BOOM BANG BOOM! “Are those fireworks?” It was the middle of the day, on our first day working for our new school, Happy English. I was sitting in front of a computer borrowed from another English teacher (as we had not been assigned our own yet), my boyfriend Nate was in the seat next to me.
“Yeah, they have them for weddings,” Chandler explained, his voice calm and even as if this was the most natural occurrence in the world.
“But you can’t see anything!” I protested, “It’s just noisy.”
Chandler just smiled in return as he collected his armful of books and wandered back out the door.
“Candy,” I asked one of the Chinese women, who seemed to be taking a leadership role towards us, “what should we be doing?”
“You can have a rest,” she informed me.
Other than a short training session, Nate and I were told to “rest” for most of the day. We watched a class before going home. It was boring. The teacher stood at the front of the class and pointed to a PPT while the students sat rigidly in their seats, screaming answers and awkwardly worded sentences back at him.
Nate ate up a lot of his “rest time” playing with Alec, a wiry boy, who is the son of one of the marketing staff. Alec was enthralled by Nate’s height, and thought trying to climb him was a good game. Nate and Alec’s goofiness went on until Alec was finally kicked out of the office for being disruptive.
Lainey led us to the buses after work, “You take this one, or this one,” she pointed to the bus numbers on the map, “get off maybe two or three stops.” Lainey had been the most helpful person we had had the pleasure of meeting so far in Jinan. She had met us at the airport with a sign with our names on it and arms full of a giant bouquet of flowers! She waved to us, and greeted us with a giant grin on her face. She only came up to my shoulder in height, so she made Nate look like a lumbering giant. She shoved the bouquet in my hands, “Welcome, welcome to China,” she said, reaching out to grab hold of one of my bags.
Five minutes later, as our cab driver tried to shove our four massive bags into the back of a trunk that was clearly much too small, we got to see the fire that this tiny woman possessed. To us it sounded like she was shouting at the cabby as she argued loudly in Chinese. The cab driver put down our bags, seemingly giving up his impossible task, and then he began pushing the car forwards with his arms. Once he seemed satisfied with the vehicle’s position, he went back to arguing with Lainey, and resumed his task of cramming our bags into his trunk! Finally after a final argument with Lainey, we found ourselves squeezed tetras style in the back of the car with the majority of our luggage, as we reached for seat belts that didn’t exist.
Seat belts would have been nice. We careened down the street honking and cutting back and forth through traffic and in front of cars, black smoke billowing out of the tail pipe of car ahead of us.