The Buxiban 2005, a script

Its the first day of the new year. Our hero “Steve” has a new shiny job at a Buxiban. He is unsure of what awaits him. But with trepidation he steps forth to the transparent double doors which show the promise of a freshly decorated reception.

Steve is brought crashing down to earth as the doors fail to open. Muffled cries from people within, plus exaggerated hand movements can be seen, but no-one is actually moving to help. It seems the doors aren’t working. Odd! Steve prises then open with a hearty tug.

“Your doors are broken”.

“No. I keep them switched off during the cold and windy days. Or they open by themselves”.

Steve wondered how many windy or cold days there are during the year. Later that day he found the answer was between 200 and 300 days per year. Incredible.

“And now,” said the Loaban, taking Steve under his wing, “Let me explain my complicated, yet wholly fair, wage sysytem. It will take a few minutes, which is why I want you to work an extra three hours your first day. Is that my phone ringing…?”

Laoban disappears, Steve waits…

When I return from work I will look in the flounder bin, and tell you more of Steve’s first day.

Hmmm… a buXUban eh? 不許班 ? The nothing allowed class? :smiley:

Edit: Ok. Title fixed. That’s better. Good story.

“You know, Im such a great guy” beams the Loaban. “My friend calls me, and I get him some free train tickets. That’s who I am.” More beams.
“I want to say that you can trust me. Its true. Ask my other teachers.”

Steve knows the money break down is sure to begin now.

“Let me show you standard contract. Very normal. Called standard.” “You work here and here, (points to large purple sections on lined paper) and I pay you for this and this.” (Points to lower part of the purple sections)

“So Im here 40 hours and you pay me for 20?” Steve wondered.
“No. You western guys so funny. You work 20 I pay 20. The other time is yours. Study, meet girls, drink beer. You know bin lang?”

Steve sighs. But it’s true. There are other ways to look at your life. “That’s right, sooner you become like Taiwanese the easier it all gets.” Another nugget from the worldly wise Laoban.

It’s all fitting into place nicely now. Steve has had the run down on the money shafteroo, the lesson breaks which though unpaid are wholly for his benefit, the short walks to and from the whimsical second branch, and the unpaid staff meetings.
Oh, and he had his curriculum training and fire safety tour. Not.

Steve is happy. There are other Westerners around him, they have been here for a few years, and they are totally sane.

Steve fires himself up for his first class. “Any last words of advice before I step in there?” He asks his new comrades. “Yeah dude, don’t piss off the elephant…”

How much more is left? Until the flounder bin?

Don’t flounder it. Make it a sticky.

But fix the title.

Steve is amazed and perplexed. An elephant…?

The Loaban arrives as Steve picks up his resources. A pen, a board marker, and a flashcard of some milk. “Great. You found your stuffs. You need more flashcards, ask your new friends. Also, please make your own. It’s so fun to make.”

Steve thinks about this for a second then heads for his class.
“Let me show you where to go,” says the Laoban helpfully. “I’m gonna be your teaching assistant today. For your benefit. You ok, I shut up, you not ok, I help you.”
Steve wasn’t sure what this meant. “So you will help me if I get stuck?”
“No. Dont be silly. You make a mistake, I write it down. I send to Head Office. Then some guy will fly down here and show you your mistake. He’s a foreigner, like you! OK?” Smiles aplenty from Loaban. “This folder is your permanent record. I write your progress in here. Other teachers can also write in here. But you can never look at it.”

They arrive at Steve’s new ‘learning environment.’
“Look,” says Laoban with a big grin, “It says assroom. Kids take off the big C. So funny. I must change one day though. No good for parents.” Steve frowns. Through the door it sounds like an attrocity is taking place. Screams, sounds of metal twisting, heavy thuds, and some rather loud trumpeting can all be heard. Steve pushes ahead tentatively.

Inside is an atmosphere of chaos. Kids notice him and begin to say “Teacher lie le” but the twisting of metal and thudding continues. Laoban enters and beams at the kids. In silence they drop their tools of destruction and head for tables. At the back, through all the steam, and the swathe of bodies, Steve can definitely make out the large and cumbersome figure of a fully grown Indian elephant. Steve knew it was wrong but his first thought was this: “Now how did that elephant get up five flights of stairs?” “Only four,” offered the helpful Laoban, “In Taiwan the ground floor is the first floor.”
Steve braced himself…

Up to the point where the elephant entered the picture I think you had a pretty good script outline happening there. And for those of you who scoff at the idea that Tom might actually be able to produce a film consider this. A.O. Scott (top film critic with the New York Times and my personal idol) just finished up a list of his picks for the top ten films of 2004. Included in this list is the film “Tarnished” which was filmed on a handycam and edited on consumer softwear. Total production cost (aside from camera and software) - 218 American dollars. You will probably be able to pick it up at Blockbusters sometime next year.

“Can I just ask about the elephant?” enquired Steve.
“Elephant? Thats Nelly. Kids call it Nellyphant, that’s pretty cute right? Elephant is not real,” (sorry bob) “Elephant is a symbol.” The loaban took Steve aside. “Its from head office. There’s one in every classroom. I hate them so much. They think everybody gotta be like Taipei. Like you say in your home country, bloody elephant.” Steve wasn’t sure he’d ever said that in his home country before.

The Loaban takes his seat at the back and scrunches up his face. Steve gets to task. Kids show their true colours instantly. Bastards, he thinks.

Steve puts his one flashcard, milk, on the board. Laoban jumps up. “Whats that? Only one flashcard? We got more somewhere. We call them resources.” Loaban disappears, taking his phone from his pocket as he exits. Steve thinks up games involving his flashcard. Mostly the kids throw things at the card, then run and hammer the card, then finally hide and search for the card. The Loaban returns 20 minutes later. Steve has had a quick peek at what the Laoban wrote in his file so far.

Legend: STEVE

  1. Nice smile
  2. Take him to Tesco
  3. Ask Steve if he is married

And then a scrawl of Chinese. Steve couldn’t read that though.

“Here. Sorry but I just got one more card. A senior teacher is using the cards now. I explain later. It’s milk.” He grins at Steve.
“Thanks. I got milk.”
“Now you can do plural work. Flexible teacher make more money.”

Steve learned later that day that an elephant never forgets, hence the giant greys. The head office was in melt down and had come up with this scheme to attract new students. But the rural buxiban where Steve found himself was, give or take five large plastic elephants, pretty much a law unto itself…

I like this…I think that the league of gentlemen could use a character like the laoban

So Steve has survived the first 45 minutes of his buxiban teaching career. He is feeling confident that things are going well. A loud klaxxon whirs into life and the kids scream and fling themselves at the door.
“What the…” but he has no chance to finish his sentence before the Loaban swiftly takes him from the room and dumps him back with his new Western counterparts. “Break time” he announces gleefully. Pointing at the clock he says, “You got ten whole minutes, absolutely. Its your time. Have fun. Ten minutes. Ask them, they love me!”

Steve realises he is the last one in the room, even though he left his ‘assroom’ pretty swiftly. All four teachers are on their phones. Steve eavesdrops into their lives…

“So I told Tommo, I want one lump of coffee and two bags of tea, and he says ‘tomorrow,’ but I got customers tonight…”

“Yeah I miss you darling, see you tonight. I know your mum wants me to bring home those chicken claws. And I will get her some money from the bank…”

“…I pushed the blue button, but it still says there is no connection…”

“Wei. Ni hao. Wo yao…”

What interesting lives they must lead, Steve mused. Finally the person who seemed to be speaking to a wife puts down his phone. “Hi, Im Wade. Sorry about the elephant warning dude.”
“Yeah for a minute there I thought it was real.” Steve felt some ice breaking. Good. “Where do I get my workbooks for the second part?” he asked. “I’m teaching pre-intermediate senior 7.”
“Oh, you got the ‘piss’ class.” Wade laughs. Steve is puzzled. “You’ll figure that one out later.”
Wade picks out a phonics book, then a student work book, followed by a letter writing book, a homework book and finally a verbal reasoning book. “And they should have their home book and their comment book in their bags.” Steve gulps. “Seven books?” “Yeah, the second half is pretty fast paced. We are lucky. This school places very little emphasis on reading and writing skills.” Another gulp from Steve.

Steve puts his head into the first book. He is grateful for the ten minutes. Even though they are unpaid. The klaxxon goes again and Steve looks up. His new colleagues are gone and he is alone. Steve climbs the narrow stairs back to his room. The thuds and pranging noises are heard once more. A sentry shouts, “Teacher wei li” and once more nothing changes. The Laoban scuttles up aside Steve. “Steve you late. How come? Kids should be doing book 2 already. You gonna have to catch up… Let you off this lesson ok. Kids can do as homework today. I know you think I am a great boss now. It’s true.” Loaban is very contented with himself.

Steve is happy, but hungry. He awaits the end of the lesson, and his lengthy twenty minute break…

The bookwork section, as Wade had predicted, just flies by. Steve is the one struggling to keep up, not the students. They are well versed by now. Sweet. But Laoban has written in his folder more than once, and showed on his face what appeared to be the onset of appendicitis when Steve called one of the students a ‘cheeky monkey’.

Steve turns to the whiteboard. His new, yet heavily dented work space. He takes a marker and writes Pre-Intermediate Senior Seven. “Just write the initials, no time,” beams Laoban. P.I.S.S. It all falls into place. Steve looks at Laoban who grins back winningly. Does he realise? Never mind, Steve thinks. The students mechanically fill in their books, metal pencil cases clatter to the floor at regular intervals. Not so easy on the ears.

Steve is taken back to the teachers room after the class. “Very good for your first lesson. You made some terrible mistakes, but it’s ok!” Laoban dissapears. In the room is the guy Steve overheard speaking Chinese.

“Can you tell me what there is to eat around here?” Steve asks in his least annoying voice.
“Scumways, McDogShit, Kenscrubber fried chicken, or filth box.” This was a canny Londoner…
“Filth box?”
“Probably a wise choice. It’s on the corner. Everything is laid out in warm tureens, heated by light bulbs. Cheap and cheerful.”
“Thanks. You want anything?”
“Nah. And one word of help”
“If the rice moves, don’t eat it.”

Absolutely hilarious. You’ve hooked yourself a regular reader, TomHill!

Keep it up Tom. It’s great.

Steve thuds into the double doors on his way out.

“You gotta be like the elephant,” smiles the friendly receptionist, who may or may not be sitting down. Steve can’t be sure. “Never forget.” And she points skywards to a large elephant poster which Steve had somehow failed to notice as he entered.

On his return he prises open the doors with some dignity. His meal hangs in plastic bags. Three women descend on him. They take his bags, sniff them and begin a conversation. The exceptionally short receptionist, who evidently had been standing, asks, “Do you like beef noodles?” Steve has indeed bought beef noodles. We hold these truths to be self evident, Steve muses.
“Yes ladies I do.” A good opening gamble.
“Oh. So cool.”
“Yes, you are so cool.” They are all in agreement.
“My name is Gloria,” offers the receptionist as she motions for Steve to sit down. Apparently he is to eat in front of them.
The other two women don’t offer their names, but later Steve finds out they are Cherry, and Minnie.
“Why you come to Taiwan?” The killer blow.
Steve scoffs some hot noodles at this exact moment, he snorts at the intense heat and the noodles return with triumph to the bag. In the flurry of activity, during which some hot sauce escaped from the bag and onto a workbook, the question was skirted.

“Why are those students down here?” Steve asks, waving his chopstick towards some shabby looking creatures.
“They are special achievers. They need to work special hard to achieve.” It looked to Steve like Cherry and Minnie were spoon feeding answers to them. And that’s cos they were…

Steve scarfs his noodles down double time once the heat is out of the bag. The ladies are amazed at his chopstick prowess. “So cool, Steve.” Steve raises himself up a little in his seat. He likes this attention…

But it’s time to get back to work. Steve dumps his bags in a bin, and heads upstairs. Gloria can be seen fishing the bags out of the bin and washing them after Steve has left.

The Loaban is waiting for Steve outside the teachers room. “I got some bad news for you Steve,” he grins.

“Benny is sick, so you got an odd number.” Steve shrugs. “You missing one student. I gonna be a student in your class! How lucky for you. Not really bad news!” Laoban motions towards the stairs, and Steve gets both a nose and an eye-ful. “This is your Chinese assistant. Eva.”
Steve thinks time has stopped. Eva is a knockout. Although, she appears to be wearing everything she owns. Bright yellow stilettos, blue jeans with a leopard print skirt wrapped around them, a pink t-shirt, a jumper, a bear fur body warmer, and many pieces of jewellery. Her hair is highlighted and pushed up. “Hiiiiiiiii.” She beams. She gives the Laoban a super smile. He super smiles back. Eva smells like a meadow. Steve is flustered and shakes her hand.

In the classroom the usual chaos is ensuing. Steve wonders if all the students are like this…
“May I speak to the students please?” Eva asks in her soft voice.
“Of course. Take your time.” The Laoban takes his place as a student, he is chuckling.
And then Eva begins to speak. Steve is shocked to say the least and Eva is transformed in front of his eyes. Her voice makes a low, throaty guttural sound. He imagines her down at the dockyard spitting out orders to unruly dockers. Or maybe she was raised by a group of welders. She yammers on at a tremendous pace. Yuk! When it’s over Steve realises that his mouth is wide open. Wasn’t Hitler’s wife called Eva, Steve thinks.

Steve takes his place and begins to teach. He presents some vocabulary and prepares a simple game. The students have to run and touch a card placed in the center of the classroom. It is the Laoban who acts up. “Not in middle. Not in middle.” Steve patiently moves the cards a shade to the left. “Too far. Too far!” The Laoban is having a wonderful time. The game runs well. A child falls over, another announces, “Teacher is pig,” to which they all roll about laughing, and the Laoban breaks his chair by running too quickly.

One more game and the klaxxon whirs back to life. Steve is whisked downstairs. There is a coffee steaming away on his desk. Cool.

Steve goes out for a while trying evade binlan flying from left and right like he’s in matrix. He meets another foreigner who says: “They’re just downright miserly! I used to think they were good businessmen.”

Let’s leave it to the master,eh.

Once again Steve marvels at the fact that all four of his colleagues are in the room before him. How the…? And who has made him a coffee?

“Sweetie.” Steve is looking through his pile of books. “Sweetie.” Louder. Steve looks up. “Sweetie, could you do me a favour?”
“Sure, Im Steve,” said Steve.
“Hi, Tricia. Is my coffee on your desk? I put it down somewhere.” Tricia giggles. Steve dejectedly hands over the drink. It wasn’t for him after all. “Does she look fat to you?” Steve gulps, as the girl he has been talking to points to the other female teacher.
Over at the corner desk is a girl in her mid-twenties. She is bent over her desk and is fuming as she pushes books around. She is pencil thin. “Of course I’m fat compared to those scrawny wenches,” she declares. It appears that Gloria has told this girl, Sarah, that she is putting on weight. Hardly a fair comment given the fact that Sarah has barely an ounce of meat on her.
“The cheek of it!” Sarah isn’t going to let this one go.
“I read that the Taiwanese are very curious about other peoples personal lives,” offers Steve, “maybe thats why they have taken such an interest in you.” Sarah offers a mouthful of expletives in reply. Steve isn’t really sure where Sarah is from. Her accent is a complete mess. Steve guesses Ireland, but he can hear Australian, and South African in there as well.
“I’ve only been here two months,” continues Sarah, “and it’s been one long hassle. Can’t seem to get anything to work. The Laoban has been an absolute marvel though, helping me out all the time.”
“Someone say my name?” The Laoban beams as he walks through the doors. “See Steve, I told you. People love me. I’m like their father. Now, what are you doing with your free time? I hope you don’t waste it.”

Great stuff. Keep it coming.

“Hey, when you want me to fix your t.v.?” the Laoban asks Sarah.
“Erm, well, it’s kind of working now.”
“Oh, how come?”
The klaxxon whirs into life, the other four shoot for the door, Steve is last out by a good 20 seconds. “Come on Steve,” coxes the Laoban. “You got to get fit. You work out?”
“Not really.”
Book work. Some kid doesn’t have their book. Steve realises that he has to bolt down four flights of poorly lit stairs to a photocopier. “You just push the button.”
The seconds are critical…
Steve pegs it, turning sharply at the corners, gripping the banisters. And into the copy room. There is Gloria, copying. “Hi Steve.” A massive smile. Oh crap. “Can I use the copier please, it’s kind of urgent?” “Sure. No problem.” Grace is super super! But very slow. She leans cautiously up to raise the plate, and hikes herself up on one leg to scratch out the piece of paper. Her diminutive size works against her. Steve is hot, sweat is forming, and his leg stings. A bloody bite! How did it get in there? Gloria finally gets herself out of the way and Steve sets the book down. The instructions are in Chinese, Steve needs Gloria. “Sorry. Sorry Gloria but can you help me to make a copy.” Gloria has a big belly laugh at this one. “Sure,” she beams, “No problem.” Steve is out of there, hurtling back up the stairs, why are the lights off? Into his room, head throbbing, the children are fidgeting, eating and chatting with the Laoban and Eva in Chinese!
Steve gets the kids working again. He is hot from the run, but his room is cold. Steve has to walk what feels like five miles round the classroom, ticking books, and walking around the elephant. He is both hot and cold. Students around him are coughing and sneezing. Things don’t bode well for Steve…

At the lessons end the Laoban takes Steve downstairs once more. “It’s a lot of stairs for me to run up and down every lesson you know,” says Steve.
“Why you think like that?” asks the Laoban smiling.
Steve doesn’t really know how to answer. So he asks another question, “How come the lights aren’t on in the stair wells?”
“Oh, it’s expensive. We turn them off in lesson time. Be careful. We don’t get your health card yet… Just kidding!”

(Thank you for the positive responses so far :sunglasses: )

Focus in on Steve. Just a head shot, he is sweating. It’s a little blurry.
At first there is a faint noise, then it gradually gets louder. The noise is in Steve’s head. Sounds swim around. Voices, the clatter of pencils, trucks, some random high pitched whining music, an amalgamation of sounds.

Steve is having a shady moment.

He is on the toilet. A combination of filth box and the heat/cold situation has played havoc with his innermost workings. The toilet is a western affair, which Steve is grateful for. There are boxes of papers stacked to one side. Is the floor moving?

Steve pulls it together again. His head no longer swims. He looks at the toilet roll holder. Empty. Gasp. To his right is a box of hand tissues… Steve makes a decision and uses the tissues. Further proof of evolution.
Things are going well now, he realises there is time to get everything together before his last class, maybe converse with his new work mates, think about what to do after work, arrive before the Laoban, Im not supposed to put the toilet paper in the toilet. CRAP. It’s funny how you are thinking about something else and then, wham, you realise that you just made a massive mistake. Those earlier thoughts are dead meat. Steve has to make a choice. Fish it out, or take a gamble. He has to fish it out. It’s not a pleasant sight.

He turns on the tap. Where is the hot water? Come to that, where are the soap and towel? Steve rinses his hands, flicks them, brushes them lightly against his trousers then heads to the teachers office.

Before the last class he learns how to avoid the running up and down stairs if a student forgets a book.
“We already have photocopies of every page of every book. You just take them with you before the lesson. Someone probably should have told you that sooner.”