02 May, 2012

En Route Reflections

As frustrated as I was during PST about not having the ability to post my blogs, this exercise of posting them months later has been quite delightful. I have enjoyed being able to look back and review/reflect on what I was going through. Even if the post was nothing more than a snapshot of the instant when my fingers were on the keys, it has been interesting to compare my thoughts and feelings from then to now. The following is one of those snapshots—digitally scribbled as I transitioned to the toughest job I'll ever love

And, as a blogistic note (you see what I did there??), the backlog of blogs is nearly finished. I'm ashamed to admit that I did not write a lot during my first semester of teaching. In the coming weeks, expect those blogs, then the most recent blogs about my travel and vacations. Hopefully, I'll be posting in real-time before the semester is over. 

It’s nearly midnight. I rock back and forth with the train. I cannot sleep on trains, I’ve learned—even though the two babies below have finally fallen asleep. Now seems like as good of a time as ever to take some time and reflect.

I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer. I am on my way to Lanzhou to settle into my apartment. My apartment. After two long months of a travelling, transitional limbo, I no longer have to live out of my suitcase. I said goodbye to my host family, and will be saying hello to a vacant apartment. My apartment.

My apartment? Other than a dorm room, I’ve never really lived on my own. Now I have my own apartment in China. But I guess all college professors live in apartments if they don’t own a house.

I am technically a professor at a university—Lanzhou Jiaotong University, to be specific. (Ed note: I realise I'm not actually a professor. They don't use that word here; I'm just a teacher. However, I can dream, can't I?) I don’t know my schedule yet. All I know is that I’m going to be teaching a class about culture to post-graduate students. How often do 24 year olds teach post-graduate students?

I realise age doesn’t really matter, but it has been on my mind a lot. At my training site, which from my understanding was one sorted to be full of teachers with lots of experience, I was the second-youngest trainee. Humbled to be there with so many great teachers, I guess I have been pretty conscious of my age since coming to China; I am “the young one”.

Young or old, the people at my training site have become some of my greatest friends. I realise it’s much easier to bond when going through mutual stress—like moving to China or the like—but I just revel in how awesome my fellow volunteers are. For every odd quirk or preference I have, I’ve met someone who shares it: things like listening to NPR, reading poetry, doing crossword puzzles, obsessing about Frisbee and Scrabble. I’ve played more Scrabble in China than I typically play in a year.

I just finished a game of Scrabble; it was probably the best game of Scrabble I will ever play. They turned the lights out on the train, and so I decided to play the AI on my Kindle (my friends on the train decided to turn in early). I usually lose to the computer; it’s tough to beat.

For fear of people accusing me of telling a
Scrabble tall tale, I documented the board;
my score is in the top corner.

I start the game with a Bingo. I couldn’t believe my luck. I played really well after such a stunning beginning. I can proudly say that I never scored a round in the single digits. It was double-digits the whole game. I even managed another Bingo later in the game, and I landed that Bingo on a Triple Word Score. I ended the game with a score of 406. I rarely score in the 300s, let alone breaking 400. Although, I was playing by myself, so no one will believe that it ever happened.

I haven’t had time to do anything by myself in a while. These last weeks of PST have been chaotically busy. Ever since Biden’s speech, I have been hella-busy. This is the first time I’ve really had to sit down, write, remember and try to process things.

The busyness has affected my ability to remember things. One thing in particular I could never remember was my camera. It seemed like I forgot to bring it to nearly everything, which is such a frustrating feeling. My friends have been taking tons of photos, so I am going to try and get some from them. However, it’s just frustrating not to have my own.

Emerging from the frenzied ending to PST, I find myself with so many stories to tell—my own observations and experiences. Lots of them are random anecdotes: silly things I witnessed or ridiculous things I’ve done. I wonder how and to whom I should tell these stories. They’re just little snippets of my Chinadventures.

Would people read little, random paragraphs about things I have done? If they were short, more people probably would; although, I tend to overwrite everything—especially when I tell stories, because I have a tendency to provide more detail than is necessary, then litter it with commentary.

I assume that is why I’ll never be a successful writer. However, as of now, I’m far more worried about being a successful teacher. I don’t know why I am nervous. I’ve never been nervous about teaching before. I love teaching.

PST, in its conclusion, brought with it many more emotions than I ever expected. Some of them I could explain, others will probably never make sense to anyone but other volunteers.

Sorry this ended up being as wordy as it did; you can blame Scrabble. I just needed to get some things off my chest, I guess. There’s always more to say, I just hope I can find the words to say it. 

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