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8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China

日期: 2017-07-05
浏览次数: 66
来源: Austin Beck

8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


I've slowly become a person who believes that 'everything happens for a reason', as cliché as it may sound. Truthfully, I never imagined myself living in the Far East. For someone who decided to move to the opposite side of the world, I didn't consider a lot of the little things and daily routines that would eventually come with it. First, you have to understand that the honeymoon phase comes to an abrupt halt, and the adjusting phase quickly sets in, which is anything but easy. However, as hard as some days may be, I've grown to love China for everything it has taught me thus far. 


China has taught me first and foremost that the world, in general, is gigantic and overwhelming. China's geography and landscape alone is massive and incomprehensible once you are actually here. There is just so much to learn and way too much to see. This brings me to my first lesson.


Epiphany #1: CHINA IS LITERALLY HUGE WITH TONS OF PEOPLE



I know this is obvious and, yes, China looks big even on a map, but there's nothing that can prepare you for the reality of living day-to-day in China. Before arriving, you hear about the crowded streets, subways, buses, and malls. I feel as though people didn't exaggerate this enough because the reality of it all is overwhelming! The geography alone is massive, and I still have not gotten the hang of directions. I couldn't tell you which way is north, south, west or east, and I don't think it'll happen anytime soon. Due to this gigantic country and living in a new developing city, there is no escape from the crowds, unfortunately. However, you get really good at pushing and shoving back and dodging cyclists and motorbikes on the sidewalk. China keeps you on high alert. 


Although there will be days you wish you could just blend in, you kind of have to accept it which brings me to my second point.


Epiphany #2: You're going to be stared at, pardon the bluntness


The culture shock is definitely one thing, but being the only foreigner to live in your community is another. There are days you don't see another foreigner, and you barely have full conversations in English. Honestly, I have more conversations with myself than I'd like to admit. You will find yourself sitting on the metro minding your own business and look up to everyone staring at you like you're an alien. Forget it if you are with a group of foreigners. You'll be photographed and video recorded, but I've learned to just go with it and give them a smile and peace sign. 


As for teaching and working in China, being the only foreigner at your school is highly common. My first week of classes was like the circus came to town – either half the kids were terrified of me and my “big eyes” or they were jumping all over me with excitement because of how different I looked. There is definitely days I wish I could blend in but then I realize how I must cherish it…and maybe even believe that isolation builds character. 


Epiphany #3: Who needs a fork?


I have mastered the art of chopsticks, and I thought this was impressive but the Chinese may be more fascinated by my skills than I am. There are really no forks in China, other than at a few odd places, but chopsticks are just the way to go. 


8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


Epiphany #4: 50-60 Chinese kids yelling, “Hello! How are you?” becomes ritual


Surprisingly, I can handle a classroom size of 50+ Chinese students about 4 times a day, Monday- Friday, without wanting to cry in the corner. Although there are days where I second guess my desire to become a teacher, I suddenly remember how fulfilling it is. I never in my life imagined myself in front of a room of 50 students teaching them how to talk to each other in a foreign language. It is possibly one of the best feelings in the world. After a while, you begin to see their personalities and understand students individually and that's what has been most challenging for the classroom sizes. 


Epiphany #5: Language barrier


My first harsh realization in China was the massive language barrier. From the moment I arrived in the airport, trying to communicate was difficult. After 23 hours of travel, I was relieved to finally land on solid ground, but it wore off rather quickly from feeling relieved to terrified. Suddenly panic flooded in as I couldn't find the taxi pickup, and once I did, I wasn't even able to tell the driver where I needed to go. 


I had heard and researched prior to arriving in China about my future home, Shenzhen, and how it was a rising and developing city. Shenzhen was becoming very metropolitan with skyscrapers, franchises, and the high demand to learn and speak English. So my naive and ignorant self simply assumed that most people would speak English and that getting from the airport to my hotel would be easy. I was definitely wrong. This realization led me to believe that body language and creative sign language is vital when communicating, and listening is more beneficial than speaking.


Epiphany #6: Creative sign/body language & a smart phone + Chinese APPS = survival 



I know I sound dramatic, but it is honestly how I am still alive. The massive language barrier forces you to get really creative with your hand gestures, face expressions, and body language. If you want to go out to eat, you better pick a restaurant that has pictures on the walls or on the menus. You really hit the jackpot when you find a restaurant that has a Chinese/English menu! I've gotten really good at pointing at what I want and getting it 60 percent of the time. Sometimes you'll surrender to it all and just let them give you what they think is best…prepare yourself when this happens. 


Also, always have your phone charged, data paid for, and a backup battery in case your phone dies. I only say this because WeChat is your lifeline. Your wallet is connected to it, your address, contacts, your way of communicating and translating….everything. Psh…you thought your phone mattered back home, think again. 


Epiphany #7: China still remains a deeply rooted nation


Although China has its skyscrapers and franchises, the country remains rooted to its culture's traditions. There are plenty of fancy malls jam packed with familiar places like Zara, H&M, and food chains like McDonald's, Starbucks, Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC. China may be fashion forward with their appetite for fried chicken and overpriced coffee, but they have nowhere made the switch from Eastern to Western ideals. Do not mistake these random franchises and China's lead on technology as a new changing nation. These things may be nice and bring foreigners a sense of comfort when desired, but there's no escaping the deeply developed Chinese culture, which in my opinion is fascinating and beautiful. 


8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


8 Epiphanies I’ve Had While Teaching and Living in China


Epiphany #8: Vulnerability is necessary


Loneliness, I'm afraid to say, is inevitable when moving and living in China. All of my understandings I've recently developed have taught me that connection is so important. In order for us to connect and feel a sense of belonging, we must be vulnerable. Talk with the fellow teachers in your office, learn the language, eat the food, and try as much as you can because it will make you feel less alone. Ask for help and advice from others because they want to help and get to know you just as much as you want to know and help them. Once I let myself be seen and I asked for more help, loneliness faded rapidly. I've learned to trust myself, and this journey I am on has given me new lifelong friendships, the desire to become a better teacher, and a compassionate understanding of the Eastern world.


A few last things that will forever be odd to me: the obsession with karaoke, drinking hot tea when it's hot, slippers for indoors and outdoors, chicken feet, coffee shops opening after 9 :00am (does no one any good), afternoon naps (which I love deeply), and milk beverage. 


This being said, China is unlike any other place in the world. You will fall in love with its quirky and strange customs, the peaceful demeanor of its people, and the majesty of its land much like I have. These were just eight of the epiphanies I've had so far on my still unfolding journey of living and working in China.


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在中国教学、生活过程中的八种感悟


我渐渐成为那类相信一切都事出有因的人,这听起来跟陈腔滥调似的。事实上,我从没想过自己会搬到远东区域来住。跟那些决定搬来地球另一边的人一样,我一开始也没怎么在意那些接踵而至的琐事和日常工作。你得明白,来中国最初的蜜月期会戛然而止,接着适应期就会突然出现,它几乎无所不包,但就是不包括简单。不过,在经历过那些比较困难的日子后,我渐渐爱上了我至今在中国所学到的一切。

我在中国学到的第一件最重要的事情就是,这个世界,一言以蔽之,实在是太大了,大到你简直无法接受。你一抵达中国,就会发现单是中国的面积和景观就大到足以让人晕头转向。需要学的太多了,需要看的也太多了。这是我上的第一堂课。


感悟1:中国真的是人口众多、地大物博


我知道,这是显而易见的,它在地图上看起来就够大的了,但要是日复一日地住在中国的话,依然无法准备好接受这个事实。在来到中国前,你可能已经听过了关于拥挤的街道、地铁交通和商场的传闻。我感觉这些人好像也没夸大事实,因为事实就是这里的人实在太多了!单是这里的地理面积就够大的了,我到现在都还找不准方向。我没办法跟你讲明白东西南北,一时半会我也搞不明白。无奈的是,在一个如此庞大的国家的新兴城市中,拥挤的环境是无法避免的。不过呢,你也能学会如何在拥挤的人群中冲出一条路,也能学会及时避开人行道上穿行的单车和摩托车。在中国总有法子让你保持注意力。

有时,虽然你渴望能直接融入到周围环境中,但你最好还是接受我要说的第二点。


感悟2:你会被人盯着看,请原谅他们这种粗鲁


文化差异是一回事,不过作为在社区里生活的唯一外国人就完全是另一回事了。你会有好几天都看不到其他外国人,也鲜有机会痛痛快快地用英语聊天。讲真,我特别不想承认,大多数时候我都是在自言自语。当你坐在地铁里自顾自想事情的时候,一抬头就会发现周围的人就像盯着外星人一样盯着你。当你和一群外国朋友一起的时候,你会忘了这种感觉。虽然你会被拍照甚至录像,不过我已经学会了随他们去,同时也给他们一个和平的微笑。在一所学校里只有一个外国人教学和工作是极普遍的现象。我刚开始教书的第一周就跟马戏团进了镇子一般——学校里差不多一半的学生要么被我和我的“大眼睛”吓得不轻,要么就因为我长得如此与众不同而在我周围兴奋地蹦蹦跳跳。那些日子里我真的渴望能融入他们,不过后来我明白过来我应该珍惜这种不同……甚至开始相信正是因为这些不同才塑造了我们的特征。


感悟3:谁还需要叉子?


我比较擅长用筷子,我自以为这肯定令人印象深刻,而且中国人可能比我用得更令人着迷。跟其他独具风情的地方比起来,在中国真没多少地方用叉子,筷子却各地通用。


感悟4:渐渐习惯了被五、六十个孩子一起问好“HELLO! HOW ARE YOU?”


从周一到周五,我每天要面对一个班的50多名学生4次,也从来没想过要躲在哪个没人知道的角落里独自抹眼泪,这连我自己都想不到。有时我确实会反思自己想成为一名老师的想法,但每次我都会想起这种想法是多么的令人感到有意义。在我的生活中,我从没想过自己会像现在这样在一间教室里同时面对50多名学生,教他们如何用一门外语去交谈。这可能算是世上最爽的事情了。过了一段时间,你会开始一个个地发现这些学生的个性,这会是大班教学的一大挑战。


感悟5:语言沟通障碍


在中国我第一个比较痛苦的体验就是庞大的语言障碍。从我到达机场的那一刻起,就发现试着沟通实在是难上加难。在经历了23小时的飞行之后,我终于放心地踏在终点站坚实的土地上;但这种安全感迅速衰退,恐惧感接踵而至。当我发现自己打不到的士时,一种恐惧感突然将我淹没,而且就算我打到了的士,我也没办法告诉司机我要去哪里。

在前往我在中国的新家——深圳——之前,我就对这座城市有所耳闻,并做了些许了解,知道了这是一座怎样飞速发展的城市。深圳正成为一座拥有众多摩天大楼和优势的大都会,而且它对英语学习和交流有着异常庞大的需求。我天真自大地以为这里大多数人会说英语,我也不用费九牛二虎之力就能从机场赶到酒店。我彻头彻尾的错了。这种体验让我相信肢体语言和临场发挥的手语在交流中是多么必不可少,多听少说是多么有用。


感悟6:临场发挥的手语/肢体语言+智能手机+中文翻译应用=活下去


我知道这有些耸人听闻,但我确实就是这么活下去的。庞大的语言鸿沟逼着你不得不充分调动你的手语、面部表情和肢体语言。如果你想出去下馆子,最好选那种在菜单里或墙上有图样的饭店。你要是能找到菜单是中英双语的饭店,那简直就是中了大奖!我还是比较擅长点东西的,每次照着图去点菜总能猜个八九不离十。有时候你只能接受现实,去试一下他们认为最好的饭菜……做好准备吧。

同时,要保证你的手机随时有电有流量,最好再备一块备用电池或充电宝,以防你的手机随时没电。我这么说是因为微信真就是你的救命稻草。你的电子钱包和它相连,你的住址、联系人,你的翻译和沟通工具……所有都和它连在一起。啧~你真以为你的手机只在老家才有用?再想想吧。


感悟7:中国仍保留着许多传统习俗


中国虽然已经拥有了众多高楼大厦和发展优势,这个国家依然保留了许多从许久之前延续下来的文化传统。我熟悉的很多商场布满了像Zara、H&M这样装修精美的服装店,也充满了诸如麦当劳、星巴克、汉堡王、必胜客或肯德基这样的连锁快餐店。中国人爱吃炸鸡和喝昂贵的咖啡的习惯可能引领着世界潮流,但中国从未尝试过从东方理念转变成西方理念。千万别误以为中国是一个依靠优势和科技崛起的新兴国家。这些优势和科技固然好,也让外国人在有需求的时候感到方便,但它们无法完全脱离那些在我看来美妙的、发展成熟的中国文化。


感悟8:示弱是必需的


不得不说,在搬来中国住后,感到寂寞是无法避免的。最近我所学到的一切都在告诉我与人沟通到底有多重要。为了能找到联系和归属感,我们必须得示弱。在办公室和同事老师聊天,跟他们学中文,和他们一起吃饭,尽可能地这么做,因为这至少能让你感到没那么寂寞。就像你想了解并帮助他们一样,他们也想了解并帮助你,所以你大可向他们寻求帮助。一旦我让自己敞开心扉,开始寻求更多的工作,孤独感就会逐渐褪去。我学会相信自己,而且在这过程中,我还结交了一批挚友,同时我还渴望成为一名更好的老师,对东方的“怜悯观念”也有了更深的理解。不过也有那么几件事会一直困扰我:中国人一直痴迷于KTV,喜欢喝热茶,无论在室内室外人们都会穿拖鞋,啃鸡爪,咖啡馆直到9:00后才开门营业(没一家好喝的),睡午觉(我特喜欢)和喝奶茶饮料。

这么说吧,中国跟世界其他地区都有所不同。你会爱上这里陌生奇异的文化习俗,人们友善的态度,以及我在这土地上体会到的庄重感。以上就是目前我在中国工作、生活下的感悟。




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