Sick in School:
The past week has had some ups and downs. Well, the downs have basically been me being sick. For a few days I was running a fever and a sore throat with bad headaches and dizziness, but I still went to school for fear of ending up in a Chinese hospital. In China, if you tell someone you’re sick, they’ll take you to the hospital, even if it’s just a cold. It’s a pretty normal thing here, but I hate hospitals and shots with a passion, so I thought I’d take my chances and tough it out. Luckily for me, I never travel without my go-to meds (in this case, Costco-sized bottles of Advil and Excedrin), but even still, Chinese school while sick was NOT a pleasant experience. I felt absolutely miserable. Then, the day after my fever broke, I woke up in the middle of the night with heat rash, making me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep! I’m pretty sure I got it just from being in such a hot climate with no air conditioning and sweating more than I’m used to. In my head, the heat and no air conditioning doesn’t bother me, but I guess my body thinks otherwise. My host family gave me some stuff for the itchiness, and it went away within a few days, due also in part to my efforts to stay in air conditioning as much as possible, but those were just not a great bunch of days. Being sick / physically uncomfortable in a foreign country always sucks, and can really make you miss the comforts of America!
老师节 (Teacher’s Day):
In others news, Teacher’s Day was on September 10th, and all the Chinese kids do special things for all their teachers on that day like buying them flowers and cards and visiting old middle school teachers. Every day, they do this thing at the beginning of every class where the teacher comes in and says “上课” (begin class), then the class leader says “起立” (stand up), and all the students stand up at their desks. Then the teacher will say “同学们好” (hello students), and the kids bow and reply “老师您好” (hello teacher). On Teacher’s Day, they also said “祝老师节快乐” (Happy Teacher’s Day) while they were all standing up. All the foreign kids also wrote their class head teachers a card for Teacher’s Day. The symbol for Teacher’s Day is a candle to represent the teacher because of the Chinese saying “Good teachers are like candles, consume themselves and burn bright for others.”
Emily the English Teacher:
Also, the three American NSLI-Y kids have begun to teach English at the primary school across from our school. One of the NSLI-Y kids’ host mom works at the school, so she arranged it with Li Laoshi (our Chinese teacher and go-to person at our school) to fit it in to our schedules. We go twice a week for a little less than an hour before lunch and “teach” the kids English. Basically, we each have our own class of cute, little Chinese kids and we teach them SUPER basic things like how to say new words and help their pronunciation. I’ve only been once so far, but the kids are SOOO adorable and I’m excited to be seeing them every week!! I think it’s another way to get more involved in the community here in China, and give back a little by volunteering our English skills. In my first class, I gave almost all of the kids an English name! Also, my class calls me “Emily 姐姐”, which is like “older sister” kind of. I think it’s cute!
Every Friday afternoon, we clean our Chinese classroom (the Chinese kids clean theirs more than once a day, so once a week isn’t bad) instead of having lessons. We mop the floors, clean the desks, the chalkboard, the windows, etc. Usually, we’ll play music while we clean, and this past Friday, we explored the classroom closet, which is full of things left behind by previous years’ NSLI-Y/AFS kids for us: Chinese resources, books, notebooks, pens, ping pong paddles, badminton stuff, a soccer ball, even some clothes and a backpack! We ended up even finding some water guns, which promptly started a water war in our classroom, ending with Hasan (the Turkish guy) pouring a whole cup of water over my head. So we were all a little wet when Li Laoshi came back to the classroom, but it was so funny.
Coffee, Shopping, & Nails:
On the weekends, my host brother usually studies and does homework with his friends, so I’m free to hang out with my friends. All the AFS kids in Changzhou usually meet up, and sometimes our Chinese friends come too (we have a big group chat on We Chat, so it’s pretty easy to organize). One of our favorite places is a coffee shop called Lai Coffee. It reminds me a lot of the coffee shop I found last summer in Jiaxing. It’s two stories high with a ton of decorative chandeliers and stuffed koala bears as table/order markers, and they sell waffles in addition to coffee and blended drinks. It’s a pretty chill atmosphere, and I have to say, coming from drinking coffee or espresso at least once a day in America, I REALLY missed drinking good coffee. I also went shopping with some friends on the weekend. Changzhou has a ton of places for going shopping, with prices ranging from very expensive (one shopping mall is solely comprised of brands like Ferragamo, Gucci, Versace, Burberry, etc.) to reasonable and cheap. China has a lot of cute clothes! You can find any kind of fashion here. We also found a Korean BBQ place that we ate at, and being half-Korean myself, I almost died of happiness. Drinking barley tea alone is enough to make me feel instantly at home, but add kimchi and bulgogi to that and I’m in heaven. We also went to get our nails done, and though we ran out of time so I didn’t end up getting mine done this time, my friends’ looked amazing! The owners of the store chatted with us for awhile too; they were really cool and even gave us discounts and coupons for next time! It pays to befriend the locals! I love hanging out with all my AFS friends. There’s nothing like taking a break from a long week at school, drinking coffee, exploring random new places, and learning new words in Danish. Although we all communicate with each other in English, at some points we’re just like “Wow, how many different languages are being spoken right now?”
Highlight of the week for me: being featured in my classmates’ journals. Li Laoshi is also my Chinese class’s 语文课 (Chinese Literature) teacher (one of the “Big Three” classes – Math, Chinese Lit, and Foreign Language, known as 语数外, these are the classes in China that are prioritized the most because they’re the most important for the 高考) (Gaokao = the college entrance exam in China that determines which college you get in to). Anyways, for their Chinese Lit class, all the students write weekly journals, and Li Laoshi told me that some of my classmates last week wrote in theirs things like “I think I am always asking Emily such stupid questions, but she is very patient and will always answer all of them.” I was very surprised when she told me that because (1) I didn’t even know they had to keep a weekly journal and (2) I didn’t think that I’d be a subject they journaled about. But it made me happy because it just goes to show that every conversation with someone counts and can make a lasting impression. For the record, I don’t think their questions are stupid. I think they’re all just self-conscious about their English. One of my friends told me this week “I think when we talk to you, you have to listen very carefully to our English to understand what we’re saying.” I replied saying their English was very good, only to be told, “No, you’re just good at understanding us, better than our English teacher!”
I guess I should also mention that one of the NSLI-Y kids decided to return home to America. She had her reasons, and we miss her very much already. Personally, I would never leave. I just think this is such a once in a lifetime opportunity, and knowing that by the end of the program in only 10 months I’ll be fully proficient in Chinese, one of the hardest languages in the world, encourages me everyday. This could literally be what gets me my dream job in the future. I’m reminded of the song “Lose Yourself” by Eminem that says “If you had one shot or one opportunity to seize all you ever wanted, would you capture it, or just let it slip?.. You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it, you better never let it go, you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” Obviously Eminem and I have a different dream we’re chasing, but the point is the same. I’ve been given the opportunity of a lifetime to make my dreams come true, and I certainly don’t want to waste it. I plan to work hard all of these next 10 months to get the most that I can out of this experience. It’s like Li Laoshi tells us in class: “Persist to the end!”