And I wrote this, feeling really lousy, on Sunday, September 03.
I left my room for all of two hours today. I slept late, almost until 11:00, waiting for some reason to stir me out of bed. What’s better out there? How can walking out in the hot sun, thousands staring at me and laughing, sweating bullets as I attempt to converse in a language I can’t help but drown in possibly be a better alternative to me sleeping in this nice, cool bed, the shades drawn and the outside world (for all intents and purposes) not even there? But I did get up, eventually. I showered, dressed, and began to prepare for my first class tomorrow. Steve, a British guy who’s taught here for two years and who lives across the “hall,” stopped by and asked if I wanted to go with him to “Sha Shan,” the other city in Zhanjiang. I said sure, and we agreed to meet at two. So I continued to sit in my room, listening to the Velvet Underground, preparing for tomorrow, and quietly dreading having to go out into the great big sea of people that is China.
Two rolled around quickly, and Steve and I headed out. We talked as we made our way toward the bus stop, intermittent bits of conversation bookending the long and significant silences. I kept bringing up ideas I had for teaching (and by ideas, I mean the ones I intend to use that were carefully fed to me during orientation in Hong Kong), and at every turn, it seemed Steve was unable or unwilling to really help. We’re both teaching three sections of English Thesis Writing, so what do you think about an exam where they formulate a thesis, write a brief paper, and annotate it in class? No? Bit too much? Ah, ok, well, since it’s a writing class, I was thinking about having the students keep a journal, you know, five hundred words a week or so, just so I know where they need help? No? Too much work, huh? For me. Oh. Well, I was also thinking about having the kids do some in-class writing, maybe, you know, mark them formally, so they can prepare for the final exam? Hmm, too much work again, huh?
Eventually we ended up talking about computers; my new laptop, his overclocked desktop, Age of Empires. We got to Sha Shan, and went straight for the DVDs: I bought over twenty, all (more or less) flawless bootlegs. The selection was pretty interesting: random Ingmar Bergman films alongside Hollywood schlock, Master and Commander next to The Squid and the Whale and Zombie Honeymoon. We tooled around these massive farmer’s market-esque malls, all hot and messy and informal, as Steve attempted to track down a good graphics card for his PC. I simply followed, bored, smiling at the gawkers beneath by sunglasses. Hungry, too; I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and here it is, already eight in the evening, and I still haven’t. My hunger is exponentially less than my desire to go out there and deal with people.
Steve wanted to look around a while, but I wanted to get home; why, I don’t know, because I knew that as soon as I did, I’d simply hide in my room again. And that’s exactly what I did: I left, took the eleven bus back to campus, eventually recognized where I was in time to get off at the right stop. I got home around, oh, five or so, and in short order, I checked my DVDs and ended up watching a crappy bootleg of Mission: Impossible 3. And now it’s eight o’clock; I’ve spent all of 3 hours outside this single room in the course of the day; and I just don’t care enough to eat, to talk to someone, or to do much of anything.
Tomorrow I begin teaching. I only have one class, at 10:00, but I’m going to try to wake up early, maybe run, and then be in the class room a good half hour ahead of time. I think I can handle the first fifty minutes fairly well, but when I have to actually begin teaching the class, in the second fifty-minute period, I’m going to be struggling like a fish on the dock. I hope I can throw myself completely into teaching; I hope it can motivate me to enjoy my time here in China; I hope my students enjoy my class; I hope it all gets better, starting tomorrow.
Whew, man, I was one negative nancy! It's amazing how much the first week of teaching his invigorated me. I enjoyed it so much, I learned so much, and I really like my students. I've got a lot of work to do, preparing for next week and reading these senior thesis proposals, but having some work to do is a nice change. I'll try to write about my first week of class very soon; it's a marked difference between now and when I wrote this last entry.