Showing posts from October, 2016

Inner Peace

"Do you have a Chinese name?" the girls who ate lunch with me today asked.

Why yes, I do.  Because my English name is pretty easy for Chinese speakers, my Chinese name isn't used too much, but students at Chuan Wai have been very curious about it.  And I am always curious to see how they'll react, since I've gotten everything from, "Oh, pretty," to "...that sounds like a boy's name...."

Jessica, Georgina, Caroline and Amy from class 2
Today, when I told them, "It's 安宇," (an yu) they were mostly interested in translating it.

"Inner peace," Caroline said.  Which I liked, because the closest I've ever come to putting it in English is Sanctuary.

I also liked it because it made me think of Jon Foreman's song Inner Peace.  

Inner peace is hard to find
Peace of heart and peace of mind
Feels like I'm running all the time
Like I'm at war inside
I've been fighting all my life...

The window of my soul is so uncle…

Dose of daily entertainment, courtesy of the DJY bus

The bus ride to Dujiangyan on Saturday morning was easily one of the most epic (and hilarious) rides that I've been on in China.

It started off pretty normally.  Chilly (but sunny!!) morning, a bus filling with loud people and two sleepy foreigners.  Two men got on at successive stops, one older and one middle-aged.  They clearly knew each other and were joking around, with the middle-aged man bouncing over to the older when he saw him and rubbing his head so violently that his hat nearly fell off.  Already I liked them.

As we rolled along the highway, the middle-aged dude realized that part of the reason that the bus was a frigid wind tunnel was because his window was open.  He closed it, and looked at the guy sitting across the aisle from him, whose window was also open.  Slide the window closed, he gestured, it's cold.

Mr. Window Man looked pointedly away.

And so it began.

Periodically, for the next forty-five minutes or so, the middle-aged guy (Mr. Camo Jacket) gesturing …

Theme this week: Friendship

Write hard and clear about what hurts.
-- Ernest Hemingway

When it comes to talking about problems we've experienced in friendships, everyone has stories to contribute.

a place at the table: life right now

Get ready for some irony, because I'm literally taking some time off of completing my never-ending to-do list to write about how crazy life is.  Mostly because I want to not go completely insane.  Also because I appreciate having records of the crazy as well as the awesome to look back at later.

Anyway.  Right now my life is full of students.

Which is great, because hey, it's a huge part of why I live in China.

So, on the pro side: my students want to be engaged and are eager to talk to me, to learn, and to spend time together.

...on the con side, my students are eager to be engaged, to talk to me, and to spend time together.  And to ask me all the questions.

I, being a single person with limited time, energy, and sanity, am working on juggling this.  It is stretching for the patience and graciousness which I possess.  Which is great, because I have access to all of those qualities that I could possibly mean.  It just means relying on a strength that is not my own.

Right now m…

Money or Bread?

This evening after dinner I went walking around the track (or, as it's known here, the playground) with four of my students.  We had been talking and goofing off and laughing since I got to the office late this afternoon and found them playing Phase 10 with Miriam. While we were walking, the conversation turned, as it so often does, to the topic of boyfriends.

"Money or bread?" Jenney asked me.

"What?" I asked.

They laughed and explained: better material life or true love?

True love, we all agreed, except for Katherine.  

"Why?" I asked.

Her thousand kilowatt smile dimmed a little bit.  "Boys, they only marry you for true love if you're very beautiful."


There are times I feel rage at the deep injustice of it, the lies that my students believe about themselves.  Self-image struggles thrive in China just as they do in the US.  The standards of beauty here are just as harsh (and, honestly, I think they're even stricter) and p…

Chi Ku.

This week's class is on Happiness.

So we read a story in the textbook about different ways to respond to adversity.  The question it posed was, "Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"  Maybe you've heard this illustration before; when faced with adversity (boiling water), the carrot gets mushy and falls apart, the egg gets hard the whole way through, but the coffee beans transform into something better.

The answer seemed obvious to me.  Everyone wants to be coffee, right?

Not according to my students.

No one wanted to be a carrot.  A few wanted to be coffee beans.

But an overwhelming number of them wanted to be like the egg.

Because in China, here's how you respond to hardship: you endure.  You bear it.  The idealized characteristic in responding to suffering and adversity and brutal conditions of any type is summed up in a Chinese idiom: 吃苦 Chi ku.  Eat bitterness.

At a deep cultural level, there is no real hope for redemption of suffering.  The best t…

A Party with Students (aka: that time I felt like I was in a musical)

Earlier this week a couple of my students began planning a time to come over to my apartment and cook together, which is to say, Friday evening.  This morning consisted of a bunch of messages back and forth with the upshot being that they'd come and we'd make jiaozi (dumplings) together.  They were inviting a few of Miriam's students too; since they're all in the same department, a lot of our students are friends.

After classes this morning, I stopped by Miriam's apartment to make sure she knew the plan and she was laughing about the fact that one of her students had invited her to a party in my apartment.  We coordinated stuff I needed her to bring -- slippers, a pot to boil the jiaozi in, etc, and I went to take a nap and clean up my apartment.  At 5:30 I met the five students at the gate, as we had planned.  They came up to my apartment and then announced that in fact, we needed to go buy food.

...that was a new one.

In fact, there are no full fledged grocery…

Never Have I Ever

Have you ever played the game "Never Have I Ever"?

China is destroying my ability to be any good at that game, one day at a time, by taking away options that had never even occurred to me.

Today that meant a student coming up to me after the end of class holding an open tin of peach halves.  The last one was floating around in the syrup.  "Here," he said.  "This is for you."

This was not a situation that I really had ever considered how I'd handle and I sort of blinked.

One of his classmates came up with a tiny, tiny spoon.  "Here!" she offered.

So I ate the peach half.  One of the other girls helpfully got me a tissue to deal with the copious amounts of syrup that were involved in the process.

Other notable moments from today:

~Diarrhea was brought up three times by three different students with way more information than Miriam or I wanted to know.  Just WHY.

~I had to contact Ben because a student asked me about slang synonyms for "aw…