Sunday, September 25, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It feels strange to be actually posting from the blogger website. Due to the firewall, I had been publishing posts via email for the majority of the past three years. I suppose this new reality is just one of the many things that I will have to get used to now that I have left China. The strangeness of the power one instant has to separate us from an entire context of existence is nothing new to any of you. What is most frightening to me is that I am now faced with choices about how to carry on with this next phase of life while doing justice to the memory of my friends, adopted family, language skills, and way of life from China. I feel like a plant that has been uprooted and left to creep my roots back into the soil of a completely new context that is like nothing I have lived in before. How will I 'get over' China in time to get used to Thailand? Will Thailand just be a rebound country? As usual, I'm probably thinking too much and being melodramatic. Ah-hah! I think that the best answer and medicine for this syndrome is the cultivation of a mindfully thankful spirit. Jesus mentioned something about letting tomorrow's cares worry about themselves. For now I am warm (so very nice and warm), clothed, fed, and very much loved. Welp! Thanks for reading!
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Yesterday was GuQin day. i got a late start, so I decided to do something that I rarely do. I couldn't see any regular cabs on the horizon, so I took a motorcycle taxi. I told the guy that I wanted to go to the medical college (I said 学院several times), but he thought it would be a good idea to go around BeiHu park on Children's day. As it turns out, it wasn't a good idea. Actually, I think he just had in mind that we should go to the hospital (connected to the school). I finally made it to our class, and had a good lesson. He took us out to lunch afterward before we went to Li老师's tea shop.
I felt sad about leaving in a way that I hadn't before. I was drinking tea (getting tea drunk, actually) with Li 老师, and she told us (my translation is error prone, but i'm pretty sure I got the essence) that we had taught her a lot. I think she said something about opening her understanding. I was really touched. I am pretty sure that she said that watching us and interacting with us and seeing how we treat our friends and value the things that she values has changed her view of people from the west. I am actually really blown away. I guess that God is working in our lives even though it's hard to see sometimes. My supervisor was really reassuring about this during my recent end of term conference, but it is such a blessing to have heard this. I felt really sad about leaving China then. I could have cried. I think that the reality of leaving has not sunk in. I'm not sure that it will. I feel like all of my traveling back and forth between the U.S. and here has numbed me to the reality. But I know, at least in my head, that even though I plan to come back (if God allows), it will never be the same. This has been my home for two years, and the relationships I have made are just now really feeling more solid. I could imagine a life here. I could imagine growing closer and closer to these people and living here happily. Now I have to start over. Now I have to abandon this place just like I'm leaving HunDun. What am I going to do?
How can i really say goodbye? I have no idea which of these people I'll actually see again. Now i'm going to make a whole new set of friends and build a new community. Is that fair to them? is it fair to the friends that I have now? I can hardly take care of the ones i have now. I feel like a little girl who ignorantly goes around the neighborhood collecting bugs, frogs, snakes, and mice. I collect friends and file them away on the shelves of my heart like she takes the critters home and shovels them into drawers and fish tanks. She squeezes some soft mice to death, and is so busy working on watching the tadpoles turn into frogs that she forgets to feed the lizards. When her mom comes into her bedroom, all she sees are rotting critter corpses and the soiled hands of her daughter. Is this how I'm treating my friends? Am I selfish to meet so many people and then just leave them? They are nice to have for me when it's convenient, but is that all that I can give them? In all honesty I have to wonder if I'm being fair. I'm pretty sure that traveling to a different country takes the same amount, and probably more, commitment and forethought as one should cultivate before deciding to adopt a puppy. The decision to travel needs to be mindful. I'm pretty sure that my understanding of God's power needs to expand, because I can't imagine how Jesus Christ was able to have so much compassion and energy for so many people.
Monday, January 3, 2011
Can you guess what this is?
After 2 years in China, I can now consider myself a real man!
2 months of salary.
What I spend a lot of time doing in China...
He never figured out that he could stick his paw in the water to catch the fish...
Thursday, November 25, 2010
When I first decided to come to China, my goal was to become fluent in Mandarin in the three years of my planned stay. Upon arriving to China the only words I knew were ‘ting bu dong,’ and a faltering ‘ni hao.’ In theory I knew that Chinese was a tonal language, but had no idea what that actually meant. I wondered if my years of musical study would be of any use in learning Chinese (as it turns out the answer is ‘no’).
I was to study language in Chengdu at 四川师范大学 for two months with classes in the morning and individual tutoring in the afternoon. My morning classes were held in a hidden classroom overlooking the campus’ grungy swimming pool which had been drained for the winter. I had never been in a classroom that was so cold—one of my most useful purchases in China has been my blue santa-polar bear electric hot water bottle. I would stumble out of my bed five minutes before class, grab the hot water bottle, stuff breakfast into my bag, and run to the classroom which was accessible through a sprint around the back of my apartment next to the austere badminton courts, beside the pond, over the disintegrating bridge, and up the treacherous and narrow stairs that climbed past a distrustful mother cat.
The first week I felt more stupid than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had studied Spanish in high school and had done well with little effort, but Chinese turned out to be a completely different story. For an American used to English words as long as the Great Wall, the melodic brevity of the Chinese language was completely disorienting. The absence of a phonetic writing system has been one of my greatest obstacles. When I studied Spanish, I learned words by remembering what they looked like, but I found this nearly impossible with Chinese. Every pair of initials and finals sounded the same to me, and I was at a complete loss when it came to hearing the tones. The entire mentality of speaking Chinese was foreign to me in a way that to this day I cannot describe. It took me at least a year to realize that one ‘word’ could actually be created from more than one 汉字.
I started two weeks behind my classmates, and had completely missed the lessons on pinyin. Our teacher asked me to read what I could from the text book, and I had no idea what to do. Learning how to say ‘你’ felt like I had summited 峨眉山, and I became familiar with ‘不对’ more quickly than any other vocabulary I have ever learned. Eventually my teachers gave up on me and no longer required me to go to listening class where I just sat in a stupor wondering if what was going on around me was actually language. When the teacher would ask me a question, I would stare back at her with my mouth open and my eyes fighting tears.
Teddy, my first tutor, is now one of my best friends. I can’t thank her enough for the patience she had with me. She brought her pinyin reader from primary school, and we looked at nursery pictures of turtles, dogs, trees, and ducks for weeks as I slowly and painfully tried to comprehend how my tongue could possibly do the acrobatics required by the ‘sh,’ ‘ch,’ and ‘zh’ initials. I had resorted to tying yarn around my lips to make the ‘v’ sound required by my favorite color, 绿。I think that Teddy’s selection of this children’s textbook was appropriate in more ways than just my language level. Being new in a country and not understanding any of the language made me feel more helpless than one of the children learning to walk with their 婆婆s outside of my 单元. I have never prouder than the day I figured out how to ask the 阿姨 at the front desk of my guest house for toilet paper.
I am thankful for how far I have come. I usually don’t have problems buying things that I need. I can do most errands alone downtown. On a good day, I can have short conversations with people in stores, sympathetic Chinese friends, or taxi drivers, but I am often discouraged at how far I have to go. My goal for the end of the school year is to know at least 2,000 words. So here I am with six more months left in my time here China, and I still have so much to learn. Just this evening after a taxi ride back to the school, I could hardly get the driver to stop. I was saying something like, ‘你可以停在这门口,’ but he kept driving, until I frantically starting blurting out any phrase I could muster with the word 停！Sometimes I wonder if I can speak Chinese at all, but I will just have to keep trying. Thank you all for your patience, and I hope that when I teach in class, I can be as encouraging and patient with you.
四川师范大学 --Sichuan Normal University in Chengdu
汉字--(han zi) chinese character
峨眉山--(Emei Shan) A famous mountain in Sichuan...there's a famous temple and some monkeys and stuff...and climbing it is a big deal
不对--(bu dui) Incorrect
婆婆--(popo) Maternal grandmother
阿姨--(a yi) Aunty
你可以停在这门口 (Ni Keyi ting zai zhe menkou) something like 'you can stop at this gate'