These are the characters whom compose my life here in China. As others drift in and still others drift out of my story, I’ll make additions and omissions. The ebb and flow of Zhong guo can cause this to be a prominent possibility.
Zhang Jian (Jason) – my boyfriend. He’s good-natured, kind, honest, and I think good-looking (my sisters won’t agree).
Daphney – My first Chinese friend. She has been an immense help in making my life as pleasant as possible in China. For some time, she was my Chinese tutor but I decided our friendship was too valuable for us to continue a business relationship. We still frequently see each other with trips to the gym or catching up at The Village Cafe where she often meets her private students. She is responsible for my infatuation with Wong Li Hong (an ABC or American Born Chinese Taiwanese pop singer…this probably equates him to Justin Bieber level but believe me this guy is talented; he plays guitar, drums, violin, piano in addition to several traditional Chinese instruments).
Chris & John – My first foreign contacts in China who provided me with a wealth of information about living in China, what to bring with me. In my first month here, they were invaluable for keeping me sane as well as curing any homesickness that plagued me. John is an American; he’s been in China around 10 years and also teaches in the Tourism department. He seems to find me quite amusing, often giving me various nicknames; the most current one being Maris. Chris is Australian; she’s also been in China for quite some time. Chris introduced me to the fabric market, and as of late I haven’t seen as much of her but occasionally she pops over to check the status of her Facebook (not all the teachers here opted to purchase a VPN).
Hui Li – My Jie Jie (older sister). She is responsible for almost every tutoring job I have obtained. She’s well connected, kind-hearted, and very easy to talk to. She has superb English, having visited and lived in the States on a couple of occasions. We often eat meals together and recently I spent time at her apartment, during which she introduced me to some Chinese TV shows that would be excellent for improving my Mandarin. I am forever indebted to her for her constant and selfless assistance.
Ruth – Another jie jie (a joke as Ruth is really a very good friend). We couldn’t be more complete opposites but we share a love of laughter, or really Ruth laughs and I join in because her laugh is infectious. She’s an Aussie, who much to my delight, in a playful way of course, gets mistaken for an American (actually most white foreigners are grouped into the category of American as all white waiguo ren)She is always immensely helpful in doling out advice when I’m sick, providing me with apartment necessities, allowing me to do my laundry, or just allowing me to call her to ask an absurd question. We traveled together during our holiday, to Beijing & Hainan, and still frequently have adventures around Xi’an together. She’s a member of the Wednesday gang, along with Sara and I, sometimes Sara’s friend Francois, one of the French teachers this term, also joins us.
Isabella – a foreign student at XISU. She has an interesting sense of sarcasm and I enjoy our conversations of absolute randomness, absurdity, and inconsequence. Recently, we went shopping. It was meant to be a day of shoes and clothes, instead we ended up food shopping. This is inevitable in China when you can’t find your size or the style is just too much of an oddity to ever adorn your body.
My Students – I spend an excessive amount of time with two of my students, Sam and Veronica. Sam is intrigued by films and I constantly challenge her to watch less contemporary “Hollywood movies” and indulge in films. She studies French so I have recommended films of that genre. I have also enjoyed the company of another student Wendy. She is quite the girly girl, and is therefore the quintessential shopping partner. I have had lunch with other students over the last term and a half but these three girls I consistently spend time with. I will be joining one of my classes for their class trip next weekend so I will have more to say about other students after that time.
Hui Hui, Bei Bei, & Yang Di – former students of Hui Li’s. They are highly entertaining. They understand the subtle nuances of sarcasm. They banter with each other like sisters. They refer to me as jie jie. So far, we have visited Da Yanta together. They have an extremely important exam (second years are all required to pass what is considered a rigorous exam, called the TEM-4) around the corner and I have offered my assistance as I truly feel like their sister, watching out and hoping for the best for them.
Mike – We spent a lot more time together last term, but this term it seems both our schedules are keeping us apart. We still occasionally go out on the weekends or pop over at each other’s place. Mike is an extremely funny character; his jokes sometimes allow me to reminisce the high school band years because some of his jokes are of the Mr. Paterno quality, cheesy yet still funny.
Sara – A recent addition to the characters in my life. She is the new Italian teacher in addition to my new gym buddy. A very funny story actually: She has visited the States and unfortunately had some bad experiences. The Americans she met weren’t particularly friendly, intelligent, etc. Think of all the awful stereotypes about us that exist in the rest of the world. Well, based on her experiences she formulated the stereotype “that all of us must be like this” (we are all guilty of this), so she was surprised when she met me, realizing I can’t be equated in this way. Her words, not mine. She has stated that I am educated, well-versed in a myriad of subject matters, easy to converse with, and an extremely brave young lady. The part of the story that is funny is when talking to her daughter on skype, and explaining to her that I am indeed an American, her daughter’s reply was “It’s a miracle!”
Xiao Liu – my ayi, cleaning lady. Yes, I know I am not helping the current stereotype often stated about the laziness of Americans. I do clean in the week between when she visits.
Linda & Tine – My new German friends. Linda leaves tomorrow :(, but Tina is here for the remainder of the term! Linda returns in September. I am also returning…I don’t know if I have mentioned that (that could be an entirely new entry in itself). Recently, we have decided upon eating in the canteen on the new campus every week, as to update each other on classes and just discuss our overall experiences. They both reside off campus, halfway between the new and old campuses. They enjoy nightlife, adventuring into the realm of Chinese food and traveling. Tine and I are going to attempt to plan a trip to Qingdao (famous for Tsingtao beer), instead of participating in the foreign teacher’s trip during an upcoming long weekend (Note: I have just looked up how far Qingdao is from Xi’an…unfortunately it’s over 17 hours by train! So perhaps not! :(). I get along splendidly with these girls. Our constant banter ends in an eruption of laughter and their English accents are so endearing that I love listening to them converse, whether it is English or German.
My Private Students – At the moment, I have 4 students: Jane, Jim, Lian Jin (Tracy), and Kirin. Their ages vary: 14, 11, 24 or 25 (not sure), and 6 respectively. They each require different attention: for Jane, I mostly deal with discussing English songs she can perform, American culture (it was British culture prior to her acceptance into a musical summer camp in the States), for Jim it’s getting him accustomed to foreigners as his father hopes to send him abroad for his secondary education (in this case I mean high school), for Lian Jin it’s helping her with confidence speaking in English about various topics of interest, and finally for Kirin, it’s getting him to enjoy speaking English (he’s only six so we play games). As much as I enjoy the supplemental income, this sometimes causes an unnecessary amount of added stress. My main priority is and always will be my university students. I spend an excessive amount of time and energy catering to them; scouring the web for good ideas or consulting other teachers. It’s a constant learning experience as I still circumnavigate the world of teaching.