Sunday, November 9, 2008

Setting the Record Straight

This will probably sound cynical and unhappy. :)

Just a warning.

For those of you who think that we're in an ideal happy land of happiness, let me explain a couple of things. We're tired. Both of us. I don't know if you know how it feels to give everything you have to 1,700 students every week. Maybe we're tired because of the horrible march music that turns on at 6 am every morning, playing the same minute-thirty-second clip for 30 minutes. Maybe it's not being able to buy hardly anything without arguing with the seller. Maybe it's things breaking when you touch them (I broke a screw-driver in half with one hand....). It could be the broken promises made time and time again by our school. Possibly things like being called at 9pm on friday night and being told that you have to teach on Saturday and Sunday the classes you would have taught on Monday and Tuesday (complete with a new lesson yet to be prepared). Or maybe it's the lack of teaching resources:we have a chalkboard, and some speakers in most classes if you bring your own cords. It's probably not the apathy of 90% of the students toward the class, or constantly having them wake back up, or making them put away their homework. Or the constant battle for food that we can actually eat. Or the inability to actually "get better" from being sick due to the mold in our apartment that keeps coming back after we clean it because the school won't fix the underlying problem. It's probably just that school wants us to teach until the 30th of December, when we fly out from Changsha (5 hours away) on the 31st. Or possibly the fact that our Chinese isn't improving very quickly because they only speak dialect around us, and rarely Mandarin. The list could go on, but we want this post to get through.

Oh, my friends. :) We've seen the real China. Not the touristy China you get through a semester abroad, or through ILP, or even just vacationing. We're living in Culturally Undiverse China, with all of the greedy and self-serving people we could never want. We are in a beautiful place, with some of the sweetest and best people. Those are the stories we usually tell, because they are the ones people want to hear. We put up pictures of the days (usually 1 or 2 per week) that are fun, or interesting, or exciting, and gloss over the rest, because we don't want people to worry. Don't worry. We'll be just fine. "Just Fine" has become a euphamism for, "yeah, we got screwed again, but there's nothing we can do about it, and we'll be gone in a couple of months. It won't sting so much then."

I warned you this would be a dark post. Shannon is sitting with me as I type (she proof-reads with me so I don't sound like an idiot). We are not in a land of butterflies (or any kind of butter for that matter) and flowers. We are in the land of burning garbage, hot peppers, and abusive attitudes. I'm remembering from Argentina what it's like to be discriminated against. It hurts. Politics aside, props to President Elect Obama for overcoming what he did. Some people won't even acknowledge us or listen to us because we're not Chinese. Others just stare. Or pull out camera-phones. We're somewhere between the Red Carpet and the Freak Show.

Welcome to the real China.

We might be counting down the weeks.



  1. Not cynical but sadly depressing. I could send you two some homemade cookies to cheer you up a little if you'd like :(
    Hang in there. Besides, would you rather have a boring newlywed life in Utah or Idaho to tell your future children about, or this insane adventure in China? You'll look back later and see the good parts will outshine the icky ones. Dude, you got to eat dog!

  2. Alison, you rock. And, you're right. :) We were both feeling a bit down yesterday, and I was venting. Thanks for keeping up on the blog. It's fun to hear from you!

  3. I know it must be hard on you two over there. I appreciate all you do for Michelle. I know she really looks forward to spending time with you guys. Thanks for the extra support this last weekend. I hope that her testimony is growing with the help of your examples.
    I figure it is the same Michelle so i am glad you posted this. I know she only tells the best so we don't worry.
    Too bad you won't be able to do some sight seeing as they have you there until you leave.
    do you both start back to school on the 5th or so?

  4. Yeah. I think the date is the 6th, but I'm off track. Shannon will actually be studying, and I'll be working. We're glad that Michelle will be up there. We've developed quite a bond. It's like having a little sister (I only had older sisters or little brothers :P). We're trying to swing it so that we'll be done teaching on the 24th of December, but it will take all of the skills that I possess as a Communications Major to pull it off. :D My fingers are crossed, and I'm (permanently) optimistic.


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