Bad China Days

As John, a colleague and one of my earliest contacts prior to arriving, explained to me back in my early days of residing here; “days in China can be categorized into two distinct possibilities: good and bad.”

Today was a bad China day. Sometimes it’s a myriad of miscommunication that stirs up a bad China day. Perhaps someone has done something specific, but the majority of the time it’s the little things. The pollution, people walking too slow, unsatisfying food, your inability to speak enough Chinese, too many stares, an excessively crowded bus, or a new private student whose level of English is not near your expectations.

The latter is what caused my bad China day. The 11 year old I spoke of in my last entry, is a new private student. I was told he had a decent ability to listen and comprehend, of course, well aware that the level of comprehension would be low, I set my expectations to an utterly low standard. He is a mere child, not my university students who have had 6+ years of English experience. So I prepared a “Get to know you” lesson of very simple questions: “How old are you?, What do you like…?, Do you have…?” I mostly let him talk, asking me questions. He really had no concept of grammar, asking questions, phonetics, or even being able to listen to me say things in Chinglish. I get more answers from Kirin, the 6 year old I tutor.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but from the conversation with his father the previous day it seemed like his son would at least be able to understand me, even if he could not respond properly. This is the issue I have with my own Mandarin abilities. I can understand a significant amount, but once I am asked a direct question, I completely crumble. I’ve digressed…the problem is I am being paid for a conversational English class, but there is nothing conversational about having to explain in my broken Chinese what a word means. The boy asked me “Shenme eesa?, What does it mean?” for essentially every other word of our meaningless conversation. As the hour and a half lesson trudged on, I became increasingly frustrated. I’m not the most patient human being on the planet, but I have certainly gained enough in the six months I have been here. It’s one of the fundamental components to one’s survival in China.

I didn’t really want this entry to turn into a rant, but writing is the one form of self-expression that allows me to properly deal with my emotions.

Looking back on this morning, I remind myself that I just need to take things in strides. Of course, I didn’t let my frustrations out on the boy, instead I opted to log into blogger, click that lovely little new post button, and do what I do best: write. I also need to find my breaking point, the line I draw to keep my sanity.

I turned the day around by giving Zhang Jian a call; he did a tremendous job of calming me down, reassuring me, and reminding me “to find a little happiness everyday.” Watch a movie, listen to my extensive Itunes library, and treat myself to some Western food. Doing the aforementioned activities really did put a smile back on my face.

Bad China days come and go, more and more infrequently, thus allowing the good ones to overshadow the bad ones. That’s specifically why, my readers, you will find far more positive experiences being noted in this blog. Because no matter where you live, we are all susceptible to the good and the bad. This ¬†is life’s natural progression.

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