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R.P. BenDedek

Not before the Fat Lady Sings Please!
By R.P. BenDedek
Jan 2, 2010 - 12:30:29 AM

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As one year ends and another begins, we can only know what was; not what will be. I write this on Thursday December 31st 2009 after what has been a busy 24 hours in my life.

New Years Eve Musical Gala Baotou Inner Mongolia

Hostess at the Baotou Entertainment Centre
I had received an invitation to attend a recorded New Years Eve Musical special at the Baotou Entertainment center in Inner Mongolia, but first had to teach two classes of students at Henry' English School in Qingshan Baotou.

As luck would not have it, the Baotou Entertainment centre is located not far from the other branch of Henry's school in which I teach; at Kunqu.

A quick taxi ride was necessary to get me to the performance on time after class.

When I turned up at the Qingshan school with my trustworthy camera in hand for the later musical, I was immediately swamped for photographs. Some of those photographs I will present here today.

I have been teaching in Henry's School, owned and operated by Mr. Kang, a native Mongolian, since October 10th, and will finish on January 10th.

Mr. Kang wanted me to work for a year there, but wisely or not, I offered him only 3 months.

I'm Serious boys! Come out this minute! Come to Class! Noooo!

I am just as scary as you foreigners!
Given the way the system works in China, and given that I walked out of my contract with EET Baotou, it will be difficult for me to get another teaching job until both my Experts Certificate (which EET Baotou never gave me), and my current work visa expires (June 1st 2010). I therefore cannot return to teaching until September of 2010.

On January 14th therefore, I will return to Australia. I originally intended on returning in time to be present when my eldest daughter finally, at last, after years of miserable failure, had a child.

Now it seems that the baby has it's own mind and a Caesarian is scheduled for January 12th. There's that Murphy's law again.

So it's off to Australia I go, with an unknown future for the foreseeable future. I am a great teacher and much appreciated by students who, even from my first school (Hong Hu) in 2003 to my previous school in Yancheng in 2008/2009, have remained in email contact with me; often asking for advice or keeping me up to date with their progress in the work place or at college. (Letters from Students)

It is such a sad thing therefore that because of one unscrupulous employer, I am temporarily grounded from teaching.

Henry's School in Baotou
Given that my Han Chinese EET Baotou employer is a native of Baotou (although holding Canadian citizenship), it is not surprising that she turned out to be as she is, for, from what I have learned, foreign teachers in Baotou have a habit of quitting, and based upon some inquiries I have made in relation to working in other colleges here, it is not surprising that they quit. The Mongolian people on the other hand seem to be a very nice, generous and friendly lot of people.

One day I was standing at the bus stop when a Mongolian man spotted me. He turned to his friend and said: 'Look! A foreigner!' I said: 'Am I a foreigner?'

The other man smiled and said to me: 'I don't know if you are a foreigner. I only know that I am a foreigner. I am Mongolian!'

I smiled and said: 'Mingbai!' (I understand!)

Mr. Kang, the owner operator of Henry's School is Mongolian, and a nicer more caring person you could not meet. It was he who provided me accommodation when I left EET. No charge! He said he just felt that one person should help another when they are in trouble.

That then provided me with a 'guanxi' relationship and so I was honor bound to work for him for a period. And so I have.

Mr. Kang of Henry's School Baotou

Beijing soprano in Baotou
Private schools however operate on a different time schedule to public schools, and working for them means that you are unlikely to have the time to make friends since while everyone else is free, you are at work. (Evenings and weekends).

The friends I currently have were originally acquaintances I made when I worked at EET. Those friendships have blossomed and I am really glad to have known those people.

It was one of them who invited me to last night's concert. Her name is Sun Lemei and she was the first of 3 office managers I worked with at EET during my 3 month stint there.

Another close friend is Robin, who was the second office manager. Both have introduced me to many people and made my life worth living.

When I finished work last night, Sun Lemei was waiting in a taxi for me and whisked me off to the concert.

It was an interesting night, made more so by the people in my row.

At one point there was a 10 minute recess, and a girl came up and asked me if I had 'Free Time'. I hadn't a clue what she meant until she started asking me questions.

She had wanted to know if I had time to talk to her. She was 12 years old and had studied English for 9 of those years. She was pleasant to talk to.

Young Music Lover beside me at the performance.
Sitting beside me through the show however was a young boy.

Sometime after the girl had spoken to me, he turned to me during the middle of the performance and said: 'Excuse me Mister - Do you like music?' 

I don't know how long it took him to work it all out in his head, but every so often he would turn to me and ask another question.

I never was sure if he understood my answers.

The show itself was predominantly orchestral, but with a couple of singers thrown in, and a Mongolian performance of the Ma Tou Qin or Horse Head String.

Wonderful Tenor
The Tenor who sang was on par with any of the most famous, and the female who sang, performed both traditional opera and Ethnic songs. It was all quite super.

One thing I must tell you about Chinese performances that you probably don't know, is that once the final number is finished everyone gets up and leaves. So what you ask? What I mean is that they walk out even before the final curtain call for all the performers.

All the performers were coming on stage to take their final bows and receive their bouquets, and the whole audience was in the process of walking out. I've seen it before and it is really astounding to watch. Take a look at this photograph.

Fat Lady hasn't sung yet!

Mongolian Horsehead String
After the show, Sun Lemei and I spent some time talking about the future, and that left me very depressed.

Later at home, I felt desperate to talk to someone, so I penned a long long missive to my sister-in-law.

I had been typing for 25 minutes (touch typing at about 120 wpm) when my computer crashed and I lost the entire document.

I couldn't be bothered starting all over again, but when I woke up this morning I felt refreshed. I had gotten a lot off my chest and only God knows what it all was. Maybe that was his plan.

Well, what God plans and what is an accident and what control I have over my future I really don't know. But this much I do know.

I am not the least bit sorry for walking out on that indescribably wretched woman I worked for in EET. In fact, because of it I have come to learn something more of Human kindness and friendship in China.

Well! I hope you made it to the end of this missive.

Happy New Year to one and all!

Interior shot of the Baotou Entertainment Center

R.P. BenDedek


R.P.BenDedek is the pseudonym of the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (www kingscalendar com), and is a guest columnist at Magic City Morning Star News. An Australian, he is currently teaching Conversational English in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, China.

Stories from China at Magic City

The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.

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