Life is pretty lonely here. Homesickness, I feel, is starting to hit me. I feel very alone here, almost lost. The initial shock and awe of China is wearing off, and I’m starting to become more alone with my thoughts, and just alone in general. I miss a lot of people, I regret a lot of things, and I’m hoping that China is a good life decision. That it will be good for me. That it will give me what I need.
I overslept this morning (for some reason my Chinese phone interpreted my alarm for 7:20 this morning as 7:20 tomorrow morning) and around 7:40 I woke myself up and checked my phone. Overslept by 20 minutes… 20 minutes before class at 8:00. I jumped out of bed, grabbed everything, threw my clothes on and left in a hurry. I called a cab instead of walking and made it to the M1 location early (which, should be considered “on time”). I had just enough time to make some coffee and review my first class’s lesson plan.
It was a beautiful, clear, warm and sunny day today — although extremely windy.
I had 4 classes in the morning, spread between young children (5-6 age range) and older children (11-12 age range). Today, unlike the other days, was an excellent day as far as teaching goes. Performance and rapport between the students varied on a class-by-class basis, but, in genreal, everything went so much better. I was more prepared, I had more material, more confidence, and a lot of the children seemed more excited and motivated to participate in class and learn. It was a long morning (8:00 – 12:00ish), split by an hour and a half lunch, followed by another class from 2:10 to 3:00.
During my fourth class of the day, and right before and during lunch, I started to fall ill. I got very hot, started to get chills, and was nauseous. I felt disoriented and excused myself from eating lunch to find a water-closet in order to let my body purge itself a few times. It wasn’t pretty, and I was quickly miserable. It didn’t do any good for my mental state either. I sat feeling pathetic in the teacher’s office with my head down on the table thinking about home while trying not to heave. I also infuriated myself by fuming over Chinese goddamn squat toilets. I hate squat toilets, and I hate how unsanitary the Chinese are compared to Western culture. I pretty much just internally ranted a fair amount of the time I rested, lamenting the situation, which also didn’t do anything for my mental state.
I made some commentary about my situation (being ill) on WeChat, and word got back from some of the foreign teachers on there to the school, who called my phone asking if they needed to cancel my last class of the day and/or if I needed to receive medical attention. I declined both offers, and promised them that I would be fine to teach my last class of the day, and simply planned to return home right after school and rest. They indicated that they understood, thanked me, and wished me well. I continued to rest, and spent a little bit of time speaking with “old” Andrew, who had also taught some classes that morning and had entered the teacher’s office. I remarked at how, for a developed country, China is still behind in many ways, mentioning hygiene and lavatories, to which I was informed by Andrew that “China isn’t a developed country — it is a country still developing”. I conceded to his point. He was right. I had made plans with Leo, who owns a local pizza restaurant, to play soccer with him and his team this afternoon, but I was clearly unable to do so. He and I exchanged some messages over WeChat and we decided that I would join them “next time”. I was really looking forward to being able to have that experience, but I suppose life had other plans.
2:10 rolled around, I was so glad that I decided to stay. Despite feeling awful, my last class of the day was absolutely fantastic. It consisted of 9-10 year olds, and they were so hungry to learn! It was like a punch of motivation to the face. It was such a refreshing and rewarding experience just to teach that one class. You could see their progress unfolding right before your eyes — they were happy, they were active and participatory… it was just wonderful. It gave me a lot more confidence in my decision to come teach. It really left me happy and invigorated. While physically ill, it totally boosted my mental state, and left me leaving that class with a smile on my face. I wish every class could be like that one. We covered all sorts of vocabulary and played games to test their English skills. The kids here love games, especially team-based games with points on the line. They’re extremely competitive: if you give them a goal to aspire to, they will (for the most part, at least the younger children) rise up to meet it. I was so extremely proud of all of them.
At 3:00 class ended, and I immediately left, walking downstairs and down the street to where the road went one-way in the direction of my apartment. I hailed a cab, and was in my flat and the wonderful luxury of my western-toilet by 3:20. I took my things off, and crawled into bed, hoping to feel better. I put some music on and rested.
By about 6:00 I began to feel better, and my body — depleted of all nutrition or anything of substance — was starved for food and a bit dehydrated. The sun was also setting, and I was lamenting a wonderful afternoon wasted in bed. I pulled myself from the blankets, grabbed my camera, and slipped my shoes on. It took some time to get going, but I ended walking out from my apartment building shortly after 6:30. I decided I would walk down the main road off my complex and see what was around it. I haven’t done much exploring close to “home”, and I didn’t know what all the area had to offer. I planned to journey down the road, capture some exposures while there was still available light, and then try out a restaurant by the corner store on my way back to my flat.
I walked for about 20 minutes at a leisurely pace and took pictures of whatever I thought was aesthetic in the moment, finding a central road that led to a large police station which was bordered by very nice government apartments for public workers (specifically, what mostly looked like members of the aforementioned police station). A few upscale cafés, a nice restaurant, and a zoo across the street (which I had seen on multiple occasions out the window of taxis, and which I’ve been stressed by other foreign teachers not to visit — China doesn’t really care all that much about animal welfare like we do back home) sat around the intersection.
I made my way back up the road I came from, and dipped into the local restaurant. Nobody spoke English, but they had menu-items in picture-form posted across one of the back walls with the prices listed. I waved “hello” with a greeting, and one of the women from behind the front counter stood and walked over to greet me, speaking in a flood of Chinese and brandishing a smile. I tried to indicate which dish I wanted (whichever looked the most appetizing), which happened to be what looked like flanks of thinly-sliced beef over some mixed vegetables for 30RMB (about $5USD). Somewhere in my trying to order, things got confused, and she began asking me questions and gesturing that there might be an issue (or so that’s how I interpreted it). I tried to convey that I did not understand, and she clearly told me through hand-signals to wait a moment before vanishing off to the kitchen where I heard her yelling in Chinese. She returned a few moments later holding a large chunk of raw meat in her unwashed, bare hands, pointing at it and further questioning me in Chinese. I suddenly decided that this decision had become far more trouble than it was worth. I thanked her in Chinese a few times, waving, and made my way to the exit whereupon I made a right turn and darted into the bordering corner market. The employees, now knowing my face (I go there almost daily), smiled and greeted me in English. The woman who’s there most often, and who I presume from her behavior holds seniority, speaks some English, and generally tries her best to converse with me whenever I am there, sometimes asking me how she might say a certain word or phrase in English. I purchased 2 “king”-sized cups of ramen noodles of the variety I had the other night and some beers for later. This time her English inquiry was how to say “27.90” — the sum total of my purchase (approximately $4.65USD).
I left and made the very short walk back to my flat. I immediately put some fresh water in the kettle and put it on the stove to boil in order to make one of the ramen cups, which I have all but consumed while writing this blog-post.
Luckily, I am feeling much better than I was earlier. I think whatever I caught must have been a temporary stomach virus, which my body very efficiently flushed from itself. I’ll be editing the pictures I took on my walk and uploading them to the tail-end of this post.
I have tomorrow off, so it’ll be nice to have a day of rest. I plan to wake up fairly early and spend the day exploring and taking pictures. I miss and love so many of you, friends and family alike.