Well, while everyone is doin' the Christmas thang...I'll still be here. Bloggin' away. Like it's normal. Because well....everything around here is.
It's hard to truck on through what feels like should be a "break" of work and school. It's weird that Christmas just happens, amongst everything else I have to do.
I do love Christmas in Chi.na though. Because it's so meaningful. It's the nitty gritty of Christmas.
I don't wake up to a tree surrounded by pretty boxes. I have gotten maybe a hand full of gifts in the past 3 years. I can name every one of them. A scarf from my good friends Katie and Laura last year, a snow globe from a student, a bottle of wine this year from Lin (re-gifted because I cannot drink alcohol or I'll die - dang tuberculosis). Presents mean so much more to me because there are so few. And when I get a present, it is really thought out, not because it's a mandatory gesture.
A few weeks ago I was skyping with my mom's 3rd grade class (so fun) and one student asked me what I wanted for Christmas. It caught me off guard because I haven't been asked that or thought about that in several years. It's my 3rd Christmas away from home, away from Walmart, away from Sunday sale catalogs and access to things I actually like or want.
What do I want for Christmas? These exact things ran through my head in this order:
An off-campus apartment with a washer and a heater.
A hand mixer for baking so I don't have to attempt to hand-whip meringue (I recently quit after an hour, dumb idea).
An orange cat.
A husband who wants to live in Chi.na with me (in our off-campus, heated, with a washer apartment of course - and with our orange cat).
An hour of being able to drink caffeine and then unlimited reign on a Starbucks. (I have been caffeine free for 4 months. NOT COOL).
A new boss.
A silicone cupcake pan that fits in my toaster oven.
A plane ticket to anywhere. Preferably, India. Or Greece. Or Egypt.
So basically, Santa, if you're out there...I want stability and travel and baking equipment. Who am I?
Anyways, I decided for this week's class that we would do Christmas (duh) but my way. In the past I was really restricted by what I could and could not do/say at Christmas time. I even got in trouble for decorating the door of my classroom with a felt red bow. No Christmas allowed, I was told. Basically the university system is a com.munist scrooge.
Well, this year I have no contract. Whooopdeeeedooo helloooooo Christmas.
I taught tonight and it went as expected. Good at first, then awkward, uncomfortable, and silent. I like when that happens. People are listening.
Then we sang songs. And I tell you what - it was gorgeous. We sang, Do You Hear What I Hear by Carrie Underwood, O Holy Night by N'Sync, The Christmas Song by Billy Whoever, and Rockin Around the Christmas Tree by Amy Grant. All the good ones. And they loved it. Awkwardness dispelled.
Then I thought it would be a great idea to have an "elephant gift exchange." Last week I told them to bring in wrapped presents worth under 15rmb (about 2 bucks).
We played the version where you steal someone's gift if you want it and that gift can only be stolen 3 times. It was a medium level fail with an uptick at the end.
They don't want to steal each other's gifts! By finally they warmed up to the game and it ended up being fun for everyone.
Also, a difference in culture is that Chin.ese people do not open gifts in front of the giver. Because if you dont like it or already have it the giver would "lose face." (the Chin.ese idea of always looking ok).
Here, when you give a gift, the reciever says thank you, then puts the wrapped gift away until you part ways.
So this also comes into play in an elephant gift exchange game. They are forced to open the gifts in front of everyone. This was hard for them at first, but then it got better as the game progressed.
Oh, culture. Oh, Christmas in another culture. Again.
When I was walking to the bus stop after work I had a scary/sobering thought. I thought to myself, "I only get to teach people about Christmas while in Chi.na 3 more times." (I've got 3.5 years left until I graduate and get the heck out of dodge).
Now there's a wacky thought. Only 3 more times. Ugh.
Here's my little doctor/nurse monkies, tonight there was a hospital-wide test, so all of the doctors could not come to class. All these people are nurses, anethesiologists, or other whatevers:
While I was cleaning up the room and closing down the computer we use for class I had a chat with the hospital's head nurse (very back corner of the pic in brown).
Her English is suuuuper low, the lowest of any student I have ever had. She is a very beginner. She is no where near the level of my intermediate class but she still comes. And she always stays after to chat. Of course, our talks involve a lot of Chi.nese, but we are able to communicate better one-on-one because in class she barely understands me.
We were chit-chatting about Christmas and I told her that I would be attending the hospital Christmas party on Christmas Eve. I had previously told them all I would not be going because of various bad attitude reasons, but have decided to go.
She got all excited and said in English. "we are happy!"
My cold heart was warmed. I don't need or really want presents while I am here in Chin.a. Of course there a a bajillion things that could make my life more comfortable and "better" like a hand mixer and a husband (ha). But in the end, what I really need to be asking for this Christmas is presence.
I need to be present here even when I am homesick.
I need to be present here even when I wish I could spend Christmas with my family.
I need to be present here when times are good and when times call for some long-suffering.
I need to be present with my students, classmates, dormmates, teachers, boss, friends, and strangers.
I need to be present in order to teach.
I need to be present in order to be taught.
I need to be present in order to know what to say and when to say it.
I need Father's presence.
...but just in case you're still reading, Santa...I'll take some baking soda, too. Just for good measure.
walk slow. xoxo.