Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Oh the bureaucracy

Today officials, from what I gather to be similar to the school board of Hebei Province where I teach, paid a visit to our school to make sure it is running like the well-oiled machine that it typically is not. Of course the school was given plenty of warning for this visit, which gave them more than enough time to make the school shine like to top of the Chrysler Building. (Can you name that movie?)

The first three floors of the building where I live were given a complete makeover (ABC would have been proud of the transformation they made). Please note that I said the first three floors ... the fourth and fifth floors, which is where Ben, Jon and I live were not repaired at all. I addition to a new coat of paint they hung new signs (in English and Chinese) and plastered pictures of the headmasters, China and every foreigner who has ever been to the school all over the building. Because I have excellent luck the school decided to select every horrible picture they've taken of me during the last 10 months and put those on display for everyone to see. When you walk into our building the head shot of me is horrible - I'm mid-laugh, my hair is blowing everywhere, my eyes are squinty and I have about 17 chins. The third floor of our building is marked with similarly embarrassing photos that will live on for God only knows how long. I'm assuming our new TV screen was all part of the ploy to make our school look better than the others in the city.

Since the officials were visiting and I'm white it meant it was time for me to put on a show. Sometimes it seems like I'm just a puppet that gets dragged out for photo shoots and publicity stunts. This time around they had each of us teach one class, even though last Thursday was technically our last day of class. According to the headmaster there were at least 150 officials from the education department who came through to visit the school. None of the classes I normally teach were renovated so they actually had me teach one of Jon's overseas preparatory classes instead since their class is small, well-behaved and nicely decorated. The class was fine - I taught the kids about advertising, had them do a fake commercial, talked about logos and had them try to name as many logos as they could - and the officials only stopped by for a few minutes, but apparently I did a good enough job.

I just can't wrap my mind around the fact that 150 people from the department had to come to check out our school. From what I was told these people were from the province, not our city, which means there are probably thousands of schools that they are responsible for. In my mind it would make a lot more sense for them to divide and conquer, but perhaps that is too logical. I'm just glad they are gone because that means that all my teaching is done and hopefully all of the construction around the school is done as well.

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