1…2…3…Man bag!

27 11 2009

So when I was in the office this morning, one of the Chinese teachers approached me about the possibility of helping her daughter with her college application essay. Naturally, I said yes, expecting to do some light editing and perhaps a bit of chatting with the teacher about the essay. So after I had accepted, the teacher dropped off the essay, as well as a couple letters of recommendation for her daughter, then asked me if I would be willing to meet with her daughter to discuss the essay at lunch. I agreed, assuming that this meant we would have lunch together in the school’s stunningly mediocre cafeteria. I edited the essay, which was OK, though it needed some work as most Chinese writing of English tends to.

At lunch time I stopped at the office, and the teacher and her daughter took me down the elevator, and out of the school gate, and on, and on, and into a restaurant down the street a ways. Instead of the usual restaurant seating, we were taken up a private room, where we were joined by two other Chinese teachers. So we engaged in a little light-hearted banterish, and I showed the daughter what edits I had done to her work. Her daughter was very sweet, tiny and very shy. After that, we ate what was basically a giant, full-course Chinese meal. Let me see if I can remember what was there … this huge meatball called “The Lion’s Head” (if I remember correctly), the omnipresent and delicious eggplant, a pepper beef dish, Nanjing’s special salted duck dish, a vegetable dish I didn’t recognize, and so on. Big meal. We all ate, and the teacher asked me questions that she said her daughter had, though her daughter seemed embarrassed by the whole thing. In addition, after asking me what sites I had visited in the Nanjing area, the teacher (I’m sorry I can’t remember her English name – no one calls her by it) said that she would take Missy and I to visit a town with Ming-era architecture, which sounded pretty awesome.

The other teachers excused themselves from the table, and after chatting a bit more, we headed back to the school, where the daughter sheepishly asked if I could answer a question on her SAT practice test, which of course I agreed to. Let me reiterate again that the daughter seemed borderline mortified by the whole thing. I seriously doubt any of it was her idea, but bless her for putting up with it. Anyway, I helped the daughter with the question, and the mom came up AGAIN and said that her husband was disappointed he couldn’t be at lunch but he had a gift for me for helping her. I had class, so I took it home and opened it after class, and it was a fancy leather man bag. I can’t believe they paid it, but the tag (still attached, of course) said 1,328 RMB (About $200). The moral of this story? If you help out a Chinese person, they shower you with gifts. What a fun place. -Jeremiah

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