Huh? What is going on? Really? Again?…I had just returned from a quick errand to find that I was locked out of my apartment. This is not the first time this has happened, but what was strange is that this time I remembered my keys, only my key would not open my door. Seriously? I must have been doing something wrong. Nope…I was turning the key correctly, yet it wasn’t working.
Let me give you a little background knowledge on my situation. I live in China. I don’t speak Chinese. My landlord doesn’t speak English. This makes for a complicated situation when I am in need of assistance.
Remaining calm, I called a few friends to see if they could offer any helpful tips, but none of them answered their phones. I then called Julie, my Chinese friend, to explain the situation and seek advice. It was then that I realized the importance of schema.
Julie had helped me change my locks a couple of months ago when I fired my ayi (housekeeper). She had given both me and my landlord a new key. In addition to those 2 keys, she had also given me a pack of 6 extra keys. In preparation for my new ayi tomorrow, I had tried one of the 6 extra keys in the door to check if it worked (it did). During our phone conversation, Julie revealed that using one of the 6 extra keys makes the first 2 keys stop working. Hmmm…this information would have been useful when she gave me the keys, right? In China, apparently this is the norm. You have 2 keys to give to repairmen, construction workers, etc. and once you are ready to move in, you use the second set of keys to avoid having to collect keys or change your locks. Great idea, but not how it works in the U.S. Julie’s schema was different than mine, and she made the assumption that we have similar schemata when it comes to keys. It made me realize that I should be acutely aware of my schema versus my students’ schemata when I am teaching. I shouldn’t assume they will know what I am talking about because they may have different experiences.
OK, back to the lock out. The ONLY person with one of the 6 keys was my new ayi who is supposed to start working tomorrow. I have never met her and I don’t have her phone number (I realized that this is a problem). A colleague referred her to me and gave her my address and key. I called my colleague, who then called my ayi. Luckily she was able to come over and let me in. So, on the plus side, I have now met my ayi. 🙂 I gave her 100 RMB for her troubles, and thanked her profusely (in Chinese, of course). I just realized that I learned another lesson tonight. I should give some of those extra keys to my friends in case I get myself into another predicament like this!