Thursday, February 11, 2010. I had a
blissful lie in today. I stayed in bed until midday and then was woken up by
Sarah shouting down her Mobil at someone. I went back to sleep after this but
when I woke up again I asked Sarah what it was all about “bloody Neville’s Dad
has not paid me the money for 2 months and now when I rung and asked him to pay
he shouted at me”. To make a long rage inducing story short Neville’s is one of
Sarah’s zombie middle school students. In fact I would say he is the most
morose human being I have ever had the displeasure of meeting.


You can tell which student is come as they
walk up the stairs to our flat. When Kira is approaching your hear screaming
and laughing and short bursts of running up the stairs. With Only you hear her
talking loudly at her mum and you can hear the purposeful stubborn steppes as she
drags her mother up the stairs. With Betty you just hear stomping. Loud echoing,
thumping stomping rhythmically getting louder until there is a brief silence
and then a loud knock. With Linda you generally don’t hear her coming as she is
never on time and also she lives on the floor below us. But she has the most
annoying door knock; she just keeps slamming the door loudly until someone
opens it.  


But With Neville’s, poor Neville’s. One
only hears the sound of dragging feet. Not heavy, he is too down trodden to
have heavy feet like Betty or Only. You hear the sound of a weary body dragging
its limps up the concrete stair case after 10 hours at school. Obtain Neville’s
has obviously been crying when he arrives, usually because his Dad has been
beating him or maybe for some other reasons. He is utterly retched. It can get
a bit tiresome. I taught him once and it was like trying to talk to someone who
has taken too many tranquilizers. Neville’s murmurs under his breath with
slopped shoulders eyes looking down. It is mean to say but I am glad I did not
have to teach him more it was very hard work. I wonder what dark thoughts are
floating around in his head. He did tell Sarah that I wanted to commit suicide.


Anyhow lets push the unhappy thought of
this young man to the back of our minds for now. Back to the Sarah shouting
down the phone story. Neville’s Dad was procrastinating and trying to Neville’s
would have more lessons soon, even though he had not been for a month and saying
that he would drop it off today,( which he had been saying every time Sarah
called over the last week). Sarah told me many stories of people in Xin Zhuo
who had worked for a month or more and their employers simply didn’t pay them
or cut their pay juristically. One of her old friends had just been working
down in Si chuan province and her boss refused to pay her for a month and a half’s
work, she didn’t pursue it and to this day has not been paid. I was enraged,
how can people get away with this, it’s outrageous. Images of taking payback flooded
my violent vivid imagination and in my head I gave a cheating boss his comeuppance
with a long hard stick.


At 2:30 I taught Betty for the last time.
It went fast and then she left for the last time. Unfortunately I didn’t get a
photo of her as I have done with most of the other students I have. I just
forgot about taking one of Betty. After the lesson Sarah and I went out for a
walk and saw that the snow had turned into brown sludge and was treacherous to
walk on. Its surprising how fast a beautiful thing can turn ugly. Great piles of
wet snow were piled all over the place and shallow puddles of slush were everywhere.
People seemed to the shoveling it away with a vengeance. Many people with shovels
and brooms were out and about throwing the snow under the trees. I saw one
brainless buffoon shoveling the hard brown ice up and throwing it on the main
road. I thought “What the fuck is going though your head man!!!, how is putting
the ice on the main road better than leaving it on the pavement??, why don’t
you go home and take a good long think about your life?”. All along our walk
Sarah and I were working our self’s up about Neville’s Dad and by the time we
got back home we were ready to break out the pitch forks and get something
done. Sarah called a old students Mother who knew where Neville’s Dad’s sister
lived and Sarah lied and said that he had invited us to his house but that we didn’t
know his address. We got the address and then called our Policeman friend Jiao
Ling who picked us up and took us to the apartment block. Along the way Jiao
Ling told us that they had just found a tumor in his mother’s stomach and he
was very worried. His father was sitting next to him silent in the passenger seat,
grim faced. We drove for 20 minutes and went out of the centre of Xinzhou. We
saw massive stalls of fireworks everywhere, seeing as the Chinese new year is
coming soon. The fireworks were massive and I just wanted to get out and try
them all out. Because we were not in the centre of the city, street stalls are
allowed almost everywhere. In the centre where we live there are strict laws
against stalls being set up. Earlier today we say a very large fire work stall
on the corner of the street. The police who are in charge of the stalls ( Jiao
Ling is one of the bosses of the stall sellers police) were loading the fireworks
into their vans while the indignant stall seller and his wife were both
shouting and protesting against the confiscation of their goods.


We continued along getting feather and feather
out of the city. I saw one stall selling large celebratory red posters. Large
garish gold and red Chinese characters on 6 foot by 6 foot posters. I saw two
big posters both with naked western models on them kissing and cuddling. This
was shocking enough without the smaller poster in the middle of a balding Mao
Ze Dong looking austere and grand, eyes glaring , trying to ignore the
pornography on either side of him.


We eventually arrived at a grubby looking
block of flats. We walked up to the third floor and knocked on the door. The
idea was to put my foot in the door and get in the apartment so that Neville’s Dad
(hereafter referred to as the shit) could not shut us out. I was very excited.
I wondered if there would be any shouting or if it would turn violent. To my disappointment
no one was in and the woman next door came out and asked us who we were. She
said that the next door Nabors were out. Sarah then called Neville’s Aunty. It
turned out that we were knocking on the wrong door and the woman next door was Neville’s
Aunty. Sarah explained things politely to the aunty but I could tell Sarah was about
to explode, before she explodes there is a heaviness in the air like a storm is
coming, eventually the aunty and Sarah started shouting at each when aunty told
Sarah she was rude for coming round to her house asking for money. Eventually
seeing as it was just turning into an argument Jiao ling gently pulled the seething
Sarah out of the way and tried the gentle approach. He formed a connection
between himself and the aunty. They found out that Jiao lings wife worked in
the same hospital as the aunty. “ah you have twins don’t you?” she said inquisitively.
It was magical to see her slowly become friendlier and she smiled and told Jiao
ling that she would call the shit. When she called him she was very angry, he
was yet again trying to get out of paying, say that he only owed Sarah for one
lesson. But aunty shouted down the phone that she felt ashamed that people had
come to her house asking for money and that he should have paid us before, she
was very cross with her caniving brother. The shit was heard by Jiao ling
saying to his sister not to give us the money. But it turned out that the aunty
was a more honest person that her brother. In the end the aunty gave Sarah the


Much of the time Sarah’s approach of
dealing with problems by shouting and being intimidating works very well. It’s
not a very nice fact but Chinese people (if not every people) respond to bigger
scary people, it’s not a small feat for a woman to be like that in China.
Although it didn’t work today. If Jiao ling had not been there I am sure we
would have walked away empty handed. Sometimes the gentle approach is required.
I think it mainly comes down to the sort of person you are and how you have
been taught to deal with things. I find that generally I get things done by trying
to be kind and helpful and appealing to people’s good side, but as I have experienced
time and time again you just get trampled on by people who think kindness is a
weakness. In the end I think if you can be aware and usually try and deal with
things politely and kindly first but if things go wrong show that you are not a
push over then I think you would have mastered a great  social tool.


After the kafuffle Sarah first called Mum
and told her the story then she was going to call Hung( one of her good
student) but Hung did not pick up, then she called Dad and then she called Lu Yuen
and then  she called Candy. We both felt
it was a great victory and I felt empowered that not all shitty people who try
and cheat get away with it.


So that was today, it’s now late evening, I
am listening to the lion king sound track on the laptop, which is surprisingly
brilliant. I just ate two large oranges and an orange juice and my tummy feels
a bit acidic and unusual….oh yes and the unashamed Neville’s Dad has just texted
Sarah saying that Neville’s will be around tomorrow to pick up his study books.
This time I believe he will come by


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