china · teaching

Get Up, John!

“I think you are mistaken,” were the very words that came out of my mouth, dripping in condescension and annoyance.


I wake every morning at six, but that does not mean I leave the bed. I had been enjoying the cage I slept in (mosquito net) when my phone rang. Odd, considering the hour, though I was not quite sure which it was. I had woken at six, but that could have been hours ago. I was on vacation! Why get up before the sun has reached its climax?

“Uhhhhh, where are you, John?” my student asked, his voice undermining the urgency of his call. He was one of the three guides I had met upon my arrival.

When I told him where I was, he asked why I was not at class. I frowned, still in something of a stupor, and told him, “I think you are mistaken,” the words a sneer. I was not sure of the date, the 10th being when I was told the National Holiday came to an end. I could already feel my heart beginning to race, and I did not care the sensation. “We don’t have class until the 10th.”

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It is a very Chinese characteristic never to tell someone that they are wrong. This trait, while polite, kept me in bed for no doubt three additional minutes. My student, God Bless Him, did not have the gall to tell me I was wrong, that I had a class that day: his.

“Are you sure? I think you have class today.” You must realize that he made this comment with, no doubt, fifty or so students in the room beside him. If he had spoken with their combined voice, I may have taken him seriously instead of playing a game of, “No, no. I was told the 10th,” and “I would check, Teacher. I think you have class today.”

I do not know what convinced me, but when it did my first thought was of blind fury at having been misinformed. My student, God Bless Him, asked if I needed a guide to the classroom. I replied, “Thanks, but could you just buy me some water?”

You have to understand that in Huadu it can reach up to 94 degrees, not mentioning the humidity born of the passing typhoon. I tend to drink three liters a day.

While at first I found it quite strange to ask students to help me in such matters, it has become apparent over the last two weeks that it is commonplace here at GDCP (Guangdong Communication Polytechnic).

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The lesson went off without a hitch and, after having told the students to arrive ten to fifteen minutes early during the previous lesson, ran on schedule.

While I understand the fault is mine and mine alone, that I was told the wrong date and then never even told, “Hey Mr. Foreigner, heads up. Our holiday you’ve never heard of is about to end,” still sends tremors of frustration through my bones.

At least I can start working. I may not have mentioned it, but the week I arrived was the week the vacation began. Prior to this post, I had only taught three lessons at GDCP.

Is this not a great way to kick off the semester?


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