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.