Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shoe mann

One nice thing about being a foreigner in China (hey, guys, I found another one!) is that you get to celebrate New Year's Day twice a year. Chinese people are super confused by this, by the way. Ever since the new semester started, all sorts of people (our students, the employees at the yogurt shop, the lady who shampooed my hair for a good 25 minutes before my haircut last week (seriously it was like a 3 or 4-liquid wash, shampoo + conditioner + several intermediate liquids of various viscosities and heats (cf. my nuptials))) have asked me if I went home to America to celebrate the (Chinese) new year. And each time I tell them no, actually we don't celebrate Chinese new year in America.

The most common response at this point is, "Oh, that's right, you don't celebrate the new year because you have Christmas." I mean, it is true that some people celebrate Christmas in America, but I think the main reason we don't celebrate Chinese new year is that we already have a New Year. On January 1st. Remember that time when it stopped being 2009 and started being 2010? You know, when we got what might literally be described as a "new" "year"? Yeah, that's the one.

After we described this situation to one of our friendly security guards, he asked us, "If you don't celebrate the new year, how do you know how old you are?" (Chinese people's ages roll over on the same day, shortly after new year.) We told him that we reckon our ages according to our birthdays. He laughed and said, "of course you do," as though that was the most ridiculous system in the world. ("Birthdays! Next you're going to be telling me that you use a calendar that isn't based on the phases of the moon.")

Anyway, if you didn't take the opportunity to make resolutions for Western new year (in this case "you" means "me"), but you're still the type of person who likes to make changes in their life (this "you" isn't me, but let's keep going for the sake of argument), then Chinese new year is a great time to finally lose those 10 pounds you gained at Mid-Autumn festival. (Which we don't celebrate in America. Maybe because we have Thanksgiving. I don't know. Ask a security guard.) Chinese people don't actually do the whole "resolution" thing at CNY, but they do buy new outfits and new shoes before the new year. And so my shoes, which are usually appallingly dirty, were especially out of place after school resumed a few weeks ago. Obviously they are usually fairly out of place because my feet are about as long as some of my students' forearms, but that's not important here.

Last week one of my students finally worked up the courage to tell me that I should really get new shoes, or at least "clean my shoes more often." She and I have a troubled past involving her asking me on a date last semester and my saying no because she's a 15-year-old high school girl and I am her teacher. Anyway, she decided to tell me to clean my shoes. I told her I probably won't, but whatever.

A few days after that conversation, I was standing in line at the grocery store. While I was waiting there, an employee came up to me, knelt down, and started cleaning my shoes. He was demonstrating a cleaning product which was on sale at the register, and I guess when he saw my shoes he realized that he had just hit the product demonstration jackpot. Everyone else he sees has new or at least clean shoes for the new year, and then I come up with my muddy monster boat feet, and it's like the god of dirty shoes has shined upon this Park 'N' Shop and the waters have parted and suddenly his calling is there. In that moment he was like the oxyclean salesman who finally finds someone with a combination grass/red wine/dog feces stain on their white blouse. It doesn't get any more fun than that. I mean as a cleaning product salesman; you could probably do better in another industry.

I gotta say, the cleaning product was really working on my shoes. (Water probably would have worked well too, but I really had never tried.) And I felt pretty guilty about the fact that he was kneeling down to clean my shoes while I was just waiting in line, and so I bought the cleaning product. And then I came home and I cleaned my shoes.

The problem is, I need to make sure that the student who told me to clean my shoes doesn't notice that I cleaned my shoes. I don't want her to think that I cleaned my shoes for her. Because I think in the sexually naïve world of Chinese secondary eduction, that's like second base. Maybe third base. Let's say shortstop. That's between second and third base, right? Football fans, back me up on this one. And I think cleaning your shoes for another person is like a weird already-married thing anyway. Cleaning my shoes for another person would be a big step for me.

As you can see, this is very murky territory erotically. Shoerotically. Eroticshoely. Shoesherotically.

So these are the sort of things that I have to think about during class. I do sometimes also think about my lesson plans, but only intermittently.