In four months of being on break from school, I’ve had a few things happen to me. The one event that stands out the most is when I found out that I’ve been pronouncing Nike wrong all my life, which is weird because I’ve been wearing Nike since before I was born (my mother had Nike running shoes when she was pregnant with me). This is EXACTLY like being married to someone for decades, cheating on them – with Converse and flip-flops – and not even knowing their name. The other big thing that happened was season two of True Detective which was just awful. Because I’m unable to decide between posting an apology to Michael Jordan and throwing shade at HBO, I’ll just do a post about the next best thing.
In the few hours that I’ve been back in school, I’ve been reminded about that time I decided to study Chinese. It wasn’t because I was determined to learn the language and visit the country to contribute in making the world a better place, it’s just that the classes were free, and anyone who knows me knows I like free stuff. I’d get butterfly tattoos if they were free. You can’t keep me away from a giveaway.
So there I was, feeling weird because I was dressed like I’d come from shooting a music video in a skate park and the only other guy in my field of view was dressed like he was from a fashion show in rural Ghana. I couldn’t tell whether there was a dress code or theme or something similar.
How does one dress for Chinese class anyway?
That question was answered when the lecturer walked in wearing a hoody and jeans, much to my disappointment. She stood at the front and looked through the large windows for some time until I became uncomfortable because she wasn’t blinking enough. Then she started looking across the class and some people started panicking.
“Have you completed the assignment?” was what I heard being asked. I knew nothing about that; this was my first class. This was weird because I thought we’d outgrown getting worried over homework. Some of the people there were people I go to school with and they were looking tense even though they’re usually carefree in class. The girl seated to my right was especially worried. She kept asking me whether I’d done my work, despite my attempts to convince her I was new. This made me fear that there was some sort of punishment, like the teacher kung-fu-ing the laziness out of you.
You never know what you’re going to get with China. You want education, you get fly-kicked in the throat. You want iPod, you get 假.
I was busy trying to look as new and clueless as possible in the room so I have no idea what happened with the assignments. I’ll skip straight to the teaching.
She began teaching and it didn’t take me five minutes to decide I wasn’t going to learn anything that day. I was not in the mood to memorize fifty different syllables that all sound like ‘si’ to my uncultured ears. Don’t even get me started on the characters.
I could have given up listening there and then, but the teacher kept picking me to pronounce things. The thing about Chinese is that it has lots of tone and pitch variations so it sounds like you’re singing. My voice is incapable of such, because my voice sounds like Barry White meets Rick Ross. I can’t hit the high notes.
When the teacher decided she was through playing her little game of trying to make this Darth Vader sound like Justin Bieber, I stopped paying attention and started focusing on other things. It was then that I realized just how many random objects that make you think of China had worked their way into that setting. There were a lot of Chinese paper lanterns on the ceiling for some reason I have yet to find out. There were loads of books written in Chinese inside cabinets all over the room. I can’t remember much now, because months have passed. What I do remember is the teacher.
She was like a walking bag of Chinese stereotypes. Her accent was so comical that most of us assumed she was faking it at some point. She couldn’t pronounce the ‘L’ sound correctly and she varied her tone in a way that made her sound like a cartoon character. Occasionally, she would start to say something in English and by the time she was five sentences in, none of us knew whether she was still speaking in English. She annoyed me with how frustrated she got when we couldn’t pronounce Chinese words, despite the fact that her English was far worse by comparison. Talk about the pot (of noodles) calling the (gyokuro tea) kettle black. Her skin complexion was an actual shade of yellow, like those racist depictions of Japanese people in World War 2 propaganda. Her eyes were tiny, and even when she opened them wide, they were still smaller than mine.
There were a lot of racist thoughts going on in my head, and the only way I could equalize everything was if I stood up and shouted “Want your toothpicks back?” in the best Owen Wilson voice I could muster.
I decided to instead leave the class because Chinese isn’t for me.
But wait, there’s more.
I didn’t leave campus, instead I headed towards the hostels to visit a friend of mine that I hadn’t seen in a while. I got inside the block and saw that there were a lot more girls than guys. I didn’t think too much into it (he-he). I went towards the stairs to find they had set up guards that took the names and ID of people going into the hostel. This was new since they only ever did that in girls’ hostels. I don’t recall the exact reason. It was too complicated. The term escapes me at the moment.
I handed in my ID, wrote down my name in a book and started working my way up. On the way, I saw even more girls and it was suspicious (he-he), but I still didn’t pay much attention to it. I got to the third floor and headed to my friend’s room. I didn’t think to call first, because he had that room the previous semester, so I assumed he’d still be there. This friend is someone I’ve known all my life, and I’m usually free around him, so naturally, I literally kicked the door open, walked in swinging and calling people names loudly and you can already see where this is going.
I found myself face-to-face with about four girls, two of whom I’m certain were half naked and the others hiding behind and covering themselves with objects. That’s the most detailed description I can give here because any more detail would make some of my readers uncomfortable (hello, Mother).
I was frozen, and it took me a while to regain enough composure to try and make it look like I was looking for someone, but no name came to mind, so it was just ‘Have you seen…ummm…? Never mind’, and then I bolted back downstairs and ran away as fast as I could.
Moral of the story: Never leave class early.