The summer routine has solidified itself. I'm likin' it.
Daily tutoring gives stability, a steady income, and an early wake-up call (but not tooo early, PTL). And afternoons of Chi.nese class, errands, time with friends or alone, and the hospital work give my life fullness and a feeling of personal indulgence.
I can really only do these days a sliver of justice by sharing some short stories of the last 48 hours.
~Recently, I met a Chine.se teacher, Emma, who studied Chi.nese and then opened a "studio" in Hangzhou to teach foreigners. I liked her right away. She came highly recommended by some foriegn acquaintances. She is professional, not giggly like so many of her counterparts, and I could tell during our conversation that she would be a great teacher. I begged her to find a time slot for me this summer and we had our first meeting yesterday. She is double the price of standard classes, and this almost kept me from sealing the deal, but I am so glad I went through with it because she is well worth it. She was prepared, she evaluated my skills carefully and accurately and together we formed a plan for my Chin.ese learning over the next year with the eventual goal of passing the highest HSK next June (dream big, I say). It was so exciting to be on this side of things!
It was funny - we have conversed with each other in Chi.nese socially a few times and she came into the lesson thinking my level is very high based on these interactions. We chatted for awhile and she told me her aim was to, "break my confidence," to help me to learn. "Hunny, I have no confidence, I just like to talk and know how to have a conversation," I told her. Then she pulled out a passage for me to read. My knees started sweating. My body language changed to a scrunched up position, and I stumbled over my words, barely knowing any of it. "Um...maybe we need to work on your confidence," she said. "I'm confusing. This is why I need a private tutor and not a class," I replied. I am so, so, so happy to have Chi.nese class every Tuesday. It's about time. When I went to leave she said to me, "We are the same. You studied English and teach English, I studied Chin.ese and teach Chine.se." I think I found the Chin.ese me. Cool. Time to get reading! bah.
~I really hope to God one day that my kids are not screamers. Because the one I currently teach every morning is a screamer, and Lord help us all. He understands English and can follow directions well, but when asked even a simple question he responds with the pounding of fists and very loud, aggressive yelling. I remind him to, "use his words," to express himself, but I am not sure that 2 hours a day with me will undo the semesters of frustration and academic stress that he is obviously feeling. How do you reverse the affects of an over-pressured school system on a young child? How do I get this kid to realize that even though all he does is have foreign tutors come to his house day in and day out that he is more important than a test score or if he goes to international school? How do you be a light in a stressed kids life? I'll get back to you on those answers, and I might take earplugs with me to work tomorrow.
~Finally, my AC is fixed! PTL! The stars and the moon and the whatevers aligned and this afternoon it worked out for me to take Mushu to my friend's dorm and then go tell the dorm monitors that my AC is broken. I've not been sleeping and I've been easily angered and I knew that living in 100+ heat is the culpret. I sent Mushu to "camp" for the afternoon and headed downstairs to tell whoever about my problem. I knocked on the office door, but noone answered and the cleaning lady walked by. "My air conditioner is broken who do I tell?" I asked. "It's rest time," she said, then she went and knocked onthe window of the area where the dorm dudes hang out and sleep at night. The mean one was working and he lifted his head from the desk with his usual snarl (seriously, it's incredible that someone could snarl this consistently), and he snapped at her, "When I am done with my nap I will go upstairs and look at it," and then put his haed back down. It was 1:15pm. I was shocked, but not shocked. This is a perfect example of Chi.nese productivity and work ethic. Who gives a crap thatm y air is broken? It's nap time, and who cares that it is this guy's job to deal with the dorm issues and he is in his 40's - no one messes with nap time. I looked at the cleaner with big eyes and asked her, "When will he come?" "2 o'clock," she said. "OMG," I muttered as I fumbled back to my sweltering cat-less home. It's not that I had to wait, it's the principle of the matter. Lesson learned - nap time > work duties.
At 2:15 I had not heard from anyone and had to leave for work at 4, so I went downstairs and found Mr. Sleepyhead pacing the hall. "Are you done resting?" I asked snarkily. He replied that he had called the repairman. Sometime later, a dude in dirty boots marched into my dorm and I now and the happy dweller of an air conditioned room. Happiness! I'm gonna sleep great tonight! Might even take a nap tomorrow, too. ;)
~Last night I had the pleasure of going to KTV with my friend Rachel's summer camp girls and some volunteers from America who are here for the camp. A 30-ish first grade teacher sat with huge eyes and stiff shoulders as she watched the Ch.inese girls bounce around and sing off key to their favorite songs. I found it fascinating to watch her obvious discomfort and was reminded of a few times in my C.hina tenure when I have found myself at KTV with both Chi.nese people and visiting foreigners. It is strange to know that you will never be Chi.nese, that you will never be fully accepted, but that you have crossed the border into, "strange" territory as seen by your own nationality. It's like a no-man's-land of identity. The Chi.nese think I am weird because I am not Chi.nese. The Americans think I am weird because I like/do Chin.ese things. I expressed this to Rachel who mentioned the movie, "Lost in Translation." Yup. That sums it up well.
I've got a screaming kid, a napping dorm guard, and a Chine.se teacher with high hopes.
Turn down the AC and pass me a diet coke. It's gonna be a great, though randomly lost in translation, summer.
walk slow. xoxo.