Saturday, November 21, 2009

In the Valley

Today is one of those sad days. In the cycle of living abroad, there are up days and down days. Today is a down day.

My Chinese lesson was excellent though. I was able to answer 5 questions about my childhood in a full story paragraph talking about my mother being afraid of me going to school on a school bus and getting lost at the age of 5 not knowing any Chinese and looking Chinese, talking about being yearbook editor in high school and not having a boyfriend, talking about making mud pies and going swimming in the front yard pond to gather clay at the bottom to make pots, the Alabama sun as the drying oven, and talking about the different animals we had on our farm. I was also able to listen to a joke on chinesepod and watch a Chinese cartoon before class and retell the joke and what the cartoon was about.

I feel though that my spoken Chinese has hit a wall. Everyday, I have been studying how to recognize characters and have been typing different dialogues and homework on the computer, but my spoken Chinese has taken a hit. I stutter along. I wonder if my brain can't do both at the same time. At some point everything will come together, right?

Back to the down day. Why today?

Well in a world where I spend a lot of time with students or had a week with a bit too much socializing, I need a break and just want to sit cooped up in the house knitting and having a Star Wars' marathon, eating ramen water heated by an electric kettle because my gas tank went empty the night before while cooking a bean soup. Cooped up is not a positive thing. It feels like being an old person like my grandmother when I was living with her. That world revolved around meals, TV shows, naps, when the mail arrived, and then bedtime. It had a quiet restless unproductive feel to it. But there are times during the week that I too feel the need for such a day but then once the day is over it feels not so good.

I did leave the house once today to have dinner at the restaurant mall, four stories of restaurants, had a plate of sizzling noodles, and eavesdropped on a couple with whom I was sharing a table with in the crowded restaurant. They spoke of the food, spicy, sweet. They spoke of the weather and of what majors are good to do in college. It was small talk boring talk but I understood it. If that is all couples talk about then the language barrier wouldn't be a problem if I wanted to date someone Chinese. I bought 50 miniature oranges from one of the many vendors pushing bikes around with baskets full of mini fruit. I ate candied strawberries on a stick and stopped at the new bakery where the workers speak English. Chinese bread tends to be sweet even the ones they claim are salty.

Now I am back home working on a blue striped sock.

Tomorrow will be another day. I've been invited on a bike ride. The people I went to Henan with during the summer will all be back in Xifeng for a week. It will be warming to my heart to be reunited with all of them.

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