Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Remind me:

Why did I leave a city in which I could attend this on a normal Wednesday evening?

Homesickness has started to get more comfortable with me, like a new friend with whom you might only share a drink at first, then a full meal, then expanding to whole weekends spent laying on a couch watching movies in pajamas. I don't miss any one thing in particular (though Berlin has surely been on my mind regularly, as much of my running music is derived from Greg Haus's sets). Just...the life I left behind.

Making friends here has been a moderate challenge; I have honestly, truly gone out of my way to be all sorts of friendly and "hey let's go do this" and all of those things, but often it just doesn't work out. I'm not sure why, and it's certainly not encouraging me to change my curmudgeonly ways.

On the good side of things, I think this month's classes will be a delight. My students are mostly sharp, polite, and in heart with me. The key, it seems, to being a successful foreign teacher is to force your students to fall in love with you. I walk through the halls with ever-changing posses of male students (the females are generally far too shy to escort me anywhere), often eating lunch on their dole (awkward! I make twice as much as your parents!). The Chinese teachers tell me how much my classes adore me, with one noting, "you're the most popular teacher at Compass!" Even the evening class I had last month--the silent, moody group of students who made my internal organs cry--misses me desperately, and "really really really liked" me, according to their Chinese teacher.

Let's face it: my presence at school is little more than a novelty. I and my fellow foreign teachers were hired to be caged birds. We sing our odd melodies, we look pretty and Otherly (and, with one exception, white). We offer these students a taste of what many will never accomplish no matter how hard they study: the chance to become intimate with an English speaker. And that's kind of sick, no?

No, no. It's only sick to me, to us--people who are used to diversity, people who interact with funny-looking and funny-sounding people on a daily basis, people who operate under the pretense of individuality, of uniqueness, of difference-as-the-status-quo. I admire my students for yearning for change, for wanting to experience a life outside of the government-manufactured Chinese ideals, for knowing that they need some other, Other experience to fulfill them. I admire that because I can see that within myself too.

* * * * * *

I don't have to move! How joyous! I am traveling to Beijing this weekend (a day of religious sites on Saturday, followed by perhaps a trip to see The Chairman on Sunday?), and will probably stop by Ikea to collect a few random things (a clock for my bathroom, new curtains for my bedroom, some sheets). I'm really looking forward to visiting the city by myself myself--the other two times were graciously narrated my native and native-ish people. To be able to think, do, plan on my own--what a magnificent treat.

I think I will begin Chinese lessons the week after next. For only 55RMB, I can have a one-hour session with a tutor from a company who will come to my work and teach me. I've delayed learning Chinese for far too long; I should be able to tell the bus driver where I will depart the bus; I should be able to tell the lunch vendor, "please make it more spicy, and use less bing and don't charge me 1RMB extra just because I'm stupid and white."

I think that, if I start actually undertaking some of my plans here, I will maintain the happiness I have had here so far, and keep the home-yearning at bay.

Also, I don't wear deodorant anymore. How exciting! I'm totally "going native."

And on that note...


garconivre said...
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garconivre said...

i do like this time's journal quite a lot. seems more peaceful,more personal-realized and self-conscious.

u should collect the pieces that u've wrote down and publish them. name the book like HOW TO BE A POPULAR ENGLISH TEACHER in china. it definately would be a best-seller. god only knows how many english teachers are here in china. the tax on books with be A LOT!