There is a certain allure to being an expatriate, and I think for most people, especially for those down on their luck or devoid of personality, that allure is being able to redefine yourself. There are only a few times in your life when you’re able to redefine everything about yourself: when you’re a kid and you move to a new town, when you go to college and buy a Radiohead poster and decide you love David Lynch films, and moving to a strange town in a foreign country.
It won’t come as much of a surprise that I squandered that opportunity. I came to China and I decided that I was going to remain me. I’d also wager that China has changed me immeasurably, but by and large, I didn’t change for it immediately after I’d arrived. I’m, for better or worse, still Tim. I’ll still talk about indie music like you have any clue what I’m babbling on about, I’ll still speak more pop culture references than independent thoughts, if you’re of the right persuasion I’ll still fall hopelessly in love at first sight, and if I get a couple of drinks into me I’ll still lose my mind.
And these girls decided that of all the people they could be, they were going to be “real” teachers.
I have a problem with that phrase in the first place. “Real” teacher. It implies that being a teacher is ever real to begin with, or in their case that the difference between a “real” (subtext: “good”) teacher and a “not real” (“bad”) teacher was some stupid certification. It takes a certain special kind of arrogance to decide that not only are you going to place yourself in front of young impressionable minds, but to also decide that you are the most qualified to do so. Not to mention the fact that in China no one is a “real” teacher, just better at being a dancing foreigner than most.
But that was Heather and Sarah from Vancouver. They were “real” teachers. They were also straight up Canadian biddies who had no fucking clue where Boston was in the US even though Boston is the reason their countrymen lost their shit a year ago when the Bruins thumped them at home in the Stanley Cup finals, which struck me as odd not because they were Canadians who didn’t know shit about hockey, but because if people from one geographical location caused a horrendously destructive, multi-day riot in my hometown I would sure as shit be able to find that place on a map.
I didn’t find any of this out until I falsely assumed they were checking me and my friend Brent out. In an uncharacteristic move, we decided to randomly engage them. When faced with the question of “What do you do here?” we predictably answered that we were teachers. But that didn’t do it for Sarah. “We’re real teachers,” she shot from the hip, implying that we weren’t. “We teach in high school.”
So because you can take bullshit from Chinese teenagers that makes you more real than a person trying to herd four year olds and teach them how to say “Good morning”?
“You haven’t earned what I’ve earned,” she replied, referring to her oh so special TEFL certification.
Oh we’re both certified not only as EFL teachers, but also as straight up teachers back in our home states. The latter was a white lie, but one that was only hurting Sarah. And I wanted to hurt her. Dear god did I want to make sure she went home and sobbed. I wanted to take her world apart, deconstruct her very being brick by Barbie Dream House Pink brick. I wanted her to wake up the next morning and every morning for the rest of her life and look into the mirror and say “I’m a lie”.
Because what she was doing was not cynicism. It’s not unreasonable to be skeptical of a lot of English teaching dudes you meet in China, but if she assumed the things she did because she was cynical, she would have been somewhat assuaged by my truthful assertion that Brent and I were real people, here to do more than pork Chinese girls, and she didn’t buy it. She and Heather both claimed that she was just a cynic, but this is wrong. Sarah was just a bitch.
It’s a common mistake that bitches make. See, I hate people not because I assume the worst of them, but because time and time again I assume the best of every person I meet and they fail me. That’s what makes me a cynic, the constant disappointment that comes with meeting shitty people. When you automatically assume the worst in people, that doesn’t make you a “cynic” or “pragmatic” or whatever descriptor doesn’t fit there, it makes you a bitch. And Sarah was USDF Certified Grade A bitch.
Now, Brent has a beautiful girlfriend and Sarah tired of trying to convince me of her psychological depth via her bitchiness, so they wandered off and I was left with Heather, who, bless her heart, stuck up for and apologized for Sarah’s brashness. I sympathized with their plight of meeting so many people who are just “teachers”, implored her that we weren’t that kind of people, and dramatized my hurt for Sarah’s lack of tact.
At first I thought that Heather was like me, that she wanted to love people but was let down every time, but it turned out that she was just dumb enough to believe anything that someone with pretty eyes said to her. I learned this about her in three ways. The first was that she kept trying to say that I was wrong about Sarah. That was admirable of her, but I was simply not wrong about Sarah.
The second was that she made the mistake of telling me that I would probably never see the two of them again. Not only did our schedules conflict, but Sarah and Heather were leaving Xi’an forever in a matter of days. Basically, I had nothing to lose; a poor bit of information to leak to me after I’d been shooting straight liquor with a British guy with a crazy haircut.
Because I had nothing to lose, and because Heather had twice made it clear that she was dumb enough to sleep with me, I attempted to make a peace offering of Blue Kamikaze shots. I gave one to Heather and she glowed with delight over her free drink. I shifted my grip on the two shots I had left and was about to give one to Sarah when she opened fire again.
“So what, I don’t get one? Is it because I’m tactless? Is it because I’m cynical?” she teased, with the distinct lack of humor that happens when a complete bitch thinks she’s being funny.
Sarah, if you somehow end up reading this, you were going to get one. If you were anywhere as good at counting as you were at being a total stupid bitch you would have noticed that there were three of us and three full shot glasses in my hands. You were going to get one not because I liked you, but because I probably could have scored with Heather, assuming she stayed awake for the half hour cab ride that I passed out during when I went home alone. I had an “I’m sorry for getting off on the wrong foot, let’s all have a drink” loaded in the chamber. To answer your question, you didn’t end up getting one because you’re a bitch.
It was through this exchange with Sarah that I discovered the third sign that Heather was a moron. She’s not a moron for being a good friend and telling Sarah what I was saying about her, but she’s a moron because she escalated the conflict between us at a time when I had nothing to lose. I suppose it’s possible that they also realized they had nothing to lose and this was, in actuality, an immense battle of wits, but I somehow doubt it. At any rate, I was thoroughly exhausted and sick of their bullshit, so without saying another word I simply removed Heather’s glass from her hand and gave my two extra shots to a German guy and a South African girl whose Australian manfriend liked me but would later threaten me for talking to her.
So, Sarah and Heather, it was nice meeting you. Have a safe trip back to Vancouver. And in forty years when you’re done being “real” teachers and you wake up on the first day of retirement and gawk lovelessly at the lame ass men you’re inevitably going to marry, wondering how your life got this empty and meaningless, I hope you think of me and the two shots that had your names on them.