April marks six months of being here, so it’s probably time for that “what-have-I-learned-since-I’ve-been-in-China” post. I think
this is that. What I’ve learned. No quiz.
I Get Around
where I want to go by myself has been an adventure in communication. Yep, I’ve learned how to negotiate the bus system and can pretty much get to gigs and other places as I need to. I’ve kind of learned how to take taxis to different parts of the city, too, though I’ve gotten lost a couple times. Once on the way to a gig—I thought I said one thing when in fact I didn’t. Oops. Arrived somewhere and had no idea where I was and couldn’t say anything to indicate where I really needed to be. Thank goodness I have awesome colleagues I can call (put a mark on the wall: I have a cell phone) who not only speak Chinese but who are also willing to help me untangle transportational miscommunications regardless of the time. (Thank you, Josh, Krystal.) But mostly I take the bus and get where I need to be no problem.
Work It Out
I’ve learned there are certain things I have to do every day or else I will go crazy. Really, I mean crazy. It probably goes without saying that singing, playing guitar are daily requirements; writing, getting outside, socializing also gotta happen every day. But the biggie? I have to exercise. In Humboldt, I ride my bike for miles and hours. I’m used to extended physical exertion, so of course, I would need to keep exercising in China. Duh, right? I thought I would buy a bike when I got here but had to re-think that. The traffic here is crazy—I mean crazy—crazier-than-I-am-if-I -don’t-exercise, crazy. Because I know people at home love me and that I would be putting my life in extreme jeopardy were I to take these streets as an inexperienced rider, I decided against the bike. I joined a gym instead. It’s nothing like biking—especially nothing like riding in Humboldt—but it works for now. Plus, it provides fodder …
*Gym tangent—Gyms in China are a pretty new phenomenon. Mine’s only a year old. So, gym etiquette that I’ve come to expect (and appreciate!) just ain’t happening.
Example? The thigh abduct machine (you know the one) is located outside the entrance of the glass-fronted spin classroom. At 7:00 pm the class begins, and if you’ve poorly timed your
workout to be on the thigh machine at any point during spin class, you’ve set yourself up for an eighth degree ogling. So, there it is, 7 o’clock, and I’m doing inner and outer thigh exercises in front of the spin room. Ladies behind me bent over stationary bikes, posteriors raised. And there’s a line of eight, twelve, guys in front of me their eyes darting from the thigh master to the spinners behind me. They are nearly immobilized, standing, staring…drooling? Then one approaches me—while I’m on the machine, mid-thigh master motion—and in jerky English asks if I would play ping pong with him. Yep, ping pong. Is this euphemism??
Humboldt, I Need You
But I think the greatest life lesson so far is fully understanding how important my relationships are at home. Earlier this year a dear friend passed away unexpectedly, and it was not possible for me to get back to the States. The experience made me stop and examine how I express love and appreciation to the people I care about most. Admittedly, I’m not often the most demonstrative in my relationships. But I do care. A lot. And when you’re in a foreign country without any training in the language, no friends or people who know you, it makes you appreciate the folks at home who have taken the time to really get to know you, warts and glories. And when you don’t have those folks around anymore, it
makes you realize that you probably had a lot of love that you took for granted. It makes you appreciate how when you’re home you can go to Has Beans and strike up a conversation—in English!—with nearly anyone because you know just about everybody who’s there. Or how you can go to Old Town Coffee and Chocolates and spend Wednesdays with your music pals at open-mic with Sky. Or in Eureka how you can walk down A Street to the waterfront and stop and chat with your neighbors about their beautiful rhododendrons and spring iris. You can talk to their cats, too, and call out to the ravens on the light pole without anyone thinking you’re too weird. Even though you probably are, but because it’s Eureka, and you’re wearing an orange hat and cute calico skirt, they figure you must be harmless, which you are unless you haven’t exercised. In which case you’re crazy which is still perfectly acceptable in Eureka.
But the point is I miss my home and all the people who have been kind and loving to me.
Terri, you, me ginger weasels, lunch. Lyndsey, music!!! Leslie, art night, your yard, making messes. Joe Shermis, poetic response always. Sarah, I miss your sweet voice. Seven-o-Heaven, I just miss your dorkiness? Something like that…Yo, Goff, bass? Guitar? Startare, drums, yes? Valerie, do you know how many times you held my spirit? Frankie H. Renee, January, tree spirits. Sabrina, voice of reason, rationale. Gretchen, hey you’re a ginger, too—lunch! Rose, scones and all your goodness—you’re a goddess.
I can’t wait to be that weird, geeky bird girl neighbor again, camera in hand, singing. But in the meantime, I did raise my hand for this, and the brave little soldier remains steadfast. I have a mission—preparing firs t year Chinese college students for Humboldt State.
I’ve geeks to make.
Much love from China, ~Jos
*Centered pic? It’s what it’s like taking the bus to gigs around Xi’an–they’re always packed!