|historic site, across street from campus,|
Gele Mnt in background
I have lived in China for 1 year and 1 month. At times, it felt like time passed so quickly, but most of the time, it felt like slow motion. The pace of life is much slower, even in the mega-huge city of Chongqing, where everyone naps during almost 3 hour lunch breaks. It’s common to see people sleeping at work, even at restaurants and stores. I never adopted the nap habit, but my life has been less frantic: no tight schedules, no multitasking. I feel like I have a different perspective on time now.
My main job was part-time since I taught only 3 days a week and I only had to prepare 3 lessons a week. Most university teachers have a similar schedule. They don’t have offices and they don’t hold office hours, but many conduct research. It’s not clear they even meet with students. I held office hours each week for my students and I met them for lunch, dinner, walking, shopping, or whatever. They helped me understand China and I helped them understand the U.S.
My secondary projects were flexible, like going to English corners. I did things as I had time and motivation. Basically, my policy was if the dean or teachers in my department asked me for help, I always said yes. Other requests, from other departments or the community, I mostly said yes, like if graduate students from other universities asked me for help with a paper or a speech, I usually did.
I had time every day to relax, do the things I enjoy most, and try things I rarely do at home. I spent time everyday exercising, reading, buying and preparing food, watching movies or TV shows, and trying something new. I went to bed early, got up early. For the first time in my adult life, I regularly got 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I had so much peace and quiet that at times it felt like loneliness and isolation, but those moments passes quickly.
At first, I was anxious to fill my time; I’ve always been a doer, a to-do list keeper, a goal setter. I didn’t keep any list and it was OK! I survived a year of no lists.
I survived a year of living with next to nothing.
But, doing everything felt like it took more time and effort in China. Every morning, I had to check if I had enough drinking water for the day. Just getting around in such a massive, crowded city could be stressful, time consuming, and exhausting.
Now that one year is over, I am more grateful than ever for all that we have in the U.S.
What did I learn this past year? Culture is everything. The Chinese lifestyle is vastly different from our American lifestyle and they believe, just as we do, that their way is absolutely right. What does such a conflict of culture mean for current and future US-China relations?
For my part, I feel that I made a miniscule dent in cultural barriers. One year later, I have a better understanding of Chinese culture and I hope that my students and the community people I met have a better understanding of American culture. In that way, my year in China has been 100% worthwhile.
|part of hallway display with pictures and explanation on|
"The Experimental Center for Foreign Affairs,"
... not really sure what it's about, but I was a part of it
|giving a presentation|