There’s a rooster somewhere nearby crowing, only it sounds more like someone gave a megaphone to a drunk sheep and convinced it to sing a Ray Charles song. It’s about 11:15 am and he’s been at it for a while now, so I can only imagine that whoever is using the thing as an alarm clock keeps hitting the snooze on the overgrown bird, or he’s trying to spice things up and set a new pace to the day. Either way, the rooster isn’t what woke me up; it was the fireworks blasting off somewhere down the road at 8:20 this morning. Probably some construction crew signaling the completion of the sixteenth floor of whatever building their workin’ on. Yes, yes, even as I’m crawling out of bed it’s apparent that I am, in fact, in China.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good old fashion explosion in the morning; I’m usually smiling when I realize it’s not an air raid. It’s all par for the course here in China, or so I’m slowly learning.
Ups and downs still abound, but I’m happy to report a nice up swing as of late. Our school has seen fit to give us our very own business cards, and I gotta be honest: I couldn’t help feeling a tiny bit of puerile pleasure at seeing my name in bold with the position of Education Specialist next to it. We have a whole stack of them, and after placing one in my wallet and vainly staring at the others for a moment, it occurred to me that I don’t really have anyone else I need to give one to. So I’m thinking that everyone gets a free business card from Jordan in their Christmas cards for years to come!
Another positive note is that we’ve finally attained success with our banking qualms. For nearly two months we’ve been trying to send money back home, and this week it actually worked. While banking in China as a foreigner is a bit tricky, it still should not have been as difficult as our situation turned out to be. On the other hand, banking here has been the only time I’ve ever been considered a VIP client. As foreigners Noelle and I have always bypassed the grab-a-ticket-and-wait-in-line gamble on the first floor and gone to the second, apparently more affluent, floor. Again, cue the childish excitement. However, with the troubles we’ve had to overcome, I can only wonder how many blockades stand in the way of the multitudes that don’t get expedited service.
At the end of the day though, I still find even the inconveniences interesting hurdles that need to be jumped, not horrible pitfalls of a developing country. Through it all we keep learning. Everyday we get a chance to fail miserably with our limited Chinese, but with each exchange we make we correct a mistake.
Both of us are finding new areas of interest, too. Noelle has gone to a local orphanage with a few other teachers and her love of all things miniature has made that a passion of hers. Through her visit we’ve learned a little about the bizarre and overly complicated state of adoption here in China, and we’ve had our eyes opened to the common misconceptions of everyday health concerns that many Chinese seem to harbor. I don’t know if anyone in history ever said the condition of a nation can be reflected in the way it treats its poor, orphaned, and destitute, but I think it’s a damn good thought. It becomes clear that China is still a developing nation when you encounter and interact with the system that inundates and tangles those children in needless bureaucratic mazes. From what I’ve gathered, and it is supremely limited by my ignorance, the situation surrounding orphans can seriously be labeled a plight of some magnitude.
Our staff at the school, largely informed by another passionate Western Teacher, has gone several times to the orphanage since we’ve been here. It’s becoming a weekly venture that I haven’t had the opportunity to be a part of yet, but next week’s outing is coming up quickly and I have no excuse.
On a completely unrelated and slightly more selfish note, I’ve developed a fascination with the ancient travelers—Chinese and European—that made major discoveries of exploration in Asia and even parts of North America. Something about the unbridled sense of adventure and wonder in these men and their endeavors sticks with me, and I find myself thinking more and more about their legacies each day.
Someone recently mentioned to me that some of the young adults in China today feel as though they are, for lack of a better word, lost. Generations before have had battles to fight, injustices to right and changes to make. So many feel that their lives have gaps that can’t be filled because there are no causes to rally behind or quests to undertake. Sure, the countless stores catering to every sort of style and commercial fancy can distract the hordes of consumers, but even through it all people can feel the empty spaces. What I can’t seem to shake is the feeling that this is not just a Chinese dilemma. Even in the US the young people embody that rebel without a cause mindset without even knowing it. Rebels with no focus are simply agents of anarchy, and no one really wants to get behind that, right?
I guess it boils down to one thing, and it’s funny because this one thing is what I’ve been battling in my own life and within my writing for a long time now: we all want to find our voice and we want that voice to say something worth saying. I think my fascination with those voyagers of so long ago stems from a very universal appreciation for those that changed the world, or at least added to our understanding of it a little at a time. Maybe by diving into the past I can help elucidate an answer for the present, at least for me anyway. That’s all I can do, really–try to make sense of the world the way I see it.
We’re teaching, learning, and living in a place and time that has much to offer…
Heck, I’m even trying to learn how to play Chinese Chess!