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Violets at the Temple of Heaven

Things that make me smile... violets at the wall of the Temple of Heaven.

Wow, two months since our last post. I can’t believe how quickly the time has run away from me.

Dear Readers, I’ve had the best of intentions. I’ve taken scores and scores of pictures and video thinking of the stories I will tell you… and I hope to still be able to tell all those stories. It is my deepest desire to make my reports to you part of my daily routine. The truth is that I’ve been struggling with a daily routine since I moved to Beijing.

The original move to Yanjiao was a bit of an adjustment. It was lonely and I felt isolated. I was completely dependent on people to feed me and get me where I needed to go. I didn’t know how to communicate and I didn’t know where to shop for food. Eventually, I started figuring out some of the language, people showed me where and how to shop, and the dear teachers I worked with gained confidence in their English skills (which they’d been studying since middle school) enough so that we were able to have good conversations and understand each other’s humor.

I’d eased into a daily and weekly routine that was comfortable. I learned how to get myself to Beijing. This meant I could take in an English movie on occasion, shop at western grocery stores for food I was craving, and take in some sights. I had my weekends free and most of my evenings. I decided to enroll in some online university classes (most importantly Chinese) to help occupy my free time. I could foresee the pattern of my remaining seven months and it was good. I felt happy.

Then came the sudden move to Beijing. Although I was now closer to the western amenities and had greater chances of running into other westerners, I once again felt isolated. Maybe even more isolated than before. It is strange to be in a city of 20 million and yet feel isolated. I’ve had some of my darkest days in the past two months…

The teachers at the new school have even less English than the teachers in Yanjiao. I am often misunderstood. Decisions are made and I am expected to do things that are never communicated to me. The work hours are twice as long as those in Yanjiao, with most of my non-duty time needing to be spent planning lessons. My weekends are often occupied with school duties.

I found it difficult to keep up with my studies and regretfully had to drop my online classes one by one. It was difficult to get into a routine because of the communication problem–especially when it came to communicating when I was required to “perform.” [It seems westerners here are a commodity. The best schools have one and they trot them out for display at every opportunity. While Maggie and I desire to be useful to our schools, it seems at times the only thing they really want from us is to show us off as a “westerner.” It is disheartening to feel your greatest worth is as an object.]

Finally I think I’ve managed to create a routine here. One that allows me to post more frequently and share with you all the fabulous adventures and stories I’ve been saving up. Since the recent visit of my family from the US, I’ve been in good spirits. The beautiful spring weather, almost clear skies, and scads of kites dotting the horizon have continued to buoy me.

So, here is my commitment to you to post more frequently. Really, I want to commit to daily postings, but perhaps it’s best to start with a promise to post every week to start. Tune in soon for my next post on churches in China.