FROM THE FIRST DAY TO NOW (TUESDAY)
Since Friday, life has slowed down and we are beginning to establish a comfortable routine. Friends have started to contact us expressing an eagerness to get together. We have eaten out a few times, once by ourselves. It is fascinating to order from a menu you can’t read. I have taken out my phone more than once to use the Chinese to English App to help identify a dish. Many menus come with pictures of each food offering. Let me tell you, pictures can be deceiving. We have yet to eat something we didn’t like, but sometimes what we ordered did not live up to the photo or our expectation. It is much better to eat out with friends who can interpret menus and make suggestions which almost always are tasty.
A highlight of the week was when our computers were able to go online in our apartment. It was particularly nice to have a router installed that enabled Rich and I to use our laptops simultaneously. Unfortunately, as you know, it was short lived. We have been in cyber darkness for two days. I am writing to you now offline. This explains why you have received so many emails from me in so short a time. A bit of a backlog.
Another bright spot for me was that I was able to run. Yesterday, Monday, when Rich went to teach his first two classes at the “new campus” , I went across the street to the city campus and ran on the track. I was surprised by the crowd of people already there walking, running, stretching and doing a variety of calisthenics . Before I reached the track I walked by a group of people doing Tai Chi. This is the group of retired teachers Rich had regularly joined most mornings when he was here in the past. He plans to resume his association with the group later the week. I had incorrectly thought Tai Chi was done quietly. Not the case. This group followed a recording of music with a narrator guiding them through the different moves. The majority of health and exercise enthusiasts were older. There were a few students on the track and one or two young children with their parents. Just as it is with traffic on the streets here, the folks on the track “kind of” stay in a lane. It was crowded enough to feel like I was running an oval gauntlet. With my black underarmor pressure shorts, neon yellow t-shirt with a black Middlebury Fitness Logo and my pink ISQ Aviation hat on, I stuck out. It was clear that I was not Chinese or Mongolian. Because of this I received a lot of stares. Blank faces turned to smiles and chuckles when I would greet people I passed with “Ni hao” (sounds like knee how) and means “hello”. It was more impressive when I threw in a “zao sheng hao” (sounds like zow shung how) which means “good morning”. Fortunately people limited their own responses to the same. God forbid they should start speaking to me. Yikes. It felt so good running in the morning that I ran again with Xiao Wei in the afternoon. This time we ran on the Agricultural college campus along quiet roads under fragrant pine trees. This was great fun in that Xiao Wei and I were able to share our different skills with each other. I was able to help him run in a more aerobic manner and increase his English vocabulary and he helped me with my Chinese. The difference in our language knowledge was all too obvious. He learned the words: kudo, proprioceptive, aerobic and anaerobic among others. I learned: left, right, straight ahead, gate, and my favorite “Capri pants”. This latter word in Chinese literally means “9 inch pant” , in that the pant legs stop 9 inches above the ground rather than to the shoe. As you might guess, Xiao Wei is a very knowledgeable English teacher at IMNU. We have decided to try to run regularly within the limitation of our teaching schedules.
Though Rich began teaching yesterday, I won’t start for another two and a half weeks. My Western Civilization course is comprised entirely of freshman. We were told that they and all other freshman were required to complete 3 weeks of military training prior to starting the semester. Hearing this information it is easy for stereotypical images to emerge. However, the students have told Rich that the training primarily involves a lot of marching. I get the impression that it is less rigorous than American college ROTC. Either way, the students are not available for awhile. I have no idea at the moment when my graduate course Psychology for Language Teachers begins. This vague, fluid, administrative process is well established having a long and “honorable” history. Past stories from Rich about being given incorrect classroom assignments, last minute scheduling changes, and right classroom but no students has helped prepare me for the unexpected. My motto is “go with the flow” and “be flexible”. It is very clear that IMNU faculty have great affection and respect for Rich. Likewise they have welcomed me with enthusiasm. I am looking on these next few weeks as both play and preparation time. Everything will work out in its own time and manner. And when we get our internet back, life will be practically perfect.