…sort of. Meet Belle. She’s one of the Chinese teachers at EF. She is the only teacher who lives in the same neighborhood (Wudaokou) that I live in. Sadly, she has become homesick and is returning to her family home in Sichuan Province at the end of the month. Actually, a fairly sizable exodus will be occurring among both Chinese and international teachers, in the next 60 days although for a variety of different reasons.
So, back to Belle. She shares a flat with five other roommates but her room has no air-conditioning. When I came in early to work a couple of weeks ago and found her there (no teacher is in the office before me, any day) she said she came in to seek refuge from the heat. It’s been brutally hot here the last, oh, few months, but some days make south Florida in August seem downright balmy by comparison. As I have an extra room, (with A/C) sitting fallow, I invited her to stay with me. She’s been living with me ever since. Fortuitously, we have the same days off (Thursday/Friday). It’s been interesting to live with someone again although, obviously, we are roommates and companions only.
Her English skills are very high and I am always offering a panoply of entertainment options that are usually not available to most Chinese. She easily follows the shows I think she may enjoy: The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Broad City, The Family Guy and Real Time (Bill Maher) Last night we watched, “Airplane” the ultimate idiomatic American movie. Yes, I had “a lot of ‘splaining to do” but I didn’t bother to explain Howard Jarvis (remember Howard Jarvis?) Tonight I will screen “This is Spinal Tap” for her delectation. She’s always looking up new words she hears in these various shows. I love introducing her to some of the quirkier aspects of American culture. So, be very afraid: Brian Symonds: “cultural Ambassador” for America, BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
This week, on our days off, we’re attending a jazz performance she wanted to go to (yes, she likes jazz) as well as a Robert Rauschenberg retrospective- “Rauschenberg in China,” from when he made some paintings while visiting in the early 1980’s. All credit to Ellen for teaching me how to appreciate this style of art. It would be highly problematic to attend events such as these without someone who speaks Mandarin.
Best of all (for me) is the fact that she speaks the local dialect. She helped me sign up at the local gym (see pict.) After about a four month hiatus, I am once again, working out. The gym is about 15 minutes from my apartment as well as the office. Some days I work out and then go to work. Other days, when I get off at 6:30, I then work out. It feels good to exercise once again. By the way, I paid, up front, 800RMB for a one year membership, which works out to ten dollars a month (“Our price, cheap!”)
Now that I can more effectively burn calories, I have been inclined to eat out more often and with Belle joining in, I can go to any restaurant in town because, at long last, language is no longer a barrier and my eternal fear of renewing my membership in “Toad Hall” had been quelled as a result of my new exercise regime.
I finally went to a sushi place I’ve been wanting to try, which was quite different than ones back in SF/Marin (see pict.) A few days ago she took me to a massive, 24 hour, four floor food emporium (see pictures) It was remarkable, as eateries go. Additionally, the last few days, I’ve made pancakes (Betty Crocker) as she’s never had them, American style. This morning (it’s 7:30am as I write this) I will make blueberry pancakes for her to sample. It’s a damn good thing I can work out! As she is four-foot, six, she too has to also be careful about food intake.
It’s quite liberating having someone with me who speaks Mandarin. I’ve been able to run all sorts of mundane errands, only they’re not so mundane if you don’t speak the language. I will certainly miss her company when she leaves at the end of the month. However, I won’t be without a roommate. Alex, one of the other international teachers, from London, is also leaving EF, but he’s off to Australia. He has to vacate where he lives, on September 1, so he’ll be next up as a temporary resident at Chez Brian. However, unlike Belle, I am having him pay me because, unlike Belle, he makes a living wage and he would have had to pay to stay somewhere. He is quite accomplished with languages (French, Spanish, Russian and a fair amount of Mandarin) and his political leanings are in line with mine so even though I’m none to keen on guys as roommates (inveterate slobs, for the most part) I think we’ll get along quite well. And if not, it’s only until September 25.
Next post, very soon; I get visitors!
Belle looks as sweet in these pictures as she does in person. I hope perhaps you can persuade her to stay on in Beijing – having a roomie that can speak Mandarin is as essential as lipstick is to a woman!! I love that you ordered 7 dishes plus drinks and the bill was $27 OMG. When I come back to visit YOU we have to go here (when I’m not jetlagged and it’s NOT 100 degrees outside with 110 % humidity. Love the HAT you’re wearing to the gym – best dollar I ever spend. Take good care my friend.