Sunday, June 24, 2012

Helpful Hints

Sitting here, at 11pm with some thoughts on teaching/moving... and here they are.

Approach every year as if it is a new year.

Despite being surrounded by a familiar language and culture, each year abroad will be different.

There will be familiar aspects - like getting over horrendous jet lag, and going through some apartment hunting - unless the school provides you with an apartment- and currency converting, and obtaining visas and work permits if you are working legally-  like I am now in Taiwan. There might also be some familiar foods and language.

But, if you leave one country for another, or even one city for another, at times it feels like you're ... back at Square One. 

Homesickness now - as you are settling in, you will feel it again. The initial confusion and uncertainty makes you crave all that is familiar and "easy". But now, instead of just your family back at "home", it might also involve the people that you left behind in the last town/city that you worked in. Maintaining contact through email/chat, etc,- if they "make time for you" - had to include a jab at *someone* there. - will help. I've kept in touch with Jenny - the 5 yr old I used to tutor/teach in Foshan- 's father Tommy on QQ and he has invited me to stay with them when I come to visit Foshan in January. I'm thinking of doing a week long tour of Chengdu/Sichuan for Chinese New Year this year, and stopping in Foshan for 3 days after. We get about 2 weeks off at my school for the holiday I think.

A new school schedule - this year I still have two days off per week - BUT they are not consecutive. I'm off on Wednesdays and Sundays. I call them my "week-breaks" instead of the "weekEND". It has taken SO long for my body to get used to this phenomenon. Also, I think my regular class schedule is just busier in general this year - with classes back to back- most days I have a 5:30-7pm class and then a 7-8:30pm class right after that- so my energy levels still need to adjust. The good thing is, I live in a big city, so I can go out and explore any day/time. I don't need to take long trains/subways to get to a bar or a big tourist attraction and spend one whole day on travel. We have a lot here. Also, I only work afternoons and evenings - so even if my body is confused and keeps me up til 3am, I can sleep til noon and still get in that 8 hours of sleep time if I want.

A new school environment - despite being an "after-school, school", my kids here have homework and regular tests - including a mid-term and  final exam! The school that I worked at last year in Foshan was JUST opening when I arrived, I was the very FIRST teacher there. I had to conduct demo classes and really "sell" the school. But here, my school in Taiwan has been up and running for awhile. I feel like my responsibilities this year are more about making the classes fun and engaging and getting my kids to #1 enjoy them and have fun ... #2 and do well of course...  if you are having fun learning, this should come more easily.  Another difference this year is that I don't have an office here ..... I mean, we have a "Teacher's Office" but there are no individuals desks with computers- just some long desks to sit at and prepare lessons and write up summaries, etc. I miss having my "own desk".

*Expectations- try not to have too many. I assumed coming into a "big city" that more people would speak English here. But I've had the OPPOSITE experience. I find myself speaking more Chinese here in Taipei.... which is good, because I need to practice, but it definitely surprised me. Although most menus at big restaurants  here are in English - if they don't give you one, you could just ask "yo/meiyo yingwen caidan ma?" - Do you have an English menu? They might. Also, on the upside, it is easier to find Chinese classes and tutors here than it was in "small city- Foshan" China where I was last year.

*I was just also pleasantly surprised by my landlord and his wife/girlfriend coming upstairs to my apartment, knocking on my door and giving me a plate of "zongzi"- these bamboo wrapped sticky rice dragon boats with different fillings inside. SO sweet/nice of them. This year, I have a landlord who cooks for me! (:

I want to write about Lisa .... but I'm tired. I'm tired of it and I'm sad and frustrated and I just wanna go online - on QQ and write really awful things. But I don't .... because I'm waiting for her to answer one question - why did she give Helen her new QQ number, but she didn't give it to me - or to our friend Quinny.  Even if the account "has a virus" like she's claiming now. Why didn't she tell me that she was using it? Lisa worked with/knew both me and Quinny for 6 months, she worked with Helen for one day. I am going to try one more time. After this holiday is over.... maybe on Tuesday or Wednesday. I'm going to tell Quinny to tell Lisa to send me a message and tell me why.

I'm not gonna rest until I get that answer. Then I might "blow up her spot"... write snarky mean things about her on my QQ.... I don't know. If it's THAT hard to let me see pictures and answer ONE question, I deserve to let my imagination run wild and post whatever I want.

I feel like in China, and other communist countries, asking "why?" ("weishenma?" is probably not something that is encouraged. It's snuffed out after age 3-4 I'd guess. In a communist or maybe even just a collectivist country, you don't ask why. You don't get a vote. You listen to the authority, you go along with the group, you respect the opinion of your leader, your boss, your family ....  and don't dare ask them why. In China, you might work overtime at your job for a few hours without pay -but everyone does it. Who are you to ask "why?"

I love "why" ... it puts flavor into the story, it carries the conversation. It's the twists and turns of the theme park ride.... it's the laugh 2 minutes later at the end of a clever joke.

I am happy for this year .... for the little kindnesses and new experiences. I LOVE that my parents have figured out how to SKYPE  - or "SKYPT"as they both seem to call it/write in their emails to me .... even though I write "skype".  (:

But, if you move,  every year is different. Same as moving within your own country. It would be like me leaving New York and moving to Los Angeles - two cities - but two very DIFFERENT cities - not any real, accessible, subway system in the city of LA. I was only there for about three days and I liked it, but I didn't feel it had a real "city" layout like New York or Chicago.

So that's my "helpful hint". Be surprised.
and if something/someone completely bewilders you always ask "why?"

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Same conductor, different train.

So, quickly jumping onto a completely different train of thought ....

Earthquakes. Not metaphorical ones. ( silly Tori Amos!)  Real ones. ( looking at you California).

I felt my first earthquake tremor this morning (Taiwan time) around 1:30 am.
Not the kind of earthquake tremor that coffeeshop open mike poets go on about ....

a genuine tremor.

But it felt so surreal. I'm usually awake at 1am ( for example it is 1:59am right this minute and here I am wide awake) but yesterday I was exhausted. Saturdays are early days for all the teachers at my school. I only have two classes ( each two hours long) and I'm out by 5pm. But still, early days are hard.

So last night after work, I, for whatever reason, was hell bent on using the last drops of adrenaline that I was running on and went into Ximending to look for a few things #1 - the curry dumplings that I've recently fallen in love with ( found them), #2 the mango milk ice place ( didn't find it- and settled on a green tea frappucino from Starbucks ehhh... not as great.) and #3 an eyebrow waxing place ( didn't find IT - and from what I hear they are VERY rare. Waxing in general here is rare. Most people do "threading- but even that was hard to find) BUT I found a waxing  place online tonight - at wingsfly - ( click "English" and you can translate the page)  it's off of the Zhongshan Station MRT on the Red Line ( Exit 3). They wax EVERYTHING ... so hopefully I can walk in and get "wo de meimao" done tomorrow.

So last night, feeling exhausted and frustrated I took the subway home around 8pm. I crashed once I got home. A co-worker had invited me out around 10pm to go bowling and then for drinks for his birthday party ... but I was done. The one night that I did not stay up until 3am...

I was woken up by the rumbling. I remember hearing it and thinking "here it comes". Like being in the ocean, knowing the wave is coming and just diving under it, letting it do its thing and take you where it wants to.

I was lying in bed, half-awake, not even sure if this earthquake was real. Was I dreaming?

 It could have been a dream because let me tell you, at some point, lying there, when I went BACK to sleep I had a crazy dream about my mom, dad, and me and one pink and one green worm in our refrigerator at their house. We ( mostly I) at one point were holding them and then all of a sudden we were not. We knew that they were there and we were trying to find and save the lives of these worms.... ultimately accepting that they had died somewhere in the refrigerator.

I literally had to do a "google search" when I woke up to be SURE that the earthquake that I felt was real. That it happened before I had slipped off into the world of the completely unconscious and nonsensical. Google confirmed it. It WAS real. ( but there was NO damage, NO casualties ... I went out today and everything looks like it did yesterday. Everything's GOOD.)

It was just the weirdest night to have an earthquake. Why couldn't it have been a night like this? Like "every other night" here lately. When I'm completely wide awake ... "lucid" .... and aware of my real vs unreal surroundings?

I know that it happened -I know that it was real - half because I felt it and half because I read about it.
That just sums up .... everything.

Back on that OTHER train - I've changed my profile picture on QQ. To one of ME. Just me. It's me at Taipei 101. Not me and her. I'm thinking, maybe she was feeling a little pressure, a little self-conscious. Most people on QQ only have pictures of themselves or some sort of icon. I'm hoping maybe THAT'S why she didn't add me to her other QQ page. Maybe the possibility of having her friends seeing a picture of me and her together as "someone who has viewed her profile" she hesitated because she didn't want the questions .... questions that we don't have completely concrete answers to right now anyway.

Though we're not "friends" yet, I can see her "status update" on this profile and most recently she posted that she's "always so tired and never feels like she gets enough sleep.... never seems to get good sleep."

Believe me I'm SO on that train/in that boat too. My body is still adjusting. And my mind is trying to be still....

Ironically I only sleep through literal earthquakes. Seems an early day at work and a frustrating search for mango milk ice = the perfect night of crash/dead sleep.

I am going to have to recreate that formula in the near future. Without the earthquake part.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Part of Your World

Well, it turns out that I didn't have to wait a month. She sent me a reply message. But she kinda twisted it a bit.

She made it sound like I am upset because she does not reply to me/send me messages often on QQ. That is not really the issue. I understand if/that she's busy..... I'm busy too. Especially this year - coming home after teaching 2 or 3 classes back to back.... I'm exhausted. Yes, I've got two days off per week ( she only has one)- but still, they're separated- Wednesdays and Sundays. I don't expect her to send me messages every day or even once per week.

It was never really about that. I was upset because she has another QQ account that she never told me about. She told our friend Helen about it ..... but she never told me. THAT's why I was/am upset. I'm jealous. I feel left out. This is not about me "wanting all of her time and attention". It's just about wanting to be given access to her world..... like any other "friend".

I just sent her a message last night telling her this. I hate that I had to "find out" about her other profile. Why couldn't she tell me .... at the same time that she told Helen? ( and yes, I'm asking WHY questions.... because they're the only ones that fit.) Why did she have to hastily try to add me, AFTER I found her?

I told her that I was jealous. That's what this is. I'm jealous. I want what our other "friends" have with her.  That's all .... nothing more.

Then I had a dream last night. A very similar situation - a "three is a crowd type" situation. It was me and my two childhood best friends. We were all crying and upset - all jealous of our three-way interconnecting relationships. "Why are you crying?" I love you.... we're friends". "Everything is OK."- I said to my blond BFF who ( I've always called by her middle name "Joy") I've rarely seen cry in real life. But here it was "Joy" was crying tears of frustration and sadness.

(Maybe everything IS OK and there is no reason to cry or dwell on this.... )

From Lisa's side .... I could see how she could need some space. I'M the one who LEFT to go to Taiwan. Even when she suggested staying/teaching in Guangzhou.... I'm the one who oh-so-breezily/casually said "I don't want to".....I want a bigger city (PS: Guangzhou is pretty big) How do I think that made her feel? Can I really keep MY promises? What pictures are hiding in MY phone? (The answers in order are: pretty sad I bet, even though she doesn't show it easily, Yes I can, and There is nothing there to hide. )

Of course she wants to be happy .... she doesn't want to dwell on me being so far away.... it would be like me having a gf back in New York while I'm here. Even though Guangzhou is only about a 4 hr plane ride .... that's a trip. That takes.... a lot more than what we have right now. I didn't want to get into a relationship before coming to China because I knew it would't "be fair" for my gf back home. Now, here I am in Taiwan ( "not China") .... trying to keep my head above water and maintain a "realtionship" with someone who feels very far away.

I'm willing to accept whatever the truth is at this point. I told her that I want to share her happiness.... whether it's a new "love" or travel or whatever. I want to celebrate what is going on in her world.

I think it's just that we both don't trust each other.  Everything IS OK ..... but we don't believe it. We're blinded by our fear and frustration. That's what that dream last night was about.

Even though I'm frustrated by her lack of communication..... there's still a part of me that hopes to go to KTV and sing with her again. To sing "Meiyou Ruguo" ( "No If") and feel .... everything again.

I feel like.... I will be the one learning more Chinese before she learns English. It's.... just the way it is. I am here and I am getting a Chinese tutor. It just makes sense.... it's the most logical way. So, the next time we meet we can sing.... and also I can hopefully talk to her about... life and stuff more. In this way I'm GLAD to be in Taiwan - because in Foshan I didn't have access to any Chinese classes/anyone who could be my tutor. I probably could have found classes in Guangzhou.... but to be  honest, I didn't want to stay there. I WANTED to come to Taiwan. So- it is what it is.

I'm willing to accept if things have changed in her life. Maybe she's frustrated because SHE can't access my Facebook account? ( because FB is blocked in China -- and I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to pay for a VPN account just to stalk/watch my page/be friends with me ..... though I could see myself doing something like that. LOL.) But I've got nothing to hide ..... again, it all comes back to trust.

I'm happy/excited to be learning more Chinese. I don't want to dwell on missing her .... but at the same time there is no one else right now. I'm trying to figure out what she's feeling .... because it's always more than words. I find that words/feelings/thoughts contradict each other here..... part of the "saving face" thing.

I just .... want to be in her world, whatever the landscape looks like. I just want to be there.