I've been dreading this day for months.
The day I meet my PhD advisor face to face.
I wore red lipstick. It gives me a sense of power. I wore a "power dress." And while I forwent high heels because of the amount of walking I was doing, I added something sparkly to my hair to make up for it.
I was ready. Kind of.
Last night I could hardly sleep - waking up in fits of turmoil and sweats as I have been for the past few months. (even in Europe).
This morning I focused on deep breathing and tried some short prayers. "Please help me keep self-control over my sassy mouth," "Please make him be out of the country for 8 years," "Please call me to Iceland, Sweden, India- anywhere but here..."
But of course it was one of those situations we all face at some point - utter fear, but no way out but through. I had to go face him to sign off on my classes. I had to meet him eventually. This man controls my fate in Chi.na, he could keep me from graduating and make my life hell, (I've heard horror stories form other foreign students).
So me and my red lipstick rode the bus, wandered lost around the campus, and then eventually found my way into the right building and down the hall. I had a smile plastered on my face, preparing myself to nod my head and be sweet as pie, and then I heard a voice behind me, "Where are you going?" (In Chin.ese).
I turned around. And there he was. My advisor. I recognized him from the internet.
After a few sentences he realized who I was and told me, "come with me." And led me down the stairs to a conference table. A secretary brought me a glass of tea. My legs shook but my Chi.nese was dead on - thank God. Usually my Chin.ese gets shaky when I'm nervous or scared. But not this time - it was Chin.ese balls to the walls.
I spent over an hour at that conference table and left wanting to cry.
That man apologized to me for our "misunderstanding". (completely non-Chi.nese, they do not accept fault, this would mean a loss of face.)
He explained to me the reasons why he did not want me to switch my major. While I still think he acted like an asshole (can I say that?), I understand the situation much clearer. Basically, each tutor is given a choice of 3 foreigners. They choose one and that person gets the scholarship. My tutor had a choice between a person from Africa, Brazil, and me. He chose me. If I were to move majors, then he lost his chance to have a foreign student. Because I will stay his until I graduate then he gets another one - like a cycle of foreigners moving through the departments.
I still think he was a jerk. But I get it and I'm able to have more empathy toward the situation.
Homeboy loves to talk. While I only understood about 25% of what he was saying word for word, I got the main ideas. He referred to himself many times as a "famous professor" and told me it is the "end of the American century." I just smiled. And pursed my red lips.
I told him that I go to the gym very near that campus and he asked me if I would, "think badly of him," when I was near the campus. I was honest with him, "I was scared to look at the gate," haha. He laughed. I laughed. The air cleared.
He complimented my Chin.ese repeatedly and told me I am much better than his former student who was from Canada. He doesn't know I can't read a lick, but I thanked him for his praise and tucked those kind words into my heart for future recall when I am feeling down about my language skills. I also had a moment of this thought, "my Chin.ese is baller!!!!" But then I brought myself back down to earth when I tried to read my student handbook. Can't. haha.
We sat down and chose my classes without much discussion as to what I was actually choosing, then he gave me a list of about 25 Chine.se books I have to "find and read." I can't even read their names. Yikes.
Apparently, I take one year of classes (this year) then will spend 2 years writing my dissertation - in Chin.ese, in a group of 4. There are only 4 people in my major in the whole school and he wants us to write together. I didn't say anything, but I plan to fight this when the time comes. No freakin' way I'm writing my PhD dissertation with 3 Chin.ese people - in Chi.nese.
I left with my "study plan" and felt good about everything, and a little overwhelmed. This is going to work out, I told myself. It is going to be really, really, hard and often frustrating, and I need to study Chi.nese like it's nobody's business, but this is going to be a cool experience.
Red banners around campus welcoming new students...
You know that saying, "Can't go over it, can't go under it, hafta go through it." That's how I feel about this time in my life.
Gotta go through it.
Even if "through it," means listening to a professor spurt Chin.ese at me while I nod my head and wonder how this became my life.
Whatever has been scaring you lately, go face it. It might not be as big and bad as you think. My tutor sure is not. Next time I might even leave my "power lipstick," at home.
The rest of today's story will be document tomorrow...I'm going to bed.
walk slow. xoxo.