I met up with some teachers from the English school in town last night, my first encounter with any Westerners since my arrival in Liaocheng.  Dean is from England, Patrick is from the Atlanta area, and Daren is Canadian.  They’ve all been in Liaocheng for about five months, and know the ropes pretty well, so they gave me the whole rundown on the city; where to get a massage, where to buy English DVDs, and, in weak moments, where to find KFC, the only western food available in Liaocheng.

We met at the school gate and walked to an outdoor barbecue restaurant, where they cook lamb, chicken, and bread over a long spit.  Patrons sit around a table on these tiny little stools, and the waiters bring skewers of meat by the handful.  Patrick told me that once the weather starts getting warmer the entire city will be littered with these sorts of restaurants.  Chinese people tend to not eat much meat, and I’m starting to grow a little tired of eating noodles all day, every day.  Barbecued lamb meat and chicken wings will be a welcome change of diet.

I was hoping to find a job teaching English at the school where they all work, and I was under the impression that certification wasn’t necessarily needed, but I was wrong about that.  Patrick told me that if I really wanted to I could easily find someone who could fake the paperwork.  All over China, scrawled on sidewalks, advertisements, and basically anywhere where people will see it, are phone numbers one can call to get forged paperwork.  I was under the impression that these guys handled things like visas and passes to places like Hong Kong and Tibet, but apparently they can do TEOFL certifications as well!

This is an example of one of the phone numbers you can call to get forged paperwork. The characters in gold are for the Spring Festival, or the Chinese New Year as it's known in the western world.

There are much easier, not to mention safer, ways of getting money here.  Apparently an American teacher here at the school has a group of students that he tutors, but according to Patrick all the English he teaches is straight out of the bible.  A large portion of the Westerners in China are Christian missionaries, which I personally tend to find very offensive, especially when conversion is masked by the façade of learning to speak English.  It’s taking advantage of his student’s naivety and burning desire for exposure to anything Western, in the name of a messiah that’s half as old as their own culture.  Tony proposed setting up our own English tutoring program, and to counteract Tom’s class I vow the first lesson will be on the multiple effective uses of certain four letter words.  Here’s to hoping I don’t go to hell…