week and have plenty of free time. Even if you suck as a teacher, you can easily find work (unless you look Asian). It’s a pretty good way to learn the language of the country you’re in as well, because your job is basically just to talk to people, and usually they’re more than happy to help you out with your own studies, so it’s kind of like a free lesson.

Disadvantages: Gets pretty boring after a while. If you’re interested in growing as an individual, English teaching will only take you so far. There isn’t really any room for advancement. You can work your way into better schools with better salaries, but you hit the ceiling pretty fast. For some people, that’s ok. I’ve met people here who have been teaching for 10-15 years and love it. Personally, after a couple years, I had to get out of it, and I do other business now.

You should seriously write a novel or a creative nonfiction book. I’d buy the fucking hardcover.


Thanks for responding and clarifying. I wasn’t trying to shut down your story, as it is entertaining. I understand now that it was meant to tell a good story, which can be more important than the truth sometimes (unless it’s actually a good story). Anyways I’m with the others: go write a book so I can buy it already. :toast: