Monday, April 19, 2010

My Latest Adventures

It's been a while since I've posted anything. In February it was because I was being lazy about it, and in March and April it's been because I've been in China and didn't have access to my blog page in such a heavily internet censored country. However I did write a few entries while I was there, so I'm posting them now in this one long post. It's kind of long, but it was really good for me to keep writing and processing. If you make it through them, hope you enjoy!

Saturday March 21, 2010
I am now in Zhuhai, China. I arrived yesterday, and will be here for the next 4 weeks getting my TEFL certification to teach English in other countries. I don’t even know if or when I’ll actually use the certification since I already have a job waiting for me in Vermont that is completely unrelated to teaching, but I think it would be nice to have something to stick in my back pocket and have it ready to pull out if the opportunity presents itself. Lately I’ve been all about keeping all of my options open, and since I’ve had this whole winter and spring season off from work, it’s the perfect time to take action to increase those possibilities by doing something like going to China for a month. I could have gone somewhere in New York, but with the cost of living and a more expensive class, it was actually cheaper for me to come all the way to China. Besides, why not go to China? I’d much rather be here than New York.
Anyway, so far I love it. I have 11 classmates ranging from 23 to 70 years old, mostly Chinese, American, and English. I’m staying in an apartment about a five minute walk from the school, so I get to walk through all sorts of shops and food vendors on the way. I won’t go into all the details now, but I wanted to get something down to get me started. Who knows what the next four weeks will hold!
Saturday March 27, 2010
Today was our first day off from classes. So far, every day our schedule has been class from 9am-5pm. I’ve loved being a student again and I’m loving everything about the class, but it was nice to have a break. So I took advantage of it by exploring the city with one of my other classmates and one of my teachers. The teacher has lived here for three years, so he had lots of useful information about which buses to take where, and where the best bakeries and street food carts are. Besides the thrill of exploring a new city in a different country, our teacher provided entertainment for me in and of himself. An Aussie ex-patriot, he has a colorful personality and coordinates his clothing to match it. Today he met us wearing purple and white tennis shoes that more closely resembled bowling shoes, a bright yellow jacket, and carried a shiny, red and purple, hard cased back pack. That, along with his long, gray mustache, ponytail, and vibrant Aussie accent, make him a novelty to be around. Even after three years he has never bothered to learn a lick of Mandarin (though to his credit he is fluent in Thai), but don’t think that stops him from interacting with as many people as he can. On the bus, at the bank, in an elevator, on the street, everywhere he goes he is talking to people, even though they have no idea what he is saying. “I can tell you’re a cheeky sausage, eh?” he says to a little boy on the bus who is staring at him. “And just where do you think you’re going?” he says with a laughing voice to girl who accidentally bumped into him at the crowded mall. The recipients of his comments, many times young children, usually can only stare back at him with a blank but amused expression.
The children here seem to have a very present role in the culture here in China. I see them everywhere, and not just being toted around by their mothers. The families seem to take more of an interest in their children and make them a part of their daily routine rather than just leave them in a daycare while the adults carry on with their business. Maybe that’s what triggered the dream I had last night about Reed. In the dream, he was about 4 years old, and we were at some sort of park with lots of other children and families around. We were playing and having so much fun, I remember he would climb on the monkey bars and then let go at the highest point so I could catch him. We were playing on the swings, in the sand pit, on the merry-go-round, running around, laughing, hugging and cuddling non-stop. Then it was time to say goodbye, and I couldn’t find the words to tell him how much I loved him. I wanted to tell him how happy he makes me, how special he is to me, that I would always love him no matter what, that I always wanted to be a part of his life. But all that came out was a string of sounds that, while my heart understood perfectly what was being said, was audibly unintelligible to anyone else, especially to Reed.
Today as I was exploring the city and watching my instructor interact with children who had no idea what he was saying, I thought about the dream. I knew that in the dream Reed was too young to understand what was in my heart to tell him. I’ve thought about that before; that right now he has no idea how much I think about him and pray for him, how much my heart is overwhelmed by him. But then something else struck me. I realized that in the dream, all it was to him was a great play date. My emotions were all over the place because I was saying goodbye to him, but his primary emotion would start in just a moment… when he saw his mommy. Maura. That was why I was saying goodbye to him, because it was time for Maura to pick him up, and the second he saw her, his face would light up. He would run to her and all would be right once again in his little world. I don’t think that actually happened in the dream, but it’s one of those things that I just know was there. No matter how much I love him, Reed will always love Maura more than he will ever love me. (Hello ton of bricks.) I think I’ve known that in theory, but not in reality. I was looking through some of the pictures I have of him, and there are several of him snuggling close to Maura because that is where his safety and security is. I’m so thankful for the special bond between them, but I can’t help but acknowledge this new challenge of unconditional love: to completely love someone for the rest of my life, knowing that he will never completely love me back. I can’t compete with the love he has and will have for Maura, nor do I want to, it’s just something I’m going to have to deal with. My hope (and plan) is that my consistent openness in relationship and communication with Reed will one day give him somewhat of an understanding, a peek into what I feel for him, what he means to me. Until then, I will love him entirely from afar. That is, I will love him entirely, and unconditionally.
Monday March 29th
After the last entry I wrote the other day, I’m taking a break from any heavy stuff. Right now I’m sitting in my bedroom in my flat, just enjoying the fact that I’m here. Bugs have somehow managed to forget that Zhuhai exists, so our flat always has windows and balcony doors open to let plenty of air in, as well as sounds from the city, smells from the street vendors, and castings of colored light from all the neon signs around. Tonight after class I went with a couple of classmates for dinner at a little barbecue stand. There was a table out in the open with a bunch of skewered items, of which we picked out what we wanted and handed them to the cook. He then grilled them and brought them to our little plastic table when they were finished. I stayed away from the chicken feet, but since that was the only thing I could identify, I had a whole meal of who-knows-what on a stick. Thankfully, they were all quite tasty. As the three of us sat in the open air talking, drinking beer and spitting out the bones of our mystery meat, I had one of those happy moments of “God I love my life.” While writing my last entry I went through nearly a whole roll of toilet paper because I was crying so much. But the crying still isn’t any indication of misery. I’m still so thankful for the reason for those tears, that I have a gorgeous son in my life. I think Reed’s introduction has made me love my life that much more, simply because he’s in it.
Sunday April 4th
Happy Easter! The only reason I know that it’s Easter is because Bill sent me an e-mail saying he was going over to Doug and Maura’s to partake in some Easter festivities; otherwise, there is absolutely no indication of it here in China. However this is a three day weekend, as tomorrow is a festival day having something to do with honoring ancestors, so everyone gets the day off to go visit their family graves. Tonight I was walking around exploring my little neighborhood, and I’ve become convinced that one could spend their whole life here without leaving a half mile radius. Everything is available here; shops selling everything you could think of (there’s even a kitchen sink shop!), repair shops, grocery stores, pharmacies, karaoke bars, plenty of noodle shops, barber shops, massage parlors and spas, bakeries, a vegetable market and a fish market, and plenty of street vendors selling everything from flowers to nuts to steel sponges to scrub your pots with. I’ve heard of people in big cities like New York that have never left their neighborhood and it always seemed unimaginable to me. But now I can understand how a person who works everyday so he or she doesn’t have much free time to spare, and has all the conveniences they need at their fingertips, wouldn’t really need to go far at all.
But here comes the best part of my night. First of all, I found the lady who makes the delicious Chinese pancakes I love so much. I’ve heard she often sells just around the corner from my apartment building, but I’ve never seen her. Tonight to my delight she was there, so I bought a fresh, hot pancake (which is actually more like a crisp, thin, flatbread with herbs and spices rolled into the dough before being smeared against the wall of a small, circular oven to cook), and then continued walking down the street in a direction I haven’t yet been. Several of the shops were starting to close, so the number of people was dramatically thinning out, but then I started to hear music so I kept on walking. Then I found out what the music was for. First of all, let me describe the walkways in Zhuhai; there’s the main road with cars zooming past and pedestrians playing their own version of the game Frogger trying to get across. Then on both sides of the road where the shops are, there is a smaller kind of road that is mostly for the many pedestrians meandering in and out of the shops, but also wide enough for cars to park in and pass through. So it’s kind of like a large sidewalk/street/small parking lot. Anyway, I was walking down one of these large areas towards the music, and in a dark section that looked like it was closed for the night, there was a DJ with huge speakers playing something with an Indian or Mid East kind of beat, and about 50 people or so were all dancing together. Some were young, some had children with them, most were older. Many were dancing in pairs, be it parent and child, husband and wife, or two women or two men dancing together. They all seemed to have deliberate steps they were trying to follow, but none of them were the same. The best part about it was that none of them were very good, it reminded me of a school dance in junior high with people stiffly shuffling about, staring at each other’s feet, wondering if they look cool or not. Except here people didn’t seem to care what they looked like. An old man was in the middle scooting around by himself, a pregnant woman was free flowing on the outskirts of the crowd. I loved it! The music changed to something more Asian sounding. Then, just as I had finished my yummy pancake, I saw an old, withered hand stretch out in front of me. I was being asked to dance! Of course I accepted the invitation, so I joined in with the other ‘kids’ and stared at my partners feet so I wouldn’t step on his toes, and shuffled around the dance floor/parking lot. We would shuffle erratically for a bit, he would spin me twice one way and then twice the other, give me a big, half toothed smile and a thumbs up, and then we would resume our shuffling. I wonder if that old man knows he made my night? After the song was over, I thanked him and then left just as a European song was being played. Just another thing I found to make me love this place.
Thursday April 15th 2010
Who knew I would end up having so much fun with this course? Certainly not me! I mean, I figured I’d love China, but the whole experience has been so incredibly fun for me. I’ve loved my classmates so much, we all get along so well that even after class is through for the day several of us end up hanging out in the classroom anyway. Ok we’re not just hanging out, there really is a lot of work we have to do. But still, we often talk about how much we love being there, and we don’t mind doing the work because we don’t mind being there anyway. I’ve also loved teaching, coming up with materials, being in front of the students and interacting with them, everything. I’ve been encouraged several times before to become a teacher and have always resisted it, but this seems to fit me like a glove. Even though I have a job waiting for me at a resort in Vermont for the summer, I’ve posted my resume on a couple of different places, just to see what happens. If it’s a good enough job, I just might be able to be tempted away from Vermont, but it would have to be a really good offer. The scary thing would be to be away from Reed for a whole year at a time. Like everything else, I guess I’ll have to wait and see what happens, while keeping all the doors open. In the meantime, I can’t wait to see my baby boy again! I’ll be flying out on Sunday, and hopefully see him on Monday. At that time, I’ll be able to post all of these blogs, and maybe do some processing. Until then, I’m keeping this one short… trying to avoid my tendency to ramble!

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