Today was a happy day minus the time spent in class. Every other Thursday I do not teach in the mornings and I am supposed to teach three seventh grade classes in the afternoon. This means that today I should have started teaching at 2:30. So I spent my morning video chatting with the best friend and my Dad, caught up on emails, and finished my second Kindle book since arriving in China (The Lady of the Rivers by Philippa Gregory if anyone is interested). It was a very productive and relaxing morning.
During lunch, Duncan and I went and got some street burrito things and hung out with some Chinese friends at the coffee shop. They, as natives of Baoding, pointed out some places we should visit on our new Baoding map and where we might be able to find some things we are looking for. And, because of the Wi-Fi there, I have now started playing Candy Crush as well as Jewel Mania. Such a great way to spend my time!
When I headed to the classroom to teach my first seventh grade class of the day, I noticed it was oddly quiet. After walking down the hallway and seeing classroom after classroom of testing students, an older woman came up to me and in broken English explained to me that I didn’t have class that period because of some testing. So I went back to the room, relaxed some more, and returned to the classroom building at 4:15. It turns out that I did have class at the 4:25 class period, but I was supposed to teach the class section that I should have taught at 2:30 (I have no idea where the correct class section was or why I taught the section I did).
The students were pretty awful and it was definitely the class that has felt the longest to teach, but it was an unusual day for the students and I’m not going to dwell on their terrible behavior. Despite their sleeping, using the desks as drums, or wrestling in the aisles between desks, I had a few students who were eager to participate and I had a decent time with them. None of the students wanted stamps (the first class that has been that way) and keeping them engaged was difficult but I’m sure that has to do with the fact that they’d been testing all day and were having a class they normally wouldn’t have at that time.
I did not end up having a third class of the day either (I have no idea why) so I returned to the room and Duncan and I went to visit happy baozi man for dinner. After dinner we went to the Military School Park as sun was setting and took an evening stroll. The park is huge and there are clearly developed areas for certain activities. One part of the park is filled with older women dancing (kind of like Zumba only with less hip-hop influence) and other parts are for little children, a jump-roping class, young couples, roller blading, laser toys, and some weird giant spinning top things with LED lights on them that older men kept spinning by literally whipping the sides of them, sending loud cracking noises throughout the park. I’m sure before we leave China, I will get a jump rope and join in the jumping to techno music and eventually I will join the older women in their dancing. We walked back to our apartment contented with a lovely evening.
Something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is how we have a new awareness of ourselves here that I’m going to call foreign consciousness. Recognizing that we both stand out obviously as foreigners and that more people are observing us on a regular basis than would ever occur in the States, we have become particularly aware of how we look and act when in public. It’s not just about how we look physically, but more how we have an increased awareness of what we do because we are aware that we are serving as ambassadors and representatives of America and American people. We may be the only Americans, or foreigners, some of these people in Baoding ever meet and thus we have the possibility of shaping their ideas of a huge group of people, based on one impression. I can’t help but think about the cliché of lasting first impressions. It’s very interesting to me how that consciousness can affect your behaviour. For example, there have been a couple of times since we’ve been here that Duncan or I have been getting frustrated and even a little angry by things going on around us, such as the incessant staring, but when we have remembered that there are a lot of people watching us and judging us as foreigners, we do not act or express the anger or irritation as we might otherwise do because we don’t want to reinforce the negative stereotype of the angry American. The same could be true for other stereotypes, positive or negative. This consciousness I think has been a great learning tool and is teaching me a lot more patience, tolerance, self-awareness, and control. I am grateful for this unique experience that is providing me with the chance to have these thoughts and learning and growing opportunities. This is a prime example of one of the reasons I wanted to come to China for this adventure.
Tomorrow I do not teach so I am technically on a long weekend. Tomorrow we should get our residence permits so we can explore outside of Baoding and we are beginning to plan a weeklong excursion for an upcoming holiday break. Once we get a hold of a high-speed rail map and schedule, we should be good to go!
Thank you for reading and Happy Friday the 13th!