Walking around Zhengzhou, I got the impression that this was a great dirty bustling metropolis, towerblocks as far as the eye could see (which evidently wasn't very far). The streets where wide with glass colossuses tempting passers by into their expensive looking luxury stores. Next to the modern apartment buildings and shopping malls where excessively large building sites, the kind of which are unheard of in Europe or the "Developed" world. Next to which were the old, Maoist 7 storey blocks which still dominate China, slowly waiting to be demolished. After an hour of walking I bought some tasty looking street food through gestures. A big pot of fried noodles, as it turned out, far too much for me, I brought the leftovers back to my hotel with me.
|The Seemingly Endless Tower Blocks of Zhengzhou|
When Carol came to find me at my hotel, out of politeness, I offered her a banana.
"How did you get zose!" She Barked,
"I bought them", (Well I'm not going to steal them am I?) I thought to myself.
"But you a foreigner!" She Shouted, expecting some sort of apology from me.
"Sorry, I am not allowed bananas?"
"If you wanted food you should have asked me!"
"Why?", I couldn’t wait for her explanation.
"You a foreigner, you can get lost! You don't speak Chinese, Chinese people like trick foreigners, you are stupid!", she frantically explained.
"Oh dear, am I? What should I do then?", I said whilst rolling my eyes.
"You call me, you let me handle it! Where did you get zose bananas?"
I thought to myself, I managed to get from London to Zhengzhou and find you with no problems, in the process running the gauntlet across this sprawling chaotic city, and now I'm a foreign idiot too stupid to buy stuff, how did that happen?
|Very Weird Looking Manikins in the Kid's Clothing Section of Zhengzhou, Erqi, Walmart. The Supermarket in which I bought the fateful Bananas.|
"The Supermarket of Course!" I hastily replied.
"How you find supermarket!!?!?!?" She screamed in a fit of utter confusion.
Good Grief I thought to myself, does she seriously think that all foreigners are morons? "There's a big sign saying Walmart", It dosen't take a bloody rocket scientist does it?
"But you a foreigner!", She kindly reminded me.
"Yep", I sighed, growing weary of the conversation.
She continued to lecture me in her broken English on how foreigners are too stupid to operate in China, but being to exhausted to argue with her insulting ignorance, I drifted off into a daydream.
After Carol had tired of insulting me, she guided me to what would be my place of work for the next year, the New Dynamic Institute (or NDI for short), a very expensive English language training school at the heart of Zhengzhou. As it turned out, NDI was on the third floor of Da Shanghai, a gigantic modern shopping centre at the centre of Zhengzhou which I had mistaken for a stadium due to its gigantic dome. As we made our way through the school, I was astonished at how empty the place was. I was then lead upstairs to the staffroom where I was introduced to three of the other teachers, all sitting vacantly, twiddling their thumbs. One of the teachers I recognized as Alice, the woman who interviewed me 4 months prior ("Sorry, the official we used to bribe has moved to New York so we have to do your visa the slow way").
|The Centre of Zhengzhou, with the Mysterious Dome of Da Shanghai (The Grand Shanghai Shopping Mall) at the bottom of the picture.|
I said "Hello, pleased to meet you" (What else would you say?)
She replied "Hello Sam, You wery hansume!" while undressing me with her eyes.
I found it a little unnerving to be checked out by a rather plump, over made up, middle aged Chinese woman so I started talking to the other two. Their anglicized names were Helen, a quiet young lady who mainly kept to herself, and Nikki, a rather loud and brash young woman with an incredibly wide face, so much so it made her look rather like a rugby ball. They both seemed nice enough, they told me about the school, the city, the job and themselves, all the while, a still gobsmacked Carol was retelling the incredible story of how a foreigner bought Bananas in Supermarket to a now equally surprised Alice!
Alice Inturrupted my conversation with Helen and Nikki by saying,
"Oh Sam, you are wery clewer!"
"Am I?" I replied indifferently.
"You buy food by yourself!?"
"But you are in China now!", she confided in me, (Is that supposed to make a difference?)
"Apparently", I sneered in a fawltyesque manner.
"So if you need sing to tell me and we let you to do what, ok?"
Pardon, I thought to myself, but I thought it best just to nod in agreement. "OK!"
After Alice wandered off to bother some other poor soul, I asked Helen and Nikki what on Earth just happened, they told me to get used to Alice and Carol, they were always like that.
|Before going to China, make sure you're going to a nice city. Qingdao (Pictured) is a lot nicer than Zhengzhou!|
So that's my story, finding a job teaching English in China is easy. Native English speakers are like gold dust out there, Don't pay an agency to go to China, EVER, they should be paying you! Get a TEFL certificate to double your salary. Find a way to pass the time while you're waiting for your visa and for the love of Mao, don't expect to have a normal human relationship with your coworkers. To them, you are a foreigner, not a person, a commodity to be used, too stupid to look after yourself.
It makes me wonder how in the world I managed to survive 22 years, travelling to 23 countries without a superior, arrogant, insulting, shamelessly racist idiot like Alice or Carol telling me how to buy bananas in a supermarket. Thank god the Chinese aren’t all like this, but there certainly seems to be a lot of them!