Today in class we were told of the measures XiaDa is taking against swine flu. From what I understood, we will be given thermometers on Friday and will be responsible for taking our temperature every morning and reporting it to the teacher. If it is above 37 (Celsius), we are supposed to stay home. If we don’t come to class, the teacher will call us to find out if we 发烧 (have a fever) and will escort us to the hospital. If someone comes to class when they have a fever, we all get to go to the hospital. Field trip!?
It isn’t too hot today (heat index is below 100 F!). For some reason, though, the basketball courts are completely deserted, unlike every other 115-degree day when they are packed with sweaty, steamy students playing around. I think it goes without saying, but . . . there are some things I don’t understand about this country.
In the later afternoon, I went to the first optional class, calligraphy. The teacher is actually a painter and just talked about traditional Chinese painting for the whole time, so I wasn’t planning on going back. But then someone else (who probably caught more of his Chinese) told me that he was actually going to split the class and teach both painting and calligraphy, so I decided to go with the teacher and some other students to buy materials. We took a bus to an art shop that had quality stuff, and bought all the supplies – paper, blotter, brush, ink stone, and ink – for about 60 yuan (less than $10).
This and dinner with the laoshi afterwards took much longer than I expected, but that’s how most of my days are in China. I returned to my dorm for a few minutes, changed into a skirt and grabbed a pair of heels, and headed off to the dance group.
I had a wonderful time again. I love watching the others dance almost as much as I love dancing with them. I think if I ever have a son, I will make him take dance lessons . . . it’s just a little depressing for me knowing how few opportunities I’ll have to dance like this once I return to the States. But a guy who can dance can so easily teach girls to dance! If a guy can dance, we don’t care what he looks like or how old he is or even if we can speak the same language – as evidenced by the dozen Chinese men I gladly dance with each week, even though all but one of them are totally gray-haired, few speak English, and even less are my height or taller.
Karolina and I took the long way as we walked back, to enjoy the pleasant night and the beautiful campus. I was able to talk about some thoughts I’ve been having this afternoon. I’ve realized that the things that have so delighted me here in China aren’t, for the most part, specific or exclusive to China. I think that these things are probably available in Tulsa as well, but my situation is different here. In Tulsa, I am an engineering student with homework and projects and I’m involved in a lot of organizations where I have responsibilities. I enjoy all of that and I do have fun, but I can’t just spend whole days going exploring in random places, and I can’t follow up on every opportunity that I catch wind of. Here, however, that’s pretty much what I’m here for. Classes are great, but the best (and most fun) way to learn Chinese is by interacting and using it. Basically, the highest goal of my time here in China is to do stuff in China with Chinese people. It’s wonderful – like vacation and study at the same time.
So when I talk about the good times I’m having here in China, I need to remember that this isn’t just because China is a magical place with adventures around every corner. It’s because I approach life here with a different attitude, with different goals in mind, and from a different situation in life. It’s these same differences that enable me to put up with all the crap that comes along over here with a much better disposition than I would if the same were to happen in America.