Thursday, 8 October 2009

Full of Melodrama

Well, it’s been a long time.

China decided to crush even the smallest hint of internet freedom over the celebrations for the 60th anniversary of Communist rule, meaning my apparent internet presence has been reduced to zero. Unfortunately normality was not restored after the celebrations as I had hoped, so alas; my life continues with a gaping wound where Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and BlogSpot used to reside. I have not, however, been as absent as I may seem. I am able to read all comments on both rhymingwithoranges and JazzainChina videos and get any Facebook messages emailed directly to me. So I have been aware of goings on, just unable to join in. It’s almost as if I’m a kid off school because he is sick, able to see the kids playing in the playground from my window but cut off from the outside world…

Now that’s melodrama if I’ve ever seen it. (In retrospect this melodrama continues…)

If I am one hundred per cent honest I am still having a rocky experience in China-land. Over the holiday I got pretty close to a nervous breakdown, was seriously considering dropping out and coming back to England, maybe taking up Japanese Studies instead.

Money has been one of the main burdens. I believe this transition would have been made much easier if my debit card were never stolen. The bank have insisted in sorting everything out through the post, I can’t tell them what to do with my money through email which, to be honest, is probably 100 times easier than China post anyway. I have been lucky in that so many of my friends have offered to lend me money – I am incredibly blessed.

Another issue has been the Chinese language itself. Needless to say, it is a challenging language. I feel like I am on a plateau at the moment and that that plateau isn’t very high up the mountain range at all. It is rare for me to get into any conversation more complicated than, “Where are you from?” “How long have you been studying Chinese?” “Do you like Chinese food?” I appreciate this is a stage one reaches when learning any language, I just haven’t experienced it for a long time. I suppose I got too comfortable being the guy who was good at languages. I suppose it’s good to be out of that comfort zone. Oh, and by the way, I moved back down to the B group of classes, but a higher one than the one before. I am much more content there, it’s for the best.

Finally, and probably most importantly, I have found myself becoming more and more disillusioned with China. I have been questioning why I chose this language, this culture, this people. When we did our cruise down the Yangtze I saw a China I was less than impressed with. Wonderful monasteries and temples turned into garish tourist attractions and ways to make a quick buck. There was one temple that even had a ghost train built into it – not a word of a lie. But the Chinese people seem to lap this up. They will readily buy the tat, take a picture of themselves making a peace sign next to the painting or relic, then move swiftly on as the tour guide tells them through the megaphone about the statue that was erected in 1994. This has probably got a lot to do with the people who we were touring with, I realise that there are swathes of people who love and appreciate their country’s culture; but I begin to fear that they are few and far between.

China is what I am going to make it. If I find myself struggling with the language, I need to find myself a language partner or do volunteer some shifts in the hostel a friend of mine runs. If I am having issues with money I can swallow my pride, take up my friends’ offers, borrow money and pay them back when I can. If I feel disillusioned about the Chinese people, the Chinese culture, then I go out and find the parts of China that I fell in love with in the first place. To be honest I have forgotten why I chose this subject in particular in the first place. I can have fun rediscovering the reason. I am lucky enough to know enough Chinese people that can help me with this – my flatmates for one.

I am a tough cookie, it’s a family trait. I am more than capable of getting through this, making the experience my own and growing because of it. I have various methods of keeping me sane. One is BBCiPlayer. Radio four is my saviour; the home of Women’s hour (don’t judge), The News Quiz, Just a Minute, From Our Own Correspondent and Chain Reaction to name but a few (speaking of which, someone should turn the concept of Chain Reaction into a YouTube channel). Along with various Guardian podcasts they make me feel like my damp country is just outside my room.

Spot has also dragged me up by my garters. Boxing, and soon swimming (oh how I have missed it) are like meditation for me. There is also a triathlon that I am planning on taking part in later this month; I really should start training for that. For me sport is the best way to relax, and maybe even pick up some new vocabulary… however useless in day to day life. 拳套!

I have some awesome friends as well, both here and scattered across the globe who have been quite simply delightful. If you have sent me the smallest message on Facebook, send a pointless email or even said, “Hi” to me on Skype to just be swiftly ignored (I rarely log out so get a lot of missed messages), then thank you.

This post has quite frankly been more for me than you, but kudos if you read all 1000ish words up to this point. Blogging is a wonderful form of therapy and I promise you my experiences here have by no means been as grim as I seem to make out. If you want to see happy, check out - for some reason I can only ever write when I am angsty.

As ever, thank you for reading. I am now going to listen to desert Island discs with Ellen MacArthur.



eibbore said...

You'll make it. Just make the most of it, you have a bunch of great people with you by the sounds of it. It's so difficult moving to a different country especially one where you are not fluent with the language.

And, on another note, studying Chinese at this point in time can only help you if you ever want to work for any business. They say that the center of the business world is going to shift, sooner rather than later.

Laura said...

It's good to see both sides of your stay in China. It's understandable that you would be disillusioned with the country if you had a previous notion about it, but I think it's good to see something for what it really is. I'm sure things will turn around!

Jordan said...

I'm wondering if you're actually listening to an Ellen MacArthur thing, or were just being poetic. Either way it made me laugh... troubled times, angst, stress, Ellen MacArthur its all rather perfect.

We have tasteless tourist spots in the UK too. I wouldn't sweat that; there are probably plenty of places that are more authentic.

I don't speak any other languages though, so I can't offer much comfort there - hang in there!

theresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
theresa said...

so true: "Blogging IS a wonderful form of therapy!"

wanna know somethingelse that's true?: fun-levels in China are going to improve as well as your Chinese skills!!!

we're keen on reading about that sometime SOON ;-)

cellist said...

Hey Jazza-

I realize that this sounds kind of ridiculously cheesy, but you and your love for China have been a true inspiration for me.

At the beginning of the summer, i went to china for two weeks, and you had been awesomely helpful with recommending books and blogs for me (chinese lessons! <333)

That experience, (i LOVED it) made a pretty big impression on me, and i'm thinking about doing something with China in the future (i.e, all colleges i look at have to have asian studies!) What you're doing is absolutely amazing to me, actually LIVING in china, and studying, and teaching. This is getting kind of ramble-y, but i really admire that you're pursuing your love for the country.

so, basically, thanks for your book recommendations! and for your passion for china! and hang in there!

Gary + Cheeky said...

Everyone who's life you have touched seems to miss you - even down to the humble youtube whores like myself. I'm sending you good vibes and some healing; hopefully your version of China won't be lost forever. As sad as it is, the ghost train idea could be where Westminster Council are going wrong...imagine St Pauls...THE GHOST TRAIN! eurgh x

caliowin said...

hey jazza,

I find it interesting to read your blog and experiences and compare it to a good friend of mine who's doing a year abroad in shang hai. She's having the time of her life, travelling lots, going out at night, studying by day.

You'll rediscover your passion, it may take awhile. There must be huge culture shock between here and china. Once you've got a new debit card, and begin to pick up more of the language, you'll have a great time. Make the most of it til then, count your blessings at what you are experiencing, and go swim a few miles :)

Good luck. You're strong enough!