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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Time Flies When You're Having China

Where have the past two months gone? Like so much overheard Chinese chatter on the bus, October and November just dissolved into the ether: I was paying attention, I was trying really hard, but in the end, they just slipped through my fingers.

Forced metaphors aside, I really cannot believe how quickly these past two months have come and gone. The dangers of routine, I suppose, or maybe the joy of keeping yourself busy. I've been studying a lot of Chinese, and improving to the point where even I can say without modesty that I no longer suck. Of course, I've spent a lot of time in class and with students as well; noticeably less time with my students this year than last, something I both regret and enjoy. My Freshmen have blossomed into real people, but they are so busy with class (even on Saturday) that we've seen little of each other outside of class, and just as they are often too shy to make the first move toward a meeting, I often selfishly keep my weekends free to do whatever I want, which is rarely anything special. Other than giving class, it's been time in Chinese class and with Chinese tutors and studying.

The truth is that living in China, or, I suspect, living abroad anywhere, begins with a wave of novelty and soon settles into a trickle of normalcy: you fall into a routine, you get into ruts, you have lazy weekends, and you don't do anything worth writing home (or blogging) about. Part of me feels bad for being lazy, for being boring, for being normal, for not seizing every moment of living abroad to travel to a new city or see a new sight. But as much as I love traveling and seeing and doing new things, it's impossible to live like that all the time. Just being abroad doesn't magically change how you go about life. And so for all the wondrous things and people and experiences in China, there's just as much downtime, hanging out with James, Kevin, and Jim, or sitting alone in my room studying or planning or just doing nothing at all.

I can write about my "boring" life here, and at the same time look back on the last few months and remember the little moments of joy and happiness that have given texture to my life here in Jilin, moments that aren't worth writing about, or moments so strange and funny and different that to explain them here would be useless. So it goes, c'est la vie, etc. (I'm sure there's a similar phrase in Chinese, just haven't learned it yet.)

The long holiday for the Spring Festival will be here soon. I'm looking at nearly a month and a half off, from about mid-January to the very beginning of March. Aaron and other Maryknollers have taken that time and returned to America, but I just can't afford that. What I can afford is a cheap flight from Hong Kong to Singapore, and once in Singapore, I'm thinking of making my way through Malaysia and into Thailand. I think I can spend a month or so doing that. That month won't slip away.

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