So sorry that the blog has been severely neglected for the past few months!
This semester has been busy (as usual) and the weather has been exceptionally lovely (unusual!), which explains why I am not sitting around figuring out how I can get around the internet proxies in China to get information and photos up on this sad little blog. Still, I wanted to give you all an update before heading back to work.
Let me begin by saying that springtime in Beijing is wonderful. The sun comes out and there’s a comfortable breeze that comes over the city and sweeps a lot of the nasty smog away. In addition, the flowers come out in full-bloom literally overnight. Peach and cherry blossoms, lilacs, even roses… the smell of spring is a welcome change from the creepy sewage smells that usually float around in concentrated clouds. I was able to visit the Summer Palace for the third time (it’s about a fifteen minute bus-ride away from my house), but definitely my favorite one to date. It was a horribly crowded Saturday (check the pictures), but the colors were amazing.
My friend, Samara, and I also enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday together. Both of us had given up sweets for Lent and made plans early on (really early, I’m talkin’ one week into Lent, here!) to break our fasts together by going to Haggen Daaz and treating ourselves to some ice cream. People, Haggen Daaz back home does not even hold a candle to what they have in China. We ordered a banana split, which, in China, means the bananas are perfectly ripe and caramelized and the ice cream is served at the exact right temperature (did you know there was such a thing?). I felt a little sick to my stomach consuming so much dairy at one time—which makes me a little nervous about the amount of cheese I plan on eating when I get back—but it was worth it!
I’ve also quit my side-job, which has been great for having more time to spend getting to know my students. This has been great, but of course, nothing comes without a price. Observe the last photo attached to this blog post—yes, people, THAT is what happens when you invite your students to your home. They bring you bananas… A LOT OF STINKIN’ BANANAS. What in the world are they thinking? Am I a monkey? Do they think Americans eat nothing but bananas? Do they have a sneaking suspicion I’m hiding a small village of people who only eat bananas somewhere in my apartment? Did I mention in class by a slip of the tongue that bananas are the love of my life? All jokes aside, it is pretty hilarious greeting each student at my door and saying, “Oh woooow… more bananas!” each time they hand me a bag filled with said xiang jiao (now y’all know how to say “banana” in Chinese too). Needless to say, I’ve been making a lot of banana bread. And the craziest thing is… two weeks after that photo was taken, they did the exact same thing! Aiiyah…
In any case, life is good, but certainly not easy. My students this semester are amazing and I am really enjoying teaching writing, despite having no book or curriculum to work off of. My small groups are going well and I am grateful for the relationships that I am building. Still, my frustrations with this strange country often trump my ability to see the blessings that are poured out on me daily. I often remind my self that “Different is just different,” and not necessarily good or bad… but sometimes I swear it’s just straight out wrong! Just the other day, my students had plenty to say about how their greatest political concern in inflation because they want to buy a house for cheap, but showed absolutely no concern for AIDS, famine, poverty, drug trafficking, and a few didn’t even know what Sri Lanka was (“Is it a person or an animal?”). My PhD students firmly believed that divorce was perfectly acceptable as long as the wife was financially independent, while others believed it was unacceptable because it was the direct cause for homosexuality. Imagine being on the cusp of being 25 years old and having to dish out my opinion of why both opinions were completely problematic to a room full of PhDs and deans of various departments at credible Chinese universities.
With spring in full bloom and a notoriously hot summer just around the corner, I am starting to refine my love-hate relationship with China and now have legitimate things that I truly, truly love, and things that I strongly, strongly dislike. Still, He is good… all the time… and presents new opportunities for me to be an obedient and unworthy servant and example of love, patience, kindness, and (no pun intended) grace.
Next up: Chinese Snacks—Hits & Misses… it’ll be a good one!