Have Money Will Travel
Dear Dean Rusk,
Thanks for the grant to come to China, I love China so much that I need to see more than my budget has stipulated, but don’t worry, I have a plan.
Yesterday marked my first step into entering the freelance world of english lessons. Last week, I posted an ad in city weekend offering private tutoring in english to finance my stifled shopping bug as well as a trip to huangshan. I also thought that tutoring english in China would be a new and exciting experience to add to my summer. With nothing to lose, I have been waiting the last week for someone to respond. and last weekend, I had a taker. I expected to be teaching normal english. I figured I would be teaching them simple phrases, conversations, and have them read articles and explain them to me. This is what normal english tutors do in China. I should not have been surprised when a banker who is moving from a chinese bank to JP morgan emailed me asking him to work on his debate and presentation skills for an american audience. for meeting at his office a half hour twice a week….I will be paid twice what a normal english tutor is paid. I also have to give him paper topics and have him write papers for me that I need to edit during the week. And practice conversing with an american. Chinese find that americans are impolite, overly direct, and abrasive, especially conducting business. The man that I am tutoring has a friend that also just moved to JP morgan, and he has had an especially hard time adjusting to the american way of conducting business.
well congratulations new english student, you just met your outspoken conservative american history major teacher who knows more than a thing or two about defending a position in the face of an intimidating davidson professor or better yet a good ole Francis Parker Liberal. I’ll tip my hat to Model UN, Mr. Kaplan, and Dr. Berkey for prepping me for this unexpected teaching opportunity in China.
One great thing about having this blog, is that I know everyday, I am going to have to write something new and interesting about my experience. It really pushes me to become more aware of my surroundings, live in the moment, and embrace spontaneity….like a taking a motorcycle taxi. I was heading to the subway after work yesterday on my way to meet my new student on the bund. He had a business meeting there, and suggested we meet at his favorite place to see the lights so he could read one of my history papers and meet me in person before we started lessons. This was all well and good, but I don’t exactly live close to the bund. I’m sure those that know me would not be surprised to hear that I was running on “Gen time”, meaning about five minutes late. Then, out of nowhere, a man on a scooter pulled up next to me and said. “hello laowai need a ride?” My impulse was to just gasp out “bu yao xie” as I continued my jog to the subway, but coincidentally my friend had told me about the motorcycle taxis only a day before. For a much cheaper price than a cab, you can take a motorcycle taxi. Lao Wai usually take the safe route with normal taxis or the subway, and leave the slightly more reckless motorcycle option to the locals. I noticed that this particular motorcyclist had a yellow license plate and a helmet, two signals that he was a motorcycle taxi. Already running late and in the mood to strike a deal, I took the man up on his offer. his top price…40 kuai. Of course there is no way I was going to pay that, and so the haggling began. My price was down to 25 kuai and I had tried everything: flattery, pronouncing my love for Shanghai, and protesting that I had no money…the man wouldn’t budge. Just as he was starting to get mad and about to drive away, I shouted “xifu…wo shi meiguo ren ke shi wo bu xi huan obama!” (translation: I might be an american but I don’t like obama!” The driver just looked at me and started cracking up and signaled me to hop on and agreed to my price. Was it a risk to use politics in order to get a ride on a chinese motorcycle? Probably, but desperation got the better of me, and wow, it was worth it! Xifu knew how to whiz through traffic! For the first minute, I was terrifed for my life. I was trying to think about how long it would take for my family to find out that I had died on a motorcycle with a local chinese man and whether they would find that slightly confusing, but as soon as I relaxed and began to appreciate the experience, it was incredibly fun. In fact, towards the end, I started to get a little competitive about speeding through lights and beating other motorcycles. Xifu got a kick out of that. All in all, I got home in ten minutes, and had a thrilling foreign experience during a casual afternoon rush hour.
This Laowai is officially a convert to the motorcycle taxi. And freelance tutoring. Just another day in China.