Harbin Diary November 3-7, 2011

November 3, 2011                 Thursday

It’s been four days and I have been running ragged writing lessons, covering for Hammy, and helping others with their extra stuff. I need to be true, buckle down, and finish this novel. The diary I can work on every other day and strive to polish the entries before posting.

Let me finish describing Dong Ye. When he entered, it was evident that he carried a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder. He barely deigned to greet everyone before he fled into the kitchen after the beauteous Sirena. It is easy to see why he, a male—a young, handsome male—would rather be in the narrow kitchen with her sexy form than with two ugly foreigners and three other lesser women. But he was rude, even for a Chinese person, which means quite rude. When he finally cracked the ice and sat down (and this after David left), we had an absorbing conversation. Let me paint his features. As I said, he was handsome, medium height with a thin but sturdy build—the prototypical handsome Asian who is a little on the lean fey side. I think Westerners prefer their men a little more buff. The Heroin Chic thing works more for women than for men in my humble opinion.

Ok, gotta jet.

November 5, 2011     Saturday

No no no no no. This is not going to work. I may just pack my bags and disappear. I am not getting my work done. I am spending too much time with these English lessons. It seems that I can’t get ahead of the pinche curve. Then, Hammy has been sucking up my time. One night we got into an argument, a shouting match on the street. He said something to the effect that he might try to come find me at Café Kona. And I mumbled that that was not a good idea. He said, “Well, fuck you then!” And stormed off. Rude. Café Kona is my sanctuary, my Clean Well-lighted Place, and I don’t want him to defile it with his rasquache pneuma.

I was already unhappy with him as I spent the better part of the afternoon cleaning the sitting room and fixing the couch that he broke with his broad ass (granted the struts were flimsy and the connecting screws and nails were already halfway torn out). He stayed in his room chatting with his friends (re: pseudo-girlfriends) on QQ, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter. He heard me banging around, shifting the furniture, hammering and cursing, but he didn’t dare poke his bloated face out of the door. How could he? He otherwise might have had to lend a hand, the lazy corpulent son of a bitch.

Why didn’t I just knock on the door and ask him to help? Yes. I could have done that. I won’t lie and say that it was the principle of the thing. The truth is I had too much pride to knock on the door and ask him to help. I felt that he should appreciate this endeavor, what I was trying to cultivate: a clean wholesome and decent place to live. He should appreciate that, especially after having come from a cesspit of a home that even crack addicts would not deign to live in no matter how destitute they were. Even crack addicts have their standards you know.

On the street that evening I yelled back at him, “You know, instead of cursing me, you should thank me for cleaning the apartment!”

“Go to hell!” he yelled. He is a vocabulary-poor product of the California educational system.

Later, he ended up falling ill—very ill. I suspected that he had crawled back into the bottle, but this was not the case, as suspicious as it seemed. No, he did something almost as stupid: he used water directly from the tap to cook his pao-mian noodles. It gave him flu-like systems: nausea, violent explosive vomitus, shakes, shivers, quivers, cramps, headache, diarrhea—you name it, he suffered it.

Men are such pussies when it comes to getting sick. And he is no exception. My God, what I had to endure: he bellyached and complained and threatened to get back on a plane and return to America.

He shambled like Man-thing between the bathroom and his smelly bedroom. His face was a round green platter; I felt nauseous myself when I had to help lift him up. “I’m a grown man and I feel like crying,” he said.

I’m a grown man and a Buddhist (ok, a part-time Buddhist) and I feel like committing bloody acts of violence on his dumb ass. Drinking water out of the tap.

“You’ve been to Mexico. What were you thinking?” He had this amazing capacity to vomit quietly, that much I will allow. When I throw up, I sound like an allosaur in heat.

“This isn’t Mexico.” More vomit slipping out of him and plashing into the toilet.

“It might as well be as far as water purity is concerned. I gave you a travel dossier. You did read it, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. No. I don’t know.” I patted him on the back while he hawked up whatever contents were left in his gut, then I ran downstairs to fetch some soda and dry crackers. He would need something in his system in the next few days.

I had to cover him on Wednesday. I was supposed to cover more of his classes, but they were eventually canceled. The worst of it was I had to hang out with him. His room smelled like piss. Stale, stinky, stanky horse piss. I told him too. That’s what friends are for. I can’t believe poor Winnie came over and hung out with us.

That was a whole scene as well. Winnie seemed very focused on me, as if she wanted to make a point to Abraham that she was coming over to see me as well, which was odd I thought. Was she punishing him? For being sick? She probably feels indebted to me because I have been teaching free classes at her Thursday morning English club…at 6:30AM! It was pathetic to watch Hammy come in and out of my room while Winnie and I were hobnobbing over my computer. He was dying for attention—he usually is dying for attention, that’s his secret sin: he needs to be the center of attention and can’t stand it when any man takes center stage away from him. Hell, I told him not to invite her over. Women are not sweet nurturers when men are sick. They suffer every month a bloody curse and when men act like such little babies, moaning and bitching over something like an upset stomach, it certainly must gall them.

A little medicine and some downtime and he was back on his feet again. We’ll see how long this lasts.

I am dying however. I need to get on some kind of writing schedule. I need to get up early and get three hours of writing done—no, four, I need four. Not three.

Thursday afternoon I had fun playing soccer with Michael. Snow, Fiona, Ice, and Jerri all came along for the ride. Then we ate lunch together. Well, Snow, Fiona, Michael, and I ate lunch. Ice and Jerri didn’t come. I think Ice’s feelings were hurt because I said something callous in front of her. In essence I may have dashed her hopes for a romantic entanglement. I can’t really imagine these young beautiful women aspire to have a relationship with an older man like me—it’s ludicrous—but she and I were talking one afternoon after class and she was telling me something—again—along the lines that she hopes that we could be more than friends. That we could be close friends. I didn’t know what to say and fumbled with the papers on the lectern and mumbled something stupid, like that was nice.

Then, another girl walked into the classroom and barged in on our conversation, asking for my email and phone number. She wanted to be able to get in touch with me. I have given it to my students in case they want to practice English or have some dire emergency. Back in the States I always provided my details to parents in case they wished to contact me. I proffered the same courtesy to the Cambridge students with the strict caveat that they contact me for academic reasons and not just out of boredom.

I just had an unpleasant misunderstanding with another girl, Sara, which gave me pause. I invited her to come to the café to practice English. And she thought I was asking her to come to a bar! She declined saying she was not that type of girl. I scrambled to correct her misunderstanding. I told her I was in no way inviting her out for an alcoholic drink. I sincerely offered to help her, and since I don’t want to answer QQ tweets all day long, I invited her out to practice oral language. It was awkward and I could not believe how quickly it spun out of control. When I saw Sara again the following week, I apologized and reiterated it was a misunderstanding. She also saw how she had misunderstood my meaning. Café after all is not bar!

Thus, I didn’t want any more of these kinds of “misunderstandings” so I tried to be as blunt as possible. In front of Ice, I said to this other student, “Don’t call me unless you are serious about practicing. Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours. In addition, I am not giving you my details because I am looking for a date. Only call when you need help. I already had one girl misunderstand me and I don’t want any more trouble.”

Ice stood next to me listening to my vehement diatribe. The other girl wrote down the numbers and left. Ice wavered for a second. I didn’t know what to say to her. In truth, I wanted to discourage this other girl and then I wanted to say to Ice that I too hoped we could be close friends, but before I cold say anything, her eyes reddened, became moist, and she fled from the room in tears. All I could do was stare after her. It’s silly however. They are all young tender shoots and I am a quickly spoiling old fruit. It would be funny if I were a gay man. It would be a hell of a lot easier. In fact, that would make a great story too. A gay man comes to China and of course he cannot tell anyone that he is gay since China does not allow gay people into the country. He has lost his job back home and so he is teaching in China. He is suave, debonair, handsome, erudite, and so very gay. But no one knows this! And slowly, things happen and it gets out. This would make a great little film. At some point I will have to address the homophobia of the Chinese government.

This evening I met with Kellerman for the second time. He was quite late and I was stuck cooling my heels in the VIP business office, something the other Chinese teachers hated. They looked at me as if I walked into the office tracking in dog excrement on my shoes. Kellerman was late because he had a fight with his mom and wanted to hang out with his girlfriend (I am dealing with a fifteen year old after all). He is a nice boy with typical issues for young men his age. He is short in stature but firmly built. His head seems a little bit large for his body and his arms are a little bit short, which gives him the appearance of an inverted triangle. We hit it off since both of us are interested in the martial arts. I had prepared a nice lesson that was hastily reviewed before our time was up. Still, we had a pleasant lesson together.

November 6, 2011                 Sunday 

On this day I had lunch with Michael and Kat. Snow could not make it and I had forgotten to give Winnie a jingle. Probably best that I didn’t as Hammy would have flipped his lid. The three of us walked along Xue Fu Road trying to find a place to hole up and practice English. Michael picked out a superior hot pot restaurant and we ended up having this absolutely lovely meal. I took a few videos, but they can’t do it justice. The end of our meal turned comical as I literally wrestled with Michael because I did not want him to pay, but he was really adamant. I have since seen this exact phenomenon occur in different restaurants.

As a sign of respect, people dash to pay the bill at the end of the meal and men actually tussle with each other to have the honor of paying. In America, I think, it’s less about respect, and more about who can afford to pay. I was working and had a salary (meager and unfair as it is) while they were students on fixed incomes. It makes sense that I pay the bill. But for them, a student must always take care of their teacher’s every need, including paying for nice meals at hot pot restaurants. Kat just sat and giggled at us as we did a sumo-dance between the tables. In the end I begrudgingly acquiesced and let Michael pay. The skinny kid was quick and determined, I’ll give him that.

I had to run off to teach at the Golden Lady, and what an experience that was! I was faced with a large group of college students. I had prepared little if anything. The dreaded Company only gave me a few details. The students were preparing for the IELTS exam. The information the Company gave me was next to nil: they simply said the students needed to practice basic conversation. The little bit of dialogue Danny found online was a joke in my opinion. Most of the students actually had English skills well beyond the simple IELTS practice questions. What could I give them beyond the benefit of my extensive teaching experience? I conducted the class as professionally as I could, but did a bit of grandstanding, showing off. I held off speaking any words whatsoever and stormed in looking quite peeved. I set up my laptop and scowled blackly at my surroundings. Then, two of the young college ladies got up to use the restroom. And as soon as they left, I blurted out in furious Chinese: just where do those two beauties think they’re going? They cracked up with laughter and I continued speaking in Chinese, which always floors them.

I asked them to stand if they had spent at least five years studying English, which of course I knew they all did. Seven years. Some sat down. Nine years. More sat down. Slowly I cut them down to one cute young lady: Ada, a medical college student. She was smart as a whip and I had to stay on my toes with her, but hey, my principles were strong, my theories and practice were all very good, so the class went quite well. Rather than spend the time yakking at them, I gave them role-plays and broke them up into groups to practice. I spent my time traveling among them, listening and offering suggestions when asked or correcting egregious errors.

I did not think much of Ada—or what I mean to say was that I did not think of her as someone I would care to date—but after class, which went quite swimmingly, she lingered and lingered and then lingered some more, so we walked out together. We got into a serious discussion about politics and the economy. She was strongly opinionated—yes, I began to realize her interest. When we got downstairs we chatted a bit more and then I asked her for her phone number. Yes, I told her, I was interested in her, wanted to see her, and who knows?

Yes!

She almost shouted it and I was flooded with relief. I am normally not so assertive and bold, preferring to circle and circle until I really smell blood in the water. The truth is I am quite a coward when it comes to asking women out on dates. It takes me forever to get up the nerve. But I don’t know. She was so eager. The class had gone so well I was probably high on adrenalin. We shared numbers and I went off to the App Café musing about the possibility of love in Harbin. I think teachers and doctors are very compatible. And I know when someone likes me, is attracted to me—after all it happens, rarely, but it does happen. And I was so masterful in the class, handling every question like a confident stylish toreador, leading the bull past me and avoiding all dangers deftly. Projecting such confidence really paid off. That’s ok. Maybe God was watching. Maybe He was throwing me a bone.

Later I found out that somehow in all of the excitement, I did not save her phone number. I remember punching it into my cell, but…I don’t know what I did. I was foiled by my own braggadocio and God made sure I paid for it. To date, Ada has not called.

November 7, 2011                 Monday

Monday I languished in the apartment unable to focus.

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