Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The First Month

I've become quite fond of life in Dalian.

My foot is healing slowly. I've been invited to the Beijing Games for gaelic football June 7th and 8th, which would be totally awesome but I have to first play the game and NOT take myself out. Is two months enough? Don't know.

I've been making progress on my Chinese; not as much as I'd like with vocabulary though. If I made a conscious effort to pick that up, then I'm sure I would, but I'm focusing mainly on recognizing characters so my spoken Chinese is still only conversational. And I refuse to pick up speaking errrrrr hua, pronouncing Ws like Vs, and actually saying the H in any word that starts with Sh or Zh. After 15 years in PA who thought I'd actually prefer being a "southerner"? haha.

I should probably hang out with more native Chinese speakers, but
1. there are none my age here since everyone here at Old Dawai is a Chinese language student and therefore...not Chinese
2. that basically means hanging out with Andrew and Caleb, since I think they know the most, but they're actually from Jersey and Baltimore haha
3. hanging with expats is terribly fun. There are few Americans here in Dalian; it's a lot of Europeans and Canadians, which I find incredibly interesting. Plus the expat community is pretty small so everyone knows each other; it's not like Shanghai where you can meet someone and never see them again (that's right, I actually listed a negative aspect about Shanghai haha). Most everyone I've met is around 23 or 24 and is here to teach English, while either learning Chinese or just trying to explore the country because they've just graduated.

I've also been teaching for the past month now at an elementary school every Tuesday and Thursday, on top of my tutoring job on Saturdays. I get only the minimum wage for English teachers here, 100 rmb/hour (14.28 USD) but it's nice to have a little extra spending cash. I was going to quit after my first couple days because it's a 40 minute commute one way, and I don't like children, but my five year olds really took to me and then I couldn't bring myself to quit. Even still some days I go thinking, I really hate this job, but when I arrive, they all start yelling to each other, "Ed-i-na's here!" and come hug me and I can't bring myself to leave.

It's been interesting though observing how the Chinese interact. The teachers can touch the children and it's not considered inappropriate- I can hug them, they give me kisses, we take pictures all the time before and after class. My Chinese counterpart Elva has smacked the kids a couple times when they're not paying attention, or being disruptive. At least once a week she will completely lose it and single out someone and give them a good berating in front of the whole class. Then she'll turn to me and say in a normal voice, "I'm sorry. Continue." And I just stand there like OH MAN and these five year olds are like, whatever. He had it coming.

Elva and I might go out to dinner one night though; I asked to exchange numbers tonight after class (which was me acting like a total buffoon trying to teach the kids the words "fly" "jump" "run" and "swim") and she gave me a hug she was so happy. She's 26 and I think she wants to improve her English, even though her English is decent already. Oh, random sidenote: Our principal studied in London, so when she speaks to me it's with a British accent. I love it!

So the weeks have just been flying by. I mostly stay around Dawai; the only time I go out is for a Carrefour run or when I go to work. The weekends usually involve going out Friday or Saturday, and then always Trivia Night on Sunday at Hopscotch. The nightlife isn't much, but now I think it's kind of cozy actually. Hopscotch is definitely my fave.

Thursday I'm finally going on a trip! Ever since last August, I haven't gone more than three weeks without traveling somewhere (last semester was chock-filled with traveling- I went to DC four times in one month), so being stationary for five weeks in one place has me aching to pack up and I'm visiting Sarah-Laura out in Taiyuan. I've heard it's a horribly polluted city, but I'm excited nonetheless to take that 19-hour bus trip and spend the weekend with her. Plus my grandmother's little sister lives out there; I plan on visiting her as well since Saturday would have been my grandmother's 88th birthday. I'm also doing something else in memory of my grandmother but that's a surprise for now....

I think I've struck a balance between being comfortable, and still stepping out of my comfort zone here. I could manage to put myself out there a little more, but hey, baby steps. I'm having a blast and wouldn't change anything about my experience so back to the mountain of homework I have to finish in order to enjoy this weekend.

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