Nov 17, 2010

Labor Year, Coconuts, and Dancing.

An update in 3 parts:

I've been struggling this year. I haven't been thrilled with the content of my coursework or the framework of my university. Frankly, going to school in this culture is exasperating, frustrating, and unbelievably insane.

Every day something happens that makes me feel like I live in another dimension.

My life's not as "fun" as is used to be, I miss my old job, my living standards are sub-par for the developed world, I miss the free time I used to have, and I have just not been jiving with this whole situation.

Yesterday after laying my head on the desk in class and just utterly wanting to walk out the room and never look back, I had a realization. I told myself:

Do it or don't. Wholeheartedly or not at all.

I told myself to leave. I told myself to go home and pack my bags and leave this blasted place. I told myself if I was so miserable in school to just throw in the towel and go. There is no use being here if I'm going to complain as much as I have been recently. And then that little voice inside me cried out, "No! I'm not ready to leave yet! There is so much work left to do!" The thought of leaving terrified me because I don't want to go.

And that settled that.

I will stay. And I will do this wholeheartedly. Because that is the only way to do things.

So, I have labeled this year my "labor year." It is very clear that once my Chi.nese is wicked good, things will be much easier. I have to labor through this year in order to get to the next step, which is PhD coursework and officially starting my dissertation (which I'm stoked on). I've been admitted to the program on the basis of a high score on a Chin.ese test in June. So, it's time to labor on.

No more excuses. No more whining about how I can speak but not read. No more moping about the awful teaching methodology in and how teachers have no idea what they are doing and how the administration is about as competent as an umbrella with holes in it.

No more. Suck it up, work like a maniac, and get this done. Then things will be better.

Of course, the other 800 aspects of my life are rockin. I love my job. I love my chrch. I love running the orphan program. And I have a decent social life. It's just that school needs to become a primary focus, not just the thing I do during the day time.

My teacher gave me a book for learning characters. It should help with the mental block that I have going on. There's this insane fear that I have about Chi.nese characters. I have never felt such emotional strain about something I am learning. It's not just Chin.ese. It's my life. I've never had to work this hard in school. Ever.

So, year of labor it is. I will work my butt off and hope that next year is better. Expectations: adjusted.

Anywho: today was funny.

On the way to work something amusing happened. I fell asleep on the way there (normal), and woke up to the old lady next to me feeling my hair. Like, literally had an entire curl in her hand. "Hi," I said in Chin.ese. "Is this color real?" she asked me. haha. It's like, totally normal to be treated like an animal, being felt while I'm sleeping. haha. We went on to have a cute little conversation before I exited the bus for work.

Then in class I gave my students notecards and their first assignment was something I have coined as, "verbal journaling." I give the students notecards with random stuff on them, "what is something you have learned that nobody taught you," "what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses," "if you could create one new law what would it be," blah blah blah. They have to "verbally journal" this topic to their partner, and then the partner repeats what they said back to them. This works their comprehension and listening skills as well as their oral expression skills.

I love this activity because it is hard for them and easy for me, they talk for over 45 minutes by themselves, and in the end 9/10 students feel so proud of themselves. It's awesome.

So, one of the cards was, "describe the most beautiful thing you have ever seen." I was walking around the room and just haphazardly listening to each pair when I saw something written on a student's notebook. "Coconut tree." She had looked up in her electronic dictionary how to say it. The most beautful thing she had ever seen was a coconut tree.

I asked her about this and she described to me a time when she visited a province in the south of China (Hainan) where there is beach. It was the only time she has been to a tropical place and she was enamored by the coconut trees.

I loved this. What a simple thing. A coconut tree. And yet here she was talking about it as the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

I need to be more observant to the small things around. As someone who has traveled a lot and seen a lot, I still need to be reminded of the beauty and wonder of a coconut tree. G0d's hand is everywhere.

I loved this. I am so thankful to her for this reminder.

Here's a picture of my Wednesday evening Intermediate class. There's 20 people in the class but we average 15 each week because they are sometimes on duty in the hospital.

Then after work I got a call from my dear dear friend. She was upset and went on to tell me a story of how she had just been wronged by a teacher. Without going into detail I will explain that the teaching system here is radically different. And foreigners and Chi.nese people are not treated the same. And some things that happen here in the classroom would be illegal in America (such as blatantly mocking students).

We foreign students take care of each other and carry each other's pains. I was raging mad and hopped in a taxi to ride the 20 minutes out to where she was at another campus. She got in the cab and we immediately knew where to go: foot massages.

Foot massages make everything better.

I love the foot massagers. They are my friends. We laugh. We get to practice Chin.ese in a non-threatening situation and my friend and I get what we lack so much here in physical touch. It's just glorious.

After the one hour of delicious amazing-ness we were saying, "what injustice?" "what nastiness?" That hour redeemed the previous two for my friend. We always hang out a bit after paying for our massages (about 6 bucks for one hour, ha). This time, we danced. And had a min-photo shoot brought on by some of the girls hanging around. The boss is a ladies man and always has random women hanging out. They love us, and I was so excited that today they wanted pictures! I have been dying to take pictures in this place forever but not sure if it would be ok! Whoohooooo today was the day!

Lo' and behold: foot massage heaven that wipes all tears away:

He Bu Wei, the boss/ladies man:

The boss man's lady friend #1:
oh yes, we danced:

Look for some coconut trees today. Or at least bust a move. It makes everything better.

Walk slow. xoxo.


agapelife said...

First of all your attitude is an inspiration. No lie, I often say to myself, if Jessica can do this in one of the most difficult languages on earth I can certainly do this in my native language!

Second, your life is HILARIOUS. YOu are the only person I know who would dance with her foot massager, and that's why I love you.

Mom said...

I AM SOOOOOOO JEALOUS!!!! I want a foot massage!! My favorite place!!!!!

Ke Xiao Mei said...

@Rae - girl, you are an inspiration to me! You are a wife! We both have ended up wher we are supposed to be. How awesome. China's definitely been building some character, though. Thanks for your kind words. And omg you would LOVE my foot massagers, they are soooo funny!

@ Mom - COME BACK! And did you notice the new wallpaper and tv on the wall and fabric on the chairs? They've spruced the place up! There was even incense burning last night when we went in. Yemi and I thought we were at the wrong place for a second. haha. but the chickens are still there. haha.

miss and love you both.