One of the harder lessons I am continually given a opportunity to learn here in China is to be ready for anything. When the Chinese say, “let’s go!” it means let’s go this second, no, don’t stop to change your shoes or put on another layer of clothes or brush your hair or… well, you get the idea.
The Chinese I work with seem to live simply. They don’t have a lot of possessions– the teachers only have their bunk in the dormitory and a little locker to store their stuff. They don’t seem to have many clothes–mostly a really great pair of shoes (something with some character) and a fabulous shirt, not a t-shirt, but a nice shirt with color and style and maybe some sparkly things or a cartoon character on it. When they get dressed on Monday they get dressed for the week. I figure this is probably because there are no dryers (at least none that I’ve seen) and it takes a couple days for clothes to hang dry in the hanging-dry space in the living quarters. In my apartment the drying space is a nice glassed in balcony with windows to let in the air and a sliding glass door to keep it out of the apartment.
My latest lesson culminated in a resolution to always carry my toothbrush and a spare pair of underwear.
After shopping for instruments (see The Music Street) I was dropped off at the Beijing preschool where Maggie and Molly are staying. It was evening and I worried that I would not make the one-hour subway trip to the bus stop in time to make the last bus to Yanjiao. So I called my roommate, Vivian, to let her know I would stay the night in Beijing with Maggie and Molly. There just happened to be a bed for me in their room.
The next morning I awoke, got dressed, and headed upstairs (the dormitory is in the basement) to say my goodbyes and head back to work in Yanjiao. To my surprise I ran into the big boss of all the preschools whom I hadn’t seen since a lunch date in October. Right behind him was the business manager from Hohhot, and then there was Nili.
Nili is in China to help get the Beijing preschool up and running, to write curriculum for the preschools, and to help train the teachers. Southwestern College is in partnership with our preschools and plans to use the Beijing school as a focus lab school. Nili is a whirlwind of exciting thoughts, ideas, and plans, and boy did she have a plan for me.
After cursory greetings, I was told that I would be going back to Yanjiao to get my things and say goodbye to the staff and students there, and moving to Beijing permanently.
Oh wow, this wasn’t in my plans. Although I had originally been hired for the Beijing preschool, it wasn’t ready when I arrived in August. Nobody had mentioned it to me since. Not even when I had lunch with the big boss in October. I had settled into a comfortable routine in Yanjiao with my friends and co-workers. I had plans for a window garden in the big bedroom window. I had plans to teach the teachers how to play poker and Monopoly. I had plans to learn how to cook yummy Chinese food from Vivian. I was stunned.
Nili explained that the Beijing preschool was in an emergency situation–that we needed to get the classrooms ready for an Open House on the 15th if we had any hopes of having students for the next term (which begins in February after the two weeks of Spring Festival holiday celebrations known in the US as Chinese New Year). She reminded me that I had originally been hired as the Assistant Director for this preschool.
I will admit that I’d been in denial about the possibility of a move because I was finally happy where I was. And, I guess, I thought I’d have a little more heads up to prepare myself.
I wasn’t allowed to leave that day, though. We got right to work planning the classrooms and the details for the Open House. The next two days were a swirl of activity with meetings, shopping trips, cleaning and decorating. Finally, the evening of Thursday the 6th, after having been in the same clothes for three days, without a shower, clean underwear, deodorant, or a toothbrush, I finally insisted on going home to collect my things.
To be continued…
(Really this time. I mean it. It’s even completely written. I just thought this post was getting too long. I promise I’ll publish it tomorrow! )