One I make repeatedly, in many varied situations, is overextending myself. Overscheduling, overcommiting, and overestimating just how much I can get done in a day, week, month.
That said, there are certain parts of the China experience that are amazing: data has been gathered far more quickly than I ever though possible; L is diving into her Chinese class with relish; I have found a couple students with whom I have really connected; and day-to-day life is, if not comfortable, at least manageable.
But I over-committed to signing on for 3 hours of private tutoring a week. The number of new words each time was grueling and with everything else happening day-to-day, there just wasn’t time to learn and practice the words. With our time now more than halfway over (and 2.5 weeks since the last post!), I figured I really, really needed to re-evaluate how we will be spending our time.
And time is limited. I can’t be productive 20 hours a day anymore. My aging joints need to be stretched and my brain simply needs to chew on processes a bit harder. If I don’t make the time, things fall apart. The back hurts. The brain hurts. And so sit-ups and dangling must happen every evening. And long about 10pm I start to care only about staring at Facebook, listening to a Chinese soap opera, sneaking onto Netflix to watch South Park, or reading a book. And that’s ok.
The dangle. I can’t believe how much it helps my back. ‘Go out in the park and hang from a bar,’ was the chiropractor’s advice and it seems to work. It also introduces some interesting conversational opportunities near the soccer field. Another thing that is helping is a weekly massage. I almost wonder if twice a week would be better. It’s not always great (last week’s was actually disappointing) but L has found her favorite therapist so I may continue to search for mine. One was quite painful but the aftereffect was great. He seemed to know exactly my problem and worked and worked at making my bottom few vertebra sit farther apart from each other. L is in love with #12. She is patient, brings her English dictionary, and does exactly as L wishes–which is work on neck alignment. For $8, we really can’t go wrong.
I finally got to play tennis two weekends ago. The partner was actually a research subject. He had a racket, I asked if he played, and the next thing I knew we were exchanging numbers. It was awkward at first, but we got into a little rhythm and eventually wound up playing a little mini-set. It was so awesome that it inspired me to finally go hang up a sign on the court seeking more partners. While there someone handed me a racket and I wound up hitting (really really poorly) for a few minutes despite wearing jeans and hiking shoes and exchanging further phone numbers. Haven’t gotten any responses to the sign yet, and neither partner has called for further play, but there is hope.
The only other big event is that our 老鼠 returned (or perhaps it was the daddy of the one we poisoned) and was spotted briefly. He/she seems to be entering under the bathtub. And with the warming weather we now have mosquitoes. A net is probably in order, but we have started with two devices that get plugged into the wall and release some sort of poison into the air. One is a little bottle that looks like a Glade liquid air-freshener device. The other heats a small chip. This latter one my TA told me isn’t very good for us, but I can’t imagine that either one is. Still–is rubbing DEET on our skin before bed good for us? Yesterday morning: Multiple forehead bites. This morning: none. This wasn’t exactly a scientific experiment, as the windows were in a different configuration each night ( yes we have screens, but they are rather pitiful. Last night we were closed up with the A/C on). But there is empirical evidence that the Glade does something: in the hour we ran it before going to bed the comforter became covered in the dead and dying that had been hovering near the ceiling.
So here is a post. And hopefully others will come. But, I’m afraid the whirlwind might return quickly as I start to make travel plans and we are about to receive another houseguest. But: with one class now complete (well, the teaching part anyway. I still have a set of papers to grade, with two more on their way) I have fewer lectures to prepare each week. That is a huge relief.
Why do I need all this relief you ask? Because everything takes a long time here. We walk everywhere and our apartment is on an end of campus that’s not too near anything. We can take a cab or bus, but with traffic typically at a near stand-still, it is often preferable to spend the half hour walking to Frenchy town for groceries. Said traffic makes just about any trip a half-day affair.
In addition to travel time, there is the Chinese propensity (warning: large paint brush approaching) to not make plans ahead of time. This creates some friction with my desire to know what’s going to be happening on a day-to-day basis. I’m not the only person to point this out, and it is not just an American thing. A Chinese friend said to me not too long ago when I noticed many empty rooms in a brand new building: “You know, we really aren’t very good at planning.” This extends to daily life as well. At some point in the next two weeks my guest will give a lecture. We’re not sure when though. Sometime next month I will be giving lectures in Tianjin and Xi’an. But again: not sure when nor on what topic. I spoke with the Embassy librarian today and she confirms that events frequently are not scheduled until just a few days before and are regularly canceled at the last minute. I’m just glad that internal travel is cheap and there is no large penalty for buying late.
If ubiquitous access to cellphones means that appointments with friends and business associates can be more fluid and exact meeting points are becoming flexible (see Kwan 2007), the Chinese have mastered living lives without fixed calendars.
Except for nap time. Don’t mess with nap time. Don’t dare suggest meeting at 1, 1:30, or even 2. 2pm is the time to rub your eyes and figure out how you are going to spend the rest of your day. There is always a chance your boss will invite you to a formal banquet. Or perhaps there will be a concert to attend. Or maybe, just maybe, you should go buy your train ticket and make a hotel reservation because this weekend is a holiday.
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