Campus Life, China, Language, Travel, University Teaching

Why is it “too much time ON my hands” and not “IN” my hands?

We have a three-day weekend this weekend, courtesy of the New Year’s holiday. As I have traveled with friends for the last three weekends, it seemed like a very good idea to have a relaxing weekend at home. Energy and funds were running low and the beginning of a cold was another compelling point. Yet, as I sit in my room at 4:45 PM on Saturday, I realize why traveling is such a good idea. It’s just really boring if you don’t.

Having not really slept last night due to a very late night viewing of The Boy with the Striped Pajamas and then several sleepless hours after, I woke up at 9 when my mother dearest called for our prearranged phone call. She graciously granted me another hour of sleep and I went back to bed for 45 minutes. After an epic 1 ½ hour conversation where we covered all the good stuff and she yelled at me several times for not giving her my full attention (apparently my eyes move when I read—dead give-away), I took a deep breath and studied Chinese for a half hour.

Circumstances beyond my control have allowed me to escape Chinese lessons for the last three weeks. They cancelled on me one time. Then the next time we were having our Christmas potluck that night. And then this week we had a department meeting at precisely our usual lesson time. I cheered when I got the email. I’m a terrible student. Of Chinese, at least. Wo putonghua shuade bu hao.

After Chinese I went for a long walk around campus. With 20,000 students and only about maybe 30 foreigners, I always feel very conspicuous when I am walking. Especially when I am trying to exercise. Which makes dark sunglasses a necessity and not a fashion accessory. Much more comfortable. Yet today the university was like a ghost town. Three days weekends will do that. Any student who can will go home. And the ones that can’t seem to stay indoors. After two weeks of individual student interviews for all of my Oral English classes, I know that my students’ hobbies seem to mainly be sleeping, playing computer games, and using the Internet. I’d never heard of sleeping as a hobby before, but I’ve become a believer after having almost 500 students tell me it is. (One student also told me her hobby was washing her hands) At least in China, it would probably be safe to say that sleeping is my hobby too. Two or three hours naps are not at all uncommon.

Anyways, the campus was looking exceptionally lovely today. It took me over an hour to make a complete loop. There are many small walking paths that wander through gardens or around lily-pad covered lakes. It’s a very beautiful campus that someone clearly put a lot of time and love into. There must be a huge maintenance crew as the climate results in everything growing 24/7. In particular, there is a climbing bush with purple flowers—very lovely—but with huge thorns that likes to throw out long braches that then dangle innocently into walkways. I tangled with one early on and my hasty motion to remove my arm resulted in a trio of long scratches.

At this point I am regretting that I have no photos of the campus to share with you. Err, sorry. But! There are lovely, professional photos on the school’s website here that you can peruse if you are interested. Believe me, nothing I take would look that good! What’s amusing however, is the fact that they have changed the school’s English website. When I was initially considering the job, the website featured beautiful scenic shots of the campus. Now, unfortunately, the website has been changed to this. This was particularly funny in a friend’s situation when she directed family and friends to the university website, not knowing it had been changed. Their response had been “Oh! It looks lovely! So many foreigners! What are you talking about? You won’t feel alone there!” So from campus beauty to stock photos. Lovely.

I was dragging towards the end of my walk, but eventually made it home. After a tepid shower (remember that hot water problem?), I had some leftovers for lunch and watched 2 episodes of a TV show. Then I tuned my guitar. Hung up some laundry to dry. Washed dishes. Contemplated two more days of such serenity. And wished I’d made plans to travel this weekend after all. In the absence of travel plans, I got to write a long ramble-y blog post for my loyal readers. Lucky you.

Oh. And this was where I had my fingers crossed that I would be living. Lake-view apartment. Though I moved from the apartment which faced the back of a building, my view still consists of basketball courts and the garbage dump.


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