China Jubilee

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A few reflections September 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — missjubilee @ 6:29 pm

I just got back from our short vacation in Weihai.  (I bought my camera, but was afraid to get it sandy, so this post has very few pictures, sorry!)  The school took a lot of the staff and their families there for a two-day, three-night optional holiday.  It was a mixed bag but generally a good time.  Kudos to the people who put it together so quickly, when our earlier plans for the holiday week were nixed.

(The view from just outside the hotel lobby.)

On the way there, we stopped at a gas station about mid-way through the four-hour-plus drive.  (Much to my relief, because I had a cold and was drinking lots and lots of water to keep from coughing.)  My acquaintance with Chinese gas stations is pretty thin, not owning a car myself, but it seemed about standard compared to the one or two I’ve visited – gas pumps under a very high roof so buses and trucks can access them, a small shop with overpriced junk food, and toilets with thigh- to waist-high walls between the stalls.  Actually, like the bus station when I visited a friend my first winter here, it wasn’t technically toilets, just a trench running through all the stalls.  Not my favorite kind of facility, but since the other women were my co-workers rather than curious strangers and the smell was somewhat better than the college bathrooms often emitted, I was pretty comfortable with it.  And a bit amused at the reaction of some of the others who have been here as long as I have or longer but haven’t dealt with these before.  On the bus today, though, I did hear stories of other such places, some less easy to deal with, that some people here have encountered, either in China or other parts of the world.  I’m glad I was forced to get used to squatties in the nicest possible way my second winter here.  (Sorry, no blog entry to point you back to about that, but maybe one day I’ll write it up; it’s one of my “The-Father-has-a-sense-of-humor” stories.)

(some lovely landscaping outside the hotel)

The first morning in Weihai, I went out on the beach to lay on a towel and read with some of the other ladies.  Around noon I went into the water, and had to kneel down to get wet past my waist – it was shallow for quite a long ways out!  Then I headed inside to wash off the sand.  Since the hotel was not near anywhere populated and was very ritzy (ie, pricy), I just ate some snacks I had brought for lunch, and read a second book.  In the evening, I went out with a couple of families for “barbecue chicken” a not-too-long bus ride into the city, then attended a seminar on time management.  After that I didn’t really know what to do with myself; the problem with hotels is that people disappear into their rooms and you don’t know where or what is going on!  I ended up painting my nails with a small group in one of the meeting rooms, then going up to my own place, where my roommate was already asleep.  A lovely lady from the US with the same name as my mom, she and a few others had come over the help out with childcare, and she woke and went to bed before me each day there.

(another view from the hotel.  I didn’t go out on the pier, but it looks nice!)

Tuesday morning I was back out in the sun despite the mild sunburn I’d gotten on Monday.  I’d signed up for some boating activities, but I wasted the first 45 minutes walking to the wrong place, walking back because I didn’t see anyone from our group, and then walking past that place again on my way to the right place, trying to keep my sandals from falling off my feet without constantly curling up my toes.  To spare my toes after the boating I walked back along the slightly shorter sand route, but of course almost-a-mile on sand is just as hard for feet as a mile on asphalt.  Ow!

(The small buildings to the right of the big sail-like buildings are the boat rental place.)

While I was down at the boating area, I was able to take out a small one-person sailboat (yay!) which was fun but would have been more if I had planned to get wet and thus hadn’t been so worried about swamping. So much for my notion that boats are to keep a person dry!  Then I gave in to the wetness and took a two-person kayak/canoe out on the water.  Both rides together were shorter the time it took to walk there, I think, but hey, it’s SO amazing to me that I have actually sailed a boat by myself!  Then I watched other people sail, including: a couple of the guys learning to windsurf, my TA and her friend trying the kayak even though she can’t swim (we all had life vests, of course), and some kids riding on the mesh front deck of a catamaran to look into the clear water as it was sailed around the area.  Three of us walked back together and I went to my room for more sand-removal and reading and snacks for lunch.  I also talked with a couple of people in their room before sitting in the lobby to see who I could join for dinner.

(the hotel lobby as we checked out Wednesday, complete with chandeliers and with plant displays in the revolving door)

Tuesday evening, there was the possibility of my showing a movie for the “youth” (an age which was never satisfactorily defined but at least meant “older than my students”), but the youth themselves were quite happy to be free to do their own thing, so I left them to their pizza-eating, Lord-of-the-Rings-watching, and whatever else they were up to, and played a game of bowling with a couple of families down in the hotel bowling alley, then watched another game while I knitted and cheered people on.  It was not a stellar performance by yours truly, but I had fun getting those 50 or 60 pins down, and I even had one strike (followed by the only score-less frame. figures.) 😉  The best part of the evening was realizing that I need and want to get to know the families here more.  I think that’s part of what I miss from ZZ, part of why I’m lonely even though I’m with so many people every school day and Sunday morning.  There are lots of great single women here – I went to dinner with several Tuesday night, read on the beach with others Monday morning – but I’ve always been a bit “different,” playing with kids of different ages, having a difficult time bonding with girls in my own class, cooking instead of reading star magazines, coming on my own to live in China…. I have tried to define what I’m missing here before, and I think part of it is what made me “fit” in ZZ with the other people who also came there without any kind of organization to show them the ropes or give structure to their lives during the transition and life in foreign culture, a part I may not find right away here as I don’t have a lot of time to get to know other foreigners outside the organization I now work for, but I think the other part of what’s missing was being adopted into the Southey clan, mixing with the Neal children on Sunday in between their homeschooling and Chinese schooling, going places with Sarah on our electric bikes, gleaning wisdom from Pat and John on our cab and bus rides together, talking and working with Kate and Kirsten and Samson and other students from my college, working on school things and surfing the internet and cooking dinner while “Melissa” Wang Fangfang and “Lucy” Ma Peixuen and their friends did homework at my table and ate anything I set before them (as long as it wasn’t pork, for Lucy) and sometimes brought me noodles or junk food they bought on the way home from school but remembered not to buy the smelly spicy meat because I asked them not to bring it in my house and were always willing to help me garden or clean house or just sit and play with my cats.  I miss the people, and also the flavor of the community.  It’s just taking a lot of time to adjust socially, with school eating up most of my waking hours and leaving little emotional or physical energy for introverted-me to reach out.

I guess I’ve veered a long way from my original topic about the mini-vacation.  There isn’t much left to tell.  After bowling I went up to Carolyn’s room* and we read together – just sitting in the same room each finishing a novel made us both feel less reclusive.  And then this morning, breakfast and packing while watching (gasp! shock! wonder of wonders!) CNN Asia on the hotel’s TV.  My thoughts go out to Manila and Samoa, the latter of which dominated the news.  The hotel’s breakfast buffet, by the way, was quite good, with a mix of Western and Chinese options.  Cereal and juice and cheese on toast and bacon, three days in a row, yum.  Then back on the buses to hui jia (return home).  I finished all but the last three rows if my Goforth/QMIS House Unity Hat on the bus ride, then read another book, my third of the trip.  (The last three rows of decreases needed DPNs, which I didn’t bring, but they’re finished now!)  Now I just need to have a movie-watching-and-yarn-skein-winding party to get the yarn I bought for the matching scarf transformed from big hanks into neat balls for knitting up. 🙂

(the hat before leaving on vacation)

(the finished hat)

Tomorrow, Thursday the first of October, is National Day and the PRC’s 60th anniversary.  I’m sure it will be quite an event. Our holiday continues through Monday, and my plans are to get next week’s lessons ready, work on my classroom, and get a better feel for where I’m going with the curriculum this year (or at least semester).  That’s what I like to do at the beginning of the year, but there just wasn’t time before school started, so this is my first chance.  I’m also going to take at least half a day to talk with the Father and work through some of the transition stuff I touched on above.  It should be a good “break,” though I don’t know exactly how restful it’ll be.  I think I’ll go call a couple of families and invite them over for that movie-and-yarn party one night this week, now.

*: Carolyn also moved here from another city in China (same company though), likes to cook, and likes Star Wars as well as teaching children.  🙂  Maybe I’ll invite her to the party too.

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