Sep 8, 2011

brave, strong, and hopeful.

Today was hard and awesome. Exciting and terrifying. Normal and painful. Life-giving and life-sucking.

Today was my first day of PhD class.

I woke up after a not-so-good night's rest and went to the gym for a good shake out of my emotions. The treadmill has become my therapy sesh and boy did I need it this morning.

Therefore, my "first-day of school" picture was taken in the locker room of the gym, post-run and pre-class. You're welcome, Dad! (this is a fam tradition. we have a first day of school pic since I was 3...can't stop now...)

When I got to school I was so nervous and filled up with water from my run that I made 3 stops the glorious potties. I'm definitely out of the more "developed" foreign classrooms and into the Chi.nese area. I got the pleasure of looking at other people's turds float beneath me while I peed into a trough (and I go to an Ivy League school - get your shit together, Ch.ina - literally)...

I wandered lost until I finally found the office where my class was to be held. It looks like there have been some disgruntled students that have gone this way before me...

Today's class is called, "Educational Graduate Research Methods," or something like that in Chin.ese. There's about 20 people in the class and we sit around a conference table. My teacher is an old dude who walked into the room, made direct eye contact with me, then turned to the student closest to him and asked them, "does she speak Chin.ese?"

Oh I wanted soooo badly to reply, "No, I just landed on this planet from Mars. Where am I and what language are you humans speaking? Please take me back to my spaceship." I need to learn that in Chi.nese. Too bad they don't culturally understand sarcasm.

My teacher smoked about a pack of cigs while he spoke. I had no idea anything he was saying. He called on me about 800 times and 799.5 times I just stared at him blankly. It is shameful to have people talk about you while you are sitting right there. I wanted to die. I wanted to run away. I wanted to punch my teacher in his chimney of a face for embarrassing me purposefully in front of the class. But no, I smiled, and took random notes, and tried my darndest to focus listening to Chin.ese for 2 hours. (it's really hard to keep focus when listening to another language for that long...the mind wanders to English...)

He did tell some interesting stories about the history of education in pre and post Cultural Rev. I can't divulge as much as I would like, but there's some interesting stuff there about schools closing, books burning, teachers being exiled, etc. It was fascinating for a moment to sit in a room full of Chin.ese people being extolled the virtues of their country and being given a history lesson meant to spur them on toward greatness.

I felt for a moment like I have been given a front row seat to the Ch.inese education system that is so rare.

Then I went back to feeling like a doody when the teacher explained that there's "no way I can understand because I am not Chi.nese."

Well, thanks for the reminder. Like having my classmates stare and giggle at me profusely is not reminder enough that you are all one and I am different/not one of you.

At the end of the class, I leaned over and whispered to the guy next to me, "I don't understand the teacher, what do we need to prepare for next class?" His eyes got big and he said that we don't need to prepare anything, but that we are having a discussion on, "logic."

Well that should be a hoot. I'm going to look up some "logic" terms and try to learn some words before class so maybe I don't look like quite an imposter/ding-dong mute.

After class I just really wanted to have a good Chin.ese chat with someone - to remind myslef that I CAN speak this language, so I went to my favorite little clothing shop that sells factory samples from American companies (I once got a Max Azria dress for 6 bucks, but this time didn't buy anything). Then I met a friend at Starbucks for salads and coffee - good comfort foods. Later we decide to be even more self-indulgent and go get blind massages and hot cups.

Fabulousness. My "chi" is right again. :)

One of my absolute fave massager dudes did my hot cups. We had a fabulously uplifting discussion while I was topless and face down on the massage table with burning cups on my back.

Turns out he is a Believer and wanted to talk about some of his recent issues. (I am SO thankful I can have these conversations in Chi.nese). His family does not know he believes and he asked me how he should tell them. He could face complete ostracization - being cut off from family funds and communication. He just wanted to talk about it.

Of course, I didn't have anything monumental to say because there is no way I could relate or fully understand his situation. I don't know what it is like to be prosecuted for something I believe. I could only give him a listening ear (and safe, because Chi.nese people often feel safer talking about these things to foreigners) and encourage him to be brave and strong and hopeful.

My dear, sweet massager friend has a life 8 million times harder than I will ever understand. And I complain about being embarrassed in a class - something so fleeting and juvenile.

As I talked with him I felt a little tug inside. While I was telling him to be brave and strong and hopeful I reminded myself also to harbor these traits in my ghastly Chin.ese class.

I will go to class next week and be brave and strong and hope for the best - and then probably go drop a nervous doody in the trough. The literal trough.

Running and PhD classes in Chin.ese, blind massages, hot cups, and counseling sessions...just another day in Crazyville.

walk slow. xoxo.


agapelife said...

holy smoke Jess,
I cried reading about your first day of class and your convo with your massager. I think about you all the time. this is you life girl, what a blessing to see you live it!

agapelife said... are stunning gorgeous!

Anonymous said...

I also cried! Your massage man brought tears to my eyes. What persecution. You probably gave him such relief and made him feel so much better about what he believes. Just having the opportunity to talk to a kind, understanding soul in a time of need is quite literally a life saver. When that b-hole of a teacher says something rude to or about you, just remember your massager friend and remember that you have experienced freedom that very few people you interact with each day will never know. I love you. Thanks for the photos! I love photos! Please dont take turd photos though. xoxo, Ellie