The past couple of days have been even more uneventful than usual. There are no students, no classes, no teacher meetings. Indeed, we’re the only ones at the school other than the new very grumpy guards at the front gate (that didn’t know who we were but let us in anyway against their supposed job description) and an older lady we only saw this morning (after we half-scared her to death as we walked down the stairs whistling and singing Aladdin songs).
We’ve slept in, spent more hours than I’m comfortable admitting at QLH, and staying up late watching Top Gear (when we can get the Internet cable to actually work).
Amidst the boredom and the frustration associated with being back in Baoding, we’ve been feeling down. After the packed and exciting days of traveling across the country for two weeks (where there was always something new to see, something delicious to eat, smogless air, and happy people to talk to,) returning to Baoding has been depressing, to say the least. We are readjusting to life here – including the smog, the dust, the mountains of burning trash and plastic (the mountains have grown), and the constant (and I mean absolutely constant) ogling at us because we’re foreign (the other day I did finally break down and point at a person and say “zhonguoren! (Chinese person)” after the ten-millionth startled gasp, arm flail, and scream “laowai! (Foreigner!)” in Wal-Mart) – just as we did five months ago.
This time it is somewhat harder for me to readjust because when we arrived here in September, I had no idea what life in China was going to be like so I just accepted everything, without question, as the way things are done in this country. But now, after traveling and seeing that other places in China exist where there is no smog, hidden and not burning trash, and the people act “civilized” (a term China uses to mean well-mannered – I’m not making this up) and don’t stare at us like some kind of traveling circus exhibit in the early 1900s, readjusting to the nastiest place in China is proving to be difficult (it doesn’t help when every single Chinese person we talked to in Guilin and in Chengdu, once they found out where we live, responded with “Why?! You should change your contract now!”). Add to it, five months away from our friends and family and the family-centered holiday of Spring Festival here in China, and we’re dealing with our first big bout of homesickness.
I found out there’s a term to describe the way we’ve been feeling – China fatigue. It’s a term used amongst expat communities to describe a general exasperation with some of the negative qualities that accompany life in China that becomes so large it looms over all of the positive qualities also present. And from what I’ve read there are two ways to deal with it – escape or embrace. Though at some times we would love nothing more than to escape back to the States to be with friends, family, and baby Desmond (my cat I have an unhealthy obsession/love with), our contract is until June 30th, and we’re determined to stick it out because we know there’s always a high waiting after the low and teaching is actually quite enjoyable (we just don’t like the locale). Therefore, our solution is to embrace life in China even more, and what better way to do that than to properly celebrate Spring Festival with our Chinese friends here with an entire day of dumplings!
Yesterday, we woke up earlier than we have been, went to QLH for morning coffee (as opposed to noon coffee), and, after a while, were on our way to meet our boss, Li Laoshi, for lunch at a place called Jin Jaozi (jaozi are a type of dumpling). She had invited us to a dumpling party but it turned out just to be the three of us and I’m so glad. We spent two hours talking and pigging out on mutton and beef dumplings, a liver dish, a pork dish, and a whole bunch of mushrooms, peanuts, and green things she kept telling me were good for my health. Our lunch with Li Laoshi really perked me up and reminded me of the great experience we have had with the school and that we have a support system of people here eager to be our friends and to help us however they can. It was also encouraging to hear her tell us (as the representative of the school) how happy they have been with us as teachers (especially since I’ve been worrying about what to teach this second semester).
For dinner, we joined our friend Samantha at her apartment and she taught me how to make traditional Chinese dumplings from scratch so that I can make them for friends and family (and us) when we get back to the States. I had an absolute blast learning how to make them and I can’t wait to try again here in our own apartment and then again back home. She said I was a fast learner though I could not figure out how to close them the same way she did. My way ended up being prettier though. 😛
For the second time yesterday, I stuffed myself with dumplings and other Chinese food to celebrate Spring Festival with our friends (and the puppy we saved a couple of months ago). It really was a great way to spend the day and the perfect remedy for our recent China fatigue.
Today we did absolutely nothing but since it is Spring Festival Eve, fireworks have been going off all day increasing in frequency as the day wore on. Now, in the evening, it looks and sounds like a warzone because the fireworks (mainly just noise makers) are absolutely constant. Everyone here warned us that on Spring Festival Eve the fireworks would be non-stop from the time it got dark until the wee hours of the morning so we are prepared for the explosions to continue. It’s actually quite a lot of fun to see fireworks going off literally anyway you look on the horizon. We may even set off a Chinese lantern to contribute to the celebration.
In honor of Spring Festival, eat some dumplings, make a wish, and spend some time with friends and family!
Until next time,