With the new campus opening and everything that goes with it, I’m only teaching two classes right now. That combined with the clinic hours means I’m working about half as much as expected, so I fill my days with Chinese, kung fu, and relaxing. I’m here to teach, and while I might have a week or two that are fairly slow, I know it will pick up soon, but it’s not the trial I expected.
In Mexico and Taipei, I worked twenty-five or thirty hours a week, so there was enough free time and work to balance life. Here, my job is to be part of the community. Right now, the school is busy so I find other places to be, other people to talk to, and other things to do. I keep in touch with the school, but I am waiting for them to settle enough to give me more hours, co-teaching or otherwise.
I think I’m just not used to the salary. I get paid no matter how much I work, since almost everything I do is part of integration, language learning, or teaching. However, when there is no class, it feels like vacation since I love the language and the integration parts of being here. Teaching is awesome, but not easy. Hanging out with people, talking to them, asking questions, and lying in bed listening to music while I write and translate is not.
The reason we have been invited to China is to teach, so that is the first goal. Everything matters here, but without the first goal, I’m not really serving my community. I can find places to teach, I know enough people in middle schools and high schools to find classes to help, or English Corners to join, but I love this University. It’s still the perfect place for me, but I’m can’t do much beyond wait.
I know it will work out, and when I am not talking about it, or writing about it, I forget the stress and I just live here. I eat with friends, I walk across the city, I practice taiji, xingyi, and bagua, and I eat amazing food. Life here is awesome, but I am ready to serve.
We did have a Peace Corps sponsored Chinese class last weekend, and apparently I study more than anyone else who signed up for it. I made a lot of mistakes when learning Spanish, so my Spanish is very weird. A mix of formal and informal, poetry and cursing. I can be understood, but I don’t think I learned as well as I could.
Now, I just add it into life. I study in Chinese by writing a journal of what I did today. A few new words, but mostly just practice with what I already know. I play Chinese music in the background to help me focus. Now, when I play Chinese music, my brain shifts into Chinese easier, so I listen to it when I go out to eat, to set my mind into the language I expect to speak. I translate menus while I watch movies. I review them before going to a restaurant so I know what to order. Sometimes I even write sentence patterns and then fill them in with random sentences for practice. Mostly, it’s just chaos, but how do you fill the ocean with water? Drop by drop.
Right now, I am more a student than I am a teacher. I talk to my friends here in English to learn culture. The questions they ask me teach me about what they find strange, and what they don’t know about us. I talk to them in Chinese just to practice speaking, listening to the Lanzhou accent to learn to understand how they speak here. They still understand me better than I do them, but I’m making progress. I study kung fu, people, and life here in general. Soon, I’ll get back to studying by teaching.
Life is good here, but I think my only complaint is that it is too easy. I did not set out to find an easy life, and when it becomes difficult I know I will learn so much more. For now, I settle in the sun on my balcony, relax, and wait for the tide to come in. I’ll be on my way soon enough.