So I’m just going to write on something that’s been bothering me for awhile now…Here at ALWAYS, the Foreign English Teachers have drama amongst themselves, just like any other job in the world and it’s inescapable. What’s really grinding my goat right now is that I feel like by trying to escape it I’m making a scene of some sort and otherwise adding to it somehow, ironically. It’s odd, paradoxical and downright irritating.
So there’s two teachers here at ALWAYS, Robbie and Sheryl. I have an awkward relationship with them I struggle to figure out. Robbie is my neighbor – he’s an oldish Aussie guy with Dutch roots full to the brim with charisma and humor. Unfortunately its mostly dark and directed towards China and the job he’s held with ALWAYS for the past 2 and a half years. It makes talking to him beyond "hello" an utter drag and he knows I think as much. Sheryl is his sort-of-girlfriend and she can be lighter, but more often than not is equally dark. Get them together, like often happens in the teacher’s lounge at He Ping School, and things just turn into an utter whinefest. I’ve never heard such complaining; its downright depressing and I hate having to be around it because I don’t want to contribute or hear it. It was worse when Mary and Martin, two other Aussies who have recently left because they hated ALWAYS and China so much. More Mary than Martin – Martin was a genuinely fun and interesting guy and we had plenty of great talks – I’ll miss him, honestly, even though I never really got to know him well. Now I know people, myself included, need to whine now and then. Whatever. But all the time? And the other teachers, with a few exceptions, just get sucked into it and the staff lounge becomes this sort of "safe room" to bitch about China continually, so I more or less avoid it.
I’ve never openly complained about it except at a party once to my friend David, and I’ve never made a scene there, save getting up and leaving without a word a few times because I couldn’t read and didn’t want to listen to them bitch about China with the English-speaking Chinese teachers who happen to be my friends sitting right there taking in all these generalizations about their country and its people. "Chinese people seem to have an inability to do things from a logical perspective." "They’re all so secretive…" But that’s not good enough. No, Robbie had to drag me inside his apartment one day when we had building inspections for our living quarters and spent two hours trying to defend his view that he was entitled to bar the inspection staff who represent the school who own our apartments from viewing his. Because they could not provide him an itemized list of what the school provided versus what he’d purchased and theoretically, the school could claim whatever it wanted was their property and there was nothing anyone could do, so until they could provide a list he knew they did not have, they could not get into the room. Oh, and him and Gao had an gentleman’s agreement saying he’d take care the place so long as he was undisturbed and so this is a violation. Oh, and it’s happened before. Oh, and they still need to fix X,Y, and Z and now they’re gonna blame me for it, and YOU can sit on your hands being a young guy who doesn’t care, but we old folks don’t put up with that kind of shit. Oh, and the last time they made lists they ended up losing them due to how disorganized everything is here in China; I know you haven’t been here long, but this is from someone who knows and if you don’t like it you’re welcome to leave. I’m so glad you’re listening, you’re really insert judicious complements to hold my interest because no one else will listen here. Listen I did for two hours; why? Because I wanted to know why he thought the way he did; why he’s so pissed off at ALWAYS and China yet still sticks around. Two hours of circular discussion later, I still don’t know. And when I questioned him on the itemized list that kept being created and uncreated in his discussion, he decided to start talking about the two most decent people at the school. I told him I didn’t want to hear anymore and walked out.
Ever since then, he’s shunning me. I’m fine with that, frankly. But what’s irritating is that I suspect there’s words being spread around that’s affecting how the other staff they’ve known longer are dealing with me, and that’s maddening and petty, frankly. Too many little things to mention here. Even a certain friend actually having the gall to offhandedly, in just enough of a passive-aggressive way to potentially deny it call me "judgmental." One word spoken that’s been in my thoughts for a week now. It’s absurd from every angle I approach it, but there’s my mind for you. I know I will be here a year, maybe two, and so getting caught up in work/staff drama is pointless. I just want to live and let live – they can complain all they want – I just avoid the discussion and them if that’s all they have to say. I don’t talk shit about them or even wish them ill, but because somehow these wishes make me "better than them" and "judgmental," I’m now the enemy.
The worst part is, everything in the above paragraph is based on conjecture and I really have no idea what anyone thinks. You’d think being in a monastery for a year would teach me to stop dwelling on public opinion – it’s the biggest trap in the conscious mind and so very often wrong. Yet here I am.