Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Joining the Dots

It's a year to the day now that I started working in China. I won't go into tales of nostalgia, reflection, or soliloquies on all the things I know now that I didn't know then.

But, shamefully, since coming to China, I have done nothing to update my website, and made no sustained attempt to continue my writing career (unless learning Chinese can be counted).

But, when I am at home (very briefly) in August and before then (if I have time) I can start a blog in Chinese and attach it directly to the website. Maybe even start up a Chinese-language version of the website. That's not to say my musings on Chinese history and traditional culture and what remains of both can provide natives with any insight they haven't heard before, (let alone the lives of the ordinary people here) but big things have small beginnings, and I have to get out of this habit of not writing creatively fast. It will also strengthen my eventual application for a PhD in Creative Writing, if I can claim to have learnt a foreign language to the point of being intelligently playful with it.

I'm posting this publicly in order to put pressure on myself to see it through.

Otherwise, my daily life is (almost literally) a world apart from what it was two weeks ago. There are no bars, no shops that sell anything other than daily necessities, no other foreigner, only one Chinese person (apart from the Students) who is conversant in English, and certainly no Western food.

Also, the first two nights my bed didn't have a mattress, and my room didn't have any mosquito protection so I went almost completely without sleep. And after a year, I'm only starting to get an uncensored glimpse of the breathtaking inefficiency and the cut and paste approach to professionalism that many foreigners associate with China.

Teaching all of these new students has been tough so far, but it is slowly getting better. And despite the peculiarity of the local accent, the language barrier is smaller than I had expected, and the people I see every day really respect my preference for being openly approached instead of shouted at from a distance.

I'll leave you with this, paraphrased from Mario Vargas Llosa's "The Way to Paradise":

(Paul Gaugin) agreed with his grandmother that one's birthplace was an accident of fate and finding the place in the world where one belongs is the adventure and a journey that make life worth livng.

Well I have days in China, and especially here in Longchuan when I feel very far from home, but knowing these people and learning this language is giving me reason to persist, and I've barely started to learn the things in the Chinese language that I most wish to know.


Betty said...

Hi. I see you want to write about Chinese culture to practice your Chinese. Actually I'm writing about Chinese culture to practice my English. Haha. I did a search on google to see if anyone has done a similar thing, and I found you. Maybe we can encourage each other. :)
My blog address is
BTW: Why is that my blog isn't in the search results... ;p

Nick said...

Welcome to how the rest of the population lives! Sounds more like the kind of place I was living in.