Friday, June 19, 2009

Do I need a vacation from China?

Do you think there is a phenomenon called culture fatigue?

As the semester comes to an end and as I wait in purgatory, waiting to hear when our summer teaching project will start, I am tired, exhausted kind of.

I don't have much work.
I am not teaching anymore.
I finished grading my seniors' finals.
Now I am waiting for my freshmen to take their finals.

The sun is shining and I have plenty of lovely chill moments eating watermelon at the outdoor stand, hanging out at the local shou kou (BBQ) garden and going on bike rides in the countryside.

So why am I tired?

Even though I don't have any official school work, maybe I am always on, always working because I live in another culture. Even though I feel I am settled into my Chinese community, maybe it takes work to actually just live here: working through the cultural differences, always talking in another language, working to understand the various nuances of this culture, often being the center of attention, and having one's expectations dashed.

These past weeks have been a struggle. My sitemate and I pushed hard to go to Tianshui, got permission, and then had our passports taken away. We have met new people and try to figure out what their body language means, their tough attitudes. We have had day long outings with colleagues and their families which was relaxing but also tiring, spending a lot of time socializing and speaking Chinese. I spent a couple of days grading finals with so many copied verbatim answers for the writing essays and for the independent study. We spent a couple of days trying to crack the department's rules and regulations about cheating, about whether or not we can fail seniors who didn't make a 60 on their finals, and about what type of format to submit grades.

Is there a way to rest from culture fatigue?

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