This week I had the opportunity to go to Reading Group at Angela’s house. Because this was the first meeting of the semester we didn’t get a whole lot of reading done, however it was a good intro and get-to-know-you activity. The students enjoy this time to talk candidly with native English speakers and we work on vocabulary and word pronunciations. It was a great evening.
Talking to the students gave me a a lot of insight on Chinese Culture and life at the university here. The students were mostly sophomores or juniors although one of the second year girls told me she was in second grade. I laughed and explained the subtle differences in the two terms. Angela’s 3 year old son Levi tried to participate in class between rounds of play-dough (see below).
This weekend has been pretty great. For lunch on Friday I met a Shure in Hankou and ate at Eliville. It was a super-cute, upscale cafe that had American Food!!!! I ordered a Cesar Salad and Tomato-Basil soup. It was awesome. For the past week or so I’ve been getting really homesick and having normal, American things helps me to forget for just a minute that I’m half a world away, in a country where no one speaks my language.
Funny enough, Shure literally doesn’t speak my language, but the old adage that a “smile is the universal language of kindness” is really true and we had a great day together. After lunch at the restaurant we spent the day together and I had the opportunity to meet her husband and 3 year old son.
Shure drove me back to her place around dinner time and when I got there her little boy Mac ran up to me and she told him “say Hi to Auntie” just like I was part of the family. I read a couple English books to Mac and he sang me his ABC’s while we were waiting for dinner. I got to play with toy cars and got my first Chinese lesson – a baby book with colors, shapes and the Chinese characters for the word. Next time I think I will have to ask for pinyin (the English letters that spell Chinese characters), because I don’t think I am capable of learning to read Chinese characters. It made my brain hurt.
The family had prepared a lovely dinner of Pork Bone, Chicken Soup, Mushrooms, and several other vegetable dishes. In the middle of dinner one of Shure’s friends – an Australian guy was eating his Chicken Soup and commenting on how amazing it was. I agreed it was the best tasting soup ever, and at that moment he scooped the chicken foot out of the soup and laid it neatly on the plate with a horrified look that made me laugh out loud. There is something about sarcasm and expressions that gets lost in translation. I realized that no one else at the table had noticed this response, however they did notice when I managed to break my spoon while trying to cut a mushroom in my soup. The top half of the spoon went flying onto the floor with a “tink” as the bottom of the spoon hit my bowl.
I was again offered a fork and knife to eat with, and politely refused saying “chopsticks will be just fine”. I am going to learn how to use them if it takes me a whole year.
Saturday was part of a Girls’ weekend for the foreign teachers and myself go recharge our batteries for the upcoming weeks. Let me back up for a minute though. When I say foreigner I mean “not Chinese”. Most of the girls are from the States although there was one girl from Jamaica. It was so much fun to share stories and adventures that we have had in the last couple of weeks, and to plan upcoming holiday’s together.
Speaking of holidays, I have two coming up. This next weekend is Mid-Autumn festival, but I don’t think I will have the opportunity to travel. The first week in October is National Holiday so I am considering traveling to Hangzhou to meet Benjamin. That’s if I can get a travel-buddy. I don’t feel comfortable taking a train and such by myself, at least not until I learn a little more Chinese.
I am struggling right now with balancing the pouring out of myself to my students and Chinese friends, with having my own batteries recharged. It’s a delicate balance because I feel like I have life experience and love to share with the other American girls and my Chinese friends but at the same time, giving too much of myself can get exhausting and overwhelming. There are so many opportunities and things to do here that it is hard sometimes to say “No” and I feel selfish taking time to refocus myself.
That being said I am trying to get up early every morning and take time out for my self and my own study time. There’s a saying that you’ve gotta put the “big rocks in first” so I’m trying to focus on what’s really important. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going. Until next time, I send my love.