Since I’ve been in China, I came to accept that things change constantly. It’s part of the ongoing life here as well. One day you have your favorite baozi place, the next, they are tearing down the whole block to make way for God knows what. This is very applicable in most people’s daily life here as well. I recently finished one of my big contracts and had to decide what’s next. I still have other smaller contracts as well, but I reached the limit of what one can do with limited Chinese. I have been getting by quite well ordering pijio, jiaozi, baozi and the occasional jianbing here and there, but on a professional level, it won’t make much of a conversation. Following the suggestion of both friends and contacts, I ended up sitting down on the school bench yet again and thoroughly learn Chinese.
Was I in for a treat… 5 classes a week, 4 hours each and about 2 extra hours of homework/practice on a daily basis. Hard to work at the same time. It was not an easy decision, but I’ve been told it was a worthy investment for any future endowers. So how does learning Chinese go about? Well, I’ll be honest. The language is so different, that it feels like being a child and relearning to pronounce words and sounds. And here, the correct sound means everything. Keep in mind the following information. There’s 4 tones, 21 initials and 35 finals (36 if you count er ). And all of these need to be pronounced well enough (especially the tones) to avoid creating awkward situations. For those that know me well enough, I’m what you would call tone deaf. The last thing you want to see me doing is singing. (I hear some of you laughing just thinking about it). You can imagine how things might be going with my Chinese classes.
Wait, don’t panic yet! I’m honestly not that bad. When you apply yourself to something, you end up doing it well enough at some point. You just need to try. And for me, learning Chinese was not just going to school because my parents sent me there or anything. It’s more because I wanted to learn it and get the chance to have nicer conversations with local people. A lot of them are quite interesting and they’ve be nice enough to tolerate my “zhe ge” and “zhe ge”(which basically is like pointing on something and saying this).
Shifting sands is not only about finishing a contract and learning Chinese. It’s about adapting in every situation to all ongoing changes. Some are quite local, but some are elsewhere in the world. Friends get married, have kids. People move away, new people arrive in your life. And sometimes, you also feel the gap growing between you and people that are far away. It’s the life of an expat. I was talking with a friend that just got back home after several years. And she told me that she found out how many people and friends she lost along the way and how many she can’t connect with them anymore because they changed, and she changed. Those are the shifting sands.
What about me? I do worry too. It’s normal. But somewhere I get the feeling that everything is going to be alright and that my loved ones are just around the corner. Sometimes, it’s just best to not overthink things. You get better sleep, you stop worrying about it and surprisingly, you discover that a lot of time, you’re the only one overthinking it.
Today’s item on the list :
Eat Donuts! I know, it’s weird in China, but I found out there’s a Dunkin Donut here so I helped myself…
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