Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Inefficiency is the name of the game

Most of the time, I love living in China. It's a lot of fun, and my kids are hilarious. Sometimes, though, I struggle with how inefficient certain things seem. It almost seems like people think of the most logical way to do something, and then choose to do the exact opposite. Some examples:

1. Mr. Dong wanting our original diplomas instead of the photocopies. In previous years, no one has ever had a problem using a photocopy of their diploma to get their residency permit. This year, none of the other teachers in Shijiazhuang have had any problems with their waiban office getting permits using their photocopied diplomas. At our school, the three other teachers gave Mr. Dong colored photocopies. He seems to think that these are their originals. We're guessing he wants to appear more prestigious by being able to bring six original diplomas to the government office to get our work permits instead of photocopies. So, he's been trying to tell me, Emily, and Lauren that we need to have our parents express ship our real diplomas to him. That's a no go, buddy. I have absolutely no desire to ship my original diploma overseas and then hand it over to the Chinese government. Uh-uh. We called Kirk, and he's sorting it out for us. Mr. Dong, however, completely lied to us and said we needed the new diplomas because of a changed government law. Lie. Total lie.

2. Mr. Zhou. Really, Mr. Zhou's entire existence is quite inefficient. One, he barely speaks English. I feel bad, because I find myself speaking in broken English to him. Really, though, he understands it much better than when I speak in full sentences, even if I do it slowly. Having a building monitor for English teachers who doesn't speak English? Classic China. It gets better, though. The entire time we've been here, we've had issues with the internet. It keeps going out and needing to be reset. We finally communicated with him so he would leave the door open to the room with the router, in case we needed to reset it and he wasn't there. Mr. Zhou routinely disappears for hours at a time and doesn't answer his phone. Great building monitor. Neither of the aunties speak English, so they're not really an option. We've been running up there and resetting the internet quite often. At least a few times a day. Finally, I dug a little deeper. Mr. Zhou came into the room with me, and I had to show him how to reset the internet. Apparently, he hasn't known this entire time. Ugh. Next, I realized that there was electrical tape on one of the wires coming out of the ethernet router. The cord is not one cord. Nope. It is TWO cords, cut, with open wires that have been twisted together and then duck taped with electrical tape. No wonder it goes out so often! Given the fact that there are no fire alarms in our building, this kind of pissed me off. Really, guys? OPEN ELECTRICAL WIRES?! I grabbed Mr. Zhou, took him back into the room, and showed him the wires. "Not safe! Fire hazard. You need to buy a new cord. Not two cords. Brand new". He said, "Okay, I will do this afternoon." In Mr. Zhou code, that means: "I have absolutely no idea what you just said to me, so I'm going to say what I think you want to hear". He did tell me he put new electrical tape on the wires this morning, so he was confused that the internet had gone out again. I just had to shake my head.

3. This didn't happen to me, but it did to Emily. She was scheduled for an 8th period class. Mr. Dong stopped by her apartment and told her that her class had a "meeting" during 8th period, so her English class was moved to 9th period, which was usually reserved for their self-study free period. Doesn't it make more sense to have the meeting during a class' free period than to completely move another class? Answer: yes. So, naturally, China does the opposite.

In the grand scheme of things, none of these are huge problems that make it difficult to live here. They can all be solved and/or lived with. It's just examples of things that make you shake your head and try to understand why they're done the way they are.

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