Posts Tagged ‘China’

This piece is adapted from a manuscript I wrote about my teaching career and travels around the world. ‘A Teacher’s Life’ is the working title (Feel free to offer title suggestions). On this blog I will add a few other excerpts about different topics. In time I hope to find an agent and get this properly published as a book. Feedback, suggestions, assistance are all welcome. Enjoy.

PyeongChang South Korea hosted the Winter Olympics in 2018, and was something I’d considered trying to see in the years prior. Summer of 2017 I’d left my teaching job on the Rosebud Indian Reservation and attempted to find work in Korea again. Nothing turned up for me there, so I accepted a position in Harbin, a city in northern China. Winter of 2018 I had winter holiday which allowed me to see the games. After the Olympics in late February of 2018 I was in the airport about to fly back to China, and I thought about how I had accomplished a lot of things I’d wanted to do in my life. I’d been teaching for around 15 years, did a road trip across the United States, self- published a few comic books and other literature, and had just seen the Olympics. Now that I’d done all of these things I wondered what to do with my life next; little did I know Professional Wrestling would be my next adventure.

I’m an 80’s child, and naturally was a fan of pro wrestling during the Hulkamania era. In high school I’d stopped watching it, and during the “Attitude” era of the late 90’s I confess to being a closet wrestling fan for a brief moment before becoming a full fledged fan again. Since then I’ve watched it off and on, but even during times of not watching it I appreciate it for what it is.

Tito Santana was one of my favorite wrestlers as a kid. When I first started watching wrestling, he was a tag team champion with Ric Martel in a team called Strike Force. Demolition, a heel or villainous tag team, won the belts off them. During a rematch they did an angle where Ric Martel got hit in the head with a chair, resulting in Demolition retaining the titles. Martel was then off TV for a whole year, and the wrestling announcers informed us fans that Ric had a concussion. As a young kid wrestling seemed like serious business, here was this guy fighting for his title, and he got a legitimate injury! Of course, my mom hated wrestling, “Why are you watching that crap?” she’d complain. “It’s so phony,” and so forth.

“No,” I argued back, “if wrestling wasn’t real then Ric Martel wouldn’t have a concussion and he would be on TV.” Martel’s “injury” was the silver bullet in my theory that the superstars of the WWF were in fact engaging in actual combat.

In the summer of 2017, before I went off to China in my quest to see the Olympics, I had a chance to meet Tito Santana. Reading Pennsylvania has a minor league baseball team called the Reading Fighting Phils who once a season host wrestling night. On this evening a professional wrestler appears at the game and signs autographs. My friend Ralph, who is a huge wrestling fan, told me that Tito would be at wrestling night that summer. We went to the game to meet him, and I got his autograph and my picture with him. Meeting Tito in person, I told him my childhood tale and asked if he could give me the scoop. The real truth was Ric’s wife had fallen ill and he took time off to be with her. Age old mystery solved.

A few months after this I moved to Harbin, and found out by chance that there was a independent professional wrestling promotion in China. Adrian Gomez, and American from Arizona, started Middle Kingdom Wrestling, which in fact based out of Harbin.

Spring of 2018 MKW ran a few shows in Harbin where I got to meet the wrestlers as well as Adrian. Mr. Gomez was the MC of the first show I went to. As he politely told the crowd, “Thank you for coming to the show everybody.” I reflected on how years ago when I lived in Korea people told me I had a good radio voice. Now I got the idea in my head that Adrian needed me in the ring to exuberantly proclaim “Welcome to Middle Kingdom Wrestling!” and announce his matches. As he held two more shows that spring, I kept bugging Adrian about letting me be a ring announcer. I was a stranger to him, with no experience in the professional wrestling business, hence I didn’t blame him for being skeptical.

In the meantime, my initial experience in Harbin wasn’t very positive, for reasons I won’t get into here (but will in my book). My initial contract was two years, which included a summer holiday in which I could go home. As the end of the spring semester approached, I seriously considered going home and not coming back. Thinking this, I took the time to see the sights of Harbin, such as their indoor ski resort, Siberian Tiger Park, and the Unit 731 museum about the horrific Japanese biological experiments conducted on local residents (Covered in more detail in my book). While potentially wrapping up my time in China, I told Adrian that I may not be coming back that fall. He asked me to let him know what I decided and informed me that he’d scheduled a wrestling event for Halloween season. Adrian told me that if I did come back, I could be the ring announcer for that show. That was almost the only reason I had to come back.

It wasn’t really the only reason, but it was definitely a factor. I had learned in my life that once you shut a door, it’s really hard to re-open it. Thinking my options over, I decided I would come back. That summer I went home and had a nice vacation with my family and friends. After which I flew back to Harbin, where in just a few short months I would become a professional wrestling announcer!

Greetings. This is a new experiment I am trying. Each Wednesday I will add a chapter to a short story, there will be four short stories over all. The stories that people like I will continue, stories that are not as successful will be replaced. Enjoy!

“Are you Russian?” he asked.

“No, why would you think I’m Russian.”  

Looking at her pretty blonde hair in the rear view mirror, the taxi driver smiled and said “You look Russian, haha. Where are you from?” 

“America.”

“Ahhh, America.” he said.

The sun was setting over the city, the yellow ball was dwarfed by the large concrete apartment buildings that went speeding past in a blur of gray and brown color. Conscious of the speed they were travelling Jennifer soon realized the highway was almost empty, which the taxi driver could tell surprised her.  “I know.” he said. “You were expecting a lot of people.”

She remembered how packed and stuffy the Beijing Airport was when she arrived there, and the thick smog that was visible through the windows. The Ordos Ejin Horo airport that she just arrived at appeared so modern and new, and surprisingly, was almost empty. “Yeah I thought China had a billion people?” She said as she looked out into the clear sky.

“Over a billion.” he answered. “Cities like Beijing, Shanghai, very big, too big, haha. But this is a new city. So, I have to ask you something. Do you believe in Ghosts?”

“What?”

“This is a Ghost City.”

“What do you mean?”

“We have a few of them in China. Government built some new cities, but not many people moved into them.” The sun was set now, and the city was a vast stretch of blackness peppered with a few extremely bright balls of light. They rode past large concrete apartment buildings with only a few scattered lights visible from the outside. “I see.” Jennifer said. “It looks like hardly anyone lives here.”

“There used to be even less people, haha. We have amusement parks, concert halls, many wonderful things in Ordos, but not enough people to enjoy them. I hope you can enjoy them while you stay here.”

“I hope so too.”  

The taxi pulled off of the highway, passing a shopping mall the driver explained. “My cousin has a toy store in that shopping mall. Five story mall, but hardly any customers. You should go there sometime.” 

“I will.” she humored him.

“So are there any ghosts in the ghost city?” She playfully asked.

“Why, you want to see ghosts?” 

“Haha well I don’t know.” She said as she looked at the near empty downtown area.

“My mother always said, how do I say, don’t ask for something unless, unless, uh, my father said dont ask for something unless you really want it?”

“He sounded like a smart man.” she observed.

Soon they pulled up to one of the dark apartment buildings. There was a moving truck that obscured the view of the address on the building. The driver rolled down the window, a blast of winter air hit as he asked the truck driver in Chinese if this was the correct building. After affirming that it was the driver said “Here we are. I will go to the office and get the landlord” The driver ran inside. Jennifer got out of the car and looked up at the building towering over her in the darkness. Only a few sparse lights shown from above. She didn’t hear any traffic, pedestrian or otherwise. What she did here, was the sound of a woman crying. By the truck she noticed a middle aged woman standing on the sidewalk. Her hands covered her face desperately trying to hold back tears. Jennifer wanted to say something, but she knew next to no Chinese. 

She felt a hand on her arm before she heard the voice. “Come on, it’s ok come on.””the driver said as he opened the trunk and took out her heavy luggage. As she grabbed a smaller bag herself she saw a young girl in a school uniform walk out of the apartment and console the woman, though he looked like she was upset as well. 

Approaching the entrance, the driver stopped and pointed to a building across the street. Jennifer could see the neon glow piercing the night sky. “See that over there?” he said. “That’s Hollywood English. That’s where you will go tomorrow.”

“Ok thank you.” She couldn’t help but laugh a bit at the gaudy nature of the sign, it looked like the old movie theaters where the actresses names were up in lights.

Moving inside, the driver helped carry her luggage to the elevator and to her new apartment. “We could have taken the stairs.” She observed as he pushed button #2.” 

“It’s ok. If no one uses this elevator,” he jested with an exageratted expression, “It might die! Haha.”

“Oh no I don’t want it to die!” She joked back as the bell rang to the second floor.

Back home she would have hated living in a place like this, because every room would have been packed with people blasting their music, watching TV too loud, yelling, arguing, fighting, doing meth and whatever else. Here it was eerily quiet, Coming off the elevator, the usually grave silent hallway was now filled with the echoes of footsteps and the rolling sound of the luggage wheels. It was dark except for the light from the drivers phone, which he used to find her apartment. “Well this is your place.” The driver said.

“Thank you very much.” She said in relief as she paid him his fare.

“Thank you.” He took the money and added “Nice to meet you.”

‘Nice to meet you too.” The hallway was again black as the driver put his phone in his pocket and walked away.

Opening her apartment door she hit the lights. Her first impression of the place was that it was small, but it looked brand new. For all she knew she may have been the first person living here. It didn’t sound like she had neighbors on either side, but as she brought her stuff in she heard a sound. Back in the hallway a light now glowed from the very end of the dead hallway. A man came out of one of the rooms carrying a box. She watched as he turned around, and before closing the door the he just stared into the room. For a moment she thought maybe he was talking to somebody, but it was again eerily silent. The man stood there in the gloomy hallway, bathed by the light coming from the open door. His posture was slumped, his head facing down solomley. The picture before her looked like an image from theater. The man then reached his arm back into the room, and presumably flipped a switch as the light now extinguished. 

She gasped as the silence was broken from the sound of the door shutting. Footsteps again flooded the hallway as she could see the black silloutte of the man approaching her with his box. He again came into the light  as he drew near her apartment. He appeared a similar age to the woman outside, and himself wore a forelourgn expression. No eye contact was made as he passed, and she felt no inclination to say anything. 

As he passed she looked back down the hallway, at the end of which was a large window. Through what little light shown through she could see another shape looking back. She could tell it was a girl as it appeared to be wearing a dress. It seemed she had a neighbor after all. She smirked to herself for a moment, as he observed the deep shadow like silloute wore a head of long straight hair. Her brother would have got a kick out of this, as it looked like something straight out of those Japanese ghost movies he liked. “Ni Hao.” she said. 

Then the footsteps stopped, she turned around to see the man stopped near the stairwell. He remained silent, but looked at her for a moment, his expression unchanged,  before descending down the steps. 

When she looked back the girl had vanished. Assuming she went back inside, Jennifer closed the door and soon went to bed.

Late into the afternoon the following day she met her Chinese boss. “Hello, welcome to Hollywood English! “He said in the school office. “This is an after school program. Students come here after school to get extra study. You can call me Brad. Like Brad Pitt!” he said, triumphantly raising his fist. 

“Uh sure.”

“So do you speak any Chinese?”

“No sorry?” she said sheepishly.

“It’s ok. If you want to learn some Chinese, I can reccomend a tutor. For now don’t worry,  our student’s English level is very good. Their a; how to say, weak point is writing. Can you help them with that?”

“Well that was my major, so I sure hope so.”

“Ah very good,” Brad said. “Come this way, I will show you to your teacher’s office.”

Jennifer never expected to have an office. Teacher’s didn’t have offices in America, but here she she would go to the different students classrooms instead of them coming to her. Entering the office she saw another head of blonde hair. “This is Kelly.” Brad introduced the two as they exchanged pleasntries before Brad led her to her desk. “This is your desk.” He explained. “We only have a few foreign teachers, and you will all share this office. We are a small school, but we hope to expand our operation this year.” 

“Sounds good.” She said, noticing a stack of books and other items.  “So this is my stuff.”

“Yes, this was Sam’s desk. Sam had to uh, had to leave our school, so this is yours now. You will teach grade nine.” Brad then proceeded to go over the curriculum materials, and before she knew it she was in front of a group of ninth graders.

“You will teach grade nine. They are very good students. You will like them very much.” He proceeded to show her the curriculum they would be using, the students books, other materials, and before she knew it she stood in front of a group of 14 year olds.  

“Oh you are so pretty!”

“Oh so beautiful!” Another girl said.

“You are very handsome!” A boy said.

“Teacher is a girl.” a student she would come to know a Meera scolded. “You say she is beautiful, not handsome.”

“It’s ok.” Jennifer laughed. “Well I am teacher Jennifer, it is nice to meet you. I am from America, and I will be your new English teacher.”

“Where are you from in America?” Another student excitedly asked.

“I’m from Los Angeles California.”

A student named Denny asked “Do you like the LA Lakers.”

“Yes I do actually! I went to their games many times.”

“Oh wow you must be rich!” Denny said in awe.

“Haha no I am not rich.”

“I like the Golden State Warriors.” Denny proudly proclaimed. “Do you like them?”

“I sure do!” Jenny gave a thumbs up, humoring him. Now let me take the roll. The students had English names which she read aloud. Susan

was the first name she called that wasn’t present.

“She die!” Jerry joked.

“She died, oh no!” Jenny playfully over reacted.” to which the students laughed. Later she came to Deborah.

“She die!” Jerry said, laughing again.

“Don’t say that!” Meera scolded. “Teacher, Deborah won’t be here today. Also Linda student won’t be hear anymore.” Jerry wore a devilish smile but didn’t say anything.

“How helpful, thank you Jenny. She finished taking toll when she noticed a hand was up.

“Yes?” She aksed.

“Do you have any brothers or sisters?” another student inquired.

Jenny grew quiet for a moment, but she figured this would come up eventually. “Um, well, I had a brother.

“Did he die!” Jerry asked with eager anticpiation.

“Yes he did actually.”

“Jerry!” Meera scolded.

“Oh, I’m sorry teacher.” Jerry said in genuine regret.

“It’s ok, Jerry. Let’s just move on. Who wants to learn English!”

Jennifer always heard how good Asian kids were. It appeared to be true, at least here anyway. Her first day on the job was fairly pleasant, but she was still tired. Kelly invited her out for some drinks but she declined. She just wanted to sleep.

She was used to being wary of dark places. Back in her apartment building she found herself hurrying up the stairwell to get to her place. The sound of her footsteps thundered through the stairwell. Rushing to her apartment door she found herself laughing at her predicament. Reaching for her key she looked down the hallway. The sun had long set as it was near midnight. Near the window at the end of the cooridor, through a sliver of moonlight she could again see the form of a girl peering back at her. 

“Hello.” Jennifer said, opening her door. “I guess we’re neighbors huh?”

The black form remained noiseless, it’s shadowy long hair flowed to the sides. Jennifer looked away and removed her key from the door. When she looked back, the shape was gone.

“How rude.” She thought to herself. It was then she felt a deathly chill behind her. She turned to see the visage of a young girl. It’s unearthly black eyes contrasted to the pale whiteness of its skin. The moved toward her and Jennifer let out a loud shriek that could be heard through the entire complex. 

She rushed inside and slammed the door behind her. Sitting down at the inside of the door, she took a moment to catch her breath. “This is ridiculous.” She thought to herself. “What did that kid think she was doing?” Her legs trembled as she forced herself to rise back up to her feet. Sweat formed at her brow as she slowly drew closer to the key hole. Placing her eye against the door, she at first could only see darkness outside. The blackness grew even deeper as it was surrounded by a circle of white, dead white flesh. It was the eye of the girl looking back at her, as if it could see Jennifer as clear as day. 

Jennifer screamed again as she jumped back and fell to the foor. She watched the door rattle and shake as she could hear the child attempting to turn the knob. 

“What do you want!” She pleaded.

The shaking stopped, and the last thing she heard was a pair of footsteps running back down the hallway.

Tune in next week for hard hidding action in Jaguar. A South African woman faces hard times in prison for crimes against her nation. But one day she gets help from a mysterious source. Who are they and what do they want?

In two weeks comes Azzaroth, a tale of Nazis and UFO’s from the land down under!

Landing three weeks from now is the Flying Fox. The grandson of a Fabled Mexican Wrestler, a Los Angeles teenager stumbles into the world of underground fighting.

Come back in 30 days for Ghost City part two! Who is the strange girl Jennifer has seen, and what is her connection to her new school and the other foreigners she meets?