My first week of school was certainly eventful and one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had in a very long time. I’ve learned a few things—most importantly, if you put everything before Dad, he provides faithfully. I can’t believe how much he has provided in this one week and the anxiety I was feeling only a week ago regarding my purpose here and my ability to teach and be a light in this city. Here’s a bit of how it went down:
Sunday night, I was tossing and turning all night and got one of my worst nights of sleep since I arrived in Beijing. Every time I went to work on my lesson plans or calendar for the semester, I got nauseous. I was very anxious and even though I talked to Jason and to Dad and both assured me that everything was going to be fine, I was still scared about how I may come off since first impressions are very important in Chinese culture.
The first day of school arrived and the entire morning as I went through my routine, I was in constant mental communication with Dad, asking him to be present in my classrooms and in me as I met my students for the first time. Well, needless to say he was there before me because while my first classes were challenging and exhausting, they went off without a hitch.
My first class is the “self-sponsored” class—meaning they are mostly about my age and are paying out of pocket (parent’s pockets, really) to be in class. Other teachers told me to expect them to be friendly and enthusiastic, but not necessarily try very hard in class since it’s like an elective course for them. My other class, however, is a government-sponsored class filled with professionals—engineers, doctors, professors, scientists. One of my students was telling me that he majored in architecture at Tian Jin University and some of his fellow alumni were the brilliant minds behind the Olympic Bird’s Nest and Water Cube! It’s amazing to see learn more about my students and hear more about their backgrounds and their vast knowledge of Chinese culture and also see their deep hunger to learn English so that they can continue their research and continue their work abroad.
In the midst of my lesson-planning/teaching chaos, I got to go to TWO (yeup, count’em… TWO, baby!) Paralympic Events! If you want to talk about humbling, it is difficult to find a more humbling experience than watching the Paralympics. On my first day of school, I went to wheelchair basketball with my sisters who got free tickets. To call it inspiring would be an understatement. It was also my first taste of real Chinese patriotism, which, if anything, is really entertaining! Chinese fans of course support their own team with the most enthusiasm, but are great sportsman and clap for both teams when they score. It was also fun to be proud of the US for once and to be one of the handful of people supporting our country’s team.
I also attended the rowing event with three students and my friend, Lynn, who had extra tickets. The rowers are mostly blind and sometimes have an able-bodied guide depending on the event. It was a great opportunity for them to practice their English and for me to learn some Chinese. It was a really blessed time of fellowship and getting to know one another.
Sunny, Vincent, and Johnson also invited me out to a class “party” to celebrate Teacher’s Day. Well, I was not about to turn that down, so I accepted their gracious invitation. I was expecting us to just go to a restaurant after the Paralympics and have a nice dinner, but when I asked Sunny where we were planning on going that evening, she said, “We will go to a place where they have a lot of food and you put it on your plate…”
“A buffet?” I offered.
“Yes, yes—buffet. And there are many rooms to sing… uh… how do you say?”
My face went blank. You’ve got to be kidding me… we’re going to KARAOKE?
We were indeed. A HUGE karaoke establishment, actually, where there was a reception desk on the bottom floor and four floors of karaoke rooms and buffets. It was such a surprise, but when I arrived, I saw my entire government class sitting on these black leather couches eating and singing like it was their j-o-b. I’ve heard that the Chinese take their karaoke very seriously, but this was beyond anything I’d imagined. Alas, my camera ran out of battery right before I got a shot of my architect student rocking out with the tambourine. The majority of my class weren’t great singers, but what they lacked in talent, they certain made up for with expression, passion, and VOLUME! Some students would make small speeches before belting out their favorite song, welcoming me to China and wishing my time here to be enjoyable. Some said that they were glad that I was their teacher because they enjoyed my lessons. Some just wanted to explain that the strange man with the mullet I saw singing on the screen was from Mongolia. No matter what they said, I lifted everything up to Dad and was so grateful for how much he provides for me and how he even prepared this class before my first day of teaching to receive and welcome me as their teacher.
As we sang our last few songs (including the ever-popular “My Heart Will Go On”) and made our ways back to campus via bus, I looked around and my heart swelled with joy and gratitude. Thank you all for your thoughts and support… I know that this week could not have been as meaningful or blessed without your thoughts!