Oh, and fucking English teachers. There are hundreds of jobs for English teachers. That's apparently why everyone keeps telling me i should become one. Middle-class Chinese have several children and money to burn, and they think if they put their kids into extracurricular English lessons taught by a bunch of backpackers and shit-kickers their kids will get a leg up on the rest. Judging by the poor level of English of damn near everyone in this city, i am not convinced those classes work as well as the parents hope. But they are desperate enough that native English speakers with no teaching qualifications can earn the same as software engineers. Capitalism, fuck yeah. Also, white privilege, fuck yeah.
Fuck no. I am so fucking done hanging out with other laowai. I don't know if it's a Shenzhen thing, or an expat thing, or just a thing, but i find myself completely infuriated every time i talk to a white person lately. Since i have moved into a new neighborhood with no Western-style bars around, i have mostly just been having a beer or two with dinner or in my room and that's the end. It's good for me - i am spending much more time thinking and speaking in Chinese, and i am avoiding the insane markup of beer sold in bars here. But i did decide to go back to my old digs on Thursday night because i finished school early and was craving the ass-burningly spicy 小面 from the mom'n'pop place i used to frequent. The night might have been great, if it wasn't for the laowai.
At first i got to the bar and there was only one other person there. I was overjoyed because i thought this might give me the opportunity to drink my beer in peace and quiet. Also, speak Chinese with the bartenders. Unfortunately the guy decided to talk my ear off. Then, just as he left, another guy came in who i have drunk with before and proceeded to pick up where the other guy left off. Then one of his friends who i don't like came in. Just when i thought i was going to be able to ditch them tactfully, they decided to invite themselves along to dinner. Because God forbid you live several years in the neighborhood and walk into a goddamn restaurant by yourself, you need someone who has been here less than 2 months to hold your hand and order for you. Anyway, we ate, and of course they loved it, and they were blown away that it's possible to get such a good meal for under 10 kuai, and i just shook my head because these are the guys who will pay 100 kuai for some mediocre American food instead of eating the excellent local food that is literally available all around them. But hey, that's just the usual expat idiocy. It got worse.
Because at some point somehow the topic came up that i try to avoid eating meat. I think when i was explaining why i took the time to learn the very small number of Chinese characters you need to be able to at least get a basic idea of what things are on a menu. Of course, that sparked the famous "fuck vegetarians, they are all idiots" rant. It is so frustrating to live as a vegetarian (or vegan) and constantly have meat-eaters rant and rave at you about how actually meat is perfectly natural and much better for the environment because vegetables are full of pesticides and irrigation destroys the planet worse than any livestock and by the way not eating meat will leave you malnourished and bla bla bla bla bla. Like, these people are so fucking fragile that they can't bear the idea that someone can live a healthy, happy life without eating the same trash they do. Instead of just going "oh well, each to their own", like pretty much every fucking vegetarian does, they decide to lecture you about your personal dietary choices as if they are experts on the topic and are nobly sharing their great wisdom with your ignorant self. Even self-proclaimed open-minded progressives do it. It is almost always men.
At some point during the endless mansplaining i just told him to shut the fuck up. And then i told him to shut the fuck up again. Louder. And then the gaslighting started. Calling me defensive, and saying i was the one who was turning this into an argument. Telling me i wasn't listening to reason, and really i should because his family owns pigs and his job in Shenzhen is tangentially related to industrialized agriculture. Like, dude. I just wanted to have two beers and a bowl of noodles and go home. What the fuck? Then he started ranting about veganism and that it was insane because humans drink breast milk. Which so do all other plant-eating mammals, but at that point i just stood up and walked out. Fuck him and fuck all these fucking weak, pathetic men who try to feel big by playing in-real-life trolls in the bar. Honestly, fuck that place. I love the bar, but the punters are awful. Too many nights have ended up this way. And now i lost face at my favorite restaurant by dragging these assholes along and getting into a shouting match with them over dinner. I am so done.
I was choking back tears after i walked out, because it makes me so upset when people are so shamelessly abusive and contrarian. I know i shouldn't let it bother me, but it does. I almost had a total breakdown on the subway home. F came to my rescue and we ate some stinky tofu and drank beer in the park while i calmed down. I am very lucky to have already made a friend who is willing to be there for me in that way.
We met up again Friday night to climb the Nanshan after sunset. There is one particular lookout point where all the kids go to sit and drink and canoodle, and it was pretty grand just looking out at the city, lying on our backs trying to count stars despite the light pollution, enjoying our buzz like a couple of teenagers. That wasn't very long ago for her. I guess i am a bit of a big sister or auntie type figure. But hanging around young people makes me feel younger too, and reminds me of how it felt to be optimistic and overwhelmed and excited and have all those emotions that dim as you get older.
While we were up there i remarked that the same kind of lookout point in America would probably be somewhere people would drive their cars up to, and maybe they wouldn't even get out of the car. Although there are a fair few cars driving the expressways here, the mountain roads are just trekked by armies of people on foot. Of course, there was also a group of dudes on electric unicycles zooming past playing techno music. That would have surprised me anywhere else but - eh - it's Shenzhen. The sidewalks are bustling with all manner of odd electric vehicles. I really like being in a city where people are young and active and full of hope.
My hope is to find a way to stay here without having to get a soul-crushing job in finance or extraction or teaching frickin English. The idea of having to go back to Canada or even another part of China makes me sad. I kind of like this weird little boomtown on the border. I think i would enjoy living here for a while.