Month 3 of China: Heavy on the awkward

teaching in China

When I first started training to do a half marathon it seemed impossible. I could not wrap my head around running 13.1 miles. I remember being at the starting line a very cold windy April morning with my family smiling and the crowd full of energy and just wondering “Can I really run 13.1 miles?”. I decided I wouldn’t. I would run 1 mile, I would just do It 13 times in a row. It makes no distance in terms of steps I would take but it changed how I thought about it, which often seems to be the key to most challenges.

that's the face I make when I'm so scared I'm afraid I'll crap my pants

that’s the face I make when I’m so scared I’m afraid I’ll crap my pants

My thinking was very similar the first few days of China. Could I live a year here? Once again I decided I would simply live one day here. 365 times in row. I don’t worry about the months or the weeks, I view each day as its own separate adventure and challenge and that seems to have been working well for me.

Now its the 3 month mark, a quarter through my contract. It feels so recently that I was giving my two weeks notice. My poor long-suffering boss, who put up with a lot from me -her only early-20’s employee- asked “You’re not quitting are you” and I said “No!…. I’m just moving to china”.

I like to wrap up each month with the Good, the Bad, and the Weird.

The Good.

I went to Langzhong and Chongqing, which were lovely and challenging respectively. I’ve made more friends (I was afraid my social skills would atrophy and I’d return a social freak), and become more established in building a life.

I’ve really settled more into my role as a teacher. Each class is fun and hard in its own way. The Chinese assistants are constantly telling me to be more strict, but after years of social work I have no more energy to be the bad guy so my classes are a bit wild. I’ve always been able to reign the devils back in when needed. My social work voice can be terrifying.

clearly she fears me and my authority

clearly she fears me and my authority

A few weeks ago was childrens day so I made the class super easy and let them play a lot of games. Since then every class they’ve insisted its “another children’s day”. I’m also teaching a SAT prep class that I thoroughly enjoy despite having thought those ridiculous problems were in my past. My kindergarten class is teaching me a surprising amount of Chinese. I can now say “Give me” “mine” and “I can’t do it” very well in Chinese. I may starting screeching “give me give me give me” when I try to buy fruit in the market.

The Bad:

The teaching methods the school uses are not always exactly what I would consider logical. Communication styles are not what I am used to and sometimes they may ask me to meet a new potential student or cover another class about 5 minutes after they wanted me to start. It doesn’t make me angry, I’m fairly experienced in just rolling with chaos, but I wouldn’t call it a job perk or anything either.

I’ve started to miss things about home more. Homesickness is a pain. I decided the best thing to do would be a make a playlist of  songs that include the word home, one with the lyric “I have been homesick for you since we met”. Because listening to sad songs is really a recommended coping skill. It does nothing but turn me into a big pile of pathetic.

Food cheers me up.

Food cheers me up.

But other then the school things (which I anticipated) and the homesickness (which I knowingly exacerbate)… I’m still pretty shocked that moving to China has been this painless. (My next post will be about me getting deported or something now that I’ve tempted fate)

The Weird:

China is a country of many things, that I think is often misunderstood in the west. However, its also largely entertaining to me and I hope I never cease to be amused at the dignified older women walking around town in their fuzzy pajamas.

Fuzzy pajamas in china

I have a journal that I write in fairly frequently and its very common that people come over and try to read it. I don’t really worry about it since the chances of them deciphering my handwriting is pretty small (My co-workers frequently compared it to a 3rd graders). After they stare at it for awhile they will ask for my pen and then start writing characters and showing them to me hoping I can read them (I think). I’m not actually really sure what they’re doing but I keep shrugging and then once I establish my nationality, occupation and my inability to speak Chinese, the individual will continue on. I just write around the characters they wrote because I don’t want to waste the pages.

A girl gave this to me and then ran out of the cafe

A girl gave this to me and then ran out of the cafe

My students all ask me when I had my first love. I had been maintaining I’ve never had a boyfriend to avoid that awkwardness but apparently I was feeling stupid so I told them I was 15 when I had my first boyfriend. They all gasped and said “America is SO open!” I tried to backtrack and explain at 15 its all very innocent but I have no idea what they were thinking.

I mentioned before the lady who sells beer and oreos (diet of champions) at my gate. She randomly gave me a box of green tomatoes, at first I thought she was selling them and I kept telling her no until she REALLY started to push them at me and I acquiesced. So green salsa is in my future and I have a new friend? How does one reciprocate on that?  I feel like a girl whose boyfriend just told her he loved her. We had a good thing going and she took it to a new level and now I’m not comfortable. I liked our simple relationship of buying/selling oreos and beer. Now its complicated. Never be the first one in relationship to say I love you or to give a box of green tomatoes. (despite my jokes I do find it very sweet)

That’s all I have to share from the rainy depth of Sichuan. I hope whoever happens to read this has lovely day, and feel free to send me advice regarding how ones to responds to gift of green tomatoes.

Those who don't believe in magic never find it