The Bar Behind the Wall has excellent music when they’re not playing Xmas carols. Two guys playing classical guitar on Tuesday nights. Holly and I showed up around 8pm on a gorgeous evening. After the cold requiring four layers to not die, I was strolling around with three layers, open. At night. With no sun to warm me. Heavenly. We’d eaten that night’s meal ay Skyways Bakery where you fill in checkboxes on a form to determine the kind of sandwich (and drink) you want. They have loaves of bread which are, all told, kind of expensive but it’s delicious and soft and doesn’t really matter. In and out comes a parade of Western faces and Chinese. Probably half and half. It’s right near Nanjing Normal University, so there are a lot of students. That’s one of the differences that shows how Nanjing is bigger than Wanzhou: there’s no way any of my old students could afford a 20RMB sandwich.
Part of me being here has been to give Holly an excuse to go to Western food places. “When you go by yourself it’s just sort of depressing” is what she said when I got here. On the patio the other night she got a bit more into why. “It just highlights the fact that I have no foreign friends.” Oh irony, wasn’t I just lamenting how I had no Chinese friends when I lived in this country? Yes. Yes I was.
While we were drinking sangria she saw some of the people she knew. Mickey came over and talked to us. He’s skinny with a curly mop of hair (sort of Chris Evans-ish but more washed out). He asked how she was doing and talked about all his jobs, including one for LG and the one that gives him an apartment. “Soon I’ll be able to do what all English teachers dream of doing: stop teaching English!” He told us we were welcome to join their large table, and promised he associated with relatively cool people. We wouldn’t be disappointed.
His girlfriend Marike wasn’t there yet, stuck in Chinese class. She used to have a really crappy gig, working full time as an intern and getting paid less than Holly who did 7.5 hours/week. Now not so much. We did not end up going to sit with them though since… well I’m not sure. I know why I didn’t leap at the chance but that has more to do with my nature as an antisocial recluse who has trouble meeting new people. Holly revealed her self-esteem issues on this and unsurprisingly, they related to her role as an MCCer. And I agree there is something off-putting about introducing yourself as a volunteer. Church-based. That’s not normal for this country where people have come to seek/make their fortune or possibly just drink a lot.
I don’t think I ever introduced myself as an MCCer when I was a teacher. “I teach up at the college” was my standard what-do-you-do answer. I guess some of the people in Wanzhou knew. Yeah I had conversations with English Rob about my salary and how it didn’t really matter what kind of hours I was working. And there was Margie who was very firmly precedent-setting and I could always set myself off against her. But that’s different than Holly working in her office which invites more “How’d you land that?” kind of questioning.
Part of wanting to get out of MCC is the quest for the magic bullet answer to these questions. The “What are you doing here?” The “Why China?” If you had a purpose a reason, life would be so much easier and filled with meaning wouldn’t it? Just always looking for a million dollars or a perfect jacket; is it only me who goes through life this way? A little Dan Bern for you there.
Yeah, this’ll get edited way the hell down.