After a year of mental preparation and a month of interviews, I got offered a job that I couldn’t refuse. The only caveat and portion that I did not plan for, was the destination. Hangzhou appeared to offer much of what I desired in South Korea; yet, in China?
Goodbyes were hell, Tracy, Dad, then tears; held mom-ensuring her. Here I felt guilt, but it left that takes attention, I need all mine-now forward. Flight long, yet not too bad. Finally, outta plane; read alien-go to line: foreigner. Do I belong? Assurance from the past, from line in talk with eight-grader. Confidence he spoke with, informed me-of a delay.
The sleep deprivation is serious. Causing me to catch-up on the cool tile floor. A positive tho, once conscious of standing out, but now-definite with laying out. They surround me, each time I awake someone reacts; look at him sleeping. Now, no worries-let them look, I look n respond with a smile.
The Daily Stoic references the connection of the Stoic and exile, then offers Churchill’s quote, “Every prophet has to come from civilization, but every prophet has to go into the wilderness.” This is the concept of Buddha, and the making of Zarathustra; inspirations of mine. Here lies my thinking for being across the world, not to pay my loans, save and live; nor to learn Mandarin. To live and go as Transcendentalists lived, to isolate. Not to live in the woods, as Henry would have it; I’m a social creature. Here I am alone, renewed; I create anew. Question, encounter, struggle and grow.
Training day one: meet the team; wish it woulda been under better circumstances- sweaty with all my luggage. Out the hotel to work. Good people n presentations; one for me, the other-our Mandarin majority. K1D for me, Cindy and Denise, we teach twenty come September. New e’thing: people, food, and school with a view. Then sign a year away, content with challenges? Supermarket, spoiled, Visa no good-the bare essentials. Needa get my footing. Much to get, much to do. Looking out window, what a view.
Che sorpresa-paga per tre mesi, la prima settimana; pero of bed sheets, food, a phone? Non ho niente, seriamente—this apartment’s bare, thought to be prepared; yet $1200 to 0. Mia mente: un telefono rotto, wifi non esiste, parliamo con genitori Come? Solo qui, lo sapevo; ma, ora-il sentimento e reale: solo me.
Woke disturbingly early a quarter a two, why? Much on the mind, so much to do, when? Do what we can, make a place a home, where? Take a walk to the river n back, to running; how? Determining and molding a schedule, to-do, what? Ideas-flowing, morning truth, asking questions, who?
Gotta sim card can now see the next seven days: unhealthy for me-I’m sensitive. Bane it? But not the concern, first-Yuan. Owe 13000-Friday that‘s near 2000 cash. Not counting a dirty place, no sheets, food, or cookware. This is wearing on me-what should I do? Make a list-take a sheet, fill it up–just a start to feeling completely lost.
Mom called—vented to her a half-hour, she gave advice-Make a list; write it all down. A full sheet, yet go to work- crossing, dad removes pressure with aid, able to breathe n enjoy. To Wumart: food n drink, mirror in elevator: smile, I’m…
Went to the visa check, see if my health right. Pricked, tested; room to room-felt like an … First week comin to an end, working on that long list, check off, n add-, each day is an …
Another week to begin, looking forward to visits- takin public trans to meet the parents. Weekend gave an opportunity to explore, relax, progress. Following work structured drama-next day hospital. Zai, a check-this invasive; yet, forgotten with West Lake- 16 miles around, up-high, under heat; searching shade until guitar obtained. Stop at Grandma’s house—for feast. Two days, one company n activity; next, barricade indoor safer, alone to clean n settle-in.
This week has given me something special n unique a chance to meet the children and their parents, first at their home-seven in all; traveling about the city, by Didi, foot n bike. One dad even took us by car, in his Executive; wow. With following Xu Dan, I most enjoyed the brief biking; thanks to the breeze (rare) and views.
The home visits were only one part, the next-our room turns to display-tested by the kids. No longer in their comfort zone, them try anew, and meet. Me able to relax; not in homes so extravagant, here, just sit on floor n play. Two days, an image of to come; okay.
To a place unknown, rural adventure its claim-river, mountains, n water games. Paired with Adam. A night in hotel. Scheduled heavy itinerary for day n half, two hour bus ride starts Friday AM. Singing, rotating DJ on the mic, and a high (me), versatile cloth provided, Che! Taylor n I show all the ways used, wrist, head, face, neck.
Under the sun, here the obstacle course and our home, aside from sleep and eat. Start off odd, circle-activities, point- less; bunny hop, sit on neighbours lap, more hand holding and teams. All the while, in Chinese, the foreigners confused, just swept away—sheep. Chants, flag n team name-Red Star, we’d stay together for the day (Wu) joined by team 6, 7, 8. Finally, Lunch. Experience table rotating, dine with people- all looking at food the same, bones n the fish, frog legs, Shen ma this n what is that? Taro bene.
Now, we’re talking; split-first, cliff dive or repelling-nervous. Hike up n up to what? Nerves, grip the rope- so tight, to come down and ask why didn’t I go senza paura-woulda been more fun. Next, caving, oh now dark-wet; go deep under-these people e’ pazzo. Yet, fun help Cindy n friend, then more-team. Ladies impressed and entertained; realization: cliff-maybe two minutes, caving an hour? Clear, the longer enjoyment the better for me-not a quick n and out, took effort-strategy…teamwork. Again, a team now turning to obstacles; acting a fool-in the pool. Watch n help, swimming about; hundred surround-the water not their haven. Jumping, driving, flopping, having a blast; like a kid-playing. Assist Roxi swim, all in our mind; then dry off turn to dinner-same place; another odd meal, yet in different company-Chinese table, felt real-with food they helped and encourage. To toasting the CEO n Jessie, chugging wine is odd, to me; for them, would become theme. Turn night-to drinking, Heavy. First, restaurant to bus, back of got wild; too much for me. Spilt wine, bodies on bodies-this work? Entertaining certainly, memorable. Company, Jianyi aside me, and Roxi the other; distractions or interests? Challenging for some, true colors shining; funny to annoying. Now, back to camp-to fire and festivities. If not already, got weird; I’d help. Signs of cult, one said. Break off to teams, I’m alone-turn to run to middle, then dance suggested. Embarrassment shoulda but I’m my own filter, so instead, comfort level down fast-getting to know host more closely, with circle to watch. I’d get questions, like I’ve heard before and high fives. To him, sorry, can’t dance alone. Dancing and drinking the evening, bus back; an even bigger mess-lead to night- I’d hear bout. Gladly, resolve to shower n bed.
Wake up-in time for breakfast-a feast, I took too much. Pack up, then meet others-hear stories of drunk adventure. On the bus again, making way to higher in the mountains. Reminiscent of past, alone without a partner-Nomad, solo in my float, joined by a bamboo stick-make use; Ended up being…blessing, alone to attend to my desires: stop and go, my decision, control the pace-then off to swim, out the raft more than half the time, enjoying relief from heat. See orange shirts go past, use time-to stay toward end of queue. Smiles on faces, surprised looks I’d guess-to see me-out swimming. The ride down-the highlight of it all, paired with obstacles-face truth-I miss the water, Eric tells of pool nearby apartment-a chance to continue the highs from a weekend away. To lunch, a table admins, Eric, Taylor, Zoe, Roxi-they assist n smile at confusion of mine.
Funny, a weekend away and I feel like I’m… Between decorating and lesson planning- I cannot help but question-can I do this? The lesson plans calls for songs, that I do not know, and a classroom of decoration that I am not skilled to do, leaning more on the team than I would like. Yet, manage? At home, now recalling days ahead-off, what to do-where to go? Consuming-can I manage a visit to Huangshan in two days, and what of the Golden Week-I have a week off. Then, recall past-Viterbo, lost in the theoretical. Been here before-watch, ensure I’m not…
Another late departure at work, drama rehearsal then decorating. Katie n Nancy to Denise and I, pulled Stacy then idea-basement-Star Avenue- a grocery store n a seafood spot-caveat pick it out, unique to me n Katie-not them. Walked about-catching flounder, lobster n crab, then more-shop; straight out the coconut-truly an experience-evident it showed-my inexperience, happy to learn n encounter
With school beginning in two days, the classroom is… Disney themed by Denise, and Stitch courtesy of me. Practices, changes n additions of props, our play is…Won’t know which role I prefer-Gaston or the wolf, I’ll see tomorrow. See Monday with the kids, to…n grasping at a language; gotta name, An-Deng-Shan. Trainings been rough; last two days; yet today… First, with meals. Balls of meat to Western Friday to Working days to get words in-help me I want to be…Others are in similar boat; just across an ocean. To a broken Phone, dinner out with help in… Cindy and Denise, we rode around on bikes; finally of necessity-new phone-Huawei I’m…Lost in part, strayed thoughts used to invigorate; with familiar: Nietzsche n Ram Dass; ideas are…
Early morning to the school, a Saturday-opening ceremony. To theatre-in time for one do, enough to be in a full sweat. Then greet parents and kids, to backstage-the feeling’s mutual; among us all: nerves, excitement, spread all around;…
Wolf was fun, Gaston a success; the fight scene-well despite mic off-due to intent fall, voice loud enough; enjoyed it all, yet sighs. To lunch at school-again, mangia troppo e caffe; the classroom- much to do, remain till half past 6-with Denise; her work effort…
Had to make use of one day weekend, early rise-to a breakfast spot-15 kuai. Daily routine, yet adventure on mind- south of city appears all green n blue, Alipay, got me bike-sweet relaxation n exploration, first the marsh lands or Baima Lake, off track-gave me peace I’ve been searching for, in the city, this would seem not-after near hour found the lake; between time n rain could only do a portion-smile for another; views unreal, seclusion needed. With much to see n do, this vast area, city; is unknown yet feel at home.
On the walk to Wesley, my nerves were going; it didn’t get any better when I left breakfast for the classroom. I just peered out the window watching the drop-off, knowing the next day, I would be in Samuel’s position; at the electric gate. The first child entered, with her parent, then another and another until by nine the classroom was full. I didn’t have the nerve to say it at the time; leaving it for later, but I hadn’t a clue what to do, aside from being there-present, offering them something to play with. That would do for a bit, until we needed to address a crier then another; the two would go on n off for our half day. Snack time, circle time, and rules; this was all new to me-not Denise nor two that spoke with the kids, I just tried my best. The English helped when came the songs, yet I’d learn later on-shoulda prepped them with the words and concepts; of course, what was I thinking? A hurried lunch, meeting then the day run its course; reflection at day’s end-gave me much to think about, them too-considering I informed them of my self reflection; got jittery on two occasions; needa bring snacks-I said, open to criticism.
Second day, and things a little more clear; well, going 5 to 10 percent, if that. Some things are evident; yet, difficult to accept and take-in. Take, recognizing; obviously I am second fiddle in the classroom, sensibly to me, but even more, for now I’m an assistant. I can’t communicate with the kids; aside, from the circle time. English songs and dance, my proclaimed time to sweat. Happy during this time, but I’m still just tuning in; not much of a co-teacher, or leader. Turning to meeting, yesterday and today; makes me realize, just how little I know of what we are to do-tasks and messages aplenty, yet here I am mostly clueless. Coming to terms with all this; the classroom will improve-I’m happy, I’m two n not thrown in fire; instead just seeing flame or smoke. Adjust to terms-new life, job-mind.
Change needed, just a video call-makes a difference. Readying for bed by seven, the iPad showed two missed calls. In calling back, I wasn’t sure but forty five minutes later-I admitted to her; I had, for whatever reason, to begin to close myself-like walls going up. She had brought a smile that turned my concerned frown into a smile by end call. Mom.
Last half day, then have two days-for us to experience a whole day, see their readiness for what lies to come-IB come week three. Came in early, with regret from how I ended the day before-frustration with self. First child at 7:50, last at 12:30; during-less crying, more management, again slow eating, but we’ll see today-naptime after lunch. Songs and dance, been a staple-but now must implement games-we’ll see. They leave, after lunch-K1Ban, we threw out ideas; on what to do-Denise n I would talk afterward, talk of self-management, care and stress; I worry she takes too much-we’ll see. It all felt better.
Today was our first full day; an adventure that had me, feeling like I was pulling for nothing. Morning was good, despite getting to school at 645 to complete the lesson plan; thanks Samuel for giving an idea on what to do (the assistance from people, the community like is, still, unreal for me-appreciated to say the least.) By the end of morning exercise I was lost, how to complete that while also making it attention grabbing; hindsight and reflection (the powerful tool), shoulda played a quick game. Build on it all, hopefully. Next preparations for going outside; which required us to line-up. Boys n one, ladies the other; both were interesting, but after classroom practice we headed for the second floor large play area. That worked, and was remarkably entertaining for both them (all) and I. Next unknown, naps; seriously, I returned after lunch-for Cindy and Denise to go, without a clue; how do I get twenty some kids to nap? That would prove to be the challenge of the day; requiring all hands (four sets) on deck, and Laoshi’s experience to guide. All in the individual cots, they were cute and peaceful; when they finally fell asleep or just went quiet; then to waking then up, another step to remember. We ended the day with completing our routine; the first-good to see, its gotta get better, (right?) Turned to play dough; after I read the hungry caterpillar-some choose to make one, others-just a combination of something-artwork. Final impression came with end of goodbye song-affectionate little man came to hug me, then another-soon twelve/fifteen (idk) about pushed me off the chair-sweet, but careful parents watching.
Oh what a week; and only two full days-the principal says, give it a month and it will get better; can I wait that long? Today alone, then to add yesterday; its been an endless disaster at time it seems. So, I lean on the laoshi, and the teachers that can speak with the children; all I can understand is bu yao, me you. A longer day today; till seven I worked-to ensure Denise has a night away from Wesley; night prior till near eleven; ridiculous the stress-brings. With parents, naughty children, and sleepless kids; we’ll seen, I guess.
Good reason to be up early on a Saturday-exercise at seven. Met Samuel at the electric gate, then to Qianjiang Century Park; for high intensity. Didn’t know what to expect, but cool to say near fifteen people; foreign and Chinese together to make use of the time. Between squats-bear crawls, lunges-piggy back rides, burpees-duck walk then to cool down legs and abs; ready for it to be done. Enjoyed it, but my body…very clearly showed it is not in shape, or condition; but I now have a way to both measure and improve self.
Along the river, early morning to avoid the heat-another day of 30 degrees celsius. A marathon it was, or perhaps more; first by river trail to the National Water Museum, in the maps I saw a…Pagoda! Delightful, despite closure until nine, by then I wanted to be at breakfast-the spot. I was, after a seventeen kilo return through the city-a part I haven’t and normally wouldn’t see. To feast-for seventeen kuai; a joy-hao chi.
Yesterday, and ride back today, couldn’t help in thinking-we’re under a bus. First, with all four new teachers to the school; one of the three teachers-actually has kindergarten experience-not me. Then, twenty-one new students; five unruly, they claim naughty. I’d go beyond that, then few nappers, and to hear that all other K1s are enjoying life-contemplating boredom and having plenty of space to roam in their empty downstairs. We don’t have any of those liberties, we’re working to stay afloat. How they do us like that? Yet, no the question, I needa be asking-I don’t have control over that-barely do of me. So, I prep-and alter a lesson plan to better fit the kids; and determine after convo with dad and Tracy, that it will get better-it must, even if after a month or two. And in staying late-I can’t, I must, each day, defuse myself with a workout or something at 430-5.
I am at an impasse, I have no idea what to do. A week into teaching kindergarten, and it seems hope is running out; first with myself, then the Chinese co-teacher with me. A frightening confession, since there really is no good way out here; I can’t so simply change classrooms, co-teachers, or even a job. With my employer having my work visa, I am held captive by them; if I am to quit or be fired (either of them in disgrace), I would, essentially, be kicked out of China, and Hangzhou; a city that I have found a liking to. In a matter of minutes, in communication on DingTalk, I have gone from having a rather fine day; a relaxing Sunday, to stunned. Her words, push me to disbelief; added with a message from last night about me being about to do better, “come on.” We can both agree, since after a difficult week, simply put everything can get better, but for this to be our communication. Am I to continue working? Yes, I have no intention of quitting but what do I now expect with a clear, deteiorating relationship; since I have no idea on how to manage a classroom and teach children. It seems, that we are now in a situation; one that I have not encountered before, and honestly I haven’t a clue on what to do, to ease a co-teachers mind. I intended on readying myself to teach tomorrow, in hope that it would get better, as I further acclimated myself to the job, along with the students. Yet, now I, to be honest, question how I should work alongside someone who so clearly has little confidence in me; much less, is happy to be working aside me. From going from the feeling of being thrown under a bus to this; I’d take the former. Since now I feel, as a man alone on a boat; before at least with a team. There are options, none of them promising at the moment. Prepare myself for work, while also, keeping an eye; now it seems necessary, before just speculating, on other job opportunities. If this doesn’t pan out, the fallout from this; in recognizing with the higher the leap-the harder the fall, while make the failure at West Virginia, appear so minor. I worry, and with my stomach uneasy and my mind whirling, all I can do is write and question; what have I go to do?
right out of proportion; something I have a tendency to do-overthink. Went to work not knowing what to think, just what to do; ask for advice and work to pull my weight. Yet, when time came; and our class was full, of teachers and students-we were cool. Like normal, so with additional insight after lunch from Samuel then Gabby, I mustered up the opportunity during nap time; if only they all actually napped, to ask her. What’d I find out? Of course, text is not the way to communicate throughly; I had indeed taken it the wrong way. We talked; as I ensured her; due to my lack of confidence in my teaching experience; feeling incompetent or as an imposter, with her stress, it made sense to me.
After another difficult day, this at times was brutal; kids got rowdier and more defiant as the afternoon came. After nap time, those two hours seemed to not get gone, yet finally home. First though, a discovered mid-point; therapeutic enjoyment-bliss after work; full of near breaking points. A bike ride along the river; on the path to a park-squats and lunges: work in two part-already sweaty and hot-due to work and Hangzhou, but now add slight workout-paired with ten kilometer ride. The crucial piece is peace; gained from just a half hour, work forgotten and now; home and nothing on shoulders.
Home late on a Wednesday, worked late due to a parents meeting. Busy and bizarre; first to see parents taking such interesting PTA; speeches-total fifteen-two minutes each. If only all stuck to that limit, four K1D represented; one, with speech pattern enthusiasm, of German, maybe eighty years ago. Then powerpoint presentation-Xu Dan n I, talk with parents-me first, then translation-interesting to see and do-but glad it’s over.
I feel my life is now just that…Calling them out, each day; Chen zi stop running, get off wang zi cheng, don’t throw that. Zi Cheng separate from him, get back into your seat or bed. Jian lai why are you yelling, and how did you spill all that on your shirt? Jian-yi listen, stop speaking out; and Juju put your hands off on Li Lu, or I’ll move you-Bu Yao; that seems to always be the response. I don’t want they say, yet they continuously do the thing that I can’t explain to them (in Chinese) and they can’t understand (in English). An interesting, nonstop challenge; Ellie look at me-eyes forward-Zi Yi walk with hands on shoulders. Then to Colin and Wun Qi; no fighting, sit in your chair, stop jumping up and down on the bedlisten-sssh listen; and the response. Either, so often bu yao; or a growl-sometimes cries for help from one of the other teachers-the discipling is paramount and never-ending. Monday we start IB, yet aside from bits of technology and dances; even then, someone is liable to fall down, causing a domino-like chain reaction or wrestle. I believe I mentioned ten, perhaps less; then add another eleven/twelve-make 21; imagine.
With a three day weekend, due to the Autumn Festival holiday, I aimed to make good use of it. With a month (plus) in, and two weeks into the school calendar beginning, it appears that I need a day alone; just to relax and get all the songs out of my head. Fortunately, I’d come across several locations that had made these past two days, successful, without ever going outside of the city; as I originally had aimed to do. While the times spent at Paradise Walk, walking about the massive seven story mall was a wash, the basement level was my first discovery; a huge grocery store that allowed me to buy much needed items (kitchen and organising), while also giving me a place to buy foods each week. Second, right nearby a pastry shop; Paris Baguette, allowed me to fulfil my fix, that has been lacking since I flew east. Then as the whole of Star Avenue was packed, I found success in Wumart; with both a basketball n a pump. Friday evening, turned to that, in joining a group of seven men to play on one of the half-courts; I’d make the mistake in playing five games. None of which, I played well; yet, the sure joy that I have, with it being a possibility again in my life is enough. Later on, I’d feel sick; a pounding headache-prevented me from sleeping well. Although, surprising at first, with mom’s thoughts, we led to believe-dehydration: with the humidity and heat; I’m finding a gallon a day is a must, yet difficult with bottles. To Saturday, a new discovery and more activity. Again, I headed to the lake; via the metro, yet, would only see it from afar. Instead, was delighted to be submerged within nature: the woods, and elevation. I began too late, the area is vast; leaving me with yet another option going forward.
It’s been over a month, since I first got here and yet, I still have not completely accepted it as normal. The occasional, and often times obvious looks that I receive from people still bring me joyous surprise. It can be a child, that gets the attention of her parent and sibling, or a several ladies-roughly my age that wave and offer up a big smile. Or today, with a line of construction workers walking by me, as each passed, they continue to glance at me, even when there body trajectory made it difficult from them to continue their path. I smile back, often times wave; perhaps a ni-hao or hello. Sometimes I get a response, then I contemplate the rarity of them coming across someone like me. Which calls upon me pride and joy in two fold; where I come from-while I may be one of many, for everyone-there’s representation.
Today, it hit; I’d describe, it later that day to my supervisor as jumping off the cliff; that’s how I felt. What began at 6:49, getting to work; I enjoy a morning setting up the classroom-and free coffee, turned to end at 8:44. A meeting at 4:30, to discuss lesson plans became about classroom management; me beside myself with a motionless or at least holding to a negative expression-I couldn’t help it after the day-afternoon we had. Ideas we discussed, which resorted to Xu Dan n I, working to create a wall of honor; although-I would like to refer to the board of praise and shame…shame-shame. So, will it work? Bu zhi dao, but something has to, since today-I was at the brink of quitting, yet I wouldn’t and won’t; they’ll have to fire me. Instead, we’ll work out the kinks, oh so many.
I’m now about finding answers, for questions and problems that; I don’t like admit that I’m facing and I have not encountered before. It is clear, that I am a first time teacher. Sure, I taught a bit in Italy, also for higher achievement that drove me to call out for advice-from mom and mr. eric, yet; here I am in a kindergarten. Obviously, said I knew that I would be a kindergarten teacher-but these three year olds are, everyday, constructing me into a person that I have admitted I am not liking. At lunch, I vent and ask for solutions-during nap time I further pry suggestions for a superior-what should I do? Should I admit I made a mistake? I will absolutely, yet that doesn’t help me here-do I leave my situation, no but I must reconstruct the narrative-into a more manageable present. So: I work, say 8 am-4pm; I get the half hour lunch and then the two hour period for nap-which never works out like I hear from other classes; instead, the lunch is during their nap then maybe another half hour-unless I leave the classroom-like today. An idea-for sanity, break up a day: 8 am-12 pm, which includes lunch and playtime, ok; then, two hours after nap-let’s see if compartmentalising can prove useful? Seriously, this is it.
I could spend time, in reiterating the same stuff; how the day was, in many respects, brutal. Yet, I must and am working to find a balance; starting with the immediate departure from work, not at 5:30, or 8:40 in the evening, but when my schedule indicates at 4:30. Then, off to do something, to refresh and begin anew, away from school, so I brought a basketball, shoes and clothes-to never use it; instead, a bike ride and walk/talk with Adam and Eric. We talked about an idea discussed before, a video project; revolving around foreigners in China-what do you bring to the table? Aside, from light exercise-exploration and a journey to Decathlon, then food n show (old people dancing); to ideas…
After reading an article about Vontae Davis, and his football career-I turn to review my day; why not use what I have, for so long, spoke for my explanations-sports. Without Xu Dan today, realising this near eight in the morning; I figured my day would be rough-picture taking away the Left Tackle or even the quarterback; in this scenario-I’ll do the running. Without the disciplinarian, and runner of the show; since she both has the experience, knows whats going on and speaks the language-I’ve got one of the three. I normally know the plays; so, now fast forward through our game of work. After, Taylor comes up in order so we can go to lunch-I return to difficulty in them napping-hindsight not so bad, then to hobby-turned mess. Cindy goes to teach hers, leaving Lai-Laoshi with one half of class-line of hands on shoulders up the stairs, I get the stragglers; who all decide they’d rather hang around the t-rex and comfort furniture-can you blame them? Well, I did; due to the appearance, us sitting them in a mess; looking like that as K2-K1, then K3 walking in a line right by; the difference they had a Chinese teacher-me no. So, to 4:30 and departure; assistance from Stacy but too late-I already fumbled, too many times-figuratively laid out to dry, again and again. Yet, the pain not physical, but mental.
This is now becoming clear, the obvious I know; yet, I work five and off two. I do what I must in the morning before work, then hopefully the next eight hours aren’t so bad-then complete what I need to go forward. Each day, after work will include this activity-a bike ride there, a few games of ball, etc. This way I hope, my week can work in a better fashion. Then to the weekend, I’ve noticed, the last two weeks-come Friday, I don’t sleep in peace; instead, I find myself in my dreams, more concerned about putting the kids to nap-over my own sleep-as if I’m working the hours of 12-2. Will work to fix that, yet thankfully-come Saturday morning; between FitFam, then ride around with Samuel, I find myself again. To the pharmacy, again have my montelukast; then to other ages and minds. The evening aren’t eventful, instead I turn them into early mornings-to the breakfast spot; still amazes me-I spend more on a cappuccino (23 rmb) to 19 rmb ($3).
Today, I was brought back, to last week; another Sunday travel, but to a period further back. Perhaps, it was the windmill, or the peaceful hike to then encounter a view and a trio of hikers; we’d exchange thoughts about the city, and the many hiking possibilities, but the explorations today felt like I had returned to Europe. Don’t get me wrong, I clearly and quickly can tell; whether with the inability to read the characters, on a menu or streets signs, or the many people around me, that I am in China. Still, after buying a train ticket to Ningbo for the late evening of September 30th (Golden Week!), and getting past all the people at the infested West Lake, I was able to find a delightful spot that served up a bowl of cheap, delicious noodles. Then, I’d retreat away from them all, along a path that just continued up and up, all the stone steps were rough on the left knee; yet, it left its mark-I will be back, and that was before the view. The serenity alone, gave me what I seek; then to come down and find the surrounding park, to be a gem within itself. For whatever reason, between French-Dutch-Italian architecture, the park reminded me of travels past.
With less sleep than normal, due to the first meeting; in preparation for Bring It To The Table, I began the day later than I desire. Yet, I was at work in time; like usual, by seven-ish. Coffee, and prep; then to work-I’d see, with the need of an appointment at the hospital, Xu Dan would be out in the afternoon. Come 1230, she’d be gone-creating a feeling; what’s to come. The subsequent hours; despite the help of: the Principal, three administrators, and an additional (temp) TA, would be a disaster. Starting with no sleep during nap time, then the chaos began and did not stop until departure. Colin ate a staple, the norm: wrestling, running, yelling; you know-three year old stuff. Yet, here I am-gone by 440-home by 450. If this is to be my life; then so be it, yet I’m gonna be selfish. My time away from the ring; yes, today I felt like Rocky-Getting knocked around, but not in just one movie-all of them. I’d throw back, with taking lunches-you gotta wait, and tell me-actually Xu Dan, why you have no food. Or, holding Chen Zi in my arms/lap during the viewing of Snow White; he kept laying on people. So; can I do it? Vediamo.
I sit here, after seeing a message from my co-teacher; to read that she has resigned. I understand and had a feeling that something has gotta change, but this? I figured maybe an additional teacher, or meetings with parents. Xu Dan, was the constant and professional of the classroom; the rest of us are just pieces put together-she had the experience and know-how. Not to mention, bigger than that-working alongside here, whether with the students, before they arrived, or late in the evening hours-was an opportunity, both to learn but also build. Create a true friendship, aside Taylor; for a native-Chinese ren. So, now I haven’t a clue; honestly, it hurts-just to know that; first, she could be sick-and I hope with the rest that she indicates-she will recover and find a better suited spot-like Phillip speaks so often of. Second, to know we’re no longer a team.
Another day of the now too familiar feeling: one of defeat, irritation, and helplessness. I’d see Xu Dan, she spoke of her resignation; one month to-go, see says due to a cyst. That’s what has happened, in our class; the chaotic nature has prevented us from doing what we should-first, with her drinking water and relaxing after the day; instead, it keeps going, whether at work or home on the mind. For me, I’d get a talk with Adam that brought me up and to terms. He spoke of an interview after the Super Bowl loss with Julio Jones; in response to the how he feels about it. Apparently, and no better way to honestly accept it; he’d claim-he did all he could, so no reason for him to be upset. True, now as Adam pointed out-to me. I have to ask, am I doing all I can? If so, then nothing to be defeated about-a loss is a loss, but the feeling doesn’t have to subsist and compound; yet, what if I am not? See, I do not feel like a teacher, but a babysitter and disciplinarian. Yet, I long to be; therefore, I must acknowledge what works and doesn’t-videos and safe, contained action. To turn to the IB unit, there I have been disconnected; yet with only three weeks in-I cannot be detached, as I have become. I am not doing all I can, since I am pulled and turned away from it; to just neglecting it, in response to behavior. Now?
Figured something had to come from our mess of a classroom. Came true, when principal jessie and K1C (the comparison) were there at 4:40. Awkward in all, irritating for me; I know all this, aside from some classroom decorations. I responded, you’ve heard it from me, so has stacy; the lack of discipline-not a clue on what to do. Here, it got to a point; perhaps, with her style of lashing, or the system, that it didn’t matter. We’d remain in our classroom, a little past eight, on the advice or demand, for us to add what was missing. Fair enough, yet now exists a feeling; which, I’m not sure will dissipate. Talks of resignations across the board, me, indifferent-I’ve come to like everything here; except the situation of the class, but what to do? I talked of Guilin, Kunming, aww-and Chengdu; those all would be options, if I am to be pushed into finding another (out). I could be, we’ll see; for now-tomorrow we have the nine-nine festival, then another meeting-all the teachers, a day off; to work again for two days, then finally-Golden Week.
After, the meeting turn late evening, we’d return for casual-western food Friday. With four days of Chinese food and changing through two shirts, it’s something small to look forward to. Then, a special event; grandparent’s day; the Nine-Nine Festival. Hosting near twenty kids grandparents in the classroom; first for dance and song. One in Chinese, then to One Little Finger; a catch turn for all to follow. Next, musical chairs; funny sight-following seeing their grandchildren (some-at least) grab ahold of others during the songs and pull people down, they’d continue. Now, to refusing of moving out of chairs, or crying with not being in their own chair (with their photo). Funny, to giving tea; I’d stay with Juju, without anyone-so we’d go back and forth, here’s some tea-thank you, oh and here’s tea for you. Their departures would bring about much crying, some had to be pried away from them; quick songs and dance to distract. An assistant via Stacy, along with her presence would aid the class; but still very much to be done.
With one day off, Saturday, before returning for a two day week; the reasoning-National Week, we had to use to its full effect. First, FitFam and a workout that had my forearms dead for much of the day. To refuel at breakfast, a twenty kuai well spent. Biking has become a theme, at least by means of transportation-yet also for entertainment; nice to have with such regularity around the city. Minds turned to later, in preparation for our first recording-BIT3. I’d come back in time to write, prepare and think of vacation; J & Mom have booked their tickets-its getting real! Now, meet at McDonalds then a search for food-our first episode; strangest we’ve encountered in China. This would call for us to go across the river, by bus to the area around West Lake-bustling. Cool to see, yet with all the clothing, and people intent on getting through the area-it can be overwhelming; here I start dragging, already eleven hours ticket off for my day. Yet, the adventure would prove eventful and successful, I’d see a new area; comprised of small vendors along back alleys, and we’d get two of the foods. Back, to preparation then to start at five-Panda Brewery; Allie would bring the majority. They were relaxed, with our requests and command of a table with video equipment. Then, to food; first donkey meat, I’d eat again. To century eggs; supposedly preserved for a month-black and jelly like, no thank you; not the texture or flavor I want with an egg. Next, chicken feet-preserved in pepper jelly; not as bad as it looked, yet they require so much work; even after three times I haven’t gotten the hang of eating them. To duck tongue; we’d all agree this is a tasty snack, that I’d have again and again-like jerky. To the smelly ones; first stinky tofu-ok I guess, and to the much talked about and potent-durian; which, I cannot say, since it was already opened and cut-was so bad. I’d perhaps have again, then to turn our efforts to the next two episodes; although all would go longer than any of us expected. To Chinese movie trailer game-guess the movie and title, some imaginations, Allie would claim. Finally, guess the Chinese character(s); I’d fail brutally-I am truly illiterate here. A day used.
it seems there are several ways; a realization, a failure, a change-a defeat; whatever it is-it is a return to Hangzhou, earlier than I had expected. After, not even a whole day. First, in arriving to Ningbo around 11 at night, I felt something; a feeling that existed before I had left my apartment. The butterflies in the stomach, in the attempt of something new. Then, to complete childlike unawareness, once I exited the train station. Where do I go, how do I get there? Without Didi, since Alipay would prove not as common, outside of its home base of Hangzhou, I didn’t see a ride in mind. I soon felt helpless, unable to connect to Alipay and my bank account; and without the use of WeChat . Do I stay the night in the train station? Then, thought reach out to lodging contact for the night, Seren would soon provide an idea and aid; a ride from her brother. As I waited for him, out in the rain; I questioned what was I doing. Here I am four hours past my bed time, exhausted and feeling rough. Yet, with their kindness, I’d get to a bed for much needed rest. Now, the next three I hadn’t been able to think that far through; since, she had bookings for the next days. That would prove to be the second most worry on my mind, of a traveler woefully unprepared. My thought to resolve each, would come not to suffice with a surprise typhoon. The destructor of a trip in Ningbo; non-stop oppression. The next day, I’d venture out: in hopes of reaching Tiantong-in the midst of the rain. One bus to another; kindness again showed itself. First, in the form of a bus driver then greater with a trio of young male passengers. The first boy scanned my fair, another offered me the first food of the day: a dried mango slice! Leaving that bus would turn me to the state that I am now. Soaking wet, drenched feet from endless steps in flooded streets; no other choice, I tried to avoid it early on, but a bus gave me an option. I took the one that allowed me to not get hit, yet the puddles blocked half the streets and sidewalk passage. The walk to find the third bus would hit even harder, soon enough I’d get to the entrance of Tiantong to find the passage is unattainable; blocked by police due to the flooded of the path. Despite, an hour and a half’s journey, I needed to turn back. There went my potential lodging. Now, my mind changed-have nice it would be to have a set bed, to be dry and a shower; dinner too. Was this a mistake I had to ask; perhaps, overly ambitious to go three days/four nights in a city (foreign) without lodging and a clue of what to do, aside from activities and transportation. Maybe it would work out if not for the endless rain. Yet, I kept in mind the end of the week; an IB training work trip to Shanghai. After all this, I’ve come to a determination; something has changed, it must. This is not Europe, and I am not the same person that I was before. A different reasoning, purpose has opened up; so, why am I spending my time here-chasing like I have in the past?
Some positives from the second time I have played basketball here. Today, it is yet again brutally hot (29 celsius); re, as I’d try to explain it-I can refer to tea that way, not sure with temperature outdoors. Monitored myself better than before; no dehydration this time, despite playing four back to back games. Funny, months ago with the state of my ankle, knee pain, and lack of conditioning, I considered my basketball playing days to be over. Yes, while I am no longer the player I formally was; not that was anything special, but to be able to play seven games of full court-or three hours in one sit-in, I am still able to compete in something I love. No ankle trouble, nor knee, just a alteration to what I put out on the court. Perhaps, in some time I can put up more than just under an hour, in that heat, but for now; I am content. Mistakes still, yet an improvement from the last time; less missed shots, and not as much defensive lapses. The conditioning will come, yet; I am more impressed with the surrounding players. Particularly, the men who appear twice my age; who despite it being half-court, go out and play. Something to look forward to, and aspire to be; a competitor at that age. And to think, as well I know, no-one recovers like, so many did in my playing years. Like Italy, and Poland, I cherish being asked, and joining the groups of seven. Then, something to prove as a clear lone outsider.
Today felt familiar, or at least looked like it; oddly enough. I had heard about a little Paris, not too far from Hangzhou, but a little Venice! Located near Xianghu lake, the small representation of the famous Italian canal (sinking) destination spot acts as a secluded neighborhood on the outskirts of the city. In walking around the area for roughly a half hour, I was brought back; to memories galore. Despite, in my mentally process of planning out my next seven years; of a ten-year plan, and not seeing myself return to the European continent during that span, I am grateful. Through my travels of twenty one different countries, throughout nearly eight months, in a four year period-I would further find myself. All of that helped to put me where I am today; I may not see people and places, again or for a long while; yet I am with these experiences each day. Like today, as I biked south forty minutes, to walk about in the hot sun, then return on bike-recalling my past; in how fortunate I was to mature and be guided through it all.
After not accomplishing what I set out to in Ningbo-to return Hangzhou, I turned my mind to prepare for Shanghai. I now figured to make at least a full day out of the city, on Friday, before training began the next day. The slow train, costing the equivalent of $3.30 took just over two hours; which gave me an insight into China travel, sitting within a six person group as the train zipped through the Chinese countryside, jerkingly stopping every so often. I’d be overjoyed to find AliBikes positioned outside the station, then soon everywhere around the city. Hard part done, how do I transport myself round a new city; biking took nearly two hours into the heart but well worth for what I can gain with the simple act of exercise-exploration. I did my research, and put together a list of eight things to-do, during the time I had; yet I expected crowds and delays to play a part. No amount of mental preparation, or any past experience in congested areas could ready me for what I’d encounter. First, at the Yuyuan; despite the garden being closed the tourist-pedestrian area was filled to the brim, it didn’t help once I entered into the enclosed grounds that confined us all like cattle. That would continue, looking at all the appealing options of consumption, either food/drink or retail-merchandise shops. To getting up high above it all, by way of an abandoned fourth floor rooftop that I was probably probhited from entering and walking about; yet gave me a nice overview of the area. Next to the Temple of God, too much incense for me. Then came, before learning that the gardens were closed, a ridiculous line for the ten minute walk of a bridge (Jiuqu); seriously, why? It was no different than one of the zig-zag short bridges at West Lake, and to so patiently for that. Upon learning that after waiting in a line of hundreds of people, hundreds more behind; I couldn’t contain myself: wei shen-me!? Afterward I’d wise up, searched then found a bike and aimed to get out of the whole area. On my way out, I came upon a corner restaurant; so discrete and simple that it seemed impossible that it was serving the tourists that existed only four short blocks away. The prices of food, all only in Chinese helped its case; I’d walk in after a couple and then join them at the large table. After an hour of eating, I’d get to know the two of them; throughout our lunch. Interesting enough, the first Mexicans I have met in China; her husband visiting her, and her-a employee student at a university in Beijing, before that living out west to learn Chinese on a scholarship for two years. She’d help me in ordering and explain her fascinating story; picture speaking Spanish (natively), Chinese (academically-professionally), and English (socially)! An interesting experience at that table; yet, soon I’d be off-to continue back along the river, in aim for the West Bund. I’d eventually learn the only way across was by ferry, a highlight of the day for 2.80 yuan, or thirty five cents. I even was allowed to take the AliBike, to guarantee bike travel on the other side. It would give me the opportunity to embarrass, as I went to smoothly slide of the seat, to walk it onto the bottom of the boat, only to then crash. Luckily, no-one was close enough to get hurt from it; just my ego and perhaps a few Chinese people’s images of the white man, all in a day’s work.
The ferry was a wonderful idea; providing an incredible view of the river and infrastructure opposite, the beginning of my amazement with the city and Chinese development. In all my travels, amazingly said-since thinking of Europe and their use of building a city around a river, I have never found such a city like this. What Shanghai has done with the riverfront, from what I have seen is untouched. It is immaculate, stunning, and all likeable with tons of room for joggers, service centers, and for people sitting-picnincing to enjoy the view. Either end, across the river, or inland with the skyscrapers amazes. I’d bike, blissfully for hours; in determination just to reach the sea; which in a full days work can be done-another time. Aware that weather plays a big part, and on this day I was blessed; yet, I have no comparison on what it is like when the rain or snow takes a toll. By 4 o’clock, I aimed to return to the other side; with a desire to watch the sunset from a place that I had read about: the Captain. Yet, when I turned back I came to find the impact of the National Week; in preventing me from first continuing the bike ride back to the ferry, since they closed that area off. Second, they have discontinued the usage of the ferries, starting at 3:30. The only option was to take the bike toward the metro, then walk into the chaos. Just a walk to the metro, perhaps 1000 meters proved challenging-considering all the people congregated to appreciate the skyline. A circular, elevated walkway, encompassing the whole of the large intersection worked to ease the foot traffic, and provide a 360 viewing station; despite the views, I worked to pushed through en-route to my destination. Amazingly, I shouldn’t have been surprised the metro station would trump the madness-I had just left. After, buying a ticket and getting on the train, it would be okay, but just seeing the chaos with all the people was overwhelming. In one stop on the highly innovative (17-line) metro I got off, now across the river. Getting back unground proved to me that this must be unreal; I understand the city to be big and populated, but a man using a megaphone to mitigate pedestrian traffic, this must be this city’s peak. I couldn’t imagine it any other way; I’d find a bike and work to get out of the crowded area as quickly as possible. Yet, soon I started to be instructed on where to go-being to close to the river, and thus everyone. In following the map, I turned inward which worked in getting me toward my destination; the Captain hostel with the rooftop. I texted Jordan and walked up the six flights of stairs. From what I read, the hostel’s top floor provided a view of the skyline, while also being casual, in both dress and cost. Despite, not having a booking I got a table with a good enough view and waited. As I drank a glass of wine with some familiarity, Sicilian; I thought of the uniqueness of the opportunity and how I never pictured being in this situation. Living up a day in Shanghai, a day before professional development training for a school that I have a contract with. The light turned to dusk, and I soaked in all what was before me.
Jordan arrived just as it was turning dark, in time for the beginning of the light shows. Only a video can offer an idea of the intensity of this extravagance. The two of us talked; of life, the city and what we know living an hour away, how they compare and contrast, then to what life would be like here. In similar situations; both as new K1 teachers, with new classes; we spoke our what comes next, what we think of our present and all the various options of our career route. Eventually, after having the table for two hours, we left to soon encounter what neither of us had before. Organised chaos to the extreme, a sense of being in a concert-yet for miles. In going to the river, for the lively feeling, the surroundings would become unimaginable. Police everywhere, whistles blowing, lights shooting into the sky, buildings operating on a strobe light effect, and the people-so many people. By eighths, with so much seen and straight exhaustion from the constant herding; being pushed-led here than there, we left the riverside. Now a few blocks in, we came to find some peace; despite hundreds being of people being at every intersection and the display of anywhere from three to twelve police marching or occupying the area. A trip to a congested family mart, and an attempt at finding a bathroom in a surprisingly police packed building would lead us to a seven story elegant over the top mall with circular escalators. Here we’d reside, finding a nice spot to charge up at an empty open massage chair shop, until the time we’d leave to meet Eric at the metro. We met at People’s Square, getting a chance to see more of the city; after dark and a less touristy side. The station was still crazy, yet after finding him-we could then relax together. Jordan and I cannot adjust quickly enough to it all, with not being accustom to it, but Eric-living in Tokyo for four years-recalled too many similarities. We’d find a pedestrian street, after a walk that seemed without direction-just in amazement of the towering architecture. With a mind toward catching my metro back toward the school and hotel, about a forty minute metro ride, and then some; we didn’t go far until I returned in time to catch the last train before 11:30. With twenty kilometers outside the city, the line two would take me there; at least close enough to the airport that I could then bike/walk/didi the rest. Yet, I’d soon encounter problems; first arising in a lack of battery in the phone-the first time that has occurred. Five percent would eventually die, leaving me without the endless aid that a smartphone can provide in an unfamiliar city. Upon exiting the metro, it was extremely crowded and very dark; I waited but the didi-like in Ningbo seemed to be a problem, without having a Wechat pay account. After being offered a ride to the Pudong airport, which in mind lead me to believe I could then walk from there; I’d eventually learn of my mistake. The hotel address, that I showed to the group of three I was with; was not close to this airport-instead it was now even further than I was previously, with Eric and Jordan. I had gone the wrong way on the metro line two, yes toward the airport, but without thinking of their being two of the line, I went in the opposite direction. I knew of Taxi scams, so the original offer of 80 RMB was great, only to learn that the price of Didi would be my best option. That was now 220, which without my knowledge I would have to wait for twenty four customers in a queue. All of it was in Chinese, which made it all difficult for me; yet I was fortunate to have a group around me of now six, none of which spoke English. We used translate, my attempt at Chinese, and then the one guy made a call to King Arthur-listed in his contact list. The guy worked to translate, which helped clarify for both sides. Now nearing 1 am, they insisted that for the price of the Didi someone could drive me. Considering I was suggested to cancel the Didi, no point of waiting another hour or more there-I gladly took their option. After discussion, we left the metro area-and they lead me to a guy ready for me. I thanked the group, especially the guys that had no stake in the situation; just wanting to get to the nearby airport-while I had a near hour ride in front of me. During the ride in the front seat, I contemplated my day and night, a decision from 90 RMB turned to over 200, and how they all assisted me in this most interesting disaster I created for myself. Now exhausted I nodded off for much of the ride, eventually after driving on the interstate for over forty minutes we came to the hotel. The driver insisted on 240, since we went through a toll; a vaguely recalled that, and I had no way to dispute; yet, his insistence of cash led to nothing since the fifteen that I had on me wouldn’t do much. AliPay then, soon I’d be questioning how the confirmation that I received on booking.com had failed and wondering if I could get a good enough deal at the Holiday Inn Express. I stood tired, and frustrated at the desk, just trying to complete the booking to find a bed. In the end, for 896 RMB-four under my three night budget-I got what I wanted a double bed and breakfast. I set my alarm for seven; 4.5 hours of sleep before training would start.
With the hour bullet ride soon, I will be home in Hangzhou. To think just a shot here, I can get the western feel. In the shear size, one loses sight within China-all the foreigners, life that appeals to them n the options lead to that. Then the metro, traffic, sights, and activity showcase this global tier one city. Madness it was in many instances, these past three days; yet, nice change from Binjiang.
Despite knowing that IB training was good for me-I questioned the usage of my holiday for it. Now, after three days in Shanghai, I have a different tune. The first of a three level training provided us twelve sessions-thanks to Yan. Devised as a 830-430 work schedule, the five of us: Adrian, Eric, Jordan, Ruben n I, saw the days as revolving around the meals. First, breakfast before our first day’s session then by 10 first snack, 12-1 lunch, finally more pastries at 230. Seriously, the pounds gained in them alone, then all the fruit; lamb, salmon, and complimentary good food that proved to us there is something missing from the Wesley standards of food. Simply put: fresh fruit, good meal, variety of veggie options, and boneless meat and fish. Now, they want us to present about our time. Sure, we learned a lot: IB-PYP-concept based learning, but we also got spoiled; with the first night wine and cheese mixer. So much in three days; we ate, laughed, then explored our evenings away, then to return to our classroom the next day and laugh about it all. The adventures of James, me with whatever and China. I’m leaving with a whole different perspective; of teaching in China, my city comparatively, our school, etc. Now, I sense an understanding of things: in provoking inquiry, inspiring student agency, generating a inquiry-concept based lesson plan, and what I can improve. In all, happy to return.
With the message I received from last night, I knew it would be different today; our first without Cindy-Wu Ling. It was fair to wonder, with us having two TA’s, like we have two Co-Teachers; yet, that was clear-Xu Dan has resigned, I knew that. It wasn’t until twelve hours before our shift that I learned Cindy would be gone. With five sets of hands on deck, it wasn’t bad; though strange when sat down by Stacy and Jessie-the ease to put the situation to ease-yet, they couldn’t make sense of what to do quite yet. Funny, we have suggestions, but they’re the ones without a clue; nonetheless-more change coming. Talked with Denise, I admitted blame; the situation she was/has been put in, as the only experienced Kindergarten teacher-it’s not fair, I’ve been working on how to be a Laoshi here, but it has taken time-strides are being and will be made, but it ultimately will be too late for her to see the outcome. The byproduct will be thanks to all; including the two that started with me; yet-now as the admin stated in our meeting: Fang-Laoshi, Weng-Laoshi n I are a team, that I have no qualms about-both with experience to teach n aid.
Where to begin; perhaps with looking out the window-at complete fog (smog) coverage, unable to see the river and buildings afar, AQI (per China shows 100-Good), then there is Air Visual (a outside source registering the quality as a 165 unhealthy!) Then, theres life more direct; take Wesley, which I explained to Adam, as much as I try to distance myself afterward and before, is life here in Hangzhou-China. With two conversations with the principal today; what I gathered were ensuring words of it doesn’t get worse than this, and “if you can get through this then you can go through any teaching job!” Helpful in the presence, which as I’d explain to additional and new admins that had the courage to ask today; after Jordan’s surprise resignation (oh we’ll get there), on how it was going. Oh boy, two new people that haven’t heard all the fun details; a new TA and Co-teacher, kids unruly and without regard for any discipline, and parents (only some) that; first, don’t seem to put any restrictions (in terms of behavior) with their kids, then have the continued audacity to implant themselves into our class; so, tomorrow at parent-teacher’s meeting. The fun continues; what do I tell you-I would say, the situation is f$cked. I won’t pull a Jordan, although that now seems to be the model for what should be done; his message ensuring to HR that Jessie (the Principal) uses bullying tactics and is unfit, is fitting; yet, it unfortunately won’t amount to anything, nor will the detailing of my complaints. All I can say is: we will see; perhaps, if I am lucky-they relieve me; if not, then as Adam suggested-I should embrace being that class; then abide by the contract n sit back, not stressing over the present and continuous mess that is K1D Wesley.
I waited the whole week for this. The feeling of relief, to sleep in until six, and to know that this entire day is free; better than that-I have another tomorrow. That was the issue with the week before, one day just isn’t entire to get the body rested and the mind off of work. Now, I can sit back and reflect, prep and enjoy. To look back on five days: where I couldn’t muster the motivation to follow through on the daily routine; the language, writing and reading slipped; hence that I write this now. I’d come to realize the missing drive came with a lack of sleep; having two days after work that I just napped, before going to sleep-reminding me of days of old. Yet, I did enough to know how the week could now be; one evening of basketball after work-another two with Adam in shopping and dinners. Pairing activities like so, make it all the little more bearable. Talking with him, I gain advice; each time-hearing about kindergarten, China, and the likeness that allows me to walk away with more than I came into with. Another conversation with dad, led me to better trust myself and be merry; so thankful to have him in my corner, albeit thousands of miles away. A video call with mom makes me feel the slight guilt that is expected with making such a drastic move to China; so far away from her. Her words of missing me-remind me of what I’ve done, separating myself from the world that I knew, and of the impact it has on a select few. I spoke with her of my week; change that continues to come in the classroom; a day (Friday) without Xu Dan, the new trio took the reigns. On a day that was full; first, preparation for the special event: the mini-marathon. A run along the river walk; each year band having their time and distance. Our K1, full of five classes: 100 plus kids and too congested had their six hundred meter run, with obstacles; as I led. It was something, to run backward, while watching Hapi, and Stephanie, Juju, and Sunny; all of them pulling and running with their parents. To cross the finish line, I couldn’t hide my excitement for it all, during the run and then after; hoisting up each to enjoy the view and feeling of a job well done. Their smiles make it all worthwhile; even while hearing from the Fang-laoshi, that something must be done-the day was terrible…for me, considering our first four weeks or so, this is improvement. Not, the only displeasure at Wesley that day; never just one person, but with the foreigner-HR meeting going over its twenty minute allotment. Talks of changing a contract, restricting and holding back the flight reimbursement; first for me not to get it until August of next year-not what I was promised. Then, for them to decide where and how the 8000rmb allowance is spent; that didn’t go over well. The English teachers; despite, their differences: from Australia, Britain, Wales, South Africa, Zimbabwe, U.S.A., agreed with one thing; this isn’s right. The power seemed, at least in that meeting to be switching; with talks of a united departure from the school: led Louise to have a meeting with us later, just to ensure that we are looked after. A passionate appeal of fifteen minutes, amounting to nothing; seems to be the way here-yet what will come-non lo so.
I can’t tell for certain if anything has changed, although it has felt differently for me, it might just time. That said, it is concerning to hear that of the two experienced Chinese teachers; both Weng-laoshi and Fang-laoshi admit this class to be the worst that they have taught. It gets worrisome to hear, yet another Co-teacher; now Fang-laoshi, talk of needing rest, being exhausted from the class. She adds, with her desire to sing-she just wants to spend time doing that. Before this, I asked when she knew that she wanted to teach kindergarten; her response, sounded similar to Xu Dan’s. Her family told her to when she was in high school; so by university she majored in education and has made a life of it. Yet, who’s life? Xu Dan wants to be an artist, and should be; but her family wouldn’t accept that. Here is a deciding factor that makes up our mindset; as I refer back to Adam. Teaching here in Wesley kindergarten, allows me to follow a dream; like him, in living abroad-while it seems with her it runs counter to her desires. Only time will see, but with knowing how the class was in the early weeks and everything that has transpired since, and the advice of two admins; I’d say my attitude has-had to improve.
With these last two days, I’ve felt something; a passion that has arisen-connecting my interests, for once-to what we are doing in the classroom. On Monday, we addressed our favourite Chinese holiday; National day/week, Chinese New Year (Spring Festival), Autumn Festival, and the Dragon Boat Festival; only to turn our attention to other peoples’ festivals. First, to Africa; yesterday was fun, using pictures and explaining the usage of art, dance, and music in the festivals that generically had to work for the whole continent. We’d, at a three year old level, would turn to making masks, coloring to then laminate to wear them later on. Today, was America; looking at the Mexican festival: Dia de los Muertos and the usage of the skulls-to celebrate the passing of ancestors. We decorated the masks, and then, some turned to making headbands-with enough time, we looked at Native Americans-and their festivals. The music and dance helped a lot; today three Native American men singing, and yesterday (now looking to make it part of the daily/weekly routine during exercise), we; with spare time, used Just Dance and moved around with Shakira “Waka Waka”. If every day could be like this; wouldn’t feel so removed from interests and studies. Certainly, a challenge n a change that’s been felt.
Our first trip outside of Wesley, with the kids and their parents/guardians, started out a little disorganized; typical K1D. Meeting at 8 am in the lobby, quickly everyone realized our class is not like the others; yet ok with us having our own bus to take us to the farm an hour away. Unbeknownst to most of us, we’d begin our day at the site, sitting around the large field; waiting-eating snacks: all the kids sharing with each other, and me. A cute memory, that acted as a precursor for our day. After too long siting about, and getting our photo/over head video completed, we began a long and tiring-seemingly pointless walk around the area; explained to us as a vegetable browsing walk. I’d say, most weren’t overly energetic about it; yet, Su-hao and Stephanie used their immense energy to lead the pack of all Wesley, pushing myself and their parents to chase them about. Most parents did well to stay with their children, others had to put more energy into it-than I imagine they would have liked. Near the end of that walk, myself, Fang-laoshi, and fellow teachers were in agreement of the pointlessness of the event thus far. Though, by noon-with sitting around the field, yet again, enjoyment would come; in way of provided toys-activities. A long-ten kid colored worm that allowed them to sit and hold while they acted together, gave Taylor an idea. I’d see him putting his energy toward pulling them from the front; which once noticing both Sunny and Jian-yi on the worm, I had no choice but to join him; due to guilt from letting him do all the work. We’d join in tandem, to pull the children around; which set the tone for the next two hours, after lunch. Between the worms, now multiple and soon; even better, long sheets: resembling slip and slides, we’d provide a lot of laughs for the children. After encouraging Josh to jump on the long red slide; which proved to be enough to fit near fifteen kids, I took him for a ride around the field. That only garnered attention from others; that came from all around. Soon, I was testing how many I could pull; many smiling faces from K1D. I’d soon get help, from Taylor, and parents; particularly, Xian’s dad, Hardy’s dad, and Stephanie’s dad. The moms, aunts, and grandmothers even got involved; it was a great site to see such involvement. By the end of it all, out of breath, with exhausted legs, Li lu Tong’s mom commented on the work I was putting in; referencing to how much I was sweating. A true joy to bring them such amusement, and to work alongside the parents; I’d say it helped gain their respect/support or at least appreciation. Which, will continue to be needed; as on the bus ride home-I learned of the resignation of Wendy, yet another TA gone and teacher from K1D. More change will come, with even talks of Fang-laoshi contemplating making a change; hers makes sense-having to drive an hour each way, and all the while trying to create a singing career-she was my support, as did Xu Dan (to follow their best interest.) I’d explain all of this to Adam, after work in our trip around Binjiang to find a proper restaurant to eat at; in search for a steakhouse we thankfully came upon an Indian spot that brought us something new, and old for me-Tulsi.
I have never lived in such a place; with all the advantages that come with the both worlds. There are obvious doubts I have about the months come; whether from work, or the winter’s heightened pollution, yet I could never have imagined such a home. The ease of being within a ten minute walk to work and the metro. Today, I took advantage of the cheap and simple transportation; an underground ride for four kuai led me to take the bikes north to explore a new area of the city. I had a destination: Banshan National Park, yet another one of the mountainous regions of Hangzhou; on par with the hills of West Lake and the ones that surround Xianghu Lake. The twelve kilometre bike ride, paired with a two hour session traversing around the park; hike, down and around the paths; both paved with steps, and more trail-like, provided a great simple day in the city.
In this last week at work, despite; all the continued troubles we have, I have felt a vigour that has not existed thus far. Fang-laoshi, even commented about it today; prompting me to laugh off her suggestion that I needed rest: stating that foreign teachers rest during second hour of nap time, therefore I should as well. I’ve found it similar, in noticing the daily conversations with Adam (particularly) and Eric; in reference to our upload of the first Bring It to the Table-weird food pilot edition. His non-stop drive, first initially seeming to be over-enthuaism and a surplus of energy/excitement, soon made sense. Like my feeling about setting up the classroom: making the two alphabets (animal & food), the art corner-color wall decorations, the puzzle shapes/pattern display the front wall display of the weather/day/month, and the schedule; along with all the ideas that push me to work earlier, and during any breaks with a persistence. There’s a factor, that Nietzsche pointed out; yet it took a minute for me to realize. We are all, in various cases, in the process of creating; whether it be writing, filming-editing and planning an online series, or building up a classroom for the first time; we have the creation high. To put one’s hands, full attention and mind into something is special; that is why something (for me) as simple as hot gluing items on the walls around the room is uplifting. I spend time outside of work thinking of what our classroom should be; how it will invoke the children’s enthusiasm to learn, and heighten their agency-even now, half way in the process, I look forward to their reactions; as they come and ask “gan mei”? Inquiry-goal!
With the day at work, I needed a workout; then, considering the changing season-soon, turning cold; yet, more importantly the air quality lessening-I need to turn toward developing an inside routine. I can’t deny that despite being active during the days at work, and especially during the weekend, I am not enough for me to destress after work and sleep well each day. I mentioned this update in my call with mom, who added that considering peoples schedule; per a NPR report, most people have at least three hours free a day to exercise. In thinking about it, I am one of these people; after work, I normally have three to four, yet I seem to accept the pushups that I do in the morning before work to be enough. I know this not to be true, and like everyone else, can do well to incorporate a half hour to my body after work; instead of just tuning in to television, or for me…Simon Bolivar on Netflix. I’d take advantage today; amazing what twenty minutes can do. In that span, I turned up a sweat with one hundred squats, fifty (each leg) still-runner lunges, one hundred kettle bell-less squats, one hundred calf raises, and twenty five burpees. I intend on building on this each day, as I have with the pushups, yet it is something to take pride in; our bodies. Health and well being that is gained with elevating the heartbeat and sweating is too great to neglect; far too often, shame on me.
What an exhausting last 36 hours; to be fair, it seems each day proves to be a continuous run of non-stop struggle with these kids. Yet, in staying until nine last night to finish our room, then to turn around and have eighteen of the kids parents in our classroom today, this has been rough. On top of that, some kids seemed un-phased in front of their parents; so they have no qualms to act up right in front of them. Despite, the powerpoint presentation, circle time re-creation (how’s the weather, and the rotating student led attendance) going better than expected; the sight of Colin running about, crying and throwing a tantrum hit hard. It further solidified our fears, the fault-of the lack of discipline and cares for acting properly; even for three years old, lies in what they don’t get from their parents. Often times, it is the lack of attention and time spent with their parents; instead with their grandparents and aunts, which in turn clearly feel and show no desire to discipline and implement some responsibility for our students. Thus, we have K1D; the blame turns to the parents and administrators, and yet we as a group of four disgruntled-tired, overworked teachers work to aid them and do the seemingly impossible. Another day will come tomorrow, but something; aside from the classroom setup has to change. To start, I made three kids cry today; in just a mere thirty minute period. Firmly, with just acknowledging the lack of care for them to follow rules, so example made and shown; lai Colin outside the classroom to Pre K. Soon, later Dusty to Pre-K C to see Sandra then, Hardy to join Katie’s Pre-K B; that seems to work-keep trying?
The weekend has come, which brought about excitement; first in relaxing, attending breakfast, and operating without a strict schedule. Then, comes with the freeness to chose how I want to spend my time, what should I do with a sunny-fair weather day? Knowing that winter is coming; with the expectation of a brutal cold wind that freezes the bones upon impact while riding a bike and increased air pollution, I must get my exploration “out of my system,” while I can. I’ve seen enough of Binjiang, and with the desires to ride and hike, along with encountering something new, I thought about Paris. Located about two hours north from Star Avenue, all together in transport (metro then bike), the idea to get back toward the national park mountainous region of Hangzhou made sense. Located on the other side of the Banshan National Park green area on Baidu maps, an area is designated as little Paris; similar looking to little Venice. The sights were beautiful, and despite not visiting Paris yet, I felt as if I; like Venice, was cheaply transported there. The white lined buildings with terraces, brought thoughts of Barcelona; and despite the clear China-ness all around, with the people, writing, language and food; it was a delight to bike about a drastically different face of Hangzhou.
The trip would take all together about five hours, between transit there, exploration-lunch, then transit back; yet, as I should have expected the route to the destination provided the highlight. The joy of the journey came with the fifteen kilometer ride there, with good weather, music in my earphones, and new sights to see; I found surprise in seeing what has been thus far mostly removed from my sight; an authentic-feel and less glamorous side of city outskirts. When biking along the narrow two lane road, I came upon a trash depot, which brought up all the reminders and images that I’ve seen in the past of China’s trash problem. Clear evidence, there’s more to see of my home.
What a week, I felt it all come to me toward the end; first beginning with my head on Thursday then adding to being really cold on Friday. That led to me, walking into Wumart all huddled up, looking for a quilt-comforter; eventually, with the help of four patient ladies, I’d carry out that and an electric heater. The addition of these two items, provided for a better night sleep than most, that I’ve had as of late. A phone conversation with mom, lasting about an hour n a half helped too, while I worked to sweat out anything that was plaguing me. Amazing with an half n a half nap, prior to the video call; then resting for nine hours, how much better I feel. Wasn’t the only night that I came home to nap, just hours before going to sleep-been that type of week. The reasoning is split; but the parent visits, during nap time, has been a huge contributing factor, along with the continued work to improve the class. They didn’t start well, on Monday and Tuesday being our busiest days with six and seven a piece; yet something would come out of them, once Vivian (Ellie mama) would interject herself, along with Jennifer’s mom. Their concern for our class’s overall performance and classroom management, best represented by last week’s Friday evening dinner meeting with Fang-laoshi, until ten o’clock! This would last as long, but involved Stacy and the principal; which much to my liking has seemed to finally draw their attention to our class. It might have helped, once Vivian suggested the many ideas on her mind of how to help our class, and asking questions; I reputed everyone by strongly speaking to how I have reached out to all other foreign and some Chinese teachers on what to do. Then she asked, well what about administration? I turned to Fang-laoshi, before checking myself, and submitting that I should only tell the truth, “to be honest, we feel discouraged with their lack of support, and we’ve come to believe that the parents, may be the only one’s to convince them of our situation in class.” That, combined with informing her of Jessie’s comments about how it cannot get worse than this class, and to, essentially, just power through; has led to Stacy being in our class on Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday; and for the foreseeable future. Nice to see, finally, some interest in the lack of control in our class; despite the continued suggestion and request for assistance from the higher ups. Yet, not all parents were either critical, or assertive; some were just appreciative of what we have done for their kids thus far and, expressed their thanks, while others held hesitation with all the changeover; Xu-laoshi and Wu-laoshi to Fang-laoshi and Wen-laoshi, now Pang-laoshi, and soon the change of life skills teachers; Lai-laoshi counting her days. It’s all been a lot, yet somehow we’re still here, and have many things to plan ahead for; November Birthday party, the reading book, and this upcoming Monday’s flag raising ceremony presentation; see how that goes. Yet, as I told mom, its the little things; like Jennifer’s smile, or Xian just being content to marvel at how I have facial hair, playing with Josh and Rocky that helps me get through it all. That was especially the case this Wednesday, when we had all kids dress up as their favourite story book character, or just dress-up in costume; princesses, spiderman, etc. Their excitement to get face-stick on tattoos or nervousness to walk down the runway in front of all Wesley, are highlights that stick out.
After our meetings with the parents; and the insurance-to the parent’s (and us?) that administration would assist in the improvement of the classroom, two points were made. The first, Stacy to the classroom for three days a week, has been felt for the last two weeks; and despite the insistence that it surely couldn’t help, has indeed. Yet, today marked the second step; one offered by Samuel, a teaching change for the period between Circle Time to IB (Inquiry Based) Unit; with the P.E./Outdoor Play in between. What came of it, as far as long term improvement-we will see, yet what I gained was clarity! First, the change was a delight; despite not having an attachment and rapport with the kids of K1B (like I do with my own of K1D), they became accustom quickly. Better than that, the level of involvement that I needed to put in, was by far less than any other day. The circle time gave me ideas and inspiration, to see children far more comfortable and aware of English words, than to see them sitting properly and without chaos. Then I was told that I didn’t need to assist with them in the bathroom; how nice! I told Li and Lily, how our kids; only the boys, will push-play and make a mess in the bathroom; despite my urging to wait in line-leave when done. If you don’t watch them, they will not follow that; majority of the time it seems, yet here no worries. So, then just lining up to go upstairs; such an easy process. They sang there rainbow song, walked perfectly fine-two by two, and made easy work of the stairs. No; wandering off, or straying, yelling or jumping in line on the way up the stairs. Play time was a breeze, as I watched my class workout with Taylor during P.E. It was during this time, that I was more involved with the kids; getting to know a few by hoisting them up atop a ledge on the boat playground, while they overlooked their classmates. Here, as I stayed with them to ensure nothing could happen, and they showed quick comfort with my company. The joy and ease continued, once clean up and line up was determined then shouted; only once. Then all found a two by two partner and made their way. Soon enough, back down the stairs-I led them and to the bathrooms and drinks of water. I told the K1B teachers of our normal routine, the wild chaos and how lovely this all seems thus far; the point to remind myself at this point-as they did, these kids have a year at Wesley; with teacher Li last year. Next, we went to interview two employees; two groups, Li took half to the security guard, while Lily and I went took the kids to the cleaners’ office. The IB unit went swimmingly, then came a switch and walk outside to the security guards’ front desk-again all a breeze. By eleven, Samuel would come and switch back; with my appreciation thrown toward all of them, for the opportunity-and the kids for the quick connection. Soon, I’d have my class again, and by days’ end a frustration conclusion, yet with talking to Samuel and Li-it’s not me, but it doesn’t help my present circumstance. Even with the kind words of the principal of the noticed improvement and how I’m good at my job-I see the chaos each day, so what have I determined from all this. Well, lately I have questioned; if I do in fact stay another year, after this-fulfilling my two year contract, would I continue with this K1D to K2D? Now from Samuel and K1B, I have leaned toward the other option-a fresh start with a new K1, rising up the rank from pre-K; specifically Pre-K. Like him, I then could learn from my year with this class; as he had his rough waves, starting early last year, and begin a new. Now, his class is a delight and he has spoken volumes about how he has it both easier with the returning class, and an experienced teacher-and is improved. To me, this all makes sense; yet I’m here in K1D.
Shaoxing has been on my list (of exploration) for weeks-all along scheduled for November; in order to ‘accomplish’ the many adventures I hope to have during my stint in Hangzhou. After all, as the province of Zhejiang is rich with natural gems, I have my work cut out for me; even with two years. Despite, it only being twenty minutes away, since I must abide by the train schedule-and booking at the station, it makes it slightly more of a challenge; more so, than the normal Saturday-involving me to just explore a portion of Hangzhou and the outskirts. I’d explain to mom, while on the train, that the trip goes beyond the usage of my fun adventure day; directly toward seeking out that old feeling of being unaware in a new city. I’d soon find that, upon exiting the train station, and with looking at the map. The first goal, to find a bike was already more challenging than what I have come to learn in Hangzhou. It became quite clear, once biking through the city, toward the destination of Daxianglin Scenic area, that it was very much in the process of industrializing; in fact, the first five of twelve kilometer ride was bare. This surprised me, due to what I had seen on Baidu maps, and had read about the city being a day trip tourist destination; yet many parts of the city are under construction, or give the feeling of abandonment. Here all lies the beauty in me biking the city, like last month in Shanghai; I am able to see many facets, while getting an exercise-all the while in route to where I aim to go. Eventually, I’d reach a point, once getting into the green mountainous portion of the map; and being told by the police detail in the area, that I had to leave the bike. Like in all trips, outside the city (and blue allowed AliBike area), I worried of somehow taking the bike away and having to manage with it on my return. Yet, I had a mountain to hike, and would prove to make it more difficult than needed, almost immediately; starting by attempting an ascent into an open-ish bamboo lined area. I had hoped that it would prevent me from having to stay on the windy road on the way up to the top; instead I would an old man who was gathering bamboo. He’d (in Chinese) as I understood it, advised me not to go that way, yet I wanted to see for myself. Soon, after working up a sweat and my heartbeat, I’d be back down to hear him (as I’d imagine him saying-“I told you so,” if I understood Chinese.) Yet, I get the chance to see him lug six bamboo trees over his shoulder down the hill; amazingly with the pure weight and decline of the hill-he was able and clearly experienced to do such a feat. I tried to help, but he was okay by his own; I left him with my respect and admiration-if I can do such a thing when I am near his age, I would be overjoyed-yet I also, must recognize; he does these acts out of necessity. I’d continue on the road, ensuring that I had my full attention toward all traffic coming; both up and down the windy road, as I kept on until I found any deviation from the road. Some proved worthy, actually only one; while two others showed to be mirages that led me to put work in then only to return to the road. Eventually, I’d make my destination atop the hill; out of breath (the mask doesn’t help in that case), and certainly dead legged. The journey of exploration could now begin; after a complete explanation from the tourist desk and additional help, I was lead to the top-(after 100 rmb payment) of the temple grounds. The payment included full exploration from the initial beautifully intricate buddhist temple campus to the eventually gem, further away in the backdrop. By the end of it all, my phone would show my progress: 35,000 steps; between climbing up, down, and all the steps in between. Most outdoors, yet some; once I made my way to the massive white and gold temple, allowed for walking inside to see the huge ornate Buddha statue housed inside. The view from all around, first from just the bottom, then on the way up to the twelve floors was delightful. I always find it strange to be that high, yet to see so far around and to know that it is all obtainable by action; step after step. The climax of the trip, allowed for meditation and solitude while also providing a touristy element, different from the recent adventurous trips this present month. All in all, I imagine getting my fair share of both; as long as I’m active and climbing upward-I’ll be happy. Paired with the biking that was heavily involved before hand, and then on the way back; once I made my way down, and I get my weekend’s activity. I was overjoyed to find the bike still there, where I had left it; it made sense, considering no one in the area would be using a Alibike in this area; far outside the city. The city itself showed much different than home in Hangzhou, but the surrounding areas of the mountain, offered up the small town feel of China that I haven’t yet truly felt. That wholesome vibe that seems to operate without much desire to change or be influenced by the popular culture of a large nearby city; or perhaps, the textile area and all the workers, are in their pursuit as the country continues to build itself up; in impatient chase of the metropolitan cities. The ride back, including the metro wouldn’t prove difficult and by seven thirty, I was happy to be at home again-ready to relax.
With only one more episode to post, on the BIT3 queue, before we are in need of filming more, we decided to use this weekend to film. When Eric informed us, per Vikki, that we could go to a friend’s hostel in the mountains of Tonglu, it made sense. Why not set up the first filming on location. Fast forward to Friday, following the end of the month work meeting (to acknowledge the November birthday’s), I found myself nervous and excited. It was strange to be packing at 6 in the evening to head away for the weekend; considering my normal schedule would have me in bed within three hours. By that time we wouldn’t even have arrived to the Tonglu train station, let alone the hostel, which come to find out was about an hour ride (by Didi). The first realisation of the weekend came with the company; the five of us, yet the other four-two couples. This meant, as I’d see on the train-as I went to another train car for my ticket, that I was the fifth wheel. To be honest, at times it would appear uncomfortable; yet, I have a knack of finding myself to be content no matter the situation. The first night, following a sweet and simple dinner (of congee and soft boiled eggs) at the basement floor of the hostel; now eleven o’clock, would become for a brief time odd. The two couples each spent there direct attention to each other, as I contemplated how nice it would be to get into bed; being so late for me. In past situations, whether home or abroad, I’ve learned a remedy for being alone (without a significant other) is to retire early; leaving the early morning-day for the active loner. When we’d each return to our rooms, all on the fourth floor; the past seemingly completely vacant, I’d look forward to that. The next morning, despite waking up early; with nothing to do (as far as my computer-with reading, writing, lingua, etc.) I would be lazy-laying in bed. With the weather being dreary outside, I’d stay in and relax; eventually calling mom and talking to her for over an hour. This was delightful, informing her of our intentions here, catching up after a period of much the week in not talking, and then hearing about the family and Thanksgiving. I’d tell her how we spent the day at work. The view was nice (the lake, trees, and mountains) all from the window; yet, with Eric’s room had the balcony-our thinking to divide up the locations for the three filmings. One had to be of the balcony, while we were now thinking, the other (the Eggstravaganza) should show the unique positioning, in being surrounded by chickens. This was the beauty of our location, both in being so far from the city and in being nestled amongst the very rural-unbuilt up tourist destination. We couldn’t have found a better host; Johnny, who would provide meals for us, beginning Saturday. He’d eat with us, first for breakfast-congee and round corn bread; I’d even be brought back to Italy, with having a cafe from the Mooka Espress machine. Lunch would come right before our second episode (egg); the first being not so successful due to my inadequate skills of hosting the measurements. Yet, nonetheless it was fun; but the next two active episodes would prove very entertaining; to which I am excited to see them when finally done.
The evening, after a walk around the lake in the rain, was simple; as was the weekend. Dinner, which to the three foreigners would prove interesting: small crabs that had me replying wo bu zhi dao chi (I don’t know how to eat), considering how small they were; or really what to eat-after cracking open the top shell of the head-butt. The fish and snails were equally difficult, yet it would all be fun to be in such a setting. Cards, eating Vikki’s digestive chocolate and talking nonsense ended out the evening; which I gladly retired to bed by ten. Despite, the rain and any troubles with the wet shoes that followed; I found the rare getaway a much needed relaxation. Our host Johnny, provided such an environment and service, that it was strange to find myself doing so very little, in regards to maintenance for myself; just exist and be awake. He co-worker even drove us to the bus station, where we headed straight to the Tonglu station; about forty five minutes away. The highlight of our return came in being extra (as foreigners) to request the attendant to spin the seats for us to all sit together; six people facing each other turned out to be more inconvenient, yet worth it due to learning that the seats spin! The views out the window proved beautiful and the promise of future adventures, as a group, offer up excitement.
Monday, following a blissful weekend, turned out to be a stress-filled day; appearing to not only be in regards to me. With portfolios due (one for each student-requiring us to sum up the first unit; one that was a mess for the first half of it-including a complete overall of the Chinese teachers), we were pushed to the brink today; regarding the 4’oclock deadline. Naturally, once it was clear to me that we wouldn’t finish all that was required from us, I’d relax but that was with ten minutes before 4, and with a class full of kids that needed attention; and to clean-up, then ready themselves to go home. Before then, I’d sit in the sunshine bar, just putting together the binders. While addressing the work from the early weeks, I became deflated; I’d get some optimism from Brad, that called for me to see the progress from senseless scribbles of lines to what became clear evidence of learning (we’d change from them trying to draw, and turn to cut out). This helped, which then gave me a more positive outlook; I’d pay that forward, when Tina came to me-with the clear evidence of being upset and questioning her conversation-almost confrontational with the Adam, Emma, and Phillip-all not happy about the working of two Saturdays; in return for the supposed extra days during Winter Break. This was understandable, on both sides; and while I agreed with the foreign teachers (my team-obviously), I understood where Tina was coming from-as the HR representative of Wesley. She’d ask me if I thought she was too harsh, my simple reply; is it true? Would lead to the answer, since it was the truth-it was not too harsh, therefore she was not in the wrong and obviously was not to blame; more so Wesley. In her confiding in me, and me dispelling (or at least-my best efforts to) her thoughts of guilt, I felt better; amazing how the two way exchange goes. We’ll see soon enough, yet with the stress of it all, and the desire to finish up any past continuation of our first unit, I look forward to the culmination of our next unit, these portfolios, and then to Winter Break!
After a day of apparent spending, at least for a variety of different goods/services, I turned to reflecting at the end of the day. I was curious to see if I could recall each items, and then add it up; the aim was, ultimately in converting it to US Dollars. I find constant value in considering the differences of expenses here compared to there (at least for one day.) The early mornings on the weekend, aside from the times that I have been away from Hangzhou (like last weekend), normally start the same-in regards to spending. First, hit up the breakfast spot; today amounting to 18 kuai (or just over 2 dollars and fifty cent.) Next comes buying coffee from the nearby McDonalds; in this day, due to napping for thirty minutes from before leaving out of the apartment around noon, I’d get two coffees: a large cappuccino for 23 yuan (around 3 dollars), and then a small americano, later for the road for 12 kuai (roughly 1.50). Later on, after the day’s adventure I would spend 32 yuan (just under five dollars) for dinner at a nearby spot; with just laziness in not wanting to cook, and a lack off any food in the apartment to cook. Naturally, western food-like McDonalds or Starbucks coffee is more expensive; being something that is exported, but with efforts to eat eastern-Chinese for all meals, if I do eat out-like breakfast, it turns out reasonably cheap. After breakfast, due to the allergies and an occasional cough, I went to the pharmacy; and within a minute of walking in, I grabbed two bottles of mucinex, paid and walked out: each costing 24.50; amounting to 49 yuan (seven dollars). Small food/drink charges, of necessity; for two small half liter bottles of water and bananas at the local fruit shop, cost a combined ten kuai (around 1.50). Lastly, the most expensive portion of my day came from the adventure activity; this being a bike trip south, about fourteen kilometers, and then the exploration of the orient cultural park. In taking the AliBike out of the allowed zone of use, which I now do quite often, I earned a twenty yuan charge (roughly three dollars). Since the metro doesn’t take me where I always want to go, and I’d prefer in incur a charge over taking a bike (exercise, while encountering; instead of just sitting and watching through a glass window), I accept these additional overage fees. Then there was the entrance fee for the park, costing 80 yuan/kuai (roughly 12 dollars). Overall the day amounting to something of 246 RMB, or $35; which in contrast, if I considered the similar tasks being performed in a city that I have visited or lived in (in the States, or even Italy), would be more. The mental exercise, of analyzing daily/weekly/monthly cost; as I did on trips while in Europe, provide an interesting further insight into an area.
In being suggested, after inquiring from a fellow basketball player (weeks ago) at the Wentao Road courts, I tried out an indoor court today. The place; RMB Center, took about twenty minutes to bike to, yet after the culmination of the near two hours, it was well worth it. Yet, not at all what I would have expected, nor hoped for; to arrive to a gym full of kids practicing, and no clear place to even shoot, let alone play. This wouldn’t be the normal basketball outing, yet it would be fun and beneficial nonetheless. Started when I walked to the court, after being introduced to the white-foreign coach of the little kids, with their little hoop; come to find out he’s Serbian (fun fact, I would learn…they are the only European country that does not require a visa to enter into and work in China.) This would led, pairing with his large size, and the country’s rich connection with basketball; along with a massively growing market of basketball in China, for a pathway for many Serbians to come to coach kids in China. What a cool profession, I would think; yet, that would be the extent of me talking with him, just with a handshake and hello. Instead, I’d learn all of this from Andy, who along with two other fathers waiting for their kids to practice, play during the time. This would provide two on two, and eventually with the additional of two Chinese coaches, a brief stint of three on three. It was fun to go against the one coach, with a tendency to drive physically, and a taller-larger frame. A unique chance to play indoors, yet this is not what would be most notably from this experience. Come to find out, two of the players (Andy and Jacky) own different English training centers, and inquired about me (or really any English teacher) that would be interested. I’d get their info (WeChat) but I told them of my contract and belief that I couldn’t, nor would I want to take on additional work. The hope for me, however, aside from joining there weekly basketball games; whether Friday night or Sunday mornings (here), would be to investigate and learn about the teaching at a training school-teacher life. Just to be able to walk about and see the classrooms, would be enough to gain a further idea of the differences from all that I know (Wesley.) Lastly, despite it being slightly odd, in being so pushy and forward; with him (Andy) wanting me to shake his daughters hand; her being shy (parents can be too pushy), eventually as they left, and she was in the backseat of their Range Rover; one of his five cars, she couldn’t stop smiling and saying hi-bye.
After six days of work, including a half day of work on Saturday (pictured above); an open house to get more kids enrolled in the school, using an Alice in Wonderland theme, I can honestly say I am content with doing very little. The past week has led to me, thus far on my lone off day of the week, sleeping in until almost eight, and then having a three hour nap between eleven and two. I never realize how sleep deprived I am until the moment it hits; normally following a week or series of days that were beginning Wednesday. It all led up to Friday, the heightened feeling of having the parents observe our classroom from afar; so too far though, using the WeChat video call, while they sat in the Chinese Cultural classroom. The incoming stress pushed for later nights; especially the Chinese staff, and for an increased amount of work and tension, surrounding our consecutive activities of circle time-outdoor play-unit of inquiry; which was a change of routine from the norm. Yet, the principal; after her meeting with us the night prior, to prep us, and ensure to herself that we were prepared; even talking to me-in words of encouragement, would tell Alina, following our filming that we did okay. The parents would claim that the students have improved, along with us; which, of course, is all to be expected; yet with so much anxiety about the state of the classroom, seemingly from all sides, it is gratifying to be over with and; just perhaps, have the parents off our backs. That wasn’t the end of it for Friday, we had an observation, from other teachers; as I did PreK-C, so did Zoey and eventually Miao come to our class to observe the odd half hour from 2:45 to 3:15, half of which included me just playing song-video and having them repeat the words, or sing along; while I helped Liu-laoshi put the beds away and the bedding into the bags, for the parents to take home. I honestly, as I’d explain to both Alina and Zoey, could care less about the observation; following the hour long filming, considering on a normal Friday, we would have Zoey do our Read Aloud. So, following the room being removed of the nap beds, we’d turn to arts-shapes and letters, which would make good use of my carved out letters and shape stencils. She’d comment on that, having taken me about two-three weeks in all, to complete both the letter wall and the stencils. Well worth it all, considering the government demands at least two handmade materials in each of our five corners; so we’d learn from the Friday PD meeting, another stressor over these past two weeks: the education bureau and their critiquing of our classrooms (throughout Wesley). Now, I find myself fixed to set up more handmade-semi handmade items around the classroom, for the children; a surprising development in all of this, finding that I enjoy making and doing these random projects. All of this brings us to Saturday; with me being a rabbit, dressing up and performing in the show, which despite not knowing the dance number before arriving to the stage to practice about thirty minutes before the children and parents arrived (including Ellie, her sister and mom) was fun. I certainly enjoyed trying to don a Idris Elba accent in Luther; Alice! Working alongside Li, Demi, and Emily in the woodworking room was a nice change and then seeing Alina perform in a wedding dress; the Fire song by Pink. Following work, we’d get plenty of photos, do a pointless reflection (for us-do to being all in Chinese) then lunch; before turning our attention to Bring It to the Table. Three episodes; all new ideas, one-drawing Chinese characters in the literacy classroom worked well, to Truth and Lies in the carpark; a truly fun time that was. Finally, to Shares Bar for darts-pain and trivia, that will be a fun watch! A late evening, once we headed to Tikas and Pita, yet an eventful and long day. Just happy to now sit and relax.
Apps like this, or Seven, in these past three weeks have now become our routine: Adam, Emma, Samuel and I; occasionally Phillip too. Whether the weather allows us to workout outside on the second floor playground, or forces us inside to PreK-D, it doesn’t matter-we make good use of the time allotted during nap time. It’s funny, not only have I found the additional time in the evenings available to be nice, but I have no reason to not workout, since whether it be seven or fifteen minutes, the time exercising together (almost cult like, as we’d state it could look like as we acting together in motion) is well spent. One of my five conditions of the day now is not only certain to be accomplished; aside from the governments visit on Monday, keeping us isolated in each of our classrooms, but the time acts as additional bonding, for me; acknowledging that outside work (and the people from Wesley) I don’t have any social connection; it works due to the consistent time spent and commonalities with the people at work (best emphasised with this, our creation of the Food Scale-rating the lunches, or any BIT3 activities).
Honestly never thought back in the toughest days of September of this day, yet here I am on Christmas Day; Christmas Eve back home. Phone calls; especially video calls, with my parents have helped to keep a connection, despite being thousands of miles away , yet on this day it might be natural to feel a disconnection. After all, Hangzhou doesn’t resemble a city celebrating Christmas; not today, nor the weeks that came before-something I am well used to at home. The feeling seems to begin, once November starts, here I don’t know if it ever did; despite the cute gift given by the admins. The two days off are a sweeter present than the apple cake, yet it is how the time is spent that matters here now. I told both mom and dad recently, that my near year training in preparation for separation from the western world that I know has proven (thus far) to have done me well. Now, the test begins; or has these past couple weeks, as I did nothing active during last weekend-no adventure, exploration trip, nor did I venture out yesterday. Yet, what I trained in my mind, and the help of others, has thus far come yet in handy. First, credit to a new friend-Andy who invited me to his basketball group to play indoors each Friday evening; going along with Eric, and taxing my body to satisfaction gave me the feeling of exercise I would for the next two days. Then, more importantly, as it has consumed my last off days, the activity while indoors despite being sedentary. A mission; a set of goals, continues to push me forward; combining the readings with my writing-intertwined. Despite, realizing the end goal of the month half-way through, it appears that I will be able to complete three; first ending Beyond Good and Evil on Sunday then to turn to his next; Twilight of Idols: a better read. Not all philosophical, but historical too, with Where Do We Go From Here. These texts issue and allow me to formulate more in-depth ideas of what I desire to write; like recently coming to an end with Traversing Mountains. All this amounts too; along with Chinese study, and daily exercise, to Winter productivity.
Soon to be the year of the rat, not yet the New Year back home, nor officially here either. Yet, with a brief compilation video shown to me (by Taylor) of his year in review, I have gotten to thinking. Even more so, with the ending of yesterday; Learning Journey turn to an evening at Samuel and Jacob’s last night. I find myself recalling years past; whether going into 2018-Barcelona with Elio, oh that was something, or just last year; with me working to pick of the pieces of myself. Now, I find myself turning to a conversation with Emma as we each left last night; her getting a ride from her husband, and me to begin my cold ride home on the bike. We were both so excited to get to bed, and if wasn’t even eleven; such is my life now, fully content with that; actually both surprised and impressed that I’d be social past ten. In the span of this year (in reviewing) a lot of come to past, and has come to me; most evident in widespread change. It’s exciting to think of, but the past me who has desperately searching for something in January has seemed to learned slightly more about myself; or at least in peace with the search. During that time, I bid farewell to a good group of friends, which seemed to tear at me to think of the possibility of never seeing them again. I’d soon be consumed enough, to not have the luxury to contemplate all that; first graduation! then Iceland. That’d be the last full time I would spend with Julia, before a big change would come-working to get here, despite not knowing it at the time; this is where I was destined to be. So, what was 2020 for me? Ups, downs, struggles, triumph, adjustments; most importantly, the continued opportunity to improve. Hard to imagine that I have been here now for nearly five months; was the case just a week again during Christmas. Yet, in a matter of two plus weeks, I’ll see mom and Julia again, in a situation/feeling that I can recall from my past; Viterbo-Rome-Amsterdam. Still much is to be done in that span, even more so until I see Dad and Tracy in March, and yet; I find myself cherishing these hours on end, or day(s) that I am forced to remain inside, or at least choose to due to weather. In return, this month I have finished off Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of Idols, and touched up Khalil Gibran’s the Prophet. With this routine, I have my sights of six-ten more (books/authors) in the next five months before the semester’s end. In finally graduating college, and turning away from the schedule; now, I desire to adapt it again, 12 credits-4 topics (Me).
In returning to work after a day off, beginning the new year, I have noticed an unfortunate truth; I have showed signs of a lack of composure. More particularly today, but evident also yesterday after telling off the class about us destroying our own toys; originally thought to be Colin, I mean gambler’s odds, but turned out to be Hao Miao! So, Alina would realise something, that was told to her by Denise before, and would help me come back to myself after getting into a funk; I was hungry-which turned to an irrational irritation of the situation. Circumstance resolved, although I would both thank Alina, and hold myself accountable for becoming upset about a simple matter; later she would translate that between the ages of 0-6, they have a tendency to do something like this, in effort to eat it. Who knew? not me certainly, still; this showed my inability to wrap my head around being a teacher of three year olds; there was no maliciousness or petty thoughts performed, just a three year old being herself. What showed aside from me being pointlessly naive and short sided; although as I’d bring up the matter, the class agreed, aside from her, as she remained aloof, was the simple fact of my lack of knowledge (still) with this age group. Matter and day over, yet the next day (today) came and with all matters that are pressing; Report Cards, Portfolios, three floor map to create and decorating of the room, then prepping for the IB consultant and those two days she is here, I made a cardinal sin (by my work standards). I allowed myself to become stressed; apparently forgetting what I had learned thus far in my first four months; the job (i.e. employer) throws so much on you, and yet with a simple okay and head down, carefree and smile approach it eventually gets done and all is fine, even if the timeline is not met. Yet, here I found myself; consumed by a map, concerned about the weekly/daily reflections, worried of the not-yet begun portfolios, and then there is a class (even with eight missing-the flu) to attend to. After the thoughts occurred to me, possibly more regrettably, I could not shake it; as I was still very much immersed within. During the weekly Friday staff meeting, as we prepped for the consultant, I chimed in enough, yet I was removed; not me. This would continue even till past 4:30, as I stayed till 5. Yet, one thought, or two, pushed me back to one; first, leaving and not back until Monday. More importantly, for the necessity of another side of me; something I have been looking forward to all week: basketball. This time add Eric again, and Taylor with friends for the first time. All this said, I must remember what I know, yet temporarily lost; focus-me!
Presently I find myself laying down on two seats in the ER of a Binjiang hospital. Tina has been most helpful in riding with me in the didi, for getting me a wheelchair, then pushing me around; although I prefer to push myself, first time in it. She’s sat with me and pushed the people along, as what we’ve come to see is all pointless. Sitting waiting for a doctor to be seen and touched then an x-ray okayed, then er-lou to be scanned, now here I lye. Reminiscent of night in Noto, yet perhaps I should instead recall last February. That’s what comes to mind, all starting with a fall on Friday night-basketball. The days since have been difficult, first helped off by Eric; my stubborn-stupidity made it all worse by continuing to play until I couldn’t, first time playing alongside Taylor. The next day couldn’t walk and didn’t leave the house, just R. I. C. E. Sunday felt better, especially after a slow walk to visit McDonald’s, buy bread and bananas. Yet, here I am; not broke I’m told. Knew It, well; pretty sure; after all, this has happened before-I should be more careful, said that before. But with all that has come, I need to make sure I treat this properly in two regards; first, too much to do and so much on line-so let’s see about crutches for the week while at school. Next the question comes, how do I prevent this; after all, I have weak ankles and yet a passion is playing basketball.
Despite all the difficulty that I’ve had with this job thus far; teacher change-over, feelings of incompetence, parental hyper-criticism, an unruly classroom, inexperience (the description can go on n on), then even taking into consideration my transition to China, I had not have a week such as this. Put aside all the requirements, paperwork, and sum-ups of the unit, semester and IB stuff, the struggle to walk up and down the stairs, around in the classroom or even getting to work have made these past four days something else. Luckily, I could not be with a better group of people within the classroom; which have been incredible supportive in me being a lesser version of myself. Nonetheless, these circumstances at work and following have been slightly less than ideal; starting with Tuesday morning after getting crutches the night before. Thankfully I am able to bike with the crutches draped over my shoulder onto the handlebars but that provides an uneasy feeling at times, whether it be cars around me, or more often in the evening following work, with all the motorcycles coming at me in such a narrow passage. Ordinary circumstances I steady myself on the bike but now I feel; as I do when people are walking toward me on the stairs, an overcoming feeling of nervousness. Speaking of stairs, they have seemed to be my anxiety, enemy or at least biggest obstacle now at work; nice enough considering two flights from the first floor to the second, then an additional smaller flight just to K1D. Today, I’d be close to falling, luckily braced myself with Adam near me, not so fortunate the other day. A hard fall left a bruise on my right butt-check and an even bigger hit to whatever ego I have at the moment. The cement steps were not kind to me, even as Adam and Eric helped me up, I felt uneasy and have since then respected stairs far more than I have ever before. Considering I’ve never had practice on crutches, I guess this is all fair, yet the alternative? Perhaps, lock my ankle in place and ice for either side thirty minutes before tentatively walking about for this mornings MCing of the New Years Event; granted I can’t do that for an extended time, or even comfortably. The other option as I was already on the floor in our class, during nap time, was to Ivar crawl toward two students; to separate Juju and Rocky talking, probably a frightening sight if they had opened their eyes to me looking right at them. The most prominent memory, paired together with my greatest feeling of gratitude this week comes from remaining fixed stretched out on the two chairs, while working on the computer to complete the many items to-do. From 7:30 to 4:30 this is where one could find me, neglecting breakfast and lunch in order to remain off my leg and crutches; again, luckily Liu-laoshi, not only would act as a caretaker to the provide me medicinal herbs to wrap my ankle in (photo above), but then bring me food up! In the three days span, remaining away from the foreign group (Emma, Adam, Eric, etc.) I’d come to feel isolated from them all, in the grander scheme-from the school. Abnormal to be cooped up in the classroom, restricting all moves to three locations: sunshine bar, bathroom, and the classroom; yet it would have to be, or at least that was it is turned out to be. Hopeful for a recovery during this weekend, then another week, potentially, of this all; yet worth it, if I can gain a greater-normal mobility come Saturday-Vietnam, then Mom and J!
Despite finding myself now at the airport, 530 in the morning of Saturday, the three days prior were not only challenging; preventing me from putting my normal excited consumption over an impending trip, but also had me in a constant state of questioning. It all begins with my ankle, or at least is most evident in every single movement of my days. Crutches are a struggle and hopping around, or limping makes life just difficult enough for me not to look forward to my near future-Vietnam and then Mom and Julia. Instead, I have been worried; the feeling of guilt is high enough already-regarding an inability to do everything I desire and should at work, but then imagine meeting the two of them in natures go-to and holding them back. To navigate away from the unknown to what I experienced, stsrting with Wednesday; a long day of turmoil for K1D. An evening at work that would last until 7; a lovely twelve hour day-only brought up by Samuel. Seriously, otherwise the options were Stacy and Jessie; thankfully he owns up to a position and difficult situation to help that he is both not directly involved with and responsible for; yet, his intervention provides light. Experience he’d claim he got last year with needy and critical parents; a down going for our class, seemingly since the beginning. A group of parents that have seen such changeover; their worries perhaps justified, yet I would learn that concern is not with me. No one knows nor could care to learn how I spend my time outside of class or what time I go to bed. Now my criticism of the admin has been clear, but combined with Samuel being an intermediary and the justifiable claim, a day before the three way conferences, I could understand. The next day, constitutined as a whole day of meetings with teachers-parents-children (3way), would go from 820-430; having me at some point later in the day to desire my normal days routine (with the kids!) The parents would be better than I think either Alina or I expected; yet with presenting the portfolio and report cards, while asking for goals for their child, most meetings went far past the 20 minutes allotted. This created the strange feeling of having a meeting on deck, possibly staring at you, as to say it’s my time. Others just either showed up ten minutes late or didn’t show up at all. This added in my mind to the knowledge that four-five parents are on the verge of pulling their children out; or already decided. That would be the case with Colins mom, I’m told, while Sunnys mom would give us the news, then prompt to remove her daughters shoes and other miscellaneous items; that is a difficult hit to take. A surprise as well, unlike the former who has been claiming for a change for some time. I couldn’t help but think, while losing Sunny, Zion, Colin, Rocky, and Loly is a hit to K1D and an obvious knock on our teaching-(the situation), what would it be like to have only 16-17 kids at most each day? Despite that potential possibility, meeting with the parents will remain a bore; one that is difficult to keep engaged as the conversation is 80-90% Chinese; I might catch ten words. Those are often the ones that are then translated from what I say, pertaining overall classroom management and English language level. This day would end earlier, with my insistence to leave at 430, despite the last meeting to continue; I had tooo much to do. I’d begin packing, ready my laundry, prep and most importantly work to bring up my achilles heel (ankle.) Between icing with those two frozen balloons-credit Eric, then icy-hot-mom, and the paste-Candice’s mom, its a time intensive process. It didn’t help that the following day I figured my evening would be removed, that would be true as I wouldn’t return home, from PD-awards conference-Wesley Gala (both campuses), until 930. Despite the additional entertainment of drunk Rueben, and the guys from Gonshu, I don’t think many people would say a positive remark at the time (whether Ms.Yangs training or our gala feast-conference.) By evenings end I would be too irritated, an unfortunate truth that I have allowed to take over me with the lack of mobility, and the strong sense of feeling of either being in the way or not belonging. I couldn’t participate in the foreigners dance-kill show, left before it would come to fruition; not actually sure if it would happen as people started to make their way out. Aside from my approaching Vietnam trip, Samuel and Jacob left in anticipation for a return to the UK, while Katie and Emma will return home to the States. Overall, some postives existed; first, anytime being with the core of my ‘Wesley family’ is a good time, while walking away with enough snacks for the next two days helps (packaged waffles!) During the gala I’d get to try some new foods; if I remember correctly, as Alina would translate: Pigs feet, duck tongue (had before but raw this time), eel (good stuff), jellyfish-that wouldn’t recommend, abalone-apparently a fish, I was at first sceptical of the translation; “Eric it’s Chinese Baloney. ” The dishes kept coming, as did the prizes; I’d win a 500¥ Hema card! The performances were something, with Pang-laoshi bringing it in the TA dance; with Taylor (man can do it all). Despite all this, I was anxious with all that was still to be done. Yet, here I am on the plane; even given the seat on the bus with my limp. All what came before in the last 72hrs, I left the crutches behind and am a step nearer to seeing mom and J in just days.
After the first day, devoted fully to travel; Hangzhou-Shenzhen-Hanoi-Ninh Binh, I had the fresh opportunity to set out and explore the unique landscape, and hour n a half southeast of Hanoi. What came before my fresh start, during my travel day would just add to the experience of the first 48 hours away from Star Avenue. Packing, arriving to the Xiaoshan airport and even the flight were all easy; the only hold up that showed was my limp. During the four hour layover in Shenzhen, I’d work to remedy that with a massage and icy-hot rub. The timing worked that I’d be joined by a fellow traveler, a Vietnamese-Hanoi native that saw me on the flight from HGH. We’d get to talking and spend the remainder of the break sitting together and eating, before boarding again. Despite not worried about baggage claim, after customs, I’d wait for Dat to accompany me into the city. He’d assist me in getting me here, Nihn Bihn, by way of taxi to van. After him parting from the taxi, I’d sit at an outdoor community center; kids playing badmitton, adults together with volleyball or separately working out. Finally, my time to board the van; first one wrong, then issued to the next one. The whole time not understanding a word, aside from hello; their way of grabbing my attention. After a bumpy and sleepy ride to the city, I’d join a driver in taking me to an ATM. The senseless time spent there, perhaps 20 minutes was used to discuss, seemingly the same in a circle; even calling Dat. Yet, in giving them the cash 290,000-12 $ I settled and had them get me a taxi to the hostel; away from the city-into nature. Lastly, despite his friendliness, I could not communicate with the driver; which concern when paying. He on his phone showed me 134, surprised I ensured that was the number. The hostel owner would alleviate it, I owed him 134,000; I’m told, tget drop the thousands: a given, yet apparently not for me.
The whole day in mind, my first in exploring the vast karst landscape in the deary rain-fog, was considered with my lack of mobility; even in selecting the hostel that offered a bike for hire. Biking around the terrain proved unique, an environment that I’ve never seen, paired with the bits of people that I’d come across once I came closer, on accident to my desired destination; Hang Mua. Once there and parking my bicycle, I figured no better way to test my ankle than with this; 400 some steps up to a panoramic view. Funny, despite the view being unreal, it was the thought that on Friday I was in crutches and now… The added challenge led it to be more, and while I knew I couldn’t make a day of these actions-I could enjoy it to the peak. Luckily, the remainder of my time out, about 6 hours, was free for me to bike around the whole right side of the natural park. Down tiny dirt, rocky roads, along busy two-three lane roads(there really any semblance of traffic rules, or the concept of lanes), encountering a bunch of wildlife, and enjoying all the views. The terrain would prove tricky at tines, forcing me to stop and remove all the mud and rocks from my tires, then on again. The freedom to solely explore without care and destination is a rarity, and yet perfectly makes a vacation. Nature activities help.
There is a beauty of traveling alone, my first night arriving I had no interest with talking to anyone; and yet after a day spent out, I came back to find myself being social. First, in ordering food, I heard Chinese behind me, after being told about my sock, I entered. Turns out, two English; Lindsay from the States and Diego from Colombia, live and teach in Central China: Wuhan. They would leave, and I would continue, now with a first time (outside North America) traveler from Tennessee. We’d both remark, how you don’t meet much of “us” outta the country; southerns, then proceed to sit in the main outdoor lobby and talk for the next four hours. Dustin’s stories amazed; two years on a bike traveling around the states, in effort to escape his miserable comfort in Jacksonville. He story alone of overcoming addiction, and venturing out impressed. His outlook, vantage point of life, and the ability to express it all even more so. A fellow 27year old, had a very different past to me, but a similar perspective; providing both of us solo adventurers with company for the evening.
Wow, not really how I expected to meet mom and Julia. I can see them through the glass; them waiting for baggage claim, me standing outside the airport ground waiting with the taxi driver next to me. An unhappy one in that, understandably after taking me from the old quarter to meet them, only for me only to pay 500,000 of the surprisingly high 890,000 dong ride. As we’d wait, I’d work to get money out of my China Construction bank account; to no avail, nor with my empty BB&T account. A lowly feeling, thankfully with me ensuring that I’d find him and pay him the remaining when I return to Hanoi and figure it out, he would leave. All I could think about was hugging them and him standing aside me, repeating…”fuck you man.” Now to figure out my funds before I become like I have in the past been with them, a financial burden until I could pay them off later. Don’t want deja vu.
After all going well, first in getting our taxi at 6 am from Trang An to the Long Hotel; even getting ca phe, then the bus to Hanoi (on time) to a taxi ride across the city, we’d eventually run into an issue. An expected different location, not the Hai Son Van office off the street but a bus station, 200 meters down the road. This would lead me to frantically running, or quick shuffling around the grounds; asking any that could or would help. When we came across the spot, where out double decker bus to Lao Cai would be; eleven minutes late, we would learn-too late. A man would help, and now we sit-leaning back on a bus that left at 12. The stand-on way would even get us in a unique position, on the second level in a L shape. Like bunk beds, we propped up and can lay back on the way toward Sapa. Suddenly, at least to us, we had a stop-an office near the airport. We were motioned off the bus, out of our comfortable seats to the office, which with the help of a man, we were explained. We missed our bus, had no tickets and need to buy tickets for the next bus-1230; an hour later than originally expected, and after all this changeover.
What can I say; Wo xiquan, mi piace fare trekking. Despite a bum ankle, being in this terrain, and in the company of the terrible turds; then to add the surprising sun and heat we’d get, I couldn’t stop myself. In setting out by 845, we were told to expect a sixteen kilometer hike from our Scenery hotel down to the Muong Hoa valley and back. What happened? We turned course, made it our own and went a different, extended path, about twelve miles. Went amongst the rice paddies, across rickety bridges, past locals trying their best to offer local handmade items and/or to be guides; don’t need either, and eventually through three villages. Interesting to see the vast differences of local life in homes and places catering to us tourists. The sites only added to the already proper workout, my greatest and most strenuous in a near month; perhaps since the last time that I played a full evening of basketball. What put me here in this predicament, yet, while being slowed and forced to be cautious; irritatingly, I was able to push forward. The fear of being an anchor, holding up them didn’t turn out so bad, but eventually with only an uglier uphill to finish us off, we’d call our airbnb host. Soon, a ride would allow us the time to explore the quaint and tourist built up town of sapa. A good combo; exercise in nature, then relaxation and refuel in the town.
Slow as we go; a necessary change for our adjustment to our travel. After an exercise intensive day within the valley, then a hike up the ham rong mountain park; providing a delightful view of the town, we turned course to relaxation; only facilitated by the soreness in our legs. With all the uphill walking-trekking, and to add my ankle, what could help more than a massage. With an additional day, more than needed to trek the area of Sapa; excluding the feat of climbing Mt. Fansipan, we sought to relax and explore more of Sapa town. First, a foot-leg massage in the evening for two, while mom slept and did her own relaxation in the hotel room. The relaxing hour was fueled by conversation; most interestingly with the one female, who’d show me a photo of her boy, a two year old. She explained that she grew up in a village about 120 kilometres away but moved to Sapa with her husband. She would later explain how Vietnamese men are rude; her’s abusive and more interested in drinking and partying than raising their child. This paired with their flood of compliments toward Julia; her eyes, nose, skin, compared to theirs, offered up a lower than ideal portrayal of her life. Leaving the massage room, then paying left us happy to think forward to the next day, a full body massage at 10am. Now with mom included, we worked our early morning around getting there; easing into breakfast, despite being down in the lobby at our normal seven. Walking up the incline route, although only taking twenty minutes, it was easy to see why massage and spa signs show all over the town. This hour, having me in an individual room and oddly down to boxers would turn out far more beneficial than the night before. Not only were the legs worked out more thoroughly but the back rub lead me near sleep. She would soon prompt the time being over, with an okay. I responded simply, wo ai ni; i couldn’t help but express my love, perhaps appreciation would have been enough. With trouble with the card machine, we would make our way down to the ATM, then Julia back to pay the 1.8 million dong; roughly 78 dollars. We had just cash to tip, not to cover each of our 600,000 dong hours. We slowly meandered around the town, walking past the lake to the market then back around. I unfortunately held them back in speed yet with the clear evidence of my hobbling; despite its improvement, we headed back to the hotel. With no rush to accomplish or see anything, our focus turned to cards; first lounging around in the room, then restaurant next door; thang had his indoor bonfire going. It turned out well, first lunch then in paying we’d be tempted; massage with cheaper prices than before. The cheapest thus far; 11 dollars for each, per hour. Turned out to be two of the same ladies as earlier, and a man that we would learn was the husband of one. He did even a more thorough massage on my feet-legs; with hot stones, that left me questioning if it could have caused an adverse reaction. Thankfully no, nonetheless I felt compelled to express my love – appreciation. We talked further with his wife, her explaining about their children(2), the new year and working in Sapa. Dinner came afterward then turning to preparation for the transportation in the following day; beginning 9am with a taxi to catch an eleven o’clock bus to Hanoi.
A day of transportation, begin at 5, with Julia alerting me of news; Kobe Bryant has died. First, learning of heartbreak; which despite nearly four days later, still has me in tearful disbelief. The trouble that we’d encounter from the buses, location, etc. is more believable. Yet, we’d find enjoyment in it all; first at the incorrect place (unbeknownst to us), while playing cards. Mom would point it out, once it was over and we became fixed on a missing bus; yet the unique situation to be surrounded by ten locals all very much interested in our games of rummy. If we’ve learned something about Vietnamese people, they like cards; although a few, I believe would have liked to see us playing for money, as Foam(?-pronounced with puffing ones mouth like a blowfish; so was explained to us) would indicate. How cool to have such intrigue into our game; eventually leading to mom leading foam through the game, them working together, he caught on soon, and Julia having her girl take over. Later, after the games they’d try to help us with our bus situation(ultimately Queen Bus VIP would be a bust). So, we walked a quarter mile to a better spot, where other buses were; just to sit and go; as we often do together, goofy in the belief that we would be stranded in the tiki roofed bus stop; too far from Sapa and close enough from Lao Cai (6 kilometers) to have us question making a walk to the main bus station. Eventually, by 3:30 and working to find a way to Hanoi; after the limousine van forgot about us, Julia would get us three spots on a different double decker sleeper bus than before. The 900,000 dong was expensive for the offering but it worked in multiple ways; most importantly providing us the needed transportation. Next, it gave us three seats connecting on the top back, that we’d use to play rummy again until we arrived in the old quarter half past seven. A long day, similar to before in arriving to Sapa; yet, we were together, had made it and it all made for some interesting stories-as travel does.
A sobering experience, one that brought me back to Dachau, Budapest, Prague, and Auschwitz; just another example of the beauty of travel. Sure, I was familiar with the French colonial occupation of Indochina, then the American-Vietnam war. Now, walking around the centrally located, French built prison; originally built to house anti-French revolutionaries, brought something out. Perhaps, being in the cells and seeing manikins created to show the cruelty of life imprisoned in the Hanoi Hilton, or looking directly at a towering guillotine, makes an impact on the senses. I attempted to not be empty of remorse for the American soldiers that remained captured in the prison, during the American war (of 20 years!); like a clear special individual as John McCain(strange to see him at such a young age). Yet, there’s a different level of tragedy for the imprisonment of foreign military forces, bent on destroying villages of people; albeit following orders from a democratic-freedom loving oppressor, than what happened before the war. I can not imagine such an atrocity; as an American (perhaps to look so faintly, as to pull under the rug of time a find a hair, to indicate the Dirtiness of the British presence in the colonies back in four hundred years ago. ) Then there is the Empire of France with their invasion of a foreign country, across the world; one group of people aiming for self-determination and survival, then the other, a government fixed on the complete control, destruction of culture, and extraction of all means of life(raw materials. ) To be in the Hoa lo prison and encounter the history is to see that very same mat; and while ignorant and uneasy about pulling it up, one does, to find a blood stained puddle on the ground; perhaps, not even a floor at all. This is the case, then to learn of the struggle to outlast and overcome the oppressor, just for the next empire; now a greater imperial one to come and pronce with napalm and guns.
Once again we depart,
our different ways;
each following their own paths,
connected-yet rarely intertwining.
Soon again, we will be together,
great while it lasted; to think the
trio came together after near half
a year in a country far n foreign
to us all and yet, together it felt like home.
Day began at five, I sit here at the top of Cat Ba waiting for sunset nearly twelve hours later. The hours between have proved eventful; offering up almost too much to recount and write. Perhaps, it is but I must try. By sunrise around 630, I was out and about but without a clue on what to (definitely) do, aside from my noted recon-exploration. Such is the way, the first day; yet, like the evening before, in finding the hostel for food, I would learn of another factor here that will add to my daily routine. A walk around the coast, first past my seaview, leading eventually to a path along the cliff side that connected beaches 1 and 2. Wow, as the woman would say or ask; the only person I encountered along this sunrise activity, Cat Ba beautiful! Yes, it is; this would be just the first example.I’d soon see more of the beauty; first, in perhaps my most unique position that I have been in with traveling. In setting out to see the national park, I went out of my comfort zone; butterflies and fifth guessing myself. The cost of renting a motorbike, roughly $3, paired with $2 of Petrol for the day, forced me to try something, I honestly never thought I would do (I would never have believed that I would be on motorbike in the streets on Vietnam.) So, with the bike, my first challenge was to fill-up; I cannot stress enough how unsteady I was on it. The man who gave it to me, or the woman who provided the needed petrol must have, understandably, thought that this fool was going to wreck this. Fair enough, yet I would eventually get close to half way to the national Park. Four motorbikes along the road, with stone steps leading up led me to stop and take on the trek up. I ignored the sign mostly in Vietnamese, but showing enough: “military area…keep out.” So many steps, but all I contemplated was the view; ultimately after it all, it was incredible-sea in one direction, then the mounds of lush green in the other. Yet, like with the experience I was told no photo, outnumbered 14-1, I gladly obliged. Especially, when how I was treated, after coming up to the plateau to find an area that resembled an outdated military area. A group of men sat around, on the ground, all eating on a red rug-mat. A young man, wearing a blue uniform, came up to meet me and informed me of what I had already figured out; I was trespassing. Yet, despite him telling me to go back down, a man nearly out of distance motioned to me as I was catching my breathe, before I was depart. He, with the curiosity of others, invited me to join them. Soon, I had my boots off and sitting cross legged with them; despite it still being painful with my right ankle. In the ensuing thirty minutes, or more; would lose count with not looking at my phone once I arrived up the stairs, I was treated as their guest. The hospitality; I finally ate hot pot, something of tofu, chicken (explained to me), spinach/or broccolini, oysters, a chicken foot; that was first served to me, but later taken away; I expect since they figured a white man wouldn’t eat that. I’m not sure why, I’ve had several in China, which I explained I worked as a teacher there. Their response was negative, something due to the virus; yet, very accepting of America-Washington D.C. As I was of their known hometowns: hanoi mostly, haven’t been to Haiphong or Ho Chi Minh City. The dialogue was simple, but respect all around; especially after downing the first of clear liquor shots; served out of a tea pot. I believe it was vodka, and it would keep coming from my neighbor, an older man that spoke zero english and yet was very friendly. After four, and in explaining to them that I didn’t want to crash the bike, I would learn that he would keep filling it, as long as I drank it; like Korean culture, key is to leave it full. A middle aged, cheefful and talkative man in the corner would explain this to me, somehow me gaining the idea despite it all being in Vietnamese. Thankfully, I would eat enough and the two younger men near me; one 20, the other having to be younger (by appearance), kept filling up my small bowl. After enough food, and seeing a man linger off up a path, I asked to go for a look; again, no photo. After talking with the young twenty year old that originally met me, I was told it was time to go; navy coming. I exchanged thanks, shook hands and put on my boots. Soon, I was walking down and found my bike along the two land road.
Twenty minutes later, now more confident on the bike; whether it be from time or the increase of blood alcohol level, I came upon the National Park. The hike, albeit short; roughly only taking me forty minutes, and estimated at an hour, was intensive, due to the many steps and their difficulty. This made for an even happier feeling, once at the peak; yet another stunning island panorama. I’d make for the more difficult decline of the mountain area, grab another water and be delighted to; first, get more time on the bike, and second, have enough time to eat before going up to Cannon Fort for the sunset. The hostel served me well again; six bucks for a massive chicken burger with fries and two white coffees; officially the favorite cafe (topping the cappuccino.) With energy, and food in stomach, I entered and explored the former military grounds; acceptable to visit and noted as a must to do during the Cat Ba stay. After what I saw; trenches, bunkers, a helicopter pad, and two cannon forts, along with great views of the surrounding area, I sense this could be a daily thing during my time here; aside from Sunday, due to the boat tour. Altogether, spending eighteen dollars for such a day; adding the already spent $8 for lodging, amounting to $26 for what I experienced today, speaks volumes to this island and largely speaking to Vietnam.
There’s something about being on a boat surrounded by water for miles and miles, in all directions. It makes one feel small, trapped yet free; a hard feeling to explain. Yet, there is simply peace with staring off into the horizon. For today, whether it be rainy or sunshine, the water doesn’t care; it remains as it appears, immense and mysterious. It wasn’t until being in the kayak, up and close to the water that I would get an idea of how chilly and clear it was. Rowing alone would have been preferred, but not possible; so, two solo travelers were paired together. An interesting pairing, me and an older woman from the Hague in the Netherlands, just one of the many Europeans, comprising of the strong majority of us. It took time to talk with my fellow passengers, I had more interest in peering off into the vast bay, holding an innumerable amount of karst hill islands. Through lunch, eating with the couples from Switzerland, Portugal, and Italg brought me back but it was the conversation with the only American gentleman, who after spent two years teaching in the Philippines, with the Peace Corps. We spoke of our experiences abroad, two different-similiar opportunities in the east, and what comes next. We had another commonality, Virginia, where he would work 37 years after his time in the east. His urging that he should have stayed abroad, instead of becoming a Beauracrat in Alexandria, strengthen my thinking of my future and the necessity in staying to being abroad. Later, near the end of our trip, the boat members saw me in a different light; one of carefree fun but then discomfort. As one of four people to take advantage of swimming time, I enjoyed the chance to jump of the top of the boat, yet I’d have trouble adjusting after a lengthy swim, back and forth. My body could not stop shaking, which a Norwegian passenger talked to me, in concern. We both agreed it doesn’t help that I hold very little body fat, along with me explaining, my people aren’t accustom to the cold; coming from Virginia, not like hard nosed northern Europeans. All of this, for a mere $29, showed to me a few key things. First, I had previously been wrong about my annoyance with Europeans, it was a delight to be amongst them again, like in my past travels. Second, while a day on the boat in the bays, even despite the colder-rainy-foggy conditions, was delightful, I am a lander. By the end of the eight hours, I longed to be walking about freely again and with a chance to get on another motorbike. Lastly, I can learn so much and gain inspiration/insight from other travelers; something I already knew, yet was once again confirmed on this day.
Five days, what an offering Cat Ba has. Borrowing on the past, adding a new and providing diverse options. From history, to culture, and activity in nature; the trifecta for me. Day one, pushed me outside my comfort zone; con farfalle nello stomacho, I rented a motorbike. Turned out to be such a great joy that I would get one my final day. With such transportation, and the closeness of the island, I would visit the national park; providing me a hike. A unique opportunity presented itself to be amongst a group of people that I could have never imagined. Then, a history lesson with a view; ahh, Cannon Fort so close. The three catba beaches were apart yet, connected with a path along the coast. Often times, the cost free activities provide the most; this is the case with the early morning walkway along the cliffside. A boating outing, meals at the hostels, and the Buddha Belly rounded my time on the island. With one day remaining, I took the bike across the island and rode along the coast on the two laned road. Cherishing the chance, every few kilometers, to ride through one of the many small villages; all looking oddly similar. A different approach to life, as I encountered on the mainland, yet the same beautifully relaxed, still developing Vietnamese culture. The people, food and sights all solidfy the sweet memories of my brief time on Cat Ba.
This day has been a whirlwind; not just the day, with extending to last night’s much needed phone call with mom. The last few days have been leading to this, not what eventually came about, but what was expected or planned out when I bought the tickets back in early January. Now sadly much has changed, something thankfully I know nothing of; as the virus has not touched me, nor any one I know. Yet, this has meant a change of drastic proportions; beginning with the delaying of school, and going all the way to quarantining of cities and border blockages. Being in Vietnam, for these last near three weeks, now seems like a blessing; yet, the complete prevention of transport to China, and back, means no return. As dad would explain, understandably, that seems to be a ridiculous predicament to put oneself in; to go into what is presumed as a quarantined environment. Nor does it appeal to me, but what do I have in Vietnam; presently, holding to $250 and without a clue on what to do here. To find the flight cancelled today is now expected and yet, took me by utter disbelief, that $200 return flight was my means back to ordinary life. Believe it or not, living out of a backpack, no bigger than what most people would use for an extended weekend, and carrying around clothes that have been overused is getting old. Let alone the hostel life, paired with the awareness that my account (from the states) is getting low and I feel the. options lessening. All heightened by the inability to access my Chinese Construction Bank account; a situation that allowed me one option, once assisted by Kerri. To have someone buy me tickets, then transfer them the money through WeChat or Alipay. An idea that has provided hope, something that has uplift me; much the way Dad had at the beginning of all this. Thanks to Allie I know have the ability to move and act, instead of just sit and wait. So, a decision to Bangkok provides the stepping point; one that allows me to contemplate a return to my city, Hangzhou and a hope to one day return to work; perhaps the tentative start date, the 16th. With an unbooked return ticket, yet a way to book the near $350 ticket back, I now have some room to breath and think. The original thought to wait it out a week, may not work out; unless I can stretch funds more than expected, yet one thing prevails within all this, I want to return. To my bed, computer, city, job and class; there is where I belong and yet, it is all in question and would have potentially out of thought if I had gone back to the states. So, here I sit with an option of some great proportion, one that may be called into question; depending upon who’s providing advice and opinion. Yet, with Adam’s suggestion of how life is there and my eagerness, it looks that this step; not believed to happen earlier in the day, to give me a possibility to leave this free discomfort for discomfort in a place that I am more accustom to. The decision is ripe.
Now in Bangkok, I have come across something new; my reasoning for being here, is that of no other than in my past travels. In fact, I was never meant to be in Thailand, at least not in my planning; prior to three days ago, not given any thought. Why would it have? I was supposed to return to Hangzhou, before my flight was cancelled, and the city has gone into quarantine. So, coming to Bangkok, meant a stop-over in effort to go back to my home, and put myself into a strictly managed city that is threatened by a widespread virus. While it is nice to cross off another country from my list, just adventuring about in the capital, does not do the country credit. Yet, I have come across some observations. First, these past two days; and presumed five more days, has provided a different mentality to my past. One of surviving, and just existing; not one of purposeful capture and experience. Regardless, with simply being here; and not regulating myself into a dormitory style bedroom, I am experiencing, but it’s different. Not one following TripAdvisor, or even my typical flexible script that keeps the journey eventful and exciting; instead, with just managing here, I have a new challenge. This can be addressed with a question and scenario; can I manage to reside in Bangkok, staving off the quarantined lifestyle at home. To add difficultly, yet additional intrigue, try so with just over $200; at least until I board my desired flight (hopefully allowed and not cancelled) on Wednesday the 12th. Still more than half to go, but if the first two days; of going under the allotted $28, are the norm than I could perhaps prolong myself here yet another day. An option, I do not desire; I am eager to get home and off the street, and away from shared housing, but all this has showed me a new form of travel-one that allows me to experience, while spending very little; seeking out the simple and rejecting anything that remotely appeals to the heavy walleted tourist. Instead, I seek out the street food, walk my legs tired, and turn away more often than not, in fear of overspending. Yet, what I come across on the street is what interests; a Unicef mural by Picket Rujivrarat; “Don’t be afraid of being ‘different’, be afraid of being the same as everyone else.”
Given to the hostel, on my way out; leave a good option, seeking for more. Profit with a bike, but figures; first, good conversation with hostel mate on my way out. A clueless Austrian, who sought the escape of the cold; me now even with sitting inside until ten tells the opposite; hide from the heat. Yet, after a days trek; I have come to find something I shoulda known, this is different scene. A nice hostel indeed, with more than enough fellow stayers; a fact I missed in the other place, but here I miss as well. Gone is the walk away from tourists like me; not many attractions (at least for them) on the south side. That was real; or what I was seeking, this is to be expected, yet a sad tradeoff. A positive though, tomorrow a bike.
I must understand, albeit difficult to accept while walking about the city amongst locals, I am not one of them; therefore in an obvious way, I don’t belong. This understanding is not the problem, despite trying to break don’t the differences, they are clear. Yet, what I have seen as of late; feeling it’s evident truth while amongst fellow travellers in the hostel, it is here also that I do not fit in. Perhaps, it is that I am slightly older than the average young twenty something free adventurer, but then there’s Dave a forty something English native that is passing through before he returns home to Cambodia. I felt a commonality there, as he has helped me talk through my predicament; the whole China-quarantine, and lack of funds. Maybe, the fact that he joins in with the drinking, guys night out to see the show; that from what I understand, can only appeal to foreigners; being that it is not representative of what I have seen of Bangkok in these last six days. Then there’s a difference in activity, the above mentioned(for the majority: alcohol, hired girls, and late night excursions), far different from my desire to burn in the daylight through exploration and escape from the predominant White, tourist heavy section of the city. All this is clear during my time in the hostel, we have different intentions, interests and perhaps, aims of what we seek to gain from our time here. The hope of memories and stories are natural, and most likely shared by all, but what’s the content? Yes, I know I will soon depart from Bangkok in a matter of days without viewing and partaking in what some may consider the true experience. No Patpong for me, nor any all night stories of alcohol induced carefree fun. Yet, what can this outsider walk away with from this unexpected trip? It will all come to be. For now, keep carrying on and managing, to see how this will be remembered.
When I arrived to Bangkok, I felt uneasy, certainly unprepared and unaware of what to do. Sure researching about cheap and free things to do helped during the night flight over, but what worried me most would become even more of a challenge. Low funds, $250 for six nights and seven days, lead me to put my feet down solely in the capital; a rarity for me, given that I had enough time for several day trips, or even another destination(north). After the expected but un- purchased flight for Wednesday ballooned over $500, I was forced to look for later in the week. Friday, my next option proved too much as well; over $400. Yet, in present state I needed out. Sunday, for under $300, would have to work and has since given me hope to return to Hangzhou; despite all the skepticism that I have with their present, and presumably near future. So, with extending this now for four more nights-five days; the challenge of budgeting became heightened. Luckily, with the habit already implemented during Vietnam, it hasn’t been all out my nature; instead, it has potentially added to my time, certainly altering. What has come of late has highlighted two memorable truths; first Bangkok is cheap, that I will explain soon. Second, I can live with so little (at least here for this brief time) and be content. Take yesterday; but before mentioning expenses by day, I must account for the already paid; hostel lodging for $6.75 a night. Now, with desiring to stay below seven dollars a day for food, yesterday turned out to be $4.72 total. Delaying breakfast for several hours until it seems absolutely necessary, as lunch, and neglecting coffee I am able to hold expenses until later in the day. Food between a supermarket bakery, several street vendors, and a simply forgettable dinner from 7-eleven, paired with two 1.5 liters of water came out to be 137-Baht (roughly $4.50). Then came the local ferry with the bike, costing 10Baht or about ($.33). The surprise came to me later in the day, when I realized that aside from housing, I stayed under $5 for the day; or $12 with housing. I have now planned out a maximum of 210Baht per day; roughly $7, not including the near $7 a night. This additional $2 allows me to visit the nearby internet cafe and spend two hours there, amounting to 60Baht($2). It this all holds true, led by the ability to rent a bike each day, then I have erased the feelings that filled me just days ago; ones of boredom and fear of wasting my time away here with nothing to do but spend money.
How nice it is, after conversing with a few Americans; an injured traveler, a former Chinese teacher and an inspirational traveler/biker and recorder of journeys, to find a fellow adventurer. Funny, to come after several days passing by with pleasantries; yet, Bilal would provide me a short term travel partner. He the social one, wanting to improve his English; escaping the German winter to once again make use of the Australian work visa, the escapades in southeastern Asia are just him reaping the reward of the physical work of a foreign farmer. In our time together, he would introduce me to fellow foreign workers headed to Australia; due Italiani dal nord. Bilal would bring out the social aspect in me (lacking), including me in a stinky and fuzzy walk along the back alleys of our neighborhood with a carefree German, and fellow Born Free hostel mates; particularly two: an interesting French girl and a talking Dutch girl. Perhaps, my only show of gratitude; in what I could offer; aside from a listening ear, was knowledge, with a different area of the city. After biking around the National Stadium days prior, we would return early in the morning to take advantage of his last remaining hours in the city and a rare chance to exercise in a unique spot. Equipped with an Olympic pool; that I would later visit with the French researcher, an outdoor free weights and lifting machines area, and most interesting to us, a large track and field facility, we’d do as the locals. In a place that we could fit in, unlike the tourist streets of Khao San cluttered with whites of all ethnicities, we were in peace. I explained to him, that in every city; if given the chance (with nine days in Bangkok, I certainly did), I like to find my part; imagining where I would spend my time if it was my home. With his energy and fitness, unlike mine, he would do lap after lap; me settling on a 400 at a time. Yet, the six or seven that I would do, paired with squats and lunghes, made me feel something that has been lost since I stepped on an ankle some time ago. I felt high and proud, irritated at myself, but determined to get back to a former confident shape and condition. This morning is a start, a comforting feeling, with soreness in my calves, and quads, but not in my ankle(s). A far cry from where I began this journey on an early Saturday morning, weeks ago, leaving behind the crutches to limp around with the hope of improvement.
Since joining with Bilal, I added a component to my trip that was coming to an end. What I gained, company was familiar; at least the language and mannerisms. A French man wouldn’t alter that too much and I noticed a level of comfortability in being amongst Europeans. In hearing Italiano again, era goia. Si, mio Italiano non e bene, certainamente, con non pratricare. Tuttavia, era fico a sedersi ed ascoltare a lui dice “cazzo” o porco dio” questi io ricordo bene con una sorrisa. Qui, provo ascoltare e ricordare che ero imparato Italiano l’anno scorso. Si rendemi felice del passato pero lo so che il futuro, e il presente e differente. Non studio Italiano ma cinese, e con cina ed asia, qui mia mente ed attenzione deve essere. Ma per questo tempo a Bangkok, in le sedie a Madame Keaw Ristorante, o camminare le strade; senza problemi della cina, Io sto contento con compagnie familiare. Grazie tutti.
Hard to believe, especially with how it all looked; or at least with how I was feeling upon the explosion of the virus and the subsequent cancellation of my flight, but it has been four weeks since I have been home. I can’t help but hide my enthusiasm for a return, considering the mindset of just dragging about; even despite the epidemic and quarantine, Binjiang district, Star Avenue is where I reside and feel a belonging. In order to make sense of it all, perhaps more impactful to see how-why-where-what I gained from this extended holiday, I see it fit to reflect upon what was recorded each day, early on for sheer Curiousity-to proper allocation of even payment in thirds-and finally most crucial, to the sole purpose of ensuring that I would be able to financially budget properly. To begin; I do not include the flights, eventually becoming 5 purchased (the original Roundtrip to/from Hanoi, then to Bangkok, one to return Hangzhou and a backup plan; a cheap return to Bangkok three days after arriving back home-if things are as some have described or written, I both want to and need to see for myself). First, after arriving to Hanoi: I’d make my way to Ninh Bing, spend two evenings there then make way back to Hanoi for an evening to pick up mom and J in the airport the next morning. During this brief period, I spent 37 dollars a day. Next with heightened luxury in all ways: hotels, meals, transportation, and entertainment; along with traversing between three destinations(Ninh Binh, Sapa and Hanoi), we’d spend (each) $50 a day.
Naturally, in an unfamiliar culture-environment and a stranger to the language, all expenses did not go smootjlsmoothly; an example being a wasted $33 for three tickets for a bus that we never made, thus additional expenses were incurred just to make the destination, unfortunately happening several times throughout these weeks. After their departure, I went back to solo travel mode, and made my way to the bay; with booking a room for five nights at Cat Ba Island. In addition to time in Hanoi, this week alone in Vietnam; before my expected return to Hangzhou, turned out to be $35 per day. What came next was unexpected, a move of presumpable desperation; yet throughly researched and with the intention to be able to return home to my bed, laptop and apartment. What was designed to be a seven day layover in Bangkok; since the flight for the next Wednesday(the original cheapest day) would balloon over $500, added an additional four nights. Now ten days in Bangkok pushed me toward an avenue that I hadn’t encountered in my travels; the surprising challenge excited me and captivated me into tracking my costs by the minute that it was made. Despite being prevented or deterred from doing certain activities, visiting another city or eating at most restaurants, what I came to learn was increased resourcefulness amongst several other lessons. These days of low cost activity, while also beginning to record a daily online lesson for the children, would turn out to be $22 a day. With an average of $7 for the hostels each night, eating mostly cheap street food and at inexpensive restaurants, and managing without in some cases, I found that it wasn’t overall difficult; but did require full attention and meticulous planning (at least I made it so). Ultimately, I am flying away from the capital of Thailand, with a different experience than most foreign twenty something males; and yet, no matter the money at my disposal, I wouldn’t have desired paying of seeking the company of a local employee or staying up all night on benders. The joyous moments came at surprising moments, thanks to the desire to venture away from the tourist attractions & neighborhoods, and most accredited to the kindness of local people and conversations with fellow travellers. The gains of travel are aplenty, often intertwined with obstacles, surprises and the temporarily unexpected.
Since I have returned to Hangzhou, coming back into the cold of the winter in eastern China, and yet not at all what I expected. From the flight, that brought back the reminder of the seemingly constant kindness of the people around me; first, in a girl behind me explaining the updated news (in Chinese) coming from the flight crew-we would be required to remain on board. One passenger, the girl sitting a seat away from me, needed to be checked again. Then, to two passengers assisting me with getting my China Mobile account re-up; a quick mobile hotspot and steps to Alipay allowed me to go back to normal. Stuck without wifi and no data in China feels like the world is caving in; no access to money, no didi, but here no problem. Then, came stepping out of the plane, and feeling the night breeze; one passenger even offered me her blanket to cover my sleeveless short and shorts self with; I thanked her, but this was my stupidity, claiming it was warmer in Bangkok. The first of two tests came that night, yet after him finally seeing me, the apartment watchman opened the locked up doors, checked me (by scanning my forehead for my temperature) and let me go. Here there was talk of potentially being prevented from entering my home, yet soon I was back in my chilly twenty third floor apartment; oh I need the space heater on. The next day, I realized a perk, in seeing Eric (three floors up), I am able to freely do that, catch up and not be at all worried about breaking my potential self-imposed seven day quarantine; the one that I was told would come to me (my worry). Yet, when Eric and I would go out for groceries later on, there would be no prevention, he going out the day before, and me for my first time. No letter to sign, agreeing to a quarantine, nor would there be too much resistance at the two groceries stories we went to, just scans on the forehead and wrists and showing the Hangzhou (Green) Healthcode. I’d ask him all about how the last few weeks have been, as I explained I had bought a flight as a backup plan for two days from now, yet this now doesn’t seem necessary; it’s just cold. He’d explain, just having him in occasional company, each day for coffee or for two additional trips out the coming week has provided the needed social component and yet, I feel as if I am missing nothing. Especially, when the next two times we get activity, biking in the sun; best comes yesterday-a day, along with Monday, that we planned the week around. In going out every two days, we determined to get the better (sunny and hot) days, decided to forego going out every other day, to get the peak days. That came with a 70 degree Saturday that offered a perfect biking day, and an almost spring feeling weekend day. Plenty of others had our thinking, as the lake to the south (Xianghu) was packed; nothing to what I could imagine West Lake would be like. The warmth, the feeling of a season changing and the noise of children laughing about, ushered in a happiness that seemed to allow me to forget about all my previous worrying; what is China like, is it safe to return; now my plan to escape seemed like folly. This is what I have sought since I arrived in the city in the intense heat and humidity of the summer, a spring that I am told lasts; we’ll see. Yet, for now, it appears we will have another day coming Monday, peaking at high 70s and then rain will come. The freedom to move about, with stores opening up, owning a strong content feeling to reside inside n catch up in my own space, and company to throw ideas off each other, easily allows disguise from the abnormality to uniqueness.
Tomorrow, March 2nd, is our ‘expected’ start date, following the further delay of school; initially suppose to begin February 6th. Now sits a period and situation; I imagine, that is foreign to us all, as no one could have fully foreseen what was to come of this virus, nor now what will the pandemic become. There are talks, and concerns within our own school of a further delay; potentially lasting the month of March, or even later, to affect our summer vacation. To picture that, albeit entirely too early on; with the complete absence of a confident expectation of what will come, is difficult. To not have a break, which is solely needed to visit family at home; especially now, since the avenue to see Dad and Tracy in Shanghai has been removed, would be harsh to face. Despite all my speculative issues; as I am prone to do, I should turn attention to the real present; one which appears to have countries around the world reeling. To see Iran, and Japan reacting with such concern and caution, to a problem initially attached to solely China, shows the con of our ease globalizing travel; a problem spreads. Yet, to see Italy and South Korea now ravaged by the virus, draws my direct focus toward individuals that; like them in concern of me, have my thoughts. I’m sure and certainly hope, as the news has spoken of more northern Italy, that the family down south; far removed from such larger cities-destinations, is safely removed from it all, yet the reaction can be severe. Quarantines, heightened stress, and a lack of resources can change the dynamic of an area; we’ve seen it here in Hangzhou; but, I can hardly doubt that there is such dramatic-quick reaction as we have seen throughout China. Perhaps, it could be in South Korea, where I turn in my attention to Yeol in Seoul; to my knowledge stationed near the border, and how it all could affect him. Funny enough, watching Trump’s news conference today, I could actually agree with him; perhaps, this whole ordeal, despite countries being ravaged and in fear, brings people oddly together. For this brief period, and certainly the case all the time; yet, people in China, the U.S., and Iran, all have the same concerns and can relate. At the time, there is no room; nor should there ever be, for hatred, prejudice and violence. Instead, with the villain, fear or enemy if you will, one that we all face, it turns away from man vs. man, and country against country, to one of general human welfare. I don’t know when I go back to work, nor how prepared the U.S. Task Force is for the coming virus; yet, what I do know, is there is a wide concern for all.
Strange, its been a month plus, since I returned to Hangzhou; never having to quarantine for the 14 days (thankfully!) With life here almost returning to normal, aside from the prevention of the masses of people congregating together (again, thankfully), it is plausible to see the next step begin; since restaurants have begun to open, schools. Work would be nice to return, the meaning for me being here in China, since it would be the true representation of the normalcy here. Yet, I have found my sweet spot; regarding my routine, and time put into daily interests and passion projects. Despite all that, what has provided me with the occasional solace; needed more at the beginning of this period of uncertainty, has been company. Best symbolized yesterday in conversation with Eric over my writings, or in the two trips we took last weekend; combined with Adam and Emma, to places north of Binjiang. The opportunity each day, once feeling a successful completion (for a day’s worth-although seemingly never enough, with the towering workload on deck for years to come), to leave the apartment and head out on the bikes has provided great relief. With the weather improving, the ease of riding around the city, and, paired with the near endless activities to explore the nature side of our surrounding areas (see West Lake, Xianghu lake, and any map of the many green areas of the suburbs), the need to work again is non-existent. Getting into a daily routine has provided me with a schedule that appears to sustain me for the near future-not knowing how long school will continued to be delayed; possible start dates: the second week of April, or the start of May? Here, it appears, I have all I need; a rare feeling for me; considering wherever I lived prior, I always felt something to be lacking. Perhaps, it is an improvement, and a continual focus on development that has generated such; or maybe, with a city, stock full of nature, good biking and hiking, plenty of opportunities to see something different, and paired with good friends, I have found a happy medium. The daily process inside is clear; waking for the dawn, for hours of reading, now video editing, a focus on writing, and the search for growth; yet, what has lacked in the past, is a balance. In being honest with myself, and therefore, to the people around me; as the conversation with Eric pushed me further than ever before in discussion and in detailing my aim and desire with my writing; an integral part of me, it appears I have learned something from my faults in the past. There I wasn’t true to all, and especially myself; fair enough, considering I didn’t know myself, but now; despite, very well in the same unaware bliss, I am at least able to admit to what I am working toward.
We’ve received word, as things have continued to improve here throughout the city; as the rest of the world worsens, we will go back to school on Tuesday. Not sure to what end, as the entire school staff is separated across the days; working only half days, in hopes to keep the teachers from congregating together at work. Therefore nothing normal, who’s to say when the students will be allowed back. Yet, it has been ten plus weeks, and counting; six since returning to Hangzhou. Didn’t know what to expect when I took this job, moved to China, and began working at a kindergarten school, but this whole ordeal was not in the realm of my thinking. So, to offset the immense amount of time alone, I have turned inward and the progression of myself; and what I do each day. Once video editing, uploading was completed; a quick process, I have moved toward my past year and it’s recording. How insight this can be, to see a progression and judge the dividends; first, in reading about the hopeful moves to better my move toward increased isolation and solitude abroad. Wow, I couldn’t have dreamt it up better, not only did focus go into becoming more content alone, but now the preference; which, considering this most recent break and present, is a delight to have developed this with myself. Between writing about me, editing past writings, videos, and then to the reading; books coming and going, I now notice the necessity in being here. The intent each day with strict attention on a goal, with Nietzsche, Jung, Feurbach, Bruno all in line; with a mentality, read-absorb and regards to the book, knock them down. With the long list to come, I can’t have enough ‘free’ time, for leisure what a great find; little to distract or remove me from where I desire to be. Yes, I look forward to school beginning, truly, whenever that will be; and yet, with how this past month has gone, it’s gotten clear.
Following three half days at work this past week, I get three off days before a the beginning of full days. Perhaps, this means that the remainder of the month we will be full time; almost like normal, senza studenti. Report shows May 6th could be the return date for the children, an outcome that seems logical; even, months ago. The return to full-time status is a welcome one, yet, who’s to know what it will be like when it all begins again. For now, I am content, making use of the time that I have for my disposal. Funny, in talking my dad then mom, I couldn’t imagine a better place to be; nor a more fitting situation to be in. It’s April, and who knows what will be in store for the future months; thus, I look backward. The editing of my writings; beginning with Grounding-Flight, has led me back to Virginia, during periods of strife, turmoil, and confusion. Yet, what becomes very evident; especially, once removing my stare from the computer to see my surroundings, is the growth. Last year, during the early days in April, I recall all the questions that swirled around me; and the near resistance to the exciting, and saddening change that was coming. The year before, I wandered about my early days in April with Brock, as we navigated ourselves through some interesting and challenges times in Sicily. Three years ago, reeling from my second semester at VCU, and questioning if I would find myself abroad again, I dove into company and enjoyment of the present. Four years ago, brings me on the heels of graduation from Blue Ridge, back when I was just planning for a trip abroad; unaware of what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know it at the time, but those upcoming two months would open up a different avenue of life to me, and set me on this present path. Each and every experience, whether positive and prideful, or a failure paired with pain, has led me here; which, if I take the time in reflection, I see a joyous and heightening process of growth.
The week has finished, the first full week of work since January, and I have learned of several new happenings within the school, and the K1D classroom. First, as it is most pressing to the school, and all that reside within the three story kindergarten, the government has issued a date; May 6th, for the earliest date that the children can return. On Wednesday, we were given details to how it will impact us; as Eric, Adam, and I have prepared for in discussion. Beginning next week, we will work three days a week, and in return, will receive 76% of our salary; no doubt a hit to a wide variety of staff members. Thankfully, and then hopefully, it should last only until the May 6th date, and I have frugally and incidentally prepared for such an occasion. Now, to K1D, and our classroom decorations; in changing from a more generic-broad Disney led theme, to one that emphasizes the world; and a Sharing the Planet theme. This, like the drastic efforts to improve the classroom in the past, has given me much joy and consumed much of my time at work; while other teachers are wondering why they are there. It’s funny to me, yet, this; paired with the time Adam, Eric, and I up on the third floor balcony, or going out for lunch has made work quite enjoyable these past days. It doesn’t hurt that I thoroughly enjoy working with the team again; Lee hom Fang, Song Song Pang, and Liu-Laoshi; whom after requesting me, I gave an English name-Aliyah. Now, we have four A’s; the prior two, Alina and Averie. Finally, I’m not sure to what the cause, but I am regrettably noticing interests back with my TA; something which, despite our rapport, and joking can not be allowed to further anything more than that. It is not new with her, nor to me in the past; yet, I find myself desiring to better learn Chinese to communicate with her; or dispel her absurd comments that she is fat, due to her face-ni shi Zhong guo ren, I tell her. Other times, I joke that I am as well; calling out the window at the other English teachers; tamen shi wei-guo ren. All in all, its been great; a feeling coming of normalcy. Next, come Sunday, after two meals again at the breakfast spot; back up, I will meet Tina to look for apartments. I’m not sure if the place will still be available, but hope.
Two weeks, two different trips to experience something new; a smaller version of China, from what I have become accustom in Hangzhou. With the four day weekends, it’s a shame, harkening back to Italy, that I don’t have more freedom; yet, with being a foreigner with obligations, in a time of worldwide chaos, I must recognize how I am to be viewed. This is why, I have become equipped to a question that I received on our first trip; Shen’ao to visit Vicky. While, still considered part of Hangzhou, the small ancient town of a roughly five thousand, located about an hour away was difficult to arrive. Doesn’t help when Eric and I, on the train misheard the announcement (in Chinese), which led us to not get off at the Tonglu stop but earlier. A Didi ride would help us out, but first the train station customs; we’re on us once they saw two white guys in the crowd of locals-nationals. Ultimately, very little problem; even, provided me the chance to practice speaking Chinese with the driver, something that would become a theme of our two night stay in small town Zhejiang, China. That was, perhaps, my favorite part of the trip; aside from a delightful several hour hike in the Daqi mountain resort; equipped with amusement park like outdoors games for kids (Eric and I enjoyed), and then on our way down, a simple rollercoaster ride down! It was just nice being immersed in nature, yet, with being picked up by Vicky’s friend, we got a wonderful surprise; well, not totally, as it was planned, but to see her! Eric received exactly what he wanted; a beautiful Chinese rural dog, to which he named her, Melon in Chinese (Humiguo?). She would naturally attract a large majority of our attention for the remainder of the day, and next morning; before our departure the next afternoon. It is here that the simple things; like a cheap-delightful $3 haircut, a walk around the town, and in conversation about what animals reside in the lake (sha-yu, jing-yu, qi’e, etc.) that I found most fun. The housing, void of my laptop and the city distractions, was a nice reprieve, and showed me something that I haven’t experienced yet in China. Luckily, the next week, with Liu Laoshi’s urging, and the arrival of Xiao-zhuzhi? (Alina’s boyfriend) we headed to Quzhou; Liu Laoshi’s home town. Leaving at work, early, by 3pm got us perfectly stuck in traffic; en route to our destination, roughly three hours away. Fortunately, this gave me plenty of time, to practice my Chinese; as we could only communicate through translator, oh and we did. Sitting shotgun in her car, han-han (her 6 month puppy) in the backseat, gave me a unique chance to further our relationship; never really having the time to discuss about politics, travel, and culture. Upon our arrival, the first floor, and the dinner table was set up for us; as people came in and out. Mostly, her family; since it’s her mom’s home, and her siblings reside nearby, we’d get talk with them, and some kids. The neighbor kids, I’m told, were particularly interested in me; a wai-guo-ren! I’d, of course, claim that it was Alina that was the foreigner, saying bu shi-wo shi zhong-guo ren. Her boyfriend would be claimed to be Japanese, and Alina an American; thus the only person, unable to properly respond to the kids, was Chinese. It was unique to be somewhere so small, that the people took more interest in the sight of a foreigner; especially her mom. This is something that I would encounter the next day, once we met the couple at the mountainous resort. They had planned for me to have a place there as well, but they wouldn’t accept foreigners; I played the part, lowering my head, putting up my hood, and sadly walking about, saying Wo shi wai-guo ren. It worked out well though, a comfy bed at her mom’s large three story corner home, and I then, got the chance to walk about the rural fields in the morning with Liu-laoshi and Han-Han. Stunning views, but more so, the quaint peacefulness, something not as accessible in the big city. The resort brought on a series of different feelings, first with breakfast, and the couples high of coming off a night with each other. Regrettably, I couldn’t stop myself from seeing my own single existence, and how I desired the company of our missing class member, and yet, the shear impossibility of it; even mentioning it would be absurd enough. So, afterward, I worked to dispel these thoughts, which a hike to see the surrounding area, and then an exciting suspended ropes course helped! Liu laoshi really didn’t speak volumes enough of the place; not that it would have helped, with me not being able to understand. We’d spend the remainder of our time at the resort, eating lunch with her uncle, interrupted by the police, to meet and check me out; so briefly that it didn’t register of importance, and yet, they all felt bad. I assured them, that it was nothing, I know I am a foreigner; despite, the joking. Afterward, we headed to the city, to the wet-market, and to buy too much food; not stationed in the classroom. We’d eventually part, with me needing to return to sign the lease to my next apartment, the following morning. The drive, wasn’t bad, I found the couples company delightful; always do with Alina. Yet, the thoughts of her returned; I worked through past and future to aid me, looking into all the places that I want to live. I, then, even thought of the type of person that I would want to be with; now in the belief that finding a Chinese nu-pengyou could integrate me, and I could learn from her. In thinking, in due time, a fitting partner would be welcome.
I find myself, in a position of supreme fortune; an American abroad far removed from the hardship presently engulfing my home country. In recently, moving to a different apartment; going up in rent from 4300 to 4800 RMB a month, seems to barely register here with me; yet, if back in Virginia, or I imagine anywhere else, near $700 a month for rent would be too much for me. What disturbs me, though are my continued feelings; not of gratitude, fortune or concern for the well-being of my loved ones (it helps that no worries are needed, with all family healthy as can be). I am here, working out feelings of enclosure; entrapment, separateness, and desires that leave me wanting to leave myself; as if I can no longer deal with my own company. How, can I feel so low, remain selfishly consumed by dread of days alone, when I ought to consider what my life could be right now? So, I, in comfort on the couch of a new apartment, undisturbed by any outer world events; no concern of finances, employment, or health, look to continue a long process; of inner me.
You’ve been here before, with Jenn, then Sarah, Haley, Shay, Katie, and Mahogany. This feeling of separation, disconnection, is a matter of the present. What has become evident in the past months, since returning to work, is the void. A longing, empty feeling seems to consume; providing a surplus of energy within that takes me away, but it offers energy. Use that, like in the past, and take the next step; first a review of my past. Next, dive into the shakras; ensuring that no matter what, that I don’t continue to lose myself. Lastly, the eightfold path provides a route to keep aligned; instilled proper action and thought. All of this is necessary to correct myself, then trust; just like always in the past, that with ample time, someone will arise. Yet, what I have learned with my past, aside from one, all have been easy; perhaps, that what was appealing, not having to jump out of my box, just a friend-coworker-or a mutual friend. Then, that might be the problem, the ease remained, and prevailed above all else. Now, I must trust the process, of me, but also work it; putting myself into situations and acting upon them. Dad is right, I will not grow nor further my link to here by remaining in my comfort zone that I have created living outside my comfort zone.
Alina’s birthday, a cause to celebrate; the next day mine, they don’t need to know. Feel that I celebrated already, night before HotPot for the first time; regrettably, too much Coca Cola, that caffeine, and the amount of food led to roughly two hours of sleep. Yet, happy to be at work on her day, with energy I turn to this classroom, and the beginning of writing Chinese (a book a purchase); with two sets of eyes peering over me, instructing me. In the afternoon, three of us close; Liu laoshi across the room. Wan Li comes in, the administrator saying her stuff (ting bu dong), I say something, she responds. Points to the person next to me, sitting in the chair, “Andrew, nu de pengyou!” Song Song tells me not to respond, how could I? Do I lie, and say that I wouldn’t want it, tell the truth, or stay silent with a puzzled face? I choose the third, and waited for her continuation of claims. She continues to say how Song Song is beautiful, “isn’t she?” Yes, I agree, I respond every time when she claims “My Fat,” corrected that—at least should say, I’m Fat, when she’s not, hopefully one day, it will be internal, I’m thin. Yet, something to this odd interaction, while I can’t deny feelings and desires, they don’t seem to lead; as they once did. Yes, the evening, hours later, I sat for minutes reflecting upon this; how my present life would be aided, and far more enjoyable with her. Yet, look at Brad, or Emma, etc. Their lives seem full, but I imagine me; in four years of a relationship, considering all goes well, what I am to do; settle down, move to Harbin, start a family? with such desires on the horizon. Ah, reason has come back to me; seemingly a consistent battle with the emotions and passions, yet, now this whole occurrence just has me smile. Yes, she’s beautiful, if you’d like I’ll even say I like her, think of her; yet, what of it, here, and later, I have a job to do.
Past week, has been troublesome with sleep; an odd occurrence, with difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and then, waking all too early. Today, marked three times that I woke up way too early, and/or, had an altogether bad night of sleep. Hardly considered rest, yet, I have found no slip-ups in my work; whether at Wesley or not. With the update today, of K1 coming back in nine days, paired with the extension of our work-week to five days; something that now confirms (I’d imagine) the return to 100% pay, I cannot continue this trouble. So, I trouble shoot; the first day, clear following HotPot and too much Coca Cola drinking (a true rarity for me), I couldn’t sleep; so, only an hour’s sleep. The next, paired with this most recent, have me continuing the modification of my schedule. It calls for the complete addressing of me; perhaps, I allow my mind to wander, eat too much-too late, or am not tiring my mind properly. The first, well yes; whether it be about a girl, learning a language, or life, I know this; developments made. I can easily take on the eating problem, if that is so, and then there is the attention to my mind; simple, I must continue my reading directly prior to bed. Now, when I wake up now; on these early mornings, like today, at 330am, I find two things. First, the now seemingly constant work being performed outside; whether it be the metro line or the apartment complex, is beginning to tire me, luckily though not impacting my sleep. Then, seeing that I have found myself awake; somewhere between three to one hours before expected, I must make use. This morning, I finished the reflection upon my time with Haley, moving along the self-observation writing, all generated by the present desires-feelings for a co-worker inside K1D. Here today, I am able to turn toward something of a smiley result; moving upon a desire to bring her my truth. As lunch was on the horizon, and following our three group video sessions, I saw her down, and consumed by her phone. I took notice, and figured this would be as good a time as any, to finally present some of my thoughts about her. After writing down into the translator, I walked over to her, bent down, and sat the phone on the tiny chair in front of her. Something along the lines of, “don’t ask why, but know that any man would be lucky to be with you. Never doubt that, or be concerned about you weight.” I felt the importance of the later portion, considering it would be another day of her not eating lunch. Her response, choking up to fighting back slight tears, made enough of a thank you to me; then I responded, “ni shu yao ni zhi dao, shuo Mei tian shuo wo zhi dao.” It was a simply move, and yet, back me up so much; I only hope the same for her. That morsel was just a sweet taste of a day, in which I realized the kids would be coming back, and to begin the return of a more normalized routine; and ultimately, the reasoning for being here.
Old & New
Two days; Thursday and Friday, brought forth feelings of the old, yet in new situations. To begin, I left class on Thursday with intention; first, soon to teach for a half hour. Six Chinese teachers, adults; calling back to my summer at Skyline Literacy Academy, had me excited for the challenge. Then, to a half hour afterwards, to work with Tina, Sandy, and Adam to improve my ability in language, Chinese. Yet, it wasn’t all that was on my mind; instead, I continued to think about how I need; despite making progress, to improve upon my attachment. I thought, a day away from having kids; albeit only five, that I need to destroy my continued illusion of my feelings for another, while also, better remaining in the present; all of this to benefit my surroundings, soon the kids! The next morning would come, and with that; Josh, Jennifer, Hardy, Amily, and Stephanie. We’d nervously, and impatiently, wade outside alongside the other four groups of K1 teachers for our kids; having to sift through the far more plenty of other K1 classes. Yet, when each of our five came through the gate, it was a blessing; even greater, when they adapted and accepted the new-old change, so well. Soon, we’d have the five of them, with the four of us in our class again; playing with old toys, and examining classroom changes. That latter, made circle time easy; let’s see what is different, how we play with this, and where we put this back. Such a delight, again, to see Josh smile, hear Jennifer laugh; causing the four of us to melt inside, and have our xiao peng you with us again. I’d explain this throughout the day, first proclaiming that I didn’t know how much I missed them; and then, how they make my heart warm. Alina, responding to the latter; something I wholeheartedly agree upon, that only kids can bring upon such intensity of joy, and compassion. The day, surprisingly for the first day back, but also, unsurprisingly (considering only five kids) went well; snacks, lunch, class time, nap, and then outdoor play. There was a wrench thrown in, though, requiring Alina and I to meet in the Sunshine Bar for urgent news. I’d know as soon as I saw Miao (K1A) sitting there with the administrators; rumors of some classes made it easy to comprehend. Talks, surrounding us to merge, soon became how will we ease the parents of both classes; after all, K1A is without a foreign teacher. So, that forty five minute session, paired with a near hour after school, has given insight; two classes will merge, taking K1A as the base and leaving potentially our TA out of the fold; conflicting thoughts upon that. My arguments for support were heard; gaining both K1A’s TA, and our Life Skills Teacher; Liu-laoshi, but perhaps, it is better for Song Song to put her sole attention toward hobby class and IB videoing. Then, there’s potential separation, something I could benefit from; as being around her everyday is a consistent struggle. Yet, with the news last night; of her sending messages, and photos of bloody scrapes, could change her near future state. Translating the messages, and thinking about it, of her getting hit by a car, while on the bike; admittedly, pains me. Evidence of compassion, but beyond that, which I know cannot further on; and so, with all of this unexpected happenings, the only seemingly certainty is of my position. As K1A, from Gabby-Nas-Tori-Gabby, is in no need of any uncertainty of a wei-guo ren, suoyi, here I am with feelings; familiar feelings anewed.
2.5 years ago I had no avenue to teaching, 19 months ago I had no idea of Writing, 13 months ago I had no university degree, 10 months ago I had no teaching job. Now I live in China, teach kindergarten, study Chinese, Read-Write, have daily purpose connected to greater aims of future. I didn’t come to HZ for a Richmond life and my former desires, I came for experimentation, upliftment, and the beginning of a life that I for months-years dreamt about.
Coming into work on Monday, I had plenty of questions; especially considering the phone call I had with Alina on Saturday, being told we just wait and see. The morning would be just like any other, aside from now gaining Hao Miao (Chloe) making six students. Yet, soon, with seeing the allocation of foreign teachers to K1A, I would learn that I’d be a big part of their week; having me in the class part of the day throughout the week. Something I’d explain to Alina and Averie before lunch, as I’d make my way down to be K1A laoshi for the afternoon. It took some minutes to find my footing, and yet, soon it was clear that I could add; and they were all so welcoming. It helped to have Crystal and James so comfortable with me, either trying to tickle my neck or laugh relentlessly alongside me as she reviewed the pages of a book; over and over. Soon, with us going upstairs for p.e., it was clear how well behaved this class is; due to being the first Pre-K class last year, and their relationship with Miao. The kids took to my instruction well through p.e., on the second floor, and all was good until I’d see K1D come out. Strange, to see my six kids playing, as I stand alongside others. I’d explain later on, as Josh, Jennifer, and Stephanie called out Andrew, that it was strangely painful to not be with them. That was Monday, then comes the next two days; being in K1A in the mornings of Tuesday, and Wednesday. Strange, to stand at the gate, looking for both K1D, and K1A; awkwardly managing to look for both as I also, disregard the joking jabs from the K1D duo that I’m K1A. It’d become easier, once separated, me in K1A with Gloria, Miao, and the sixteen students, but again, crossing paths on our way outside on Tuesday, just seemed strange. K1A, wave hello to K1D; as I pass by my kids, later to poke my head into the hallway where they were playing to greet them with smiles. Then, as I’d turn back, I get a K1A kid running at me; play football with me. Perhaps, the strangest thing, is how quickly I took to the kids of K1A; with the mindset that come next week they’d be together. Kicking the ball around, being chased by six laughing students, felt like old times; now I only have six, in the other class. The kids would take well to my circle time habitat-animal boards, both Tuesday and Wednesday; making me feel that all I needed was to be in my role. That’s not certainly the case with, nor has it ever been, in K1D; where we’ve been exposed since day one. Yet, after three sessions divided, Brad would speak to me in the afternoon, yesterday, to express his concerns about me, and K1D; potentially taking me out too much. Considerate, that it is acknowledged the difficult position of being in two places; take outdoor time on Wednesday. As the K1A kids on the second floor worked through an obstacle course; jumping over and crawling under, I’d see K1D come out and be over there. Soon, it felt as if I was divided; supporting K1A in their pursuits, while aspiring to be in the running circle of chase the K1D teacher. I couldn’t hold back as I did the day before; joining the mix and relieving Fang-laoshi, for the kids now to chase me. In picking up Jennifer, and later seeing the photo, it all made sense; my departure from them, made it tough but the brief reunions very sweet. Regardless, what happens, I have realized the situations are unique either way; perhaps, I gain order and structure in K1A. Maybe, I lose out on my flirtatious relationships of K1D; maybe, that needs to go anyways. The time apart from K1D attachment has aided, while also, acting in the same way with as the kids; gifting me the chance to see what I am missing. The daily change over has given me insight; prompting slight irritation yesterday as K1D lacked order, and the desired behavior that I saw exhibited in the morning at K1A; yet, all I do can from this is learn. Learn that next year will be different, me too.
The stain of a country, for a people, continues to plague a nation as the fight against the virus wages on. Even, in being across the world, far removed from the disgusting truth about my homeland, I am not able to escape such gripping truths. First, mom’s insistence upon the cold blooded murder of Mr. Arbery in Georgia, then Liu lash’s post in our group chat about George Floyd. She’d show the video to me yesterday, as we sat in the hair salon, pointing to the white police officers; hui dan, hui dan (bad eggs they are). No, how do I explain, to my Chinese family here; of my feelings, of the continuous bleeding heart of Americans? To watch a human being, an American being suffocated to death by the very people deemed to ‘protect and serve,’ who are they protecting, and serving, one might ask? Not the public, or at least not the well being of the Americans that fear the blue badge, like they came to fear the auction block and the whip in years past. Oh, when will it get better; how can it get better, instead, let’s turn us back in time to when there would be no question of such inhumane cruelty upon the destruction of a human’s life. Yet, it appears with such treatment, that we haven’t left; for how could we possible see that video of a police officer and think that he doesn’t seem himself kneeling on the neck of a calf, or perhaps, putting his weight on the very ground itself. That is what’s evident to me, he did not consider the man that he was killing to be a man at all; and yet, with another video of a New York City woman, Amy Cooper, it is yet again clear; we take no regard for these peoples lives. These black people, these Americans, are very evidently in these two videos in our way; as if the only course of action is to silence the buzzing fly in the room. Perhaps, we should more so liken ourselves to that dominant thought in Germany was many years ago, exterminate them, for they are not us, and thus deserve the worst; for that is our truth, past and present. Maybe then, if we properly declare such apparent truth, then we could encounter the same resistance that we offered up against such tyranny during the 1940s. Is it necessary to burn bodies to get such an International reaction; but we’d done that, and hung them out to dry on trees across the south, just like the images I saw in Dachau. Or perhaps, we should recreate the Shoes on the Danube memorial, and dumps bodies in the rivers all across in the country; but, have we not done that already? Then, I must ask, what else is there to do? We have our SS, police force that is, and the millions of Americans (past and present) in favor of such destruction; as long as it doesn’t affect me and my whiteness. Yet, have we not learned; from the son hanging there in the heat, and calling out for his father’s help, or the generations of enslavers, we have just as much to lose as these victims. Yes, they will lose their life; a saddening physical construction to waste away, and yet, we they people seemingly unaffected, have perhaps just as much to lose. For we will remain in our continuous destruction, only keeping the hollow, hardened exterior shell, of a body; but, what is inside? It is quite evident, whether it be the children watching their fathers whip, lash, and enforce themselves upon their human livestock; only to grow up to do the same, or our present, with the countless videos without retribution, there is nothing that occupies within. We are a nation of people, whether the harmed or the harmer, the darker victims, or the pale freakish monsters, that is without; living with fear, anger, division, repression, avarice, and hypocrisy…what are we to do about the strain brought on by our people, against our own people?
Is how I feel right now; a combination of stress, disappointment, and embarrassment. To start with the later, upon discussing about Averie’s new boyfriend; something she has been looking for, and is now quite happy about, Liu Laoshi made a reference to me. Naturally, I didn’t understand, and yet, I did; Alina would translate it to me as having a broken heart. I laughed it off, yes, we well know the truth, but a broken heart, now. Perhaps, weeks ago, I would take this harder, and yet, it is clear to her of my feelings. Averie would push me to ignore her claims, something she has done between us the comments made about us two before; even with, the present conversation when she again referenced that I was a rich man. Then, my two floor apartment, and, then Alina referenced how we could live together; that got a laugh. All this was funny, and yet, while I am glad for her, for finding someone that she has been actively seeking, I am embarrassed of how I was led astray; how I push myself into a position, over a course of weeks, nearing two months, of desire. Then, there is the second; the disappointment with myself; only furthered by any embarrassment. The disappointment comes from my reactions to the first (stress), and how, I reacted throughout the last two days, in my desire to complete the circle time and UOI videos. I’d apologize to Averie today, something that I didn’t think I did thoroughly enough, due to the language divide; a slight cause for the initial irritation. So, I’d translate my words later on in the afternoon, as we sat nearby each other. What can I say, I again led my astray, by being in a state of disarray; due to the stress from the videos and putting pressure on myself. Then, there comes the former; stress, the state of K1D and even greater, me. While, we did not integrate, and have actually managed to acquire two new students, there is the removals of teachers, filling outward roles. First, there is me; potentially filling in the afternoon role for four days this week, after putting in five half days last week. I have even been asked to help complete their circle time UOI video, tomorrow when I arrive in the afternoon. If it isn’t enough to already construct the K1D lessons and then video; as our next teacher goes. Averie, it seems due to being talented in several key areas; filming and artwork, paired with the inability to say no, and K1D having only eight students, has become Wesley’s tool. Therefore, the roles she has previously accomplished, videoing and photos in particular have now been passed down. This has led to me videoing the UOI this afternoon, and a partial videoing of the circle time video today. So, I then further, in acknowledging her uptick in workload have accepted to continue to film, and then edit the IB consultant videos; something I don’t mind making it to be Andrew quality, thus not quite what it could be. This is what I can do, and in hope that the question will come; having my answer already prepared, this week we; I feel quite thin.
A conversation with the three in K1D, most evident with Averie; consistently, and for all to hear, those that could decipher my butchered Chinese. The children, as they ate snack just watched me adamantly try to explain; thankfully Alina works as a translator each day. How do I say, ren shi hen duo, a person is show much, so many things, so deep; yet to hear and see each day with a grown (sorta) woman, it is discouraging. Look in the mirror constantly, check the waist, don’t eat, how are my arms and my face, I look good-pride, then photo pose, bu piaoliang lowered it seems. Appearances are not everything and yet, from what I gather in class; first and foremost from Song Song then to Alina, asking about her weight and concern about looks, I couldn’t hold it in. I ask them, and tell them each day I ask myself, jintian zenme wo Jin bu; thoughts each day foremost. Wake up, throughout the day the aim and then reflect before bed, how did I improve, am I closer to being complete, did I successfully work toward becoming more happy and self sufficient, where do I still need to improve upon. And yet, with the question posed to them three; three Chinese women: 22, 24, ke neng 40s(?), there answers are clear, not a thought to them; not a concern or aim. Again, discouraging, so I digress, perhaps the hope is lost for these three stuck in a outdated, fixed model of certain roles; pretty gets suitors, suitors means more options, a hopeful better fit of a mate and then to a life that supports, through the acquisition of another. Ai ya, allora, I’d bring it up to Emma the next morning, during our 5mile run today, the first time in years; our aim to make us more beautiful through exercise, no! It provides clarity, improves health, and adds to a partial attempt of improving the whole of an individual; perhaps there is our problem. An individual, seems to be a new idea; maybe some have the luxury for such aspirations, and yet I do not want my K1D ladies, whether it be the teachers, or more so our xiao peng you to fall under such a trap that keeps us down; me included. Considering I walk into the same entrapment with desires of an incomplete, non-individual solely due to a kind beauty; so where’s the solution. What can I do, first acknowledge my present predictament, for falling lustful for a girl that has fallen for a saddening continuation of repression. Then, in conversation with people like Emma notice it is not all; whether it be girls or Chinese women, and strive for the freed.
The last two days, following a massage, the now usual arms on me, simple flirtation, and photos together have led me to a certain thought, this must stop. After all, take today being at school on a Saturday and thankfully wearing a smock throughout the day (being the old painter in the play). Today, on several occasions, no different than any other day, I’ve had times with her that I can’t immediately stand up. Yet, I’m at a school; somewhere near by are children, and here I am like this-due to my inability to stop my desires for her. So, with moving around the school, to find myself near her, later being in the class alone together, I had to be honest; first with myself then her. She was gone but I messaged, “shenme shi houhou you kong, wo su yao ni bang mang wo”. This would be my time, using an image of a moth and flame, to explain to her that to me this is us; her the flame and me the simple bug. I’d confess my interest in her and yet the clear inability to act, so I must stop burning myself; to stop the hurt. First, in asking her to stop the physical nature of our relationship (at work), then the photos, I hope to work toward easing the strain. She explained, next semester will be easier, as I told her “meitian, wo kan ni he tai nan le, danshi wo suyao shi k1d laoshi, not look towards her, so well see if this helps.