Saturday, November 01, 2014

Oh Yeah BTW I Moved To China (Month 6 & 7)


Oh how the time goes by! Can it be I’ve been here over half a year? Not much happened during this month, except now I teach Kindergarten. Actually, I don’t know if teaching is really what I do. A more accurate way to put it would be, “ I play games, TRY to teach English, and put out fires before they start.” The classes themselves are lighter and less structured, but JESUS, the energy needed to keep these kids focused is far beyond what I expected! Prior to working here, I never meditated or tried yoga, I always thought it was kind of silly and I didn’t have the patience for it. 

But now…I HAVE TO! 

In order to stay focused on my painting and not loose it in class when twenty 5 year olds are acting like they have turrets, I have to “zen out” and breatheeeeeeee.

“Remember Jeff, they were born sometime in 2009-2010, they’re babies. They are just doing what they are supposed to do. Relax and get them focused again.
Do the 1-2-3, who is good chant... 
And watch out for that one, she looks like she might puke on your shoes!”

And then she did puke. But thanks to my cat like reflexes, I got out of the way in time. But about 20minutes later a little boy named, let's say Nugget, punched me right in the crouch! And this little jackass, unless he gets some discipline in his life, he’s going to be a colossal piece of shit when he grows up. 

I know it’s not his fault, and I shouldn’t say such things because he’s only 5, but this kid is a jerk. Or rather I should say, his parents don’t do their job at home and that’s why he acts the way he does. I also assume both his parents are around, which is not always the case in China. Divorce is not as uncommon as it used to be. 

I’ve only dealt with his mother, who thus far seems to have the IQ of a bag of hammers. When she asked why Nugget didn’t seem to be learning any English, I told her point blank, he doesn’t listen, he’s disruptive, he wont sit still, and I’m not going to stop the class just to get him in line. And when we do discipline him, he cries, screams, throws a tantrum like spoiled child, and I have to kick his little punk ass out! I left the little “punk ass” part out and I don’t know if what I said translated verbatim through my Chinese teacher, but Nugget’s mother did look stunned. So did my Chinese teacher. Evidently the Chinese teachers just let the parents brow beat them and never tell them their “precious little angels” are monsters in the making. 

Neither I or 90's TV Icon Homey The Clown Play That!
Not in my class…Jeff don’t play that shit. 

Two years ago, I would never have imagined that this would be part of my life.  

Two years ago I was smitten over a behavioral neuroscience major named Esther. She was funny, driven, nerdy, adventurous, gorgeous, and liked me for who I was. I wasn’t sure if she was the one, I’m not really sold on the concept of “the one”, but at the time, I was crazy about her. Much of our relationship is a blur now, but there was a particular moment I remember very clearly; it was the moment I wanted to tell her I loved her. 

It was cold in my apartment, rain was slowly falling outside, making a gentle slow steady “tap, tap, tap” on my neighbors wooden fence. Common house sparrows that appear in so many of my paintings were chirping just outside my window. My room was filled with a dull blue color from the early morning sunrise. As I turned to my left, I could see her drooling on my pillow. I laughed silently to myself and tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. It didn’t matter, because a few minutes later, the 7am alarm on her cell phone went off. She stretched, said good morning, and then nibbled on my ear. I laughed and told her to look at her pillow. 

What? Oh no not again! 
Now you have to buy me a new pillow case. 
And if your drool went through to my pillow, we’re over! 

She giggled. Then as she snuggled up next to me she said, “You’re so warm, I love waking up next to you.” 

It would have been the perfect moment to tell her, but I hesitated. I thought it was too soon. I thought she might bolt out the door if I told her. I thought “I haven’t felt this way in years. I’m filled with joy I haven’t experienced in a long time. I want to let you in…and that scares the shit out of me!”

But the moment passed and I stayed silent. I hoped for another perfect moment, maybe after a nice dinner or after her research was published in that science journal.  But it never came. A few months later it was over and I didn’t have to wonder if she loved me. Her actions said all that needed to be said.

Now this is how I wake up in the morning:

The children exercise right outside my window, so even if I take a day off or get sick, there is NO SLEEPING IN! But I’ve actually grown used to it, and dare say, enjoy it. Not the waking up early part, but enthusiasm of the children. It’s quite an ego boost to have 30 children scream your name the second they see you. I still however need my morning coffee to be fully awake.


This month was much more interesting. I went to Xiqiao Mountain with some new friends. The mountain is on the outskirts of the city and is famous for it’s natural caves, huge natural lake and one of the biggest seated goddess statues in Southern China.

The entrance.
We start off full of energy!
Lots and lots of stairs.
After two hours of climbing and walking, you're still only 3/4 of the way there!
One of the many devotional stone sculptures you see on the way to the top.
All this walking made my calves look awesome!
Josie fell for the old "got your nose" trick at lunch.
Just outside the entrance.
Peace Yo!
Hello gorgeous!

"I'm King Of The World"
Up close.
After 7 hours, we were done!

Times Museum of Art in Guangzhou 

Guangdong Times Museum is not only a venue for exhibition but also a space for the stimulation of artistic practices andcultural production. It is an active community cultural center and a platform forthe promotion of art development in the area. It is a new type of organizationwhich allows audiences to experience art both in exhibitions and artistic production.It is a base for artists to gather, exchange ideas and acquire support incompleting their works. It is also a research center and a think-tank. 

Visiting this place was on my to do list for a while now. Some of the artwork in the exhibition space was so so, but the exhibition space itself is gorgeous. 

19th floor with an overview of the city? 

Yes please! 

Plus they were really nice and very appreciative that I traveled more than an hour just to visit.

One of the artist in residence studios! 


Zhujian New Town

Right along The Pearl River, near the world famous Canton Tower. This is an area of Guangzhou that is famous the world over. Countless malls, hole in the wall restaurants, street vendors, The Guangzhou Opera House, Museums, beautiful architecture, cool bars, this area has it all. It’s like the Times Square of Guangzhou, but more spacious, more cultured, and a whole lot more Chinese people. It was a beautiful day so my friend and I checked out a show of Chaozhou wood carvings at the Guandong New Museum. Turns out it's also a natural history museum, which means Dinosaurs!

A special thank you to Joy for taking these pictures for me.

Guandong New Museum
A sample of Chaozhou wood carving.
Amazing detail!
People getting their read on.

Snake skeleton
Whale skull
Overhead view
I think this was a dolphin skeleton
Extinct horses.
More of the same.
Dinosaur & sharks

There was of course Halloween, which I went all out for, but before I get into that, something strange happened that I must share. 

The kindergarten side of the school is much more disorganized than the primary school. Things change at the last minute and the general vibe here seems to be more chaotic. I’ve tried many times to tell the Chinese teachers I work with, “Just relax, it will get done when it’s supposed to. Don’t stress so much. We’re not negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, we’re teaching children how to count!” The Israel and Palestine thing goes right over their heads, but they get the rest of it. 

The old office was worse!
Anyway, here’s an example of the last minute, disordered, nature of this place: I’m sitting in the office, which itself is in a chaotic state of transition, when one of the Chinese teachers announces, “Next week we will have a dinner for the teachers and the staff. You and the other foreign teachers need to pick a song you want to perform at the dinner!” So Rachael, one of the other foreign teachers, shoots me a, “Wait, what, did she just say?” looks. I’m equally confused so I ask for clarification. We heard correctly, next Friday, everyone from the school with go to a hotel for a big dinner, awards ceremony, and mini variety show! Evidently we, the foreign teachers are required to get on stage in front of 150+ people, and perform a song of our choosing. And we had to decide on a song in 1 day!  

Now when it comes to singing for the kids , I’m all in.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?
Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes?
Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round?
Piece of cake.
Put on a ridiculous chef outfit when it's 90+ degrees outside for an all day food festival?


For those of you that have known me, I can picture you laughing to yourself, even asking, “Is there footage of this? I can’t believe Musser would entertain an entire class of five year olds!” I have shattered old comfort zones and expanded into new ones. I have gone leaps and bounds beyond what I thought I was capable of. However, I dry the line at being a dancing monkey. 

Hear that Chinese people?
Not today kids!

I’m not here for your entertainment! If it was at school, for the kids, sure I’ll sing. I have no vocal range, because you know, I’m not a trained singer, but I’ll entertain the fuck out of those kids! But if it’s outside of work, where I’m not getting paid, you can stick that where the sun don't shine.

But here in China, the line between work and outside work is very blurry.
But remember my “No Dancing Monkey Policy?”

Here is how the exchange went with the Chinese teacher:

Me: Yeah, I’m not going to do that. You (Pointing at Rachael) and Kristen (the other foreign teacher) can sing whatever you want, but I’m not doing that.
Chinese Teacher: What? But you have to.
Me: Really? I don’t recall anything in my contract that says I have to sing.
CT: It’s no problem. Other teachers will be singing. It’s just for fun, and it’s for work.
Me: Yeah, that sounds great. But I’m not doing it.
CT: No you have to.
Me: No, I don’t have to!
Me: (At this point I used something I’ve never had to, or wanted to. I pulled out the BUT I’M AMERICAN CARD)
Ok, I know you’re just doing what the director wants you to do, so I’m not mad at you. But in America, if you tell someone at work that they HAVE TO SOMETHING they are very uncomfortable with, outside of work, it would be considered very rude and disrespectful. I would never require you to go on a hunting trip outside of work if you were a vegetarian.
CT: (Listen to her rebuttal)
But you’re not in America, this is China, this is what you do.
Me: I know that, but this isn’t for work. And I’m not getting paid and I’m not Chinese, so I can say no.

There was a weird tension in the office after our exchange and I know they started talking about me Cantonese because they would say something then look at me or gesture in my direction. But no matter, my mind was made up. If they had said, “ Some of the teachers will be performing at the dinner. If you want to sing a song, you’re welcome to,” I would have done it.

I’m lying, I still would have said no, but it would have been nice if they asked first. But to say that I have to when it’s not work oriented, and I’m not getting paid, is bullshit.

So fast forward to the dinner, we’re backstage getting ready to introduce ourselves to the rest of the school. So the plan is, Jacob, Myself, Rachael and Kristen go out on stage, give  a brief introduction, then sing “This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land.”

Now Jacob has been at this school almost two years, so he doesn’t have to do any of this signing bullshit. He told me, “After the intro, just walk off stage with me. What are they going to do?”

But then CT chims in with, “But you have to sing!”
Me: I’m not going to sing!
CT: I’m serious, you’re going to sing!!!

At this point, I thought, “Wow she’s got that look in her eye, this bitch is serious! But really, what is she going to do? Pull some MMA moves on me and force me to sing?”

You better sing! This is CHINNNAAAA!!

So I just laughed. After the speech, guess what I did? Walked the fuck off that stage right back to my table! Guess who didn’t have much to say but just shot me laser death stares the rest of the night? CT. 

Me about to eat a chicken head. Guess what's not pictured? Me singing on stage! Take that CT!

For a brief moment I felt bad for ditching Rachael and Kristen on stage. But they could have said no as well. On top of that, they are the rookies, so they have to go through the hazing process!

It tasted exactly the way it looked…disgusting.


It was a blast! 
Yours truly was Luigi from Super Mario Brothers! 

The Super Mario Crew!
Getting Mario's mustachio ready.

We also had Halloween at the school with all the kids. I don’t have any pictures from the madness that was Halloween Day, which is sad because some of the kids looked adorable. 

I was supposed to lead the children through this castle to perform "The Skeleton Dance" in front of the parents.

Wow, did I just type that sentence? 
I guess the ice around my cold black heart is melting…

We practiced for it all week, then they cancelled it at the last minute!
Olivia is one of my favorites.