T-Minus Two Weeks
China Christmas came and went. Uneventful as I imagined it would be. I taught two business classes in the morning and then spent most of the afternoon moping around feeling sorry for myself. Christmas hit me hard this year, much more so than last year. I found myself really missing the kids. You parents out there will understand. I swear, even as I write this I can smell my daughter’s hair. I can feel the back of my son’s head in the palm of my right hand. I never would have imagined I could go 16 months without seeing them, and of course it’s gonna’ be even longer before it’s all said and done. They are not babies anymore, and I am certain they aren’t missing the old man like he misses them. It’s normal, teenagers have their own agenda, I know I certainly did. Of course we communicate, but email and phone calls half way around the world can only take one so far. Regardless, my New Year’s resolution is to spend at least one month with them here in China this year and maybe throw in a trip back to the US as well. Late in the afternoon I did manage to drag my sorry butt off the couch and outside to find some food. I grabbed my ping pong paddle on the way out the door and stopped at the tables in front of the library. I began to rehabilitate myself by taking out some of my aggression on a scrawny 18 year old girl who couldn’t have weighed more than about 80 pounds. She’ll be carrying some welts on her chest for a while yet. I worked through an array of students, one by one, until they limped off bloodied and sniffling. Satisfied with my domination, I strutted away in search of Christmas dinner.
I made my way to the front gate, and hung a right past the security guards, leaving them disappointed that I didn’t return their warm greeting as I usually do. I remember thinking, “Bah humbug. I am not in the mood for entertaining just now boys.” I got to the restaurant, put my paddle down on the table and eyed the menu.
By all rights I should have the menu memorized by now, I eat at the same place nearly every day. I eat there mostly because my colleague Ken has translated the menu into English. We call the place The Yellow Restaurant, not sure why. There is a yellow sign on the back wall and the aforementioned menu is yellow. I ordered the potatoes and pork with green pepper and a little sweet and sour chicken, to go. While I was waiting, I met this youngster and his grandmother out front in the late day sun. I thought great, (I love kids) just the thing to brighten me up! I began to talk to the boy, took this photo and he promptly began to wail. Loudly. Like, “What the hell? Somebody call the police!” loud.
As the locals were all looking to see who had taken the kids toy, I shrank back toward the restaurant, smiling and apologizing to granny as I did. These two were quite amused by it all. The boy is a cook/waiter and the woman does a bit of everything else there at The Yellow Restaurant. They like me, even though my Chinese is crap and I am always asking for something to be made special. The place is no gourmet dining experience but I have only gotten sick from eating there the once. Seriously, that’s a good ratio.
The food was soon up, styrofoamed and plastic-bagged for my trek back across campus. As I turned down the street to my apartment I saw some guys hard at work tearing down a long barracks-type building. The men have been building a new gymnasium for months now and it is near completion. They had been living in the building they were demolishing. I wanted to take some photos but had my food and a bag of other stuff as well as the camera and ping pong paddle. I managed one shot of this dump truck before deciding to come back a little later and take some photos of the demolition process.
I returned an hour later and the truck, the men and the building … were gone. They had completely demolished the building in about three hours time. They tore the entire thing down … by hand. Everything here is labor intensive. There are many more bodies than jobs, so there is no real need for things like backhoes and excavators at a rural site like this. They loaded this truck with the wooden beams from the roof to be used again somewhere. Wood is a rare commodity.
T-minus two weeks and I’ll begin my five-week holiday. I have decided not to travel but rather stay here in Liuzhou. I desperately need a new computer, so I am partnering with Lily to teach students at my home during the break. She swears I can make three times my normal monthly salary just by teaching 20 kids three times a week for a month. In classic Chinese parlance, “maybe”. I’ll believe it when I see the cash.
I am getting close to being able to announce some plans for the Shatang rural school children. Some details to work out yet but progress is being made. EVERYTHING in China seems to take longer than you think it should. I am getting used to that now and learning who to bribe and how to play the game the proper channels to go through. That is just a joke. Everything here is on the up and up. Seriously. Nothing to see here, move along now.