|9 April 2005||200549|
That person who came and went last night, that person
Ah, that person who came and went last night, the evening
Last Night by Bai Huo
A lot of things have changed at SDA since I last wrote a letter. It seems like the only thing that hasn't is me!
My boss, Mr Zhu, got married a few days before Spring Festival. The bride, Peng Xuejuan, is from the eastern end of Gansu Province but is working in Xining as an english teacher. I've already written about two other weddings on my website, so I won't describe the ceremony in detail, but there were a few things worth noting. One was that the most esteemed person at the wedding, the one who sat at the head of the main table, was the person who had introduced the bride and groom to each other. Another thing I noticed was that the bride seemed quite happy to be married, which is not the norm for Mangghuer weddingsthe bride ought to pretend to be sad, out of respect for her parents. I asked Mr Zhu about this later and he said he had neglected to mention it to Xuejuan!
So, now it's the three of us living here. It seems to be working, but still I feel a bit bad for being the "lightbulb" (or in english idiom, we might say "the third wheel"). That's another reason why I would like to spend more time in Guanting, but at the moment I have to work closely with Mr Zhu to write some project proposals.
Another big change is that Yang Ying has left. Although she liked her work at SDA, the pay wasn't very good and it didn't offer much in the way of job stability. Obviously those things are very important, and even more important for an unmarried girl if she wants to attract a good husband. Now Yang Ying is working on a temporary basis as a primary school teacher in a village in Guide County (where her home is), but she still hasn't decided whether to stay there or look for a different job.
After I came back from Hong Kong, Mr Zhu and I spent a few days in Guanting. I couldn't help thinking about the time that Yang Ying and I were stuck there during the winter. In fact it was only about two weeks, but it was very cold: we took turns lighting the stove in the office each morning, and in the evening we would go straight from the office to our rooms and hop under the covers. The tap where we usually got water was frozen, so we had to pump water from the underground tank by hand. Now that Yang Ying has left, how will I ever learn to make baozi? She's also the best friend that I've made here in Qinghai.
And Zhuoya has left too. She's gone to Hawaii, where her husband is studying. It's a great opportunity for her to learn about another culture and improve her english, so I hope she makes the most of it. When she left, she seemed quite nonplussed about everything except seeing her husband again!
As for me, now that I've finally renewed my visa I will stay at SDA at least until it expires in September. After that, I don't know. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head which I'd like to try out before I leave SDA, but on the other hand I feel a nameless force urging me not to stay too long. Maybe it's because, as I wrote in my last letter, life is too short and I feel there are so many other experiences waiting for me. Or maybe it's simply because I feel a bit lonely at the moment. A year ago I wrote that I was ready to leave the safety of the chinese university environment and step into society, but in fact I seem to have stepped into a chinese household! A small organisation can be much like a family in many ways, especially in China. And especially, of course, if you're living in your boss's apartment. The result is that I'm seldom alone, but I don't go out very often and I don't have any really good friends in Xining. But, I'm working on it.
Those challenges, however, have nothing to do with China itself. People I meet often ask me, "Are you accustomed to life here?" I used to give an answer such as "somewhat", but now I've reached a point where I pretend to think for a while and then I just answer "yes". Of course, that's a bit of a conversation stopper, so I usually go on to mention that when I first came to Qinghai I used to miss rice. That lasted for all of a few weeks.
When I say that I'm accustomed to life here, I don't mean the same thing as adapted. By my definition, if you are fully adapted to a culture then you know the appropriate response to any particular situation; accustomed just means that the situation doesn't surprise you! Though I admit I don't fully understand chinese culture, and I admit that my chinese proficiency has a long way to go, I no longer encounter any real difficulties going about my everyday life. There might be one or two treats that I do without, but I don't really feel the lack of anything. There are only a few foods that I won't eat, and I seldom even complain about the weather. Furthermore, I know which bus to catch to the city, what number to call if there's a fire, how much onions cost, and how much baijiu I can drink without vomiting. Can I not say that I'm accustomed to life here?
Naturally, after so long in this country, I do not spend 24 hours a day thinking about the differences between China and Australia, or reminding myself "I'm in a foreign land". Instead, here are some of the things that occupy my mind these days: work, cooking (we take turns), songs that I'm trying to learn, updating this journal and my chinese blog, how to get a social life and/or girlfriend, and what I will do after Qinghai. And when that time comes, will I be among old friends...or new ones?
|Hey man, by chance i found your blog on the internet yesterday. After reading through an article or two, I'm really entertained by your experiences in China. When you have time, you should go visit the Huang Moutain. I was there last summer, and it's seriously an awesome place.|
18.04.2005 , 14:45
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