Busy Time Off Work

3-18-2014
I had a very busy and interesting 4 days off work. I went to visit some friends in Xinpu. The first friend I visited is my Chinese friend Jack. He is in a new job. He really does not like it. He is a translator and salesman for a rubber pellets manufacturing company. The pellets are used to make rubber flooring like gyms and tracks have. His real passion is teaching. He love kids and wants to be a teacher. But, he does not want to go through the process of getting a degree. He already has a degree in chemical plastics. But, he really does not like this industry. So, we had dinner and talked about his life plans. He was basically using me as a sound board.

The next day, I had lunch with some of the boys from my summer camp. I have told you about Mark. He is the high school student that went to the USA to study. He came back for Spring Break. He loves America, except for the food. He says he has lost weight in the USA. But, he is bulking up as he began exercising in the gym there. It was great to meet with him and talk with him. He has a very bright future ahead of him.

I played in a billiards tournament another day. It was free to enter. You just pay for the table if you lose. I did not join for the trophy or the title. I joined to meet new people and hopefully find some English speakers. Sadly, I did not meet anyone to speak English with. I invited some of my friends to play. No one showed. So, it was very boring and tiring for me. I beat my first opponent. He was last month’s champion. He ran the table on me once. But, that was really all he had. The sad commentary about this was after the game. I went to shake his hand and told him it was a good match. His response to me was, “You played well. But, I just made too many mistakes”. Typical Chinese response. Always trying to save face. Unbelievable. So, after that exchange, the lack of English speakers, and having already shown my pool skills to the crowd, I deliberately lost the next match. I did not want to spend all day there with no one to talk to or finding new friends.

I wrote earlier about my bad experience with my gym membership. I joined the gym, mainly for the computerized golf simulator they had. Three times I went and the simulator was broken or not available. So, I quit going. I was told that I could give my VIP membership to someone else. They just had to pay 200 RMB for the transfer. My friend and co-teacher Keith wanted my membership. So, his wife, Keith and I went to the gym near his home. The manager there gave us a hard time. But, this is what I expected. I have studied Chinese business culture and traditions. So, I knew exactly what to expect. First, a Chinese person will take your money easily. But, giving it back is a whole different story. And, they always want more and more from you. Thankfully, I was prepared for all of his crap he was giving us. He told me that I did not have a VIP membership. I argued hard with him on this point. I knew that I have to take his authority away from him and to make him lose face before he would succumb to what I wanted. And, I did just that. I first made a loud, angry scene in the gym. That was actually kind of fun for me. I then insisted that he call the gym I was using and ask them to verify my VIP status. He tried everything to not call, but, I would not relent. He kept saying that he was the manager. I told him he was an idiot if he actually thought that he knew everything about all the locations. He finally called the gym. Thankfully, Keith’s wife is Chinese. So, he could not lie on the phone to the other location. They confirmed my status. The next ploy he tried to use was to get me to go back to my gym and reuse my membership. He said that all the issues were resolved. I refused this offer flat out. He was only wanting to try to gain a full membership from my friend. When that did not work for him, he tried to say that they would do the transfer, but Keith would have to use the one I signed up at. Again, I was not going to let him get away with this. My location is on the other side of town for Keith, this one is much closer to Keith’s home. This took some fighting to win. The key for me was that I noticed that he kept looking at his watch as if he was expecting someone to come soon or he had to go someplace. I only had to wait him out to change his mind. If my latest attempt to change his mind, perhaps the fact that I mentioned that I have a government friend who can find a lawyer to talk to his superiors finally changed his mind. Regardless, after 30 minutes of foolishness, he finally accepted to the 200 RMB transfer of the membership to Keith to use the gym at that location. Funny how he kept saying that the transfer to that gym was IMPOSSIBLE. He was only trying to get another membership from Keith. But, in the end, I wore him down, made him lose his authority over us, had him lose face in front of his peers and workers, and won the battle. I was so proud of myself. I was able to take the things I have learned here in China and use it to against them. It was a great feeling. I think Keith and his wife were a bit embarrassed by my actions. She translated, he sat quietly, and I negotiated. What was awesome for me was that I understood few words he was saying. But, I knew exactly what he was saying every step of the way. I knew his intentions. So, many times I was arguing with him in English and he was arguing with me in Chinese. And, I understood more what he was saying than he did of me.

My mother’s birthday was two days ago. Happy Birthday mom!!!! And, in two days is my one year anniversary in China. Hard to believe I have been here a year.

Today, I went to get an eye exam. My teaching assistant came with me. I am so glad she did. I am getting glasses. I need bifocals. My eyes have gotten so bad that I have done that eye squint thing and had to hold things away from my eyes to try to read small print. I feel old now… Ha Ha.

I am still trying to develop a trip this summer to Inner Mongolia or Mongolia. I am not sure if the cost will be acceptable. If the trip falls through, I will look at some other options. I travel much here in China. But, last summer was my big vacation. I have more tie available to me to travel longer distances. This year will be no different. And, if this trip happens to the Mongolia region, it will be a wonderful trip. The Mongolian culture is so much different than anything I have experienced yet. My goal is to stay with a Mongolian family in their camp. They are Nomads, traveling the grasslands with their flocks. I want to experience their life and culture. I do not want to do the tourist thing of visiting museums and dead people’s burial sites. I am hoping I can make it affordable for myself and my traveling friend. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Finally, my renters are planning on moving. They just had a baby and cannot afford the rent with the addition of child care they need. So, they will be moving to something cheaper. I have decided to sign my home back over to the bank when they move. I cannot sell it since I still owe more than the house is worth on the real estate market. And, I do not see myself moving and working back in the Nashville area. Unless, of course, God decides that is where He wants me. Once I give up my home, it will be one less burden on my plate. I will pay off my student loan within the next couple of months. I will pay off my credit card by the end of the year. I will then be debt free. I can then begin to rebuild a retirement account that I used to live on when I was unemployed. I have about 15 to 20 years to make that happen. Wow…I am getting old. Boo Hoo!

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