06. The Bank Is Closed

26 September 2018, 16:57

His smartphone is updating to iOS 12.0, and he doesn’t want to leave the air-conditioned office, so he pulls up the Word document titled “Shanghai Journal,” looks at the clock, and writes a day and time in bold letters.

He just spent 2.5 hours at the Bank of Shanghai. His salary goes there, and he wants to understand how it works. He wants to be able to use WeChat and Alipay to make purchases because most vendors do not take debit cards (which he has) but do take cash (which he’d rather not carry a lot of). Since he doesn’t speak Chinese, he takes a student worker with him; her English name is Alina, and she is more patient than he is. Her English is passable, but she helped him get what he wanted: access to the apps that let him buy groceries and DiDi’s (like Uber) and anything really because WeChat is everything.

His students are quiet, well-behaved freshmen. They stand up when he calls their name to answer, and they do not sit until he tells them to. This is how they were conditioned in high school. He will try to break this because open discussions are an essential part of critical thinking, which it is his aim to teach. And open-ended questions, though sometimes difficult to answer, are the epitome of freedom and liberty and America and certainly not China because they’re collective here, and individualism is bad and they’d rather be silent anyways because it’s easier to be told what to think by some sage on a stage instead of a recent college graduate who wanted an adventure, so he came to Shanghai to teach English which is obviously not their first language—they wouldn’t even be in his class if they had done better on their examinations the year before.

A pond at golden hour

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