It's a large room with three walls. The wall to the right is glass windows which look out an empty building. The opposite side of the room is open leading into the halls which encircle the classrooms. There is a small dais in the front of the room where the wall is a large whiteboard. Opposite from this the wall is postered with a dozen foreign faces. Most of these are Caucasian, blue-eyed and blonde. One or two of the faces are black. None of them are Asian.
In the middle of the room there is a long white conference table. There are also about ten small round tables in the room big enough to comfortably sit four around them. Everywhere there are chairs. I sat at the head of the conference table. Around the table sat ten Chinese people. Near the end of the conference table crowded another dozen Chinese people in chairs between the round tables.
“Do you married?” asked a girl to my left. Her name was Alice.
“Are you married,” I corrected. She repeated this before I answered. “No, I'm not married.”
“Oh,” Alice said. “Why you come to China?”
“To see another part of the world,” I answered. I looked at the girl sitting next to Alice. Her name was Betty. She straightened when she saw me looking at her.
“Do you married?” Betty asked leaning forward.
“No, I'm not married.” I answered again.
“Oh,” Betty said. “Do you like Chinese food?”
“After two years, I'd be in bad shape if I didn't.” I said. Betty only blinked. Alice was frowning and knotting her eyebrows. I said, “Yes... yes I like Chinese food.” Both girls tilted their heads back and nodded smiling.
Beside Betty sat a girl named Cindy. She leaned forward and asked, “Can you use chopsticks?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Really?” Cindy looked confused.
“Yes,” I repeated. “I can use chopsticks. I've been able to since I was about twelve.”
“Really?” her look of confusion deepened.
“There are a lot of Chinese restaurants in the states.” I explained slowly. “It's easy to learn how to use them.”
“Oh,” she looked thoughtful. “Do you married?”
“No,” I said for the third time. “I'm not married.”
I looked to the right. Sitting here was a girl named Donna. She looked bored but when she saw me looking at her she leaned forward and asked, “Where you come from?”
“America,” I said.
Her eyes cut to the right and slowly she said to herself “Mei guo.”
“Yes,” I said.
“Ah,” she smiled. “Why you come to China?”
“I came to China because I like Chinese food,” I said. I heard three people laugh. This meant one of two things. Either only three people were listening or only the three people had understood me. Or maybe a little of both.
“Do you married,” Donna asked.
“Nope,” I said. “I'm still not married.”
Next to Donna was Elisa. She asked, “How old have you?'
“How old am I?”
“Ah, yes. How old are you?”
“I'm 34.” I said.
“Do you married?” Elisa asked.
“I have three wives.” I said.
“Pardon?” she blinked.
“I have three wives,” I said again.
“You have three wives?”
She said something in Chinese to the others sitting there. Suddenly there was as lot of talking in Chinese. It went back and forth across the table. Several people leaned forward, even the silent ones at the other end of the table.
“Can you repeat?” asked Frank who was sitting next to Elisa.
“I have three wives,” I said. Again there was a short burst of Chinese. A few people laughed.
“I don't think so,” Frank said.
“You can't have three wives,” Elisa said.
“That's not possible,” Donna said.
“No!” said Elisa. “I don't believe you.”
“Yes, I think it's true,” said Greg laughing. Up to now he'd been sitting there silent next to Cindy. “I think it's very good.”
“No I don't think so,” Cindy said.
“Three wives,” Betty repeated.
“How do you have three wives?” asked Elisa.
“By getting married to them.”
“You have three wives in China?” Harry asked.
“You have a wife in America and one in China?” Isaac asked.
“Are your wives Chinese?” Frank asked.
“One is Chinese,” I said.
“One is Chinese and one is American?” Greg laughed.
“No, I don't like American women.”
“Why you say you don't like American women?” Jessica asked from the back.
“Because American women are too expensive,” I said. It was the first thing I could think of. “All they care about is money.”
“I think Chinese women like this,” said Kelly who was sitting next to Jessica at the end of the table.
“Yes,” Greg agreed. “Chinese women very like this.”
“Right,” I said. “That's why I can't get married in China.”
“Why you can't get married in China?” Jessica asked.
“Because in order to get married in China you have to be able to buy a house or no one will marry you.” I said.
“Yes, that's right.” Greg said. “But it's worse now. You have to buy a house and a car. Otherwise you can't get married.”
“No, that's not true.” Donna said.
“I think it's true,” Greg said. There was a burst of Chinese back and forth across the table. People were laughing.
“Are you married, Greg?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “I no married.”
“Smart man,” I said.
“Yes I think it's good,” He said.
Frank looked at me and asked, “Can you use... ne ge... kuai zi?”
“Chopsticks,” I said.
I said it again. He repeated the word. Then he repeated his question.
“Of course,” I said.
“Why you say 'of course'?” Betty asked. “Many foreigners can't use chopsticks.”
“Many foreigners are stupid,” I said. Everyone laughed.
“Did your three wives teach you use chopsticks?” Lenny asked.
“No, I learned on my own.” I said. “It's not hard. I've been using chopsticks since I was twelve. All you're doing is creating opposing levers. Anyone can do it if they honestly try.”
“Yes I think you're right,” Greg said. Others looked confused which I decided was because I'd said “opposing levers,” and none of them understood the words.
“Where are your wives?” Betty asked.
“At home with the children,” I said.
“You have children?” Betty asked.
“No but my wives do.” I said.
“How many children you have?” Cindy asked.
“I have fifty children,” I told her.
“You have children?” Elisa asked. She had evidently missed something.
“No, I don't have any children.” I told her.
“How do your wives feel about each other?” Jessica asked.
“They like each other.” I said.
“All your wives like each other?” she said.
“I don't think so.” she said.
“They like each other,” I insisted. “Its me they don't like.” Everyone laughed.
“Where do your wives live?” Frank asked.
“They live in an apartment,” I said.
“Your three wives live in a department with you?” Alice asked.
“Apartment,” I said. “But no. They live in an apartment together and I live in my own apartment.”
“Your three wives live in a department together?” Elisa said. “I don't think so.”
“Why not?” Greg asked.
“Three wives,” she said. “I think they would fight.”
“Yes,” Greg agreed. He was very agreeable, this one.
“They don't fight each other,” I said. “They only fight with me. That's why I have my own apartment.”
“Ah, ha. Yes,” Greg “I very like this idea.” Elisa only looked at me confused.
“They don't fight with each other,” I told her. “They only fight with me.”
“They fight with you?”
“That's right,” I said. “So they all live together in one apartment and I live alone in my own apartment.”
“Oh, you don't live with your wives.” she said.
“Why you don't live with your wives?” asked Jessica.
“Because women are crazy,” I said.
“Yes, I think that's right.” Greg agreed. Some of the other men laughed but none of them said anything. There was talk in Chinese and people laughed again.
“I don't think you have three wives,” Betty said.
“Yes, I think he does.” Greg said. “I think it's very good. Have three wives.”
“I'll sell them all to you for a bowl of re gan mian,” I said. This is hot dry noodles which cost about three RMB which is less that fifty cents.
“Okay,” Greg said.
“I also have some ocean front property in Gansu province.” I said.
“What means ocean from prop-er-ty?” Greg asked.
“Ocean front,” I said. “On the ocean. A house on the beach.”
“Oh okay,” Greg said.
“In Gansu province,” I said.
“Gansu?” he repeated. “No, I don't think so. There is no beach in Gansu. There is no ocean in Gansu.”
“I know,” I said. "I'm told there is no water in Gansu."
"Yes, there is no water in Gansu," Greg agreed. "Gansu is very dry."
“Do you have a gun?” Frank asked. This question seems random but it comes up about once a month, sometimes more.
“Yes,” I said. “That's how I keep the wives in line.”
“What means in line?” Frank asked.
“You have gun?” Jessica asked.
"No, I don't have a gun." I said.
"But you are American," Frank said.
"You're American and you don't have a gun," Frank said.
"I've never owned a gun," I said. "Not every American does."
“How come you don't live in the same department with your three wives?” Donna asked.
“Because they don't like me,” I said.
"Why you say they don't like you?" she asked.
"I don't know," I said. "They beat me and call me names."
"What means, beat me?" Frank asked.
"Tamen da wo," Depending on the tone "da" can be hit, or big or a couple of other things. I spoke slowly and made a fist with one hand I hit the other as I said the word "da." Everyone laughed.
"Your wives hit you?" Betty asked.
"Yes," I said. "I don't mind though. I like it."
"You like be hit?" she looked confused.
"Yes," I said. "I go up to strange women every day and say, ni da wo. hao bu hao?" (You hit me. Good not good?) Everyone laughed.
"I don't believe you."
“I don't believe me either," I said. "Oh look it's time for the next class. Any questions? No? Ok, bye.”
“Okay,” Greg said. “I think is very good.”