We had a meeting in Guixi today. Headmasters from schools within the region and those affiliated with AIEP/UEI were in attendance. And, all the foreign teachers from the area were invited. I suspected I knew why we were invited to begin with. I have been to enough meetings to know that we were marketing tools to show to Chinese authorities and others. Why do I say such a thing? Well, when we arrived at the hotel, the information packet they gave to us had all Chinese materials. Everything was in Chinese writing. Apparently, we were not important enough to have translated materials. And, today, during the meeting, we were asked to sit in a three hour meeting with most of it spoken in Chinese without translation. Actually, few of the foreign teachers wanted to be at this meeting. They are done during our weekends and those days are days we use to prepare our next week lessons and recharge our batteries. And, like me, many have been through these meetings before and know that very little comes from it. It is mostly for show and tell. Although, I think we all will admit that we like to get together and see each other once in a while.
Luckily for me, I positioned myself at the back of the meeting hall. I quickly realized that the meeting was going to be in Chinese without much English being used. I finished one lesson plan and an English Corner lesson plan. I then noticed that the back door was unlocked. I quietly removed myself from the meeting. I went outside to enjoy the day and play with some of the school kids, as the meeting was being held at one of our schools. We had a week’s worth of cold and rain and today was sunny and warm. So, it was good to get out and enjoy the day. The kids were great too. They eagerly came up to me and began trying to talk to me in English. Their skill levels are so much higher than our kids. They were asking me to sign their school books, take pictures with me and just spend time asking me questions. Even a few teachers got into the act. It was great fun. The picture above is of a boy on a motorcycle parked outside. I just had to take his picture. So cute.
After the meeting let out, everyone made their way to the buses. We were transported to the lunch restaurant. What a spread they had for us! The food just kept coming. I think there were no less than 20 entrees sitting in front of us. Here in China, with this type of meal, all the food is on a plate located on a giant “lazy susan” wheel. You just pick what you want to eat from the plates and eat it. Occasionally, when needed, you put some of it in a bowl or small plate provided. But, usually, everyone just digs in. It is actually fun.
After lunch, we all went back to the meeting room. I forget to say that the room was on the 5th floor of the building. No elevator. Just stairs. So, we get there and after a brief announcement, we break up into groups. Headmasters of schools had their own meeting. Foreign teachers and teaching assistants in another. We were sitting around in an open forum style manner talking about relationships between teachers and teacher assistants, classroom management, and programming. Many of us dislike using the book we have. And, we began discussing alternatives for it.
Anyone who has read my blogs know that I am usually very honest and open about my experiences here in China. I tell the good, the bad and the ugly. Well, this is one of the ugly parts. And, I have to admit, as open, honest and frank as I am with my opinions, I know I can come off being rude, obnoxious, and a complete asshole. But, that is who I am. I figure that I would rather you know where I stand on issues than play the PC game all the time. I do not back stab people. I tell it how I feel. I have long given up on trying to be everyone’s friend and conform to their wills and desires. And, especially since I have come to China, I have realized that I really have a hard time accepting many foreigners and their viewpoints. That is not to say that I can’t and won’t be friendly to them. But, when they constantly make comments that goes against my life beliefs, or they have a perspective that their shit does not stink any worse than any others, I have a problem with that. I think the vast majority of foreigners are left leaning, liberal minded folks. And that is fine. But, when they say things without thinking about who they might be talking to, then there are problems. I am a moderate, independent that leans slightly right. And, it seems the vast majority of us here feel we are experts in whatever we are doing here and that everyone else should follow in step with our opinions. I know I am guilty of this sometimes. And, the problem with that is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen that spoil the broth.
With all that said, I had a confrontation with one of the teachers during an open forum. I do like this person. But, I have often found that I have to agree to disagree with many things they say and believe in. Sometimes I just keep quiet and let them speak their peace. Other times I will just speak my case and ask that we agree to disagree. I really don’t need to go into too many details. The point is not to beat the dead horse. Needless to say, I pissed them off. I do not apologize for what I said. Many of the others in attendance seemed to agree with my analysis of the situation. But, I could have been better in handling the situation in HOW I said things. Part of me wants to use this blog to vent my feelings in what had happened. But, I think I am better off trying to evaluate the situation and accept that although I feel I was 100% justified in what I said and that this person has many faults too, I need to focus on my faults more so.
The main problem is that we expats come from all different parts of the world, from different backgrounds, different cultures, different social lives. When we lived back home, our friends were people who often shared our core beliefs and understood our dynamics as a person. They accepted us and we formed our inner circles. Here in China, that is much harder to do since there are fewer choices to make. We are social animals that want to be with others like us. Not necessarily the same as us. But, we seldom get with apples and oranges. Think of it this way, we all are from the same family of white, western English speakers. But, we are seldom of the same breeds. Some may be a dog, while others are cats. They just tend to fight with each other, as much as you want to be friends with such a small pool of choices to make. And, often, many of us are alphas in personality. Too many alphas in a pack is a dangerous mix. Expats are unique individuals. We are wired differently than some people. We have to be really. Who, in their regular life, chooses to pick up from their normal life, moves across the world, and starts a new life? Most people would prefer to stay in their comfort zones and live out their daily life with few bumps in the road. As an expat, I think we cherish the challenge of the bumps in the road and test our abilities outside of that comfort zone we got familiar with back home. And, that is where conflict among expats comes from…in my rude, obnoxious, asshole perspective.