Behold the new generation of VIA teachers (minus one), on our recent trip to Nanjing's Ming Dynasty-era city wall. Only portions of the wall remain around the city, but considering that the bricks were held together not with concrete but with glutinous rice, and considering the historical events the wall has witnessed, I'd say it's holding up pretty well!
I too am holding up pretty well (after last year in Hunan, I'm pretty sure I too am held together with rice). Last year when I first got to Xintang, I went through a short period of hibernation before I really started going out and living my life. This year I'm kind of doing the same thing, but it's not really my choice...you see, my new past-time is playing "hide the foreigner" (the foreigner being myself). Let me explain.
You can call me paranoid, but I'm definitely the only waiguoren living in my building, and sometimes foreigners' homes are targets for break-ins (two friends of mine were recently robbed while they were sleeping). I don't have bars on my windows, and normally I wouldn't worry because I live on the fourth floor. But for the next few weeks my building is being re-painted, meaning that there is bamboo scaffolding around the whole thing, and from sun-up to sun-down there are workers directly outside my windows. So the object of the game is to not let anybody see exactly which apartment I live in until the scaffolding is down. So far I think I'm doing pretty well, because I keep my curtains drawn during the day. But I'm looking forward to the end of the re-painting because it's not a very fun game, and I think my house-plants are dying.
But lest you think I've been spending ALL my days inside with the curtains drawn, I must say that the new VIA teachers are a ton of fun, and I also think I've found my first tutoring job. Her name is Cissy, she's thirteen, and her parents want to pay me to speak English with her for several hours a week. Spending time with her makes me think a lot of my students last year, who were the same age, but were living away from their families, wearing the same clothes every day, eating the gross food at the cafeteria, and working extremely hard to follow their educational dreams. Cissy lives with her mom, dad, grandma and goldfish in a beautiful apartment. She has her own mobile phone. She knows how to swim and how to play a traditional stringed instrument. She's bright, accomplished, wealthy and priveleged. I think that she too works very hard for her education, and I'm not making any judgements either way. It's just a striking contrast, that's all.
There are a lot of striking contrasts this year, so many that I'm afraid it will become tiresome if I keep drawing comparisons between last year and this year. But I can't help it, so bear with me while I adjust to city living. And I will post pictures of my new apartment just as soon as I can open the curtains.