Penny Lane

I’ve done a lot of ranting, but it hardly gives an impression of how things go day to day.   I have the feeling everyone thinks my life is a blasphemous pit of nightmare unmentionable terrors from North Dakota.  Well, it’s not.  So stop spreading those rumors Alwyn!

As I’ve said before, I’m camping out on tenth floor of my building.  It is one of two large apartment-like buildings for the second and third year female students.  Aside from the other male teacher, Michael, his son, Joey, and myself, there are no men in the building.  The male students get four separate buildings nearby which have no female students.  In my building, all the students know where I live.  When I get in the elevator, they all push the button for my floor.  I’ve had three female students, probably first years, try to come and visit.  I turn them away because they are alone and I’m not allowed to be in the same room with them for obvious reasons.  It wouldn’t be a surprise if one of these days I find a pile of wireless mini microphones stashed in my plants and the couch.  I’d just screw with them after that, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all.

On the floor above me are the three other foreign teachers: Jana, Susan, and Michael.  Jana is a psuedo-vegetarian health nut from Portland with a strong desire to dance whenever possible.  Susan has been a foreign teacher for over 35 years and seems to have very little patriotism.  She raised both her children in the third world, from India to Japan, and now she’s trying to settle down in Jiangmen.  Michael is a former graphics artist from New Jersey who also has done work as a sound guy for a band, at a club, and in a store, worked as a programmer, and now is completely fluent in spoken Mandarin and written complex Chinese and simple Chinese.  All of them are at least 20 years older than me.  I’m probably the youngest teacher in the city.

But down below,  a 2 minute walk away, is The Old Cantine.  Star Wars imagery aside, it’s a pretty big building.  You can get breakfast, lunch, dinner, and second dinner in it and the students all eat there.  I ‘ve been making food for myself, but it really is much cheaper to buy food like the students.  I call it the old cantine because there is in fact a new cantine.  The general impression is that the rice is worse, but the individual dishes are better, which I agree with.  It’s brand new, cleaner, colourful, and run by a different company.  But the rice really is bad.  Like they cooked it in a week old sock.  It’s also a 10 minute walk away, next to the Freshmen dorms, and Freshmen have a tendency to mob me whenever they see me eating.

But at the top of the old cantine is a little restaurant that has good rice and food and they now know me by face.  It’s run by a family from a different province and they cook all sorts of things.  But no tofu.  They don’t know my name, but whenever I go there they know I’m gonna point out what I want rather than write it down, and the old guy who dishes out the soup gives me a fresh bowl rather than one of the bowls that has been sitting there for a while.  It’s kinda nice.

Also 2 mins away is a small school store.  It sells all sorts of things for students like instant noodles, pop, tea drinks, junk food, school supplies, house supplies, and condoms.  The guy who runs it knows who I am and he waves at me whenever I come in.  On the topic of condoms, I had two male students ask me why they sell condoms at the store.  That was one VERY awkward conversation.  It was a lot like the class where I had to explain the word “sex” to them because no one had ever done so before.  Never. Doing. That. Again.


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