Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fringe Benefits

Its been three and a half weeks since my first class, and I'd be lying if I said the job was easy or all fun and games. Its exhausting, draining both physically and mentally; but the reward you get from the student who smiles when they master a new word or who can show off his latest English colloquialism in front of his parents. An infinite amount of respects goes out to all the teachers I have ever known or had the pleasure of studying under.

Sap aside, being an English teacher in China brings some rather cool perks. For instance, last night I was invited out to dinner with one of my students and her family (she's married, with a kid in another class at my school). This is not the first free dinner I've received, nor will it be the last. Then today, while putzing around downtown, a car pulled up along the sidewalk. One of my students say me wandering around the sidewalk and wanted to offer me a ride home. I should mention my students is 5 years old. After quickly chatting (in Chinese) with his parents I was treated with a short tour of Harbin, cruising around in a recent model (and very spacious) Benz.

English teachers here get more public respect than any occupation I can think of in the US. While sitting at dinner last Friday, one of my coworkers was presented with 6 liters of beer as a gift from another table, and yet another table paid for his entire meal. All of this simply because he was an English teacher.

Harbin, though not my initial target city, proves itself the best choice for me more and more everyday. Not being as international as Beijing, Occidentals are still given this bit of glamour. And English teachers, as the bestowers of that oh-so-coveted skill that is spoken English, gain an extra level of fascination and appeal.

Yet still we are not spectacles or living sights. Sure, every now and then I'll get a stare, but usually I find it a bit comical, often from a little kid who has probably never seen a honkey before. Either way, my ego is sufficiently stroked.


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