Next week we begin teaching, practicum, they call it. It’s not much, compared to what I have done, but I have never taught at a university before. I’m sure it will go well enough, and I know I’ll be able to do anything they put in front of me. Time just keeps moving faster as the days go by.
I’ve been spending a lot of time relaxing, balancing out the social requirements and work associated with the training. There are people I like, and people I don’t, but all of them have something to teach me. Back to my meditation basics. Endure, and in enduring grow strong.
The city here is really familiar, like Taipei and Guadalajara in some ways, with traffic and noise almost everywhere. The traffic flows differently though, more naturally and chaotically. People ride bikes against traffic in a construction zone and no one even notices. People walk through traffic unceasingly, but the flows mostly pass each other without harm. The traffic lights mean nothing. Honestly I don’t think people even look at them. If it’s urgent, they honk, and if it’s dangerous there are police standing there directing traffic. It’s strange, but it works.
I am slowly making friends, to some extent, or at least getting used to speaking to more people. I understand more than I acknowledge, and sometimes the delay is enough to know I wasn’t really understood, but not enough to really keep up with every conversation. My favorite was when someone laughed at a joke, then said “wo mei ting dong,” I don’t understand to her friend. It took me a second, but I couldn’t even really explain to them why I laughed so hard.
Jie is helping me practice my language skills. She is learning to teach Chinese to foreigners, so we both get to practice. It’s really useful for me, if only to keep practicing with as many people as possible. The class I am in is a bit below my level, but the next one up is a bit too high. I’m practicing patterns and words that I learned a year ago, but it’s good for me to slow down and make sure it’s right, to focus on learning a solid Chinese accent. “If you can’t do it slow, you can’t do it fast.”
That always sticks with me at times like this. Seeing people push to get new material and words, whether or not they are really ready for it never made sense to me. Language isn’t difficult, it’s just practice and time. In any given day you repeat your words and patterns a thousand times aloud and in your head, and every time you are practicing. “Life is kung fu.”
I know I keep repeating these words and phrases, but that is how my mind works. Repetition dictates how we behave and what tools we have to deal with the world outside. Trying to fully realize this and use it to my advantage means that there are a dozen simple phrases that arise and show a reflection of the world around me. It always makes me wonder when I see how I distort that reflection.
The days here are wet, it rains a lot and the air is dense with humidity, but it isn’t unfamiliar. The days are getting hotter, but it’s not really uncomfortable. The air conditioner is setting off my allergies, but that’s nothing new, really. I feel comfortable here, at home, and I’m glad for it.
At this point in my life, I am where I want to be, and it fits. The city outside with it’s back alley gardens and the family I have found here is wonderful. I have been working toward being here for a long time, but I never believed it would fit me so well. All the frustrations, the problems, and the distance has been part of my life for years now, and integrating with the locals is more natural to me than seeing this world from the outside.
I know I’ve been wrong before, and I’ll be wrong again, and all of that wrongness has put me here. And that, I am grateful for.