American Mei You

I planned to write a post about starting a job today, teaching SAT prep. Towards the end of the job interview, when we were talking about where to park and what time to arrive, the main teacher (I’m the assistant) happened to mention that it’s a Chinese Saturday school, hosted in the Sunday school rooms of a Baptist mega-church.

I loved coming in this morning, listening to the rhythm of Mandarin conversations, and watching the exchange of mooncakes. I meant to write about how Chinatown, NC found me, smiling at the Beijing 2008 shirts as I looked for my classroom, down hallways full of religious art, prayers on posters and Sunday School projects. I would have felt a bit ignored wandering hall like this in Beijing, but somehow in Raleigh I like being Clark Kent, with my Krypton superpower to understand baby Mandarin, hidden by my American costume.

The prep class went well, we began with Latin roots of SAT words. The main teacher is American, I almost wrote “foreigner”, as if there is just a thing as foreigner in the native-less transplant city of Raleigh. Things ran as expected, down to the familiarity of last-minute copies and an empty copier. This is the fifth or sixth time in my life that I’ve been faced with a lack of paper and of English speakers, you’d think I would have it down by now, but I cannot get beyond Mei you je ge and and pointing to the paper.

I was driving back after class, thinking about how I would write about the school/church, which is literally on the corner of Dixie and Friendly, one of those fantastic moments when I know I’ll be accused of exaggerating.

I noticed, then, that a gas station I passed had taken their prices down. I thought I’d just caught moment as they were increasing the prices, but then I passed another, and another, without any numbers on their sign. I pulled into one, and they’d tied plastic bags over the pumps, and hung a sign. Raleigh is out of gas.

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5 Responses to American Mei You

  1. Elliott Ng says:

    When I talk about Americans in China I call them foreigners whether or not I am actually standing in China or in the U.S. Its a bit weird for me to talk to another American about something going on in China and be talking about “foreigners”…weird nested frame of reference thing…

  2. threegee says:

    welcome to my generation.

  3. Meg says:

    @ Elliot I seem to use it to mean non-Chinese person interacting with a Chinese person, whether it’s a political situation (Foreigners sometimes think….) or a social situation (Her mom is Chinese but her dad’s a foreigner).

    @ EI I was expecting lines in the gas stations, not empty places with sold-out signs! Crazy! How is it in Mass.?

  4. Gabrielle says:

    I was able to get gas on Saturday night for $3.99. Some stations are sold out, but there is gas to be had, if you are willing to pay for it.

  5. Meg says:

    @ Gabby I’m seeing a few places w/ gas, but a lot of sold-out, too. Stick + I are a 1-car family (more because I hate driving than because of gas) so I don’t really know how to reduce our mileage any more. Well, I *could* cut out getting lost every couple days…

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