Another good week of teaching has passed and I realize we’ve not really had a bad week of teaching here. We’ve had bad days and frustrating classes but bad weeks haven’t happened. It reminds me of the best advice we got from orientation: Don’t let a bad China day make a bad China year. It’s been really great advice to remind us to just let some frustrations go and keep moving forward (“just keep swimming”).
This morning we woke up to find out that neither of us have classes tomorrow and Duncan does not have classes on Tuesday. While this could be frustrating (that we’ve ended up with a long weekend without prior warning), knowing that all next week we will be in Xi’an has nullified any possible lamentations about missed travel opportunities over this long weekend. Another reason this unexpectedly long weekend is great is because this week we are scheduled to teach classes through Sunday. In order to have a full week off next week, we agreed to work on Christmas. And because Chinese schools don’t just have a break, they try to make up the classes they’ll miss over the break, we have a crazy order of classes Tuesday through Sunday. I was given a schedule to know which group of classes I should teach each day (for example, Tuesday I teach seventh grade on the second week schedule but on Thursday and Friday I teach eighth grade on the first week schedule), but that is guaranteed to change (seeing as Monday classes have already been cancelled through they were supposed to be held as normal on the revised schedule I was given). Who knows what will end up happening this week with classes. Regardless of what group of classes I end up teaching on each day, all students will have their oral English exam with me this week. It’s exceptionally easy (considering this is stuff we’ve covered all semester and have reviewed specifically the past two weeks) and consists of me just going around the room and asking all students a set of questions (such as “how old are you”, “where are you from”, and “what is the weather in summer”?). If they answer correctly, they get it right; if they don’t know the answer, they get it wrong. I expect most of the students to do very well.
I’ve recently read The Kite Runner and Three Cups of Tea and I’m now reading a book called Guest of the Sheik. In all three books I am struck by the familiarity of one phrase: “You must be so sad without your mother”. Since I’ve been here I have been asked “do you miss your mother terribly” (not “do you miss your family”), “are you so sad without your mother here with you”, and, when showing pictures of family, the picture people most want to see is of me and my mother. Similar phrases and situation have been relayed in the three books and, as a result, I’ve been wondering about the uniqueness of my situation as a relatively independent young female adult. Going off on my own and living independently from my family has been so much of a non-issue in my brain that I would even call it an expectation and part of the plan. Of course I miss my family back home, but I have also been living out of my mother’s house for at least the past four years. And as I think about all of this, I realize how unique of a situation that is and I am grateful for the independence available to me. A large portion of the world, despite increasing development and technology, still functions under the traditions that women live in their mother’s home until they are married, and then they move into their husband’s house. The prospect of a young woman, such as myself, to move out of her parents’ home, get a higher education, and to be able to support herself to some degree, all without the chaperoning of a male relative, is so unheard of as to be a cultural taboo in many parts of the world still. Here in China, though certainly with more allowances than the Middle Eastern villages I’ve been reading about, family tradition and allegiance runs strong.
Having said that bit about independence, however, I feel it is important to make a comment on freedom. I am from the United States, “home of the free and the brave”, where we spout our Bill of Rights and Constitution as frequently as is supporting our personal beliefs and causes, and yet I frequently feel more free here. After being here for a while you realize just how not monitored you feel. It’s extremely freeing and peaceful. Even though, in the US, we view China as the “Big Brother” State with extreme censorship and regulation, in reality (at least in daily interactions) the only thing that seems to be censored is the Internet and that is hardly the issue Americans have been taught to believe it is (the only sites which actually seem to be censored are those Duncan and I use most frequently, such as Facebook and YouTube). Other than that miniscule censorship (easily overcome with a VPN, which most people have), I have felt absolutely no police presence in my life here. The only cops I have seen have been traffic cops and they don’t even carry guns. In the US, you realize how frequently you worry about how something you do or say could possible be interpreted the wrong way and end up with a call to the cops (or you are watched as the Snowden/NSA case continues to prove). Even driving around in the States you might not make a certain move for fear of a traffic camera catching you and you finding a ticket in the mail a few days later. Though actions like the traffic cameras definitely have the potential to stop reckless and dangerous behaviour and it could be argued more action like that should be taken in China where five or six cars running a red light is normal (one student of mine informed me “green means go, yellow means follow me!”), it’s indicative of the constant police presence in the US. Without it here in China I feel freer and less watched (and I’m still not doing things I shouldn’t do (but that’s a different issue of the culture of “it’s not wrong unless you get caught” and requires a discussion of morality for another day).
Anyway, I found some fried rice for lunch and am enjoying it with my coffee in QLH. It’s another smoggy day so we’re staying inside and without lesson planning for tomorrow’s classes, it’s time for some good relaxing, reading, and hanging out with friends.
I hope you have a wonderful day! Thank you for reading,
P.S. Here’s how almost every store in Baoding celebrates/advertises it’s grand opening (as seen from inside QLH):