Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tough love

A blog from Nick is always a tough act to follow, but here goes. Two days ago we got back from our five-day trip to Shanghai, which was an incredible change of pace from our rather slow life in Qufu. It was both comforting and exciting to be in a more Westernized city (think Starbucks, pizza, a night life of any sort...) but it is also nice to be back home in Qufu (I've noticed I've been calling Qufu "home" quite a bit lately). However I am not going to post about Shanghai but I am sure other teachers will soon.

Lately I have been struggling to pinpoint my feelings towards China thus far. I guess the best way to put it is that I have a love/hate relationship with China. For example, I love my students, I love teaching and I love the jidan bing egg sandwich that I eat 1-2 times daily. For the most part, I love my life in China. But I can't help but feel frustrated towards my new "home" when I realize that I am denied some of the things I previously assumed to be universally available. For instance, about a week before we left for Shanghai, our Skype stopped working. One by one, we all eventually lost the ability to log on, receiving only a message stating that there was a problem with our server or network. Frustrated, many of us have been writing to Skype and filing complaints, all to no avail. We assumed that it was due to the weather, the spotty Internet connections, etc. Yet about two weeks later we have come to suspect that something much larger and more calculated has caused our Skype to suddenly disappear. Not only is Skype no longer working, but also other forms of online communication, such as Yahoo Messenger and iChat. It becomes incredibly frustrating dealing with these issues and not being able to access certain things that have become blocked.

I realize that this is one of the greatest benefits of living in a place so different: learning how to adapt and learning to be grateful for the things I didn't appreciate until I no longer had them. When I think about it, I have the same type of love/hate relationship with the U.S. When I am in the U.S. in social work classes, reading the newspapers or discussing the upcoming election, it is easy to find the fault and criticize the country's policies. However when I am abroad I realize the many civil liberties I had in the U.S. that I was blind to until I was without them. I suppose that is one of my favorite things about being abroad: not only learning about a new culture, but also discovering new things about my old culture. It is never until I am abroad that I count my blessings and realize how good I had it back at home.

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