So I’ve said before that I want this blog to be a place of authenticity. I want to be honest and I want to be real. So here it is… The truth: I hate it here and I have no clue what I’m even doing in China. I’m fighting back tears as I sit here and write this damn blog post. I knew before I got here that this experience would test me. I knew it would have its ups and downs, its challenges and struggles; but I also expected some sense of triumph, purpose, or reward. There has been nothing of the sort from the moment I first arrived.
Look, I’ve traveled before. I know the signs and stages of culture shock and I know that they pass (eventually.) But I don’t think this feeling and sense of heaviness that has only grown since I’ve been here can be chalked up to mere culture shock… or maybe it can, but I don’t think that diminishes the seriousness of what I am feeling. Yes, adjusting to a new culture is difficult. Chinese culture itself is extremely difficult. From people shoving past you in line, to hearing the sound of people hocking and spitting everywhere, to an all around inability to communicate even the simplest of things, to not even having a functional kitchen that I can cook a decent meal in, its definitely been the most trying experience I’ve ever had. I also feel like I’m on sensory overload as there’s never a moment’s peace or silence in this whole country as there is always music or something blasting from speakers every twenty meters.
My job (in all of its lack of resources and teacher support and my lack of qualifications) is impossible. Between my 8 university prep classes where I’m expected to get the students to a level where they can pass a university entrance exam without any curriculum or usable textbooks, and my middle school classes that average 50-60 students per class who can barely understand even a tenth of what I say, it is just too much. I come to school every morning with a heavy sense of dread that doesn’t go away until after I get home and only then to be replaced by a sense of despondency. And unfortunately, there is nowhere to go to get away from it. We live right across from the school, so we can hear the school bells ring day and night. Our choices for entertainment are the supermarket and the supermarket. I’ve taken to working out a lot more, but of course the only place to work out is on the track at… you guessed it, the SCHOOL. Furthermore, in addition to all that (as if this wasn’t enough), I am incredibly lonely.
There is no human contact in this place (or at least none that has been directed towards me). All life is is to the people in this community is work. The students are in school from 7 AM- 10 PM and the teachers are right there along with them. The interactions I have had with coworkers outside of work has been awkward and stilted at best. Yes, I have been shown moments of kindness; like the two people who have offered me rides on their mopeds from the supermarket on different occasions and our supervisor who took us out to dinner with her family; but overall, it is like I don’t exist outside of my position as a teacher.
I miss being at home and surrounded by friends. I miss my family, my pastor, and especially my church. I miss human touch…. like I really miss hugs… a lot. Its been six weeks since I’ve had a real, honest to goodness hug and being the tactile person I am, that is practically a death sentence. People say they reduce stress and I think there is really something to that. I have physically been able to feel myself relax and my heart rate slow with the help of a really good hug on countless occasions. Since I haven’t had that here, I have just been holding onto that stress. I just really miss coming back to an apartment full of girls willing to throw their arms around me and snuggle when I’ve had a particularly bad or stressful day.
I honestly don’t know if I will complete my year here. I’m giving myself until the end of October to decide. I want to finish out the semester at the very least, but at this point, I feel like anything beyond that will be impossible. I could use some love, support, and prayers right now. And when I am able to come home in February, I expect some big, back-breaking hugs *ahem* Crista and Heather….