Sitting in Front of a Chinese Classroom
Shashi, Hubei, People's Republic of China
Ms. Jen was the teacher for class 6, five flights of stairs up a tower of a school in a small Chinese town of 2 million. She had about 16 students who became the delight of each day and made the climb up the stairs several times a day worthwhile. Some of the things I remember most from that time spent in China were the 100+degree days and humidity more oppressive then I ever thought possible. Air conditioner was thought to be bad for your health and coffee as well. But these minor struggles were worth it just to hear the way my students called my name. I started blogging just before going to China so I want to pull up two of those blogs because too much time has passed and I can't write from my heart about China anymore. But maybe you will hear through my earlier writing some of what happened to me that summer.
Friday, July 29, 2005
Today I must say good-bye to many of my students and so I can't sleep. I realized something, again, tonight. Last summer I made this same mistake. I forget that while I am away from Lubbock the rest of you guys lives are still going on. I am so used to talking to all my friends everyday that when I go a whole summer without talking to you in my mind your lives are on pause. I know this isn't the case. So...when I come home I want to hear lots and lots of stories. I want to know who has been spending time with who. Who went where. What happened at all the camps and missions trips. Please tell me lots and lots of stories. I hate that I missed out on such a big part of all your lives, again. That however does not make me regret being gone for another summer. This brings me to what made me originally remember missing out on so much. I feel like, in a small way, I have been silenced much like Zachariah. My voice is all but gone from being sick so I am not a very good teacher on my last days teaching. So I try to keep my words as few as possible. I really want to take a step back and take it all in before I go. There are many faces here I may never see again. Many faces that mean so much to me. So I will stand quietly watching everything. Maybe by the time I go home I will be well and be able to sing like Zachariah, a song of China. And maybe it will be a little while. I hope it is really because for now I have many things to think about and many stories to listen to from all my friends. So please tell me your stories first and then please help me figure out what happened to me during my brief stay in China. I miss you and cannot wait to be home in a real bed sleeping on a real sheet under real blankets. I cannot wait to have my own room and people who can understand what I am saying. But then again, I will never forget my home in China. I will never forget the faces who loved me because I was courageous enough to travel around the world to teach them something that will help them LIVE in this world. I decided I also want a Pizza when I get home, with real cheese. Have a good evening and Peace out!
Today we leave Shashi. I have to admit that I have cried already more then I thought I could. I am pleased to say that I went out with a bang however. My last class was with out a doubt the best class, even though I had no voice all morning. Everyday my teaching really did improve. No matter how difficult or tiring teaching was, I never gave up and every day got a little easier and a little more comfortable. Friday night 12 of my students took me to a western food restaurant and they were such inexperienced fork and knife users. It was ridiculously funny. They stabbed the rolls with a fork!?!? So funny! It makes up for the time they took me to the noodle place and I couldn't eat my noodles with chop sticks. Noodles are the most difficult thing to eat with chop sticks I think. After eating we went to an underground roller skating rink. It was kickin'. I had the time of my life. Those kids are so crazy and so much fun. I wish we could have bonded more quickly but I am glad we were able to enjoy each other to the very last day. So I was thinking while I was showering tonight and decided that it is a very terrifying thing to go to a place that you do not speak the language. I have just now started to recognize some of the words I hear frequently, even though I do not know what some things mean. And today I understood a whole sentence one of my students said. She said "I do not want you to go (in Chinese)" and I replied, "I wish I could stay longer (in English)." I didn't know she didn't say it in English but when I answered back all my students stared at me and were like, "Since when do you understand Chinese?" I guess I just picked up on the tones and emotions, which is what I rely on most of the time because I usually have no idea what is going on. But I felt really special for understanding the Chinese. But what I decided was even more terrifying then being in a place you don't know the language is for me to come home and never hear my name spoken again by a Chinese student. Every time I hear them calling my name I melt. Just the thought of one of my students really wanting to talk to me fills me with joy because talking with the foreigner is difficult and they are all so shy. But for some reason they love me and say I'm very kind and cannot stop asking me questions. I love them all very much and tomorrow is going to be a very difficult day for all of us. And Monday is going to be another very difficult day because that is when the team splits up. We don't know if we will ever see each other again but we have invested so much in each others lives that I imagine we will keep in touch for a long time.
Xia zhen (good-bye)
The actual "moment of conversion" that I wanted to discuss came the begining of the third week of teaching. It was Monday, my least favorite day, and I didn't want to be teaching that day. Getting started was always the hardest part. So I passed out all the materials for the day and greeted all my students then I was standing at the back of the room saying a silent prayer trying to muster some strength to get going again and I looked up and saw that my students had come to class early to transform my chalkboard into a mural of love. They drew me as an aneme character and wrote "I love you Jen" in english and chinese and had some other things that we enjoyed together on the board. That was the best gift I have ever recieved. After taking that all in and my students were getting back to working in their books I sat under the board, on the floor (a taboo in China) and my heart hurt for my students. Because if all I have ever learned in the church is true, there is little hope for them. They were all going to perish. Sure, I was trying to sow seeks and hopefully others would come into their lives as well but what if that didn't happen? And I hurt for my precious little friends. Then a couple of them asked me why I sat of the floor and they joined me. They sat on the floor, maybe for the first time since being inculturated into their culture, because they wanted to be like me. wow. I'm rambling now but maybe you see what an impact these small things had on me. I love my students and sometimes I still get email or MSN live conversations with them. That's always pretty awsome.
As always, thanks for reading. I like to hear your thoughts and questions in the comment form.