Saturday’s Teacher Works Me Hard for a Living

Saturday, October 22nd, 20 days left

Slept in until 10am. Answered e-mails and uploaded photos for my blog. Got ready for class. Left for Sichuan University at 1:45pm. Arrived 1:55pm.

I knew I was in for a different lesson when I saw how she was dressed. Black and white checkered pants, high heels, flashy glasses.


She really wanted a picture, and made sure the Chinese flag was included

Within minutes, she confirmed that her personality matched her clothes. She was the most aggressive woman I have met in China to date. She insisted that she talk to me in Mandarin, then pulled me out of my seat to stand at the board to write down the words she was saying.

First, I would have to write the word in pinyin, based on her pronunciation. Then she would show me the stroke order for writing the Chinese character and make me write the characters on the board. She was quick to mark my work with a big red “X” when I did it wrong, chastising me in Chinese, telling me to erase my work and start again. Sometimes I would get a “✓” for doing my assignment right.

The topic of her lesson? Going to the bank! She taught me the names for Bank of China, Bank of America, ATM machine, deposit, withdrawal, credit card, debit card, as well as how to ask for help from the bank manager.

Then we had a discussion, mostly in English, about exchange rates, whether the RMB (Chinese currency) was going up or down against the U.S. dollar. I kidded her a bit, and had her sit down as I gave a lecture on money supply, treasury bills, and how the U.S. manages the money supply.

All-in-all, it was the hardest lesson yet. And I loved it! I was laughing much of the time, either because what she said was so impossible for me to understand or repeat, or because I was embarrassed from how poorly I was doing. At the end of the class I failed the review where she said a sentence and I had to write it down using Chinese characters. I got a big, fat “X”.

“But we just learn these,” she insisted.
“Not me,” I said, knocking on my head. “I don’t remember. Old brain, old brain.”
“Why you come to China?” she quipped, her nose flicking up, letting her look directly through her glasses, down her nose, to me.
“To learn Chinese language and culture,” I said, repeating without enthusiasm what I had already told her earlier.
“How long you stay?”
“Two months,” I answered.

She shook her head, her face long and eyes sad.

“Not long enough,” she said. “Not long enough.”

Tell me about it, sister!


One of the Chinese words I’ve learned is “toilet”=”洗手间”. For this word, the three characters give clues as to the meaning of the word: 洗=wash, 手=hand, 间=room. But there was no mention of men’s versus women’s rooms in these characters. So I asked, “Are bathrooms unisex?” “No.” “How do I tell which is the men’s room and which is the women’s room?” “You’ll see the symbol; man wearing pants, woman wearing skirt.”

Not always.

These are the placards above the bathroom doors in the building where I take my lessons at Sichuan University. Interesting how a pipe is supposed to represent male and high heals female. I guess it’s no more sexist than pants and skirt. I wonder why they don’t just use the characters for male 男 and female 女?

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On the way home I went shopping. Got three new items: durian-filled cookies, some kind of citrus, and what I think is fresh bamboo shoot.


Banana, durian-filled cookies, bean curd sheet, lotus root, citrus, carrot, fresh bamboo shoot, hard ‘cotton’ tofu

I tried to imitate a dish I had Friday night: wok-fried eggs with bitter melon. I also had some leftovers. Served the main dishes with sides of citrus and a durian filled cookie.

The wok-fried eggs with bitter melon was delicious. I sprinkled a little of the Sichuan numbing spice on it and it tasted just like the restaurant version. Yesterday’s dinner reheated was good, too. The citrus was yummy. It was not like anything I’ve eaten before, something between an orange and a Mandarin orange. The durian-filled cookie I can live without. I have eaten three, just in case I needed to acclimate to the taste, but each one tasted worse than the one before. I can’t even imagine eating the last one.

Stayed up until 4:30am since around 2am the internet seemed to become more responsive. I got caught up on my blog posts!


About jamescmarch

A child of the '50's in rural Pennsylvania, an adolescent of the '60's in southern California, and a political activist of the 1970's in northern California, I have been a husband, a college graduate, an expert witness, a banker, a father, a software entrepreneur, and a philanthropist. Today, I follow my heart by writing.
This entry was posted in Chengdu, China, Sep-Nov 2016. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Saturday’s Teacher Works Me Hard for a Living

  1. Ken Piotrowski says:

    Best lesson you’ve had yet. Sounds like you’re having a great time there buddy.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why did you buy durian cookies? I’ve heard durian is disgusting lol

    • jamescmarch says:

      That which does not kill me makes me stronger? Well, I bought them because I knew I wouldn’t like a whole durian fruit. And maybe, just maybe, encased in a deliciously flaky cookie, it would taste good? Still not my cup of tea!


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