I’ve been quite amiss at keeping this blog up-to-date. I could use the age old excuse that life has recently turned busy, which in this case is partially true. The other boils down to my lack of motivation and setting aside the proper amount of time to really do this blog justice. I also don’t particularly like posting entries without photos. I am an individual who always considered the written word to hold a deeper and more significant meaning when compared to a visual image. This is mostly because my natural abilities lie in written and not visual communications. But, my stint in China, thus far, has lead me to believe that a photograph conveys just as significant if not, in some respects, a more significant representation of life here in China. The image lies before you, without an opinion, waiting for you to draw your own conclusions. Of course this doesn’t signify that I will no longer be conveying my thoughts utilizing language, but I find myself in a predicament. I certainly don’t consider myself a “photographer,” but yet it is essential to capturing the entirety of my life here in China. Words aren’t enough to convey to all of you, not only the experiences, but the squalor of life, the destituteness of some places, and the mindset. This place has changed me, I don’t know if for better or worse, but I see everything through a different lens. Whomever said “we are a product of our environment” really knew what he/she was talking about (He/She must have also visited China). I think I’ve ranted enough about self-reflexivity.
Four weeks of classes have come and gone, along with a number of illnesses and changes to my appearance. Week two classes were centered around “The Art of Conversation.” I posed discussion questions to groups based upon the idea of “talking about talking.” Sounds rather silly but the simplicity of this topic led it to be rather successful. I also played a conversational game called Talking Lines with all the classes. The class is divided into two teams, facing each other. They must discuss with the person across from them their answers to the questions I posed to them. In addition to classes this week, I exposed Zhang Jian to “international cuisine.” We dined at Delhi Dekhbar, this incredibly authentic and delicious Indian restaurant (don’t worry, Dad, I stayed away from curry…ugh, nasty). Not surprisingly, his response when I asked what he thought of the food was “not bad.” Most Chinese people seem to have an aversion to Western food, or the more inclusive non-Chinese food. Later that evening, I went out with Isabella, Slavka, Licha, and Barbara. They are foreign students at XISU whom I met last term. Isabella and I have grown close and she accompanied me on St. Patrick’s Day to ParkQin. The following day, March 5th, I participated in another of the Foreign Teacher’s Office trips. This time to Daming Palace ( a Tang dynasty palace), a recently renovated site in the east part of the city.
During week three, I found myself battling a nasty case of IBS. I don’t think it’s necessary to spend a lot of time on this topic as it was quite unpleasant and I don’t want to recall such unpleasantries. I cancelled my classes Monday morning, receiving several messages from students conveying their sympathies. I was beginning to feel slightly better Monday evening, and as it is required to make up classes that are cancelled due to illness, decided it was best to trudge through whether or not I was feeling 100% myself. Tuesday through Thursday passed rather quickly. The topic of choice focused on socially acceptable behavior with a short discussion of American slang words and phrases. A game requiring students to match slang words with their meanings by finding the person who held the matching card, and then discussing with their partner how they could “act out” the word so the class could surmise the meaning. March 8th was International Women’s Day and to commemorate this important day Chris organized a group of a “just us” girls’ dinner at the Village Cafe. The following day I accompanied Ruth to Metro. I must say I am quite proud of the fact that in 6 months I have only visited it twice. Metro is a German-chain where many imported goods can be easily purchased, but sometimes for a hefty price. Ruth introduced me to Muesli, a German brand granola that tastes heavenly. We were on the lookout for nutella, but to no avail. On Friday March 11th, I spent some time downtown with Sam and Veronica from Tourism English Class 1. Sam wanted to try “sandwiches” so we ate at Subway. Subway in China is pretty much exactly the same as in the States; it might even taste slightly better, but this could very easily be because I miss Western food at times. Later that evening, I went downtown again to practice my Chinese with XiaoXia, an employee of Dang Li’s, whom is a friend of Mike’s. Dang Li owns a small stall in a large mall off of Luo Ma Shi (Walking Street). I help Xiao Xia with her English, and she helps me with my Chinese. This isn’t working out as well as I thought it would; it is a very slow process because she knows very little and it becomes a repetitive process of studying the same things week after week.
Finally, I can now move on to week four. Instead of my normal 16 hours of teaching, I added an additional four hours since I had to cancel class the previous Monday due to illness. This past week I still wasn’t feeling all that great. Part congestion, but mostly my ears felt excessively clogged. I thought I might be battling a sinus infection. My suspicions were confirmed when I visited an Australian doctor whom practices at a Friendship Hospital (the idea being a place where Eastern and Western medicine can complement each other). He prescribed me medicine and I am happy to report that I am feeling quite myself the last day or so. In addition to teaching, in which we discussed current events, mostly the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami and nuclear predicament, I had lunch with my students Sam, Veronica, and Eric (all from English Class 1). On Tuesday, an update to my appearance was made. I recently noticed I was getting frequent headaches and squinting far too often to see things clearly. I realized I needed to obtain some eyewear, better known as glasses. I did just this, after going to the gym with Daphney, and walked away with a nice pair for a mere $77. It doesn’t get much better than that: frames, lenses, and an eye exam for the latter price. Oh, and free cleaning cloths! It seems, when you spend a particular amount of money, stores will send you on your way with an exorbitant amount of freebies.
The following day I accompanied Ruth for a haircut, just getting a trim. This cost me 10 kuai, or about $2. You might surmise for this price it was an awful haircut, or something went awry, but it was just as good of a haircut as I have gotten for free at Fekkai in NYC. The best part was the shampoo where I received a relaxing head massage. Later that evening, Ruth, Sara (new Italian teacher who lives in our stairwell), Sandro, Sara’s boyfriend visiting from Italy, and I dined at Small World Cafe at Da Yanta (Big Wild Goose Pagoda). I enjoyed a meal of the most decadent Hot Chocolate to ever make its way into my stomach (well, at least in China!) as well as breakfast consisting of french toast, hash browns, sausage, and OJ. All this was paired with a Torres red wine. Quite an interesting mix, but as I was in the presence of Italians, who were insistent that I drink some vino (some of my Italian has made its way back into my vocabulary…okay, so not necessarily but I understood a lot of what Sara and Sandro were saying to each other), I couldn’t muster up the courage to say no.
On Thursday, I dined with Hui Li and Mike at a farmer-style restaurant near the new campus. This seems to be the hang out for the XISU administration and teachers. Many big men and women on campus, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see my boss there, Dean Wu. He is the reason I have a job at the university. He was a Fulbright Scholar in the States and somehow became affiliated with Professor DeCaroli from Goucher, the professor who runs the China study abroad course. In proper Chinese fashion, the three of us politely went over to say hello. Dean Wu informed me a recording I did several months ago, at his request (you can’t say no to your boss, especially in China), could be heard at one of the most popular tourist destinations in Xi’an, the Terracotta Warriors Museum (actually it is Qin Shi Huang’s tomb that you will hear my recording…Shi Huang is the Qin emperor responsible for the creation of the Terracotta Army). So now I feel obligated to go, hear how awful my voice sounds, and to take Zhang Jian along to see if he recognizes my voice. The museum receives thousands of visitors monthly, and Dean Wu didn’t forget to remind me of this fact: “You are famous now” in addition to telling me “Oh, yes, I knew I recognized this voice…yes, of course it’s Marissa!” It was embarrassing at the time, but reflecting back on what Dean Wu said, it certainly is an interesting opportunity and comical that so many people, from all over the world, will hear my voice! Yesterday, I attempted to write this entry from the comforts of the Village Cafe, but it seemed that every person in Xi’an with a computer had the same intent. I ended up going to the gym later on with Daphney, coming home and making my first attempt at pancakes, blueberry pancakes actually. I still have a lot of work to do in the cooking department. Hopefully I’ll pick up some pointers from the parental units when I am home this summer. I have also been bequeathed an oven and can’t wait to be able to bake again! All I need now is to find some time…