So I have a very interesting story for you all today that will help you gain insight into what it is like being a young male teacher in a university-level Chinese classroom. Just a reminder, my students’ English level is average at best, with the top students being able to hold a somewhat stimulating conversation and the bottom students struggling to say “I like noodles”. So there is often “lost in translation” moments. Today was one such moment.
The majority of students/Chinese girls that I have met in Hangzhou have never talked to a white male before in person, so they tend to tell me that I am “handsome”. I chalk it up to the fact that I am more of an exotic rarity than actually good looking so I take it in stride, but it can be quite amusing sometimes. I usually just joke around and tell them that they are very cute (in Chinese) and a lot of giggling usually ensues. However, the “lost in translation” aspect has played a part in some encounters. This particular situation is a great example.
So a couple nights ago one of my students was Wechatting me (texting me) about the homework due in class tomorrow. This is quite common because I gave out my weChat to all of my students so they can practice texting in English (but mostly so I can practice messaging in Chinese), so I thought nothing of it. She invited me to lunch the next day with her and a couple of other girls in the class. I jumped on the opportunity to not only get a free meal, but to learn more about my students and practice Chinese.
The following “warning signs” were only realized in hindsight, and have reminded me once again that no matter what age or where they come from, girls can be very conniving :P. My fault.
My first warning sign was the beginning of class the next day. Mandy (the girl who invited me) was very dressed up. She wore a skirt, a nice blouse, and did her hair. She actually looked really cute I must admit, but even if she is the same age as me she is still a student so it does not matter. The other class days she was not nearly as dressed up.
Second warning sign. After class ended, the girls (five total) waited for me outside the classroom. We started walking to the front gate and it quickly became a line of the four girls in front, and Mandy and I in the back. I engaged the other girls in conversation, but it was becoming quite apparent to what was going on.
Third warning sign. Thanks to my little Chinese knowledge and excellent body-language skills, I could catch a bit of what was going on. Mandy was clearly getting a bit peeved at the other girls and the other four girls were giggling a taaaaad too much. At the end, one of the girls clearly told Mandy “to have fun together”. In Chinese, the phrase “yi qi” means together, like only two people. She did not say “dou” meaning all (more than two people). Again, this was in hindsight.
The final, a little too late, warning sign. So the five girls and I finally get to the restaurant. As I am looking at the menu I turn around and the four girls are sprinting away. I am calling at them, Mandy is calling at them and they are just laughing their asses off running away. I am in utter disbelief that this girls are actually running away from us.
Mandy’s face is now beat red and I am standing their in disbelief like what in the world just happened. Mandy is clearly embarrassed but I try to defuse it and just act casual. We walk to the top of the restaurant and I realize that this is a date restaurant, not a group of friends place, Two-people sitting only, and all the dishes are super fruity datey things. I obviously have to make it non-date like as possible so I pull out my Chinese text books and we start practicing my dialogue. We actually ended up having a great time, and I made fun of the other girls later, but it was quite the hour. Afterwards she tried to invite me to help her study English near the school. It all came crashing at that moment; this girl did this whole thing on purpose to have a one on one lunch with me. She told her friends to pretend to come with me and to run away once we got to the restaurant. So effing sneaky that I had to appreciate it.
I made it very clear to her after lunch that this was not a date, which I think she understood, and than gave a open invitation on my Wechat to all of my students to invite me to lunch. We have class again tomorrow so we shall see how it goes. Anyways, this is just a little example/warning to any male coming to teach in China that girls are very smart and are very good at getting what they want. Mandy ended up failing in the end, but her plan of attack was full-proof. I am now better prepared to face these challenges thanks to Mandy.
And yet I have lunch with another group of students tomorrow. Maybe this time one of the boys who has a crush on me will try to get me alone………………………