Week one of teaching: done.
I feel bad for my students from Monday morning, my flow definitely improved throughout the week. Alex and I still don’t have our syllabi finished yet, but we at least are grasping a good idea of what we want to do in our courses.
Alex rocked out her first class right after I finished my last one for the week (most of her classes are freshmen classes that don’t start until Oct. 25 – she has two sections of upper level English though, one of which she had today). My classes, on the other hand are all upper level courses.
My negotiations class won’t be nearly as intimidating as I had thought. I decided I’m going to teach them how to problem solve in groups and communicate with other cultures. I’m definitely putting my degree to use (and given the job market back home, I feel like most college graduates might not be able to say that).
I really enjoy teaching. I know it’s only been a week, but so far teaching has been the one and only thing that has felt natural to me since landing here. This week has been monumental – each day is an education. Yesterday we learned the public bus system, today we learned the grocery store, Monday we learned the classroom, and Tuesday we learned the campus.
Things that seem simple back home, but are a lot more difficult when you can’t read the sings.
Intertwined among the major learning themes for the day are endless occurrences of cultural riddles. For instance, as a collectivist culture, why are people so pushy in lines, whereas, in the highly individualistic United States queues are orderly?
Things that make you go, “hmmm…”
Eating is another area where I’m uncomfortable. I eat very slow compared to everyone else, but I’m just thankful I can use chopsticks. The other day in the cafeteria, one of the custodians stood right behind me and watched me eating. I stopped and looked up at her and she said something. My friend translated and said the woman was surprised I was eating just fine with the chopsticks.
Yesterday Alex and I met two Americans for lunch, Sam and Jen. They graduated from Pepperdine and are teaching at a nearby university for a year. They’ve been here since September 1 (when I should have been here) and they told us all sorts of gems that are hiding in the Xiasha (higher education) area. My university is in a village made up of 15 other universities. All of the schools have around 10,000 people, so it’s essentially a college town.
Our new friends told us about Hangzhou nightlife and cool spots to head downtown. We decided to check things out and took a public bus an hour into town to see how far it was from our apartment. After getting off the bus we found a taxi and showed him our address. In less than five minutes we were back home, which means we’re fairly close to where they go out. We have plans Friday night to socialize.
After this week, I could really use a drink.
My first week in this country has been a wild ride and I have no reason to believe that the highs and lows will level off before I leave. I think China is the kind of place where one could stay three months, a year, or five years and still be in awe of its nuances.
Like any culture, unless you grow up in it and have its history and origins engrained in you, it’s virtually impossible to assimilate. Adapting is feasible, however, and thus far life has proven me a fairly adaptable being.
In other news, Alex and I tackled the grocery store on our town tonight.
We found Oreos, chocolate, bread, rice and noodles… and a bunch of random stuff. Our package of yogurt came with a free faux crystal bowl. The eggs we bought are from a chicken, the only indicator being the chicken feather on the container. We could have bought quail, geese, or duck eggs if we really wanted to.
The produce section smelled like a sweaty fruit stand, but we found some delicious blush colored apples and bananas (the bananas here rock, they’re almost as good as they were in Guatemala). Right next to the vegetable section was meat and deli area…if you want to call it that.
Various cuts of meat are hanging out in the open air in large plastic buckets. People grab small plastic bags, like what you put fruit and veggies in, and reach on in. Large vats of ground meat(s) are scattered among the critters’ legs, roasts, and thighs. It smelled like rotting flesh and vinegar (courtesy of the salad selections in the deli).
Seafood was the next-door neighbor to the red meat. Alex and I could have picked out any variety of nearly dead fish swimming around in what appeared to be Rubbermaid totes and then have them conveniently decapitated before brining one home for dinner. We opted out.
I had intended to cook dinner with the mystery sauces and noodles we had picked up, but after the meat section, Alex and I had lost our appetite.
Instead, my dinner consisted of a peanut butter and banana sandwich, one Oreo, a Dove chocolate square, and some Coke Zero… Ugh. I really need to start mastering the wok in our kitchen.