Home > General > Living With Han Part 7 — Get stuffed, tosser!

Living With Han Part 7 — Get stuffed, tosser!

Three weeks ago work started. In three weeks many things have changed. Strangely, I enjoy working with children. They’re sweet in a terrifying, Lord of the Flies sort of way. We have to come to terms with each other and it seems that I’m adjusting more quickly and effectively than I had previously thought possible. Yes, this includes my acting like a monkey with the able assistance of a six-year-old in front of class.I like them and they like me.

Mostly I simply roll with the punches and go along with what students want. My classes are highly democratic and, other than my stubborn insistence on teaching basic grammar for 10-15 minutes each class, very low pressure. I’ve grown used to being swarmed by children giving me hugs and small, hand-made presents.

The adults, however, are a different matter. I was given no training. They knew my work experience and they knew my lack of experience with children. This was irrelevant to them. They simple had me face hundreds of young people with no preparation or warning. They then have the nerve to insult and reprimand me for not always being 100pc up to the task.

Things came to a breaking point Wednesday. I had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the main company managers was visiting from Dalian, in North Eastern China. She promptly started to stridently rebuke me. I was fully honest about my language skills. I speak conversational Japanese but only a thin trace of Chinese. She was adamant that I was “Incapable” of teaching six-year-olds. Yes, I realise that I had said something quite similar prior to starting but it made no different to them. She also criticised me for relying too heavily on Chinese assistant teachers. I offered to introduce topics in Japanese. She did not agree to my highly reasonable response.

It is far too late to change things this term. Classes have already been divvied up and schedules set in stone. She had the brilliant idea of asking me if I would be interested in teaching “American Culture” classes. Parenthetically, what’s the difference between a saucer full of milk and the United States? The saucer with milk will eventually develop a culture. But that wasn’t the point. I refused this suggestion on the grounds that I am not American and that I have really no understanding of the country. She then asked if I’d be willing to teach US history courses. No, she wasn’t trying to be ironic and she was saying “US” and “history” in the same sentence with a straight face. I warned her that this was not really my expertise and that I’d have little to offer. I could do it if necessary, but she should not expect much. She attempted to sound ominous after I said this. She thought that she could threaten me by saying that I’d endanger my prospects for future full-time employment in China. Oh, is that a threat or a relief? Really, my dear, you MUST be more intimidating than that. Be sent away to England? Oh, dear, yes! Make it so! I defused the situation by stating that I am reluctant to promise more than I can deliver and would rather pleasantly surprise her by doing better than expected than promise her the Earth, the moon, the stars and a room full of gold half the size of Juncker’s ego. She accepted this.

Subsequently I have adjusted my teaching method. I now have a fixed vocabulary list in British English and Taiwanese Mandarin and am working on introducing grammar points in Taiwanese Mandarin and simply showing examples. I have also started incorporating more music – at least half it Taiwanese – into lessons to lighten up the mood. The initial results have been promising.

Other than that, there isn’t really much to say other than that I’ve arranged most details for my next holiday. There is simply no way that I can stand weeks of tedium, firecrackers and the Chinese being louder than they already are. Yes, it is possible and I had to struggle valiantly to force hordes of Chinese to quiet down in the past. It involved gruesome techniques including, but not limited to, singing the greatest hits of Jennifer Lopez in a constipated chipmunk voice. For the main two weeks of festivities I will fly to Japan – quiet, reserved, polite, clean, highly-organised and eminently civilised Japan. Osaka, Okayama, Matsuyama, Kanazawa, and Tokyo will be the main cities visited. After just over two weeks in Japan I will fly to Kaohsiung and spend some time there as well as in Taitung, on the eastern coast of Taiwan.

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Categories: General
  1. September 25, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Let it all hang (geddit?) out, Christpher. I love the understated title. 😃

  2. September 25, 2015 at 9:38 am

    Janus: I was provoked past the point of giving the most half-hearted of tosses! My students are my “pflicht”, the assistants I can take or leave, depending on who it is and the administration can fall under the tyres of a lorry. I am focusing on doing the best job I can.

  3. Boadicea
    October 1, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Oh dear Christopher – you do not sound one bit happy! I get the feeling that you do not like China one bit! Whereas, I loved it and have absolutely no wish to visit Japan -ever!

    I’m not a teacher of young children – but I suspect that you are finding that the very young are so painfully honest it is hard not to like them – even if one has to struggle to communicate with them!

  4. October 1, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    As a businessman I found both China and Japan very challenging. The Chinese demand everything, the Japanese nothing – two contrasting paths to the prize.

  5. October 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    Boadicea: I know the Chinese very well, I know the Japanese very well. There are things about China that I do like and appreciate. For example, the Chinese are often very friendly and curious people and so long as one is sensible and courteous to them many will go out of their way to be helpful. There is also very little violent crime in China. Every evening I take a five-mile walk which for about a mile goes through one of Huzhou’s poorest neighbourhoods. It’s isolated, miles from the nearest shops and schools. Yet no one ever made me feel threatened or unwelcome. At most I was initially a curiosity for them. Many of my students are also very sweet. Earlier this week two tried to get me to come in and teach a class instead of their regular scheduled lessons — they prefer me over their Chinese teachers! They are honest, generally, and we are developing a mutual appreciation for each other.

    At the same time, China is a sleazy, corrupt, manipulative and culturally bankrupt country. There is a distinct lack of empathy on the part of many people — Mao beat that out of them during the Cultural Revolution. No one could show humanity or mercy, they had to be brutal and cold to survive. Their children grew up to be just as cold an uncaring. You can find good people in China, some very good people in fact.The problem is that most will not be very good people and deceptions are a way of life.

    I’ve found the Japanese to be the opposite. They are often far more reserved and shy, but they’re better people in my opinion. People often mistake particular Japanese tourists seeking escape abroad and acting poorly with how the Japanese are in Japan — which couldn’t be further from the truth! In Japan they generally sensitive, polite and considerate. In fact, the Japanese are nearly universally trustworthy. Standards of behaviour in Japan are extremely high and it is rare to find Japanese who make a living off taking advantage of people. I refuse to travel alone in China because I know that the chances are that I will be scammed, that I will be hounded and harangued. I insist on being with trusted Chinese. In Japan, this isn’t a problem. The Japanese won’t scam me and the majority of scams that take place in Japan — and there aren’t many — are tied to Nigerians and Chinese!

    One consequence of Japan having nearly impossibly high standards of behaviour is that when Japanese go abroad they, like Swedes, cut loose a bit too freely at times. They can also at times lack self-awareness as they can be utterly self-absorbed. Once in Hong Kong, for example, I tried to get past a group of Japanese tourists on the tram. Despite excusing myself several times, in Japanese of all languages, they simply wouldn’t budge. I had no choice but to plough through them. It is clear, though, that if I had to choose one or the other I’d without a second thought choose the Japanese.

    Have you ever gone to Taiwan, by the way? If you want to see Chinese culture go there. They don’t have the monumental architecture that they do on the mainland but the people are far more honest, they have most of China’s artistic treasures and the scenery outside of the crowded Western Plains is no less spectacular than in China. Best of all, visa-free!

    Janus: very true. The Chinese know that the way to get an upper hand with Westerners is to overwhelm them with demands and to barrage them incessantly. They might not get everything they want, but they seek to exhaust opposition and allow one a few face-saving concessions.The Japanese have far too much tact for that. Their lack of response and their quiet consideration of all points causes many Westerns to panic and concede too much, too quickly.

  6. Boadicea
    October 2, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I spent three weeks in China – most of it fairly well supervised because I wanted to see things like the Great Wall, etc. However, it was a very relaxed tour with nothing starting before 9.30 am… so, being an early riser, I explored the various cities from 6.00 am. I also found some of the poorer places – and felt totally safe. But what amazed me were the number of Chinese who greeted me as I wandered around – and seemed genuinely pleased that I managed a short greeting in Mandarin in return! Mind you that was all I could manage!

    I haven’t been to Japan, and I must own to being reluctant to do so – for the simple reason that it has never owned to the atrocities of the WW2. While I don’t hold the present generation responsible for that – I have a problem with a country that refuses to acknowledge the darker sides of its history. And, yes! I have suffered the appalling manners of Japanese tourists here in Oz – unbelievable!

    Funny you should ask about Taiwan. Last year I decided that since my daughters were travelling Premium Economy – it was about time that I stopped travelling cattle class to the UK. As good as Singapore Airlines is, I really have come to the end of my patience with screaming children. So I investigated other airlines and found Eva Air – which as you probably know is Taiwanese. I’ve done the journey three times – and hope to have a stopover next time I go – I shall be picking your brains when I do!

  7. October 2, 2015 at 11:19 am

    Eva Air? I don’t know them from Adam. 😰

  8. October 2, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Boadicea: the Chinese, especially in the provinces, are often curious about foreigners. People often stare at me and follow me around. People also ask for my autograph. Once I was even asked to pose in a photograph with a complete stranger. Nothing malicious, merely good-natured curiosity. The Chinese are very, very proud people and are very proud of the country, its good and its bad, and are eager to give foreign visitors a good impression — hence the effort to greet you.

    One thing that often annoys me is that the Japanese are accused of not having apologised or refusing to take responsibility for the Second World War. The Japanese have apologised repeatedly and have taken serious efforts at compensating countries indirectly. For example, when Japan and South Korea re-established relations in the 1960s Japan paid a large amount of money in damages and provided a great deal of developmental aid. When Japan and the PR China established relations in the 1970s part of the agreement was that Japan would share expertise and provide direct assistance in developing China’s economy. Japan has done this as promised and has done more than any country to help China pick up the pieces post-Mao. The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Singapore all suffered from Japan’s war policies but they have good relations with Japan. Japan is also a generally popular country in all these states. The Chinese and Koreans prefer to drag up the war and blame Japan to distract from their own failures. There are tremendous idiots in Japan who give the Chinese and Koreans ample ammunition which doesn’t help.

    I wouldn’t be too hard on Japanese tourists, though! I’ve seen masterpieces from China, the USA, Russia, the UK and Australia! The Australian Foreign Ministry is considering levying fines on Australian tourists abroad for frivolous assistance claims. Hundreds of times each year Australians go to the Australian Embassy in Bangkok seeking emergency loans to pay for prostitutes’ services — after the fact!

    When you go again please let me know. I’d be happy to give advice. Are screaming children that bad a problem on Singapore Airlines? I will probably fly with them next year from Sydney to Singapore before changing to Lufthansa on the way back to Hunland.

  9. October 2, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    Japan, wonderful. Thailand wonderful. Hong Kong great. Taiwan OK. South Korea, you can keep. Singapore, you can keep. I won’t mention Awestruck and Failure or New Zzzzzzzzzzzzzland.

    I have spoken!

  10. October 2, 2015 at 3:33 pm

    Sipu: Japan is wonderful, I agree. Thailand has been ruined by millions of bogan tourists. The food is excellent, though. Taiwan is beautiful — especially away from Taipei. South Korea has made a lot of progress and is a lovely country so long as Ps and Qs are minded. Singapore is the only part of South-East Asia that interests me. The other two are quite lovely — am looking forward to going back after my year in China ends.

  11. October 2, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    I’m 20-odd years out of date but I found S Korea primitive, ditto Oz; Singapore like a duty-free lounge.

  12. October 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Janus: South Korea has a very uneven rate of development. Seoul is as modern as Tokyo or Vancouver but even in the suburbs it can get a bit shonky. The countryside can be very rustic and not in the pleasant West Country sort of way! It’s moved ahead 70 years in 20, though.

  13. October 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm

    But tea at Raffles was acceptable…. ☕️

  14. October 2, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Janus: I will insist on taking tea at Raffles in Singapore!

  15. October 2, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    Remember: the tea cup shall be lifted with thumb and forefinger, the pinky aloft. ☕️

  16. Boadicea
    October 3, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Christopher – I’m thinking of the ‘history book rewriting’ which seemed to be confirmed by external authorities.

    I’m not that hard on Japanese tourists – I’ve had problems with a number of other nationalities. My daughter and I were travelling on the London Underground some years ago and kept a great huge distance between ourselves and a bunch of exceedingly loud-mouthed Ozzies! There have been one or two articles here about the frivolous requests our Embassies receive!

    All airlines seem to suffer from badly-behaved children. I don’t suppose Singapore is any worse than another. I can’t wear ear-plugs and I object to having to so that the air-crew do not ‘offend’ the parents by telling them to keep their children under control. A few hours I can just about manage – but being trapped in a cabin for 13 hours after / before travelling a further 9 hours is a bit more than I want to cope with anymore. I’m afraid I’m one of those dreadful people who remind parents with children skidding around the supermarket with their teeny-tiny trolleys that supermarkets are NOT playgrounds…

    Janus
    Eva Air is the Taiwanese air-line. I got an excellent deal to travel business class – way cheaper than Singapore airlines – and very good service!

    Tea at Raffles? Singapore sling more like it!

  17. October 3, 2015 at 2:42 am

    Boadicea: textbooks in Japan vary by prefecture. Some prefectures have airbrushed Japan’s war history, others not. As I said, there are some right eejits in Japan who aren’t helping their case. Japan is in some ways like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde — two halves, not always a comfortable whole. A fundamental part of Japan’s historical self-image was the fact that it was never conquered by anyone, that it never had to submit. China was conquered and ruled by two alien dynasties — the Yuan and Qing which made the Japanese from Tokugawa Ieyasu on look at it with a degree of contempt at best–while borrowing much from it culturally at the same time! They also had a degree of contempt for Korea as the Koreans derived their legitimacy from their relationship with China. Later on Japan developed a highly chauvinistic attitude as it was the only Asian country to develop and modernise as an independent state. There was a very nasty minority that the government failed to crush when it could have. Later on, especially after the Americans buggered up yet again by isolating Japan with their breaking up of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, the moderate majority grew increasingly discredited as the nasty minority started to dominate the country’s politics. No different than Hitler, once they had power they crushed all opposition. They actually believed that they were “liberating” Asia! Today, some of that is returning. They argue that Japan’s misdeeds were on the balance far less significant than the fact that Japan did ultimately break the ability of the West to hold much of Asia in a colonial relationship. I don’t agree with them and most Japanese are not keen on this view, but they are once again growing very influential.

    I’ve found the worst flights are those with the bulk of passengers headed to India. They have no concept of not treating aeroplanes as gigantic flying bins and they see nothing wrong with their little darlings running around, crawling over people and otherwise being hideous nuisances. Our attitudes are much the same! One must have standards!

  18. christinaosborne
    October 3, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Very interesting read. I have never been to the far east,don’t want to and wouldn’t go if you paid me.
    Everything you all write confirms my opinion that there is no place like home!
    Interestingly I have become increasingly disgusted with GB this trip. The ludicrous gouging costs of everything. The litter, rude aggresive driving, grim food, rampant immorality, the Nazi schools and social services.
    I can’t wait to get home to the Pacific NW.
    Wales is marginally more tolerable because it is behind the times and thank God for that.
    I don’t think I intend to return, can’t quite decide if it is me or them that has changed,both I suspect on a diverging course.

    One of the things that really stumps me is that people are prepared to eat the filth that Aldi’s purport to sell as food! Pig swill! Marks and Sparks is not much better either!!! It is all stale, low quality pap.
    When I think of fresh Pacific oysters for 50 cents each and fresh wild salmon for $4.99 per lb and good beef for half the price of here I know live in a very good corner of the world. We have no tourists, deliberately, there are no hotels for them near Mt Baker it is designated wilderness for thousands of square miles,bloody wonderful. All the wogs and queers are in Seattle,we ought to mine the County borders!

  19. October 3, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    CC, it sounds as if you’ve found your Eden. How’s the new house working out?

  20. October 3, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Sorry – I meant C O !

  21. Boadicea
    October 3, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Christopher – We may have to agree to disagree on this! I am well aware that my empathy for China is based on an emotional response to a book I read when I was about six years old – and a number of other books I read thereafter, and that my antipathy to Japan may have been exacerbated by misleading reporting in what I have read.

    But, I really fail to see how the Japanese can convince themselves that they were ‘liberating ‘ Asia’ when one looks at the numbers of Asians who died in the most appalling fashion at their hands. By all accounts Asians were treated worse than European PoWs. My step-father was held by the Japanese – I didn’t really understand what he went through until I lived in Canberra and visited the War Memorial there. What I learnt didn’t make me like him any better – but at least I understood what he had suffered. Some two years later, I returned to the Memorial and the exhibit had been changed to show the Japanese as ‘Brave Defenders of their Country’. Several of us, who queried the change, were told that we needed to rethink what happened because Japan was now our Trading Partner… Hypocrisy like that doesn’t sit too well with me.

  22. October 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    CO: the world has gone to the dogs. Germany is a dive now, too. It is disgusting but one must live with it I suppose. I tolerate such things because I have no other options at the moment. In fact, I might well stay another year in China — just to see what happens in Europe. I intend to return next summer to see how it is. I know that I will never be anything in the USA, that I have no real future and am reluctant to give up on life.

    Boadicea: our tastes and preferences are based on our unique experiences. I respect that yours are as valid as mine. I do not dislike the Chinese in the least. They have many good sides and I have some really good Chinese friends who are delightful people.

    The Japanese wanted to lead Asia. In fact, they believed that it was their right to lead Asia. They attempted to build the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere”. Their aim was to make Japan the head, China the hands — the industrial centre due to their large size and use South-East Asia for its resources. They despised the Chinese because the Chinese would not surrender. They were too proud, to tenacious.Thus, since the Chinese obviously didn’t understand what was best for them they decided to break China’s will — or at least try to. The brutality in China was explicitly designed to shatter Chinese resistance. At this point Japan was ruled by a clique of fanatics who believed that this was their divine mission and that they were the agents of retribution against the West — the hypocritical Europeans and the decadent Americans. The Japanese population knew nothing else, they heart nothing else. The vast majority of Japanese at that time only had a basic education and were monolingual. That Japan is an island country which at that time was safely protected by a vast ocean and Japanese control over neighbouring territories made it impossible to get alternate viewpoints into the country. They truly believed that their country was fighting the good fight. They only heard what happened after the war ended.

    I am against politicising or white-washing history. I am also not a theoretic historian. Something happened or it didn’t happen. We can to an extent disagree about certain details and how to interpret events, but we should not expunge or re-write things to suit trends. I dislike anti-Japanese propaganda in Korea and China, but I have just as little use for Japanese who try to make an inconvenient past disappear. A pox on both their houses!

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