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The China Adventures of Arielle Gabriel

Sept 3 Monday night

Completely and utterly exhausted.

Have decided to postpone music lessons, just beginning my painting and Chinese lessons is enough, a possible kindergarten job, returning home to visit my family, night work five days of the week, etc.

Saturday Sept 1

Saturday was the Trade Fair, and what an awesome sight was the New Chinese push into science and technology. Our booth on fibre optics technology was a smash hit, and we were swamped with visitors all day long.

As though I were not going in too many directions already, I have to act like a Fibre Optics Expert! The ESL Teacher is wanted everywhere in the world!

Having just accomplished all those hyperlinks on my websites, I felt right at home with Fibre Optic Geniuses, and studied why are our booth was so liked. It was a corner booth, with the brightest colours, of lime green, canary yellow, and shocking pink, had the most employees milling around, had loud music, and aggressively gave out expensive booklets to hesitating passers-by.

We then requested their business cards. I was told to not say anything about myself, in the hopes that I would be perceived as a visiting Fibre Optics expert from their California branch!

The boss came by later with a group of Chinese businessmen and I was asked with his top assistant, Sofia, to join the men for an exciting cup of boiled water at a private eating area. Yes, the Chinese even serve boiled water when entertaining! They are austere and self-controlled, unlike the sensual imagery presented in coffee table books of Beautiful China.

More happily, the fair turned up a lovely old lady from Beijing. Since she sported a glowing red and gold ribbon saying VIP we knew she was top government, and all lit up as she walked by. She looked like a scientist, you could imagine her in plaid bedroom slippers cooking up some brilliant theory.

She had intense, alert eyes, and volunteered to be photographed with me. This was a thrill, and the other women gathered around for group photos.

We younger women were all in awe of her, as one who had managed to rise so high, navigating government corridors of power as well. I did notice her business card with its gold logo had no email yet and I wanted to make one for her! She asked me to keep in touch with her, and to visit her if I go to Beijing.

I have a mystical feeling that I will end up visiting there, though the city is one of the top ten for air pollution, and as I have had rhinitis, sinusitis, etc. I have avoided Beijing. Of course, the Great Wall and the Forbidden City are magnets for the tourist.

A handsome Taiwanese man lingered with me talking and gave me his business card. A Canadian Chinese who is the head of his own High Tech company in Toronto gave us his card.

These men, so brilliant and successful, are attractive, and yet I do not really want a man that hordes of women are pursuing, who is working every day of the week, and also the gap is a large one between East and West. Male charisma is not enough of a light to blind my common sense.

It must be like being on top of the world, to be a youthful, attractive Chinese man, safe in Canada or America, able to do business in China, centre the legalities in Hong Kong, and travel freely between these three geographical areas.

Still the speed at which China is developing is impressive, only sometimes due to the cultural chasm you feel there is a party going on that you are not really invited to; you may stand in the garden and watch the invited ones moving freely in the beautiful house.

No one will ask you to leave, if you do not get too close to the doors, which are heavily buttressed by an impassable cultural screen of an essential derision for the Hairy White Devil, his religious heritage, his irresponsibility in family matters. As I stand in the garden, I will be brought the warmest smiles and the best of the party food.

Sunday Sept 2

Sunday I had an enjoyable day carelessly spending money to let off steam. Just wrote that to horrify Chinese friends!
I went for a fresh fruit salad and egg custard, then backtracked to buy a stretch polyester striped Chinese t-shirt. I liked the gaudy colours, and my students later approved of it!

Then I tastefully bought two raw silk t-shirts, one pink and one grey, all on sale. Two dollars each!

I went to a discount store clearing sale, and bought wood photo frames, plastic fruit trays, herbal shampoo, a sewing kit, a soap in a plastic case, all for under three dollars.

Then I did a big supermarket shopping, and bought a lot of noodles for our house, which I then returned to the shelves, because I never seem to buy what others like. I bought soya milk products, beer, black sesame paste, honey, small shrimp, garlic, noodle soups, etc.

I gave myself more treats, and bought Folk Music of Guangdong Province. It is exquisite.

I intend to go to Carrefour soon and take a cab when I buy fruit such as melons, because I cannot carry this food myself, and do not want to pay the inflated street prices, because the double-charging affects me in my heart. The cab is less than the food surcharges! Some of my Chinese students seemed surprised that we do not do this to them when they come to our own country!

My days at beach will be tense till I am hidden in the water, the staring and laughing as I plunge in for my swim. Once I am swimming I will be in control of my body and my health, and will shake off lesser problems by re-building physically.

Monday Sept 3

My students were exceptionally lively and fun Monday night. They seem to keep me going with their warmth, sweetness, and curiosity.

We discussed the travel chapter in our book. They will sometimes fixate on an aspect of Western culture almost charismatically interesting to them.

Babysitters, for example. They wanted to know how much exactly does a babysitter make. I explained the different types, the girl down the street, the au pair who lives in, the household help who also watches the children.

Apparently there are agencies expected to spring up here, due to the needs of so many wealthy Shenzhen women. The students vehemently seconded my ideas.

They asked question after question about this, it intrigues them! What are they paid, what do they do. I mentioned the lack of social stigma and that I myself had done this work in high school. We just read the kids a story, put them to bed, and wait for the parents to come home from their outing.

The date of the mother and the father then attracted interest! Hopefully as the Chinese are both sociable and imitative they will quickly absorb some of our light-hearted customs as they need more wholesome fun to balance their industriousness.

On a wistful note, we discussed parties. They repeat that Chinese never have or give parties. I explained that to busy people the party can be very useful, and that they can be done very cheaply. There is a practicality and a thriftiness to parties that could appeal to them.

I held up two fingers in the air, explaining how two friends, two lovers, a husband and wife, like to do things in a dyad, a pair, a couple. This too brought amazed looks. They do sometimes meet one friend, especially those young people who have come here from other parts of China, and who know no family members here.

The group, we agreed, the group is everything in Chiese culture. The family group, the work group.

I am alone on the bus or sitting at the case making notes for work. I am never alone other than that. My life has changed completely.

Sept 4 Tuesday

Morning, about 10 am.

My appointments break up my day, so I will not be able to get in two swimming days before the weekend. I had planned to go to the beach, and then to work on Wednesday and Friday night. Tomorrow I have an appointment to see the agent about the kindergarten job before I go to work, and then today I wanted to go downtown to pick up the Battery Company check, but may go for health treatment at beauty parlour.

There is ancient Chinese music briefly wailing from the TV and the Old Folks are eating the typical breakfast, left-overs of meat, noodles, and vegetables, re-heated in the morning. No fluids are taken with this, or any of our other meals. And the Teen Brother just got up, who also is a Netcoholic, and seems restless when detached from this global machine.

I am considering eventually taking an apartment on my own, and yet there is no second-hand good furniture in China, and that means needless expenses such as the washing machine, the fridge, which are mandatory. It might be a few thousand dollars just for basic set-up. I also need dental work, bills to pay back home, and would like money for the visit to Canada.

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