Thursday, September 30, 2010

No more classes, no more books...

No more students' dirty looks.

This is the second time I've really slept in since arriving in Shanghai. No sooner had I straightened out the issue over which I've been waking up early than our 8-day stretch began. Yes, you read that correctly - 8 days. They are making us make up our holidays. After day 5 I was feeling pretty bitter over the whole thing; luckily that was the night I talked to my Dark Lord and Master, and HE reminded me that he regularly works 8-day stretches. I've never done more than 6, even in retail...the whole "Sabbath is a day of rest" thing is a wonderful part of my religion.

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked to be out of there at 2:45 yesterday. On the other hand, that was a bone of contention as well. The GOVERNMENT mandated that the schools should close early the last two days (traffic flow problems with people leaving for National Day). Mine ignored the issue on Wednesday. I'm not sure how they can get away with that, but obviously, they have.

I guess this is the first time that I've written much about the school. I'm so much more motivated this year, and the fact that I have most of the year groups and that we don't even teach the youngest three ages we had in RAK makes my life much more interesting. But on the other hand, I definitely have some issues. They've been renovating the gym and pool, and done a beautiful job, but it wasn't finished until a week ago, so I had to teach in a temporary classroom, with all the hassles that come with it (including getting out of it on fairly short notice). Not to even mention the fact that when I finally got into my art room it was in such a mess that I am STILL trying to get it into a reasonable semblance of order. Maddi Austin, I hope you rot in art teacher hell for what you left me with. You think I'm being harsh? When I got into that room, all the tables were pushed in the middle and stacked on top of each other, the other furniture was pushed up to the pile, all the supplies were thrown willy-nilly into tubs with very little rhyme or reason, and the waste - OH THE WASTE! On top of that, there were no new supplies ordered for me - I've had* to clean up her shit and make it work. So yes, I wish her classes of 30 students in which they do only papier mache for the rest. Of. Her. Life.

Then there's the ESL issue. In our first specialists meeting, our PYP coordinator dropped the bomb that we foreign specialists were to be the ESL team's backup - they are a teacher short, and we have the free periods in our timetables. Their leader told me that I would probably only be teaching one ESL lesson a week, and I was fine with it. A week later ESL and PYP came to me and told me I'd be taking the kindergarten four times a week for ESL, and I was still kinda okay with that. I actually started testing them to see who needed the help, and found it to be a calming experience. But testing requires a lot less time and energy than teaching, and when I heard that class was going to be split, I could have shat rainbows. See, the kindergarten gets art twice a week, so my timetable was going to be way too full for me to take them for ESL. And during this neverending bloody week, as I've been finishing up units and really hitting my stride in my art lessons, I was super glad that I wouldn't have to plan and write ESL lesson plans, and assess them, and write feckin' report cards. I would have SO much more time to concentrate on being a really GOOD art teacher.

Hold that thought for a minute.

Now, while you're on hold, let me tell you about the Chinese/art teacher. We have one, and he has been sharing year groups with the art coordinator. This year he has 2 of our year 3 classes, and I have the other, which means he should be doing the planning; however, since he began at the school he has been coddled and coached and never actually made to stand on his own two feet. When I asked him to collaborate with me on this grade at the beginning of the year, he told me Maddi had planned the lessons and he taught them...and since I would rather have someone teach my lessons than have to teach theirs, I went along. Until the day he came to me and told me he was going to do something different in his next week's classes. At that point, I went to the PYP coordinator and asked her exactly how she wanted things done; if I was going to bully him, I wanted to be sanctioned in doing so. Instead I was told that he needed to collaborate with me, but the planning and paperwork and ordering were his responsibility. Which was fine with me. But early last week, as I was starting to plan my next units, I said, "Gary, you need to start planning what you want to do with grade three." Late last week (ie, early in the 8-day stretch) I emailed him the unit overview we do for the year groups, with an email explaining what is was and when they needed it. Midstream in this ongoing hell, I went to him again, asking what he was going to do. He asked me if I had any ideas. Rather than telling him, "Yes, Gary but they are MINE!" I referred him to the year group leader, who spoke of wanting some art integration with their unit on mapping. An email from the group leader, another talk with PYP, a unit overview and lesson plan written IN CHINESE, working with me AND Music (who is our specialist coordinator), and PYP decides to upend the entire timetable. Here is what she did:
Give Gary the whole of grade 2.
Give me all of year 3 and the 2 new hours of kindergarten.

Shall we do the math? Story problems are GREAT for teaching English!
Ms. Becky teaches 18 hours. She loses 4 classes to her idiot coworker. Then she gains 2 classes from her idiot coworker. Finally, kindergarten is split and gives her 2 new classes. How many classes does she have now?

Think about it....did you come up with the same number you started with? So did I, and the fact that the email PYP sent out listed "accommodating more students in the ESL program" as the reason for the change makes me PRETTY sure that even though ESL isn't on my official timetable that I'm about to get screwed over, and NOW I'm pissed, because I have WAY more hours than the other specialists as it is, and after eight days of teaching in a row my tolerance has snapped.

In the words of my immortal Dark Lord and Master...."WOO-SAAAAAAAAAAAAA...." So the moral of the story is, this vacation is well-deserved and even if I were staying here for the holiday, I would be happy just not to have to do anything with the school. As it is, I'm blowing out to Korea, to party with my nearest and dearest and eat dalkgalbi and just have an overall kickass time.


*"had" is probably too strong a word, but because I am a conscientious person I would never just scrap things and start over. Also because I believe that art teachers who waste supplies and order things they don't need give administrators just cause to believe that cutting art would be a great way to fix the budget.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Anticlimax

Well, we finally did it - Socrates and I went to the Expo. I decided our day off for the Mid-Autumn Festival was the perfect day to go, and maybe it was. It was cool and cloudy (even rainy at times), and I really don't think it was as busy as it would have been on the weekend. But that doesn't mean there weren't lines. Oh no. I promised him "trendy" pavilions, and we made a beeline for the Japanese one, thinking we would use the reservation system and avoid the lines. Well, as it turns out, the Japanese pavilion isn't on the reservation system...not that it mattered, because the reservation machines we found were not working. I did some research about the different pavilions the night before, and had quite a few that I was interested in, but they ALL had long lines. The volunteer at the Japanese line told us it was a six hour wait. Later on we saw a message board that listed the waits for ALL of those pavilions on my list as longer than 3 hours. It also suggested that next time we should make better plans for visiting the Expo.

...

Yeah, sure. And although we both had books, neither of us felt like standing in line for 3+ hours. So what did we see? Uzbekistan and Ukraine. Wednesday's expo was brought to you by the letter U. We joked about seeing the US, UK, or UAE pavilions, but in the end, we walked from the middle, to the north end, to the south end, and back to the middle to catch the subway home, looking at the outside, at least, of the structures along the way. Can't say I didn't get my exercise that day, at any rate, but it was probably not worth the 160 kuai we each spent on admission. Still, part of me wants to believe that there are hidden treasures to experience there, wants to go back some night after school (for the reduced admission) and see the pavilions lit up at night, believing the lines would be shorter at night and if not, that the sight of them all lit up would be worth it. Maybe it wouldn't. But I'd at least be able to get into the Thai pavilion without waiting - turns out my friend from Speed Dating night works for a company involved with them, and can get me on the VIP list. But if not, I have to remind myself that, unlike my Chinese co-patriots, I can go to any of these places whenever the mood strikes me (and whenever Mr. Plastic is up to the task of getting me on a plane), and be satisfied with the experiences that I've had in the countries themselves.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Worlds Collide

The better part of four years as an international educator went by without intersecting realities. It wasn't until I was about to go back to Korea for the third and final time that I finally saw someone out of context, and seeing Dietrich in St. Louis hardly counts, since it was our common Missouri residence that drew us together in the first place. More than a year after that went by before it happened for real, with my mother coming to Korea, but it was not until I got to RAK that things really got interesting - I saw Evil first in Singapore (with Kit, even stranger!), then in India, and finally in the Emirates. I was with Socrates in Paris, and then London. You think this is no big deal, but it throws you for a loop, seeing someone in the wrong context. You lose your place in space and time.

I think Shanghai is going to be the most topsy-turvy place of all for these moments of displacement. Forget the fact that I've got three friends here from past lives - Shanghai is just perfectly placed to encourage these sort of encounters. Johnny V is a couple of hours away in Wuxi (there is a reunion in the works for next month), and the flight from Incheon to Shanghai is only a couple of hours long. And that is how Ange and Kat came to be here this weekend.

It's strange enough, seeing friends from one place in a completely different place. It's even weirder when you haven't spoken to them in about two years. And as the three of us walked down the streets of Pudong to the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, it gained an added dimension of oddness, as Shanghai has some marked similarities and yet, very subtle differences from Seoul...the river, the two sides of town, the subway, the tall, shiny buildings, but then you notice that the wash is hanging outside the windows, something a Korean would never do.

It was a nice visit, although I'm afraid I almost fell asleep every time I sat down (due to the fact that I only slept two hours the night before). We saw one of the world's worst tourist attractions - the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel - in all it's spacy, garish glory, as well as a kind of cool bronze mirror exhibit and a very lame aquarium. Took a walk along the Bund and looked out at the Dubai-esque upcropping of modern architecture on the other side of the Huangpu River, and grabbed a bite to eat at Shanghai Grandmother (decent food and not too expensive), before taking them to Yuyuan Gardens for a bit more traditional Chinese architecture. Most of these places were on the city tour my school took us on at the beginning of the year, but it was so bloody hot that I didn't enjoy it. Instead, I was now seeing them with friends on a fairly pleasant afternoon. Bonus. Unfortunately I sent them on to Nanjing Rd and People's Square alone - just a short trip up line 10 from Yuyuan - and went home to sleep the rest of the afternoon away with dreams of people in the wrong places at the wrong times (probably as much the result of the mind-altering Bund Sightseeing Tunnel as the visit of friends from Korea).

Monday, September 13, 2010

On Speed

Last fall - or was it this spring? I don't remember...at some point in the craziness that was life in RAK I decided that this summer I was going to track down my favorite chingu and drag her with me to whatever speed dating event I could find in one of our cities...Minneapolis, Omaha, St. Louis...SOMEWHERE in the frickin midwest had to have one of these things going on, and Dietrich, bosom buddy that she is, was up for it.

And then, due to lack of car and significant finances, I failed to actually SEE her this summer, so it never happened. Oops. But the idea terrified the crap out of me, which in my world is usually a pretty good indicator that I HAVE to try something. And that is why Saturday night saw me step out of an elevator on the 65th floor of the Royal Meridien on East Nanjing Rd in a somewhat petrified state. Yep. I was on speed. And I was flying both solo AND free, while shaking in my booties.

The ladies from Ok-Deal! were nice enough to give me the RSVP price, even though I hadn't RSVPed, and it included a drink, so my cost for the evening was not bad at all. Less that twenty bucks (even better - they included a 100 kuai voucher for one of the spas, so I guess I'm going to be getting myself a manicure before this weekend's big bad Irish shenanigans). But as I took my questionnaire and cherry coke into the lounge (with its 360 degree view of the Emerald City), I realized that I was the only whitey in the room. And there was a disproportionate number of women in the room. That struck me as funny, the more I thought about it. I'm in China, home of, "Here's hoping for a bouncy, baby boy!" and yet, the women outnumbered the men. Well, I made a new friend that night, a Shanghainese girl with the English name Audrey, and she told me that men definitely outnumber the women, but when you change the group to college graduates, that the proportion becomes inverse. Suddenly there are more women than men. Interesting. Maybe we're not as useless as we've been led to believe...

Well, the fact that there were only six men (one of whom was married and had only come to get his lonely single friend to go) to 17 women would have been irritating if I'd actually gone there hoping to meet someone. But I hadn't. My motives, in case you were wondering, were a.) because the idea of trying to have conversations with people I don't know, let alone try to flirt with them, is one of my recurring nightmares and I need to get over it at some point, and b.) because it sounded like a hoot, if, you know, I could get over the terror. And I did. Audrey helped - she actually came with a friend, but the friend left before the dating part got started, and as we talked before the event we became pretty comfortable with each other. Her English was fantastic, even if she'd never been to the US, and as it turns out, we made good wing-girls for each other. Five out of the six Chinese dudes were either expats or foreign schooled, so talking to them was relaxing, and there were two that I wouldn't have minded seeing again. It was actually a really good time, I got out of my shell and flirted - even with the guys that I had no interest in - and made a new friend.

I did not win "Most popular woman," unfortunately...but what can you expect? I know better than to compete with cute little Asian girls on THAT front. The winner, it turns out, said that her parents pressured her into coming - what self-respecting guy could resist that? Neither did I make a "match," but Audrey did (with one of the two pretty cool guys), which was exciting, and I was happy to see that the guy whose married friend had come along for moral support did, too. I might even do it again...but probably not til I'm back in whitebread country, because you can't always count on having THAT level of English saturation! Til next time...

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Inaugural Meeting of the Naked Teachers Club

You KNOW you're really friends with someone when you've spent a couple of hours naked with them. We don't realize this in the West, because we only get naked with people if they are doctors or lovers. And if you are western through and through, you will probably live your whole life without experiencing this, and be no worse the wear for it. But I lived in Korea for three years, and while my physique is nothing to brag about, I have no major body-image issues, which is good because I feel like I would have missed out if I'd said, "No," when Ange first invited me to go to the bathhouse with a group of friends from church.

It's been almost six years since then, and there's a bathhouse half a block from my new apartment. I mentioned at the housewarming last week that I'd been there, and several of my new friends expressed an interest in coming along, so Thursday three of us went and checked it out. Yep, it's pretty awkward the first five minutes or so - when you cross that line from "just a normal girls' night" to "Ohhhhhhkay...we're not wearing any clothes." Heck, in the sauna here they don't even give you your towel til you finish the bath, so you don't even have that tiny bit of modesty to get you through the changing room. But pretty quickly you realize it really is only that...we're not wearing any clothes. That's all.

Unless you've skinny dipped at some point in your life, I don't know if you understand exactly what a luxury true bathing is. Here you are, in a big warm pool of water, soaking your skin and relaxing the stress of the day away. And because you're with friends, you have someone to talk to - I go by myself but it gets boring quickly if you're alone (also, the locals might think you're weird, because it IS a social thing for them...also also, if they've never seen foreigners, it's nice to have more than one of you getting stared at). We all agreed we'd have to do it again soon...and it was wonderful to realize I'd found friends with the sort of temperament to enjoy these wild and crazy things.

Also wonderful? Weighing yourself and discovering that you've lost almost 7 pounds in three weeks....another one of the things I do when I go to the sauna.

Another night this week I went for a nice long bike ride, winding up and down the streets of Hongqiao, and for the first time in Shanghai I discovered one of what I like to call the "senior fitness hours." Outside a small mall there was a horde of mostly old-ish Chinese people doing light aerobics together. I swooped in on my bike to marvel - this is China! You get old, and rather than sit at home after dinner petting the pooch next to the fire, you put on your tracksuit and go meet 150 of your closest friends for a little exercise. A middle-aged Chinese man noted my wonder and started a conversation with me, asked if I thought it was weird. We chatted about it and America and China for ten minutes, and then went our separate ways. China's set to inherit the earth in another 20 years or so (maybe less), and moments like this make me hopeful about this probability (there are bits that make me terrified, too, but we'll leave this post on a positive note). Let's hope the Krispy Kremes and Coldstones and, of course, McDonald's don't ruin it for us in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Soul....dancing.

So after a grueling day of teaching, I made my first trip into town to check out a belly dance class at Souldancing. I had mixed hopes. On one hand, I'd seen a Chinese dancer at Shanghai's 1001 Nights (the first time I saw a restaurant dancer was also in China, at the Beijing branch of the same restaurant), and she had pretty good technique, even if her musical selection was somewhat uninspired. Also, one of our teachers took classes there last year and said they were good. I had reason to believe she was right - Souldancing actually equipped one of their studios with poles just so they could teach pole dancing, and you don't have the kind of capital to invest in that sort of venture if you're amateur hour. But on the other hand...well, let's just say that learning from Azhaar for most of the time I was in Korea has spoiled me. I know there are better teachers than her, or more experienced, blah blah blah, but she has a sense of humor and is caring (how often did our lessons stretch on long past two hours as we bitched about our own problems to each other?!), not to mention has a vast knowledge of the dance, technical skill, and makes up the most beautiful, evocative choreographies...even if she can't remember them.

So yes, mixed hopes...but as I said in my last post, I am disturbingly out of shape, and I still love this art form, so I pinned my heart on my sleeve and slogged into the heart of the Emerald City, to West Nanjing Rd, and down a side street crowded with shops selling everything from clothing to Tibetan artifacts and everything in between, in my yoga pants (still splattered with Saturday night's strawberry shake, dropped as I was unlocking my bike) and Gap tee. Sweating and bloody hot, I went in and paid my money, filled out the form, got rid of my shoes, and started stretching. Luckily I had plenty of time to do this, because when QiQi came in she laid into us almost immediately. She drilled us in shimmies, hip lifts, shimmies, chest drops, choo-choo shimmies, 3/4 shimmies, and arms. To be fair, she warmed us up a little, but she transitioned fairly quickly into kicking our asses. Also to be fair, this was an advanced class, "Performance," which hopefully (thanks to my years with Azhaar) I didn't embarrass myself too badly in, out of shape or not. After brutalizing us for half an hour, QiQi moved into a choreography. I don't know how to describe the music - it was slow and sensual and had an unmetered feel to it, but was neither modern/fusion nor classical (unless I'm mistaken). And the combinations she put together for it were absolutely suited to the feel of the piece, and not simple ones, either.

In short, I was impressed. I can't wait to see what the other teachers have to offer.

Afterwards I walked back up to the metro, and the lights on Yan'an road were lit, painting me blue, and the trees on Nanjing Rd were lit, giving the place a festive quality...I wanted to go for a wander, but I was slaughtered, so I just stopped long enough to eat at subway and then headed for home. Today I noticed body aches in all sorts of places, and it brought back all the happy feelings of the night before.

Wow. That sounds dodgy. I mean that in a strictly belly dance sorta way.

Today I learned something about my school. Apparently we are a great experiment. We are a Chinese international school. By that, I mean that we are a Chinese school that offers international curriculum to Chinese students. Most international schools here have strict laws laid onto them about who can attend...essentially foreign passport holders (there are similar laws in Korea; I don't know about the Chinese, but if my Dark Lord's word can be trusted for anything, most Korean parents wouldn't want their kid going to an international school in Korea because it's not hardcore enough). This came up this weekend during the trip to Anting, when I said our majority was Chinese, and I was told they were probably Taiwanese instead. No, Virginia, they are, in fact, Chinese students. There's some sort of loophole. And we are, definitely, a Chinese school...remind me later and I'll tell you about the flag raising ceremony.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Huzzah for the Weekend

Monday always comes as a bit of a letdown. It's not just the fact that it's a work day (for several years Thursday was my favorite day of the week), and in fact, I should be relieved that it's not worse - I don't have that Sunday night panic that plagued me so severely in Korea and, to a lesser extent, in RAK - and that my life is such that there's never enough weekend for me, but the fact remains. Mondays suck.

This weekend started with a bang. The Roomie and I had a housewarming party Friday night, with all my favorite locals. There was music and conversation and things didn't wrap up til 2 in the morning. Fantastic. There was also the point where one of our company (who shall remain nameless due to the fact that I suspect she will murder me if I reveal her identity), went to pour a drink and ended up setting a bag on fire (I had a candle on the table, and someone had brought wine which came in one of those nice, tall, top heavy bags, and let me tell you, it went up like a torch). Luckily, whether she'd been drinking or not, Siobhan (the black girl with an Irish name who has been included in the group description as white twice in the last week - once by me...errrrr...so all Westerners are equal in my eyes. This is a step forward, right???) was quick thinking and miraculously got it to the sink and doused it before damage could be done. (Later, this same nameless friend got on top of a chair to determine the height of our ceiling in beer cans, and as the chair started to wobble, my memory hearkened back to a time when a drunken Bronte climbed up on top of someone's shoulders and then fell off, almost cracking her head open in front of the movie theater in Samsung Plaza. I heard her screeching, "Where the f*** were you? WHERE THE F*** were you, and came out of my revery in time to clutch Nameless' leg and stabilized the chair. Otherwise there could have been blood to go with our fire, which REALLY would have made for a kickin' party!)

So that was Friday night. Saturday morning the glass man was due to come at 7. Urgh. Luckily (if you want to look at it that way) I have been waking up early anyways, and so when he arrived - for the second time - at 6:50 I was already awake and skyping with Glamwhore. And was still skyping with her when I got an invite from a teacher I met from another school to go to Anting with her. I extended the invite to Shermeen, and 11 (an ungodly enough hour if you had company over til 2 a.m. the previous morning) saw us on the train to Anting. It was a bit of a trek, but well-worth it. Anting's old town is scenic and makes you feel like you really are in China after all (up to and including the the men's underwear hanging to dry in the historic woodwork...wish I'd taken a picture when I first saw it, but it was gone by the time I got back, so you'll just have to imagine). We went to a Chinese restaurant there after strolling up and down the street, and it was pretty delicious, even if you have a hard time ignoring the fact that the chicken's head is actually on the platter with it's delicious meat. Shermeen has been my saving grace when it comes to Chinese food - I have no idea what I'm ordering and I've been too chicken to walk into a restaurant and order on a wing and a prayer. If you knew me when I first went to Korea, it's pretty much the same as I was then...except now I have even fewer reasons to be adventurous, since my global palate has expanded dramatically since then and Hongqiao alone has more options than Bundang did back in those days. On the other hand, nearly everything I've eaten, I've liked, so I suppose there's hope for me yet.

That evening Shermeen, her colleague Janice, and I went back to the flower market. I was kneeling down making a decision about which goldfish to get when I finally figured out where the muscle pain I'd felt twinging at me all day had come from. One of the topics we got onto Friday night was belly dance, and the different styles, and I went into the difference between how the styles do floorwork, descending to the floor twice without warming up. I haven't actually danced in many many moons, and it made me realize exactly how out of shape I am. When I got home that night I sat down and opened up youtube to look at some of the combinations I wanted to incorporate into...well, I WAS going to do Kashmir, but....well, hell, why shouldn't I do Kashmir. I wanted to do it. I was going to do it. So I got out my veil poi and started working on it. It was therapeutic. It also resulted in the quite spectacular destruction of one of the cheap plastic cups the Roomie bought. It also got me to think seriously about what I was going to do here as far as dance lessons go, and I think I've got a plan: I'm going to get the 8-lesson, 880 kuai membership to SoulDance, use those lessons to decide which - if any - of their belly dance teachers I'd like to study privately with, and then get their 20 private lessons for 6,000 kuai (the more you sign up for, the cheaper they get, so the 20 lessons ought to last me five months and get fairly close to what I used to pay Azhaar, even if I can't imaging any teacher being as good as she is).

And then it was Sunday. I went to church, and actually stayed the whole 3 hours (I had plenty of sewing to keep me awake), and actually actually bore my testimony in Relief Society. I'm not the best Mormon in the world, I've even been called a hypocrite once, and I guess I can understand why. I do badmouth the members some. When the person responsible for getting you to church has basically become inactive because other Mormons expressed opinions over something that was NONE OF THEIR DAMN BUSINESS, when you have been called out over the pulpit in all but name for being happy and living your life rather than pining away on your hope chest waiting for Prince Charming to ride up and whisk you away, I would think it's a little bit understandable. They say "Love the sinner, hate the sin;" I would add, "Love the church, hate the culture." The gospel has made me who I am today (at least, in all the good ways...I'll take most of the responsibility for the negative aspects, although my Dark Lord and Master did play his part, bless his blackened little heart), and I do love it, even when it's hard. And that's why I got up and bore my testimony...in spite of everything, I DO still have one.

So yeah. Good weekend. And now it's Monday night and my ass is officially kicked by my busiest day of the week, but it was a good one, and I like the kids, and I have every reason to believe all the wrinkles will work themselves out. Plus, I'm (excuse the phrase, but I have to use it, it's a time-honored tradition) popping some jjimjjilbang cherries on Thursday night...ahssah-byo!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Typhoon Day?

Very similar to a snow day, except with rain. We were supposed to start teaching today. Instead, we got a typhoon warning, so the kiddos didn't come to school and the teachers only worked a half day. It was nice to have some more time for planning, and I had a very nice nap (until I was rudely awakened by our downstairs neighbor)...but part of me just. wants. to. get. on. with. it.

The downstairs neighbor didn't speak English (didn't speak Korean, either, although that probably wouldn't have helped much). I made my first call to the Foreigner's Help Line of the day to tell me what it was she wanted. Apparently, the leak from my toilet and accompanying clogged drain that I haven't bothered to complain about has extended itself through her ceiling. Hmm. Not good. So I decided it was time to find the management office and have it taken care of. So call number two happened when I found myself in the security office (although I didn't know it at the time...they had to translate that for me, as well). Call Three, in the actual management office, explained my issue and got Mr. Fix-It following me back to my place. Call Four was the last one of the day, in which the guy explained - through the interpreter - that I needed to pay him 40 kuai for the part he installed (and since I had to pay for it, I kind of want to take it with me when I move out) and that he would have to return tomorrow to unclog the drain in the floor, since apparently they are off at 5 and he couldn't get to the tools he needed. There should have been a fifth call, in which they explained to him that I had either 30 kuai or 100 kuai, but I'd already hung up and was too embarrassed to call them yet again. I don't know how I would have gotten by without the service though...actually in the last five years of living abroad, I haven't needed it, since I was living in school housing and they always took care of whatever needed to be done. Oh well. More incentive to kick ass during the next two years so that I can work at a GOOD school next time around.