Monday, September 21, 2009

A Love Story in the City of Dreams

The people at the copy shop call me "teacher." They perform mini-bows when they hand my photocopies. They do this because they are under the impression that I am professional educator rather than a deadbeat man-child with an undergraduate degree of dubious utility and no clear career goals.

But I love it when they call me "teacher." (Throw your hands in the air if you's a true playa!) Teachers are afforded a great deal of respect in China, mostly, I assume, because teachers fall into the great Confucian respect-hierarchy which defines most Chinese social interactions. I work at the best high school in Guangdong province, and, for most of my colleagues, this is The Show. This is what they've been working all their lives towards. They come from all over China to work here because they studied hard for 6 years of high school, and then did extremely well on the 高考 college entrance exam, and then studied hard for 4 years of college, and then worked hard through graduate school and other additional training programs, and then were talented and lucky enough to, finally, come here. It's fantastic to work at this school, with these people, but it's also humbling because I know that if I had been born in China and weren't a native English speaker, I would never, ever have this job.

Anyway, every day on the way to class we pass this small gazebo-type structure labeled "敬师亭" (Respecting Teachers Pavilion). One of these days I'm going to go in there and give myself an old-fashioned respecting. I think you know what I mean. (Do I know what I mean?)

Speaking of how I'm a teacher and changing kids' lives: I'm a teacher and I'm ruining kids' lives. I taught my first History of American Cinema class on Saturday and happened to mention that one of my favorite movies of the past decade was Mulholland Dr. Mulholland Dr. is rated "R" for violence, language, and some strong sexuality.In the words of the original New York Times review, Mulholland Dr. "pierces a void from which you can hear the screams of a ravenous demon whose appetites can never be slaked." Mulholland Dr. is terrifying.

So, naturally, one of my cute little 15-year old students ran out that night and watched Mulholland Dr. and then sent me an email saying that it was like a "confusing nightmare" to her. She said that I should maybe warn people before recommending Mulholland Dr. She said that she will not soon forget this experience.

On the other hand, a lot of her sentences were punctuated by the emoticon "xP", so I'm not sure how seriously I should be taking all of this.