This is a quick update – more interesting posts to follow
I’m not going to apologize for not having posted in awhile, as I’ve been extremely busy working on a number of projects and getting students prepared for the gaokao. On second thought, I’ve actually just apologized, if indirectly. Sorry. There; now you have it directly. I hope all two or three of you who read this blog (hi, Mom and Dad!) will accept my apology.
In all seriousness, however, life has been rather hectic for the past few months. If you (dear reader) were to visit my lovely town on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, you may wonder how one’s life could be stressful, or even busy, in such a quietly, peacefully beautiful place. Surely life was busier in Xining last year, you must be saying. Alas, this is not the truth. But here, at least, I feel that my work is worthwhile – a feeling which, in turn, causes me to work even more.
But what, one may be wondering, could he ever be working on when there’s snowy mountains to clamber over and yaks to herd? My major project this semester has been to create a new textbook for our third-year students. The good news is that this project is near completion. I am currently doing my first once-over edit before I send it off to other editors (and have the vocabulary list translated into Tibetan). When I started this project, I was originally envisioning a packet of materials photocopied from other books; I’m still not clear how I ended up with a nearly 350-page tome. But so it goes…
Additionally, I’ve been busy with my third-year class as they prepare for the gaokao, or college entrance examinations, which start on June 6. This test will determine the trajectory of their lives; thus, they are understandably nervous, jumpy and more stressed than a suspected heretic coming before the Grand Inquisitor – a situation, by the way, strangely similar to the gaokao itself in its separation of the worthy from the unworthy, its sacrificing of one stratum of society for the welfare of another, and – most of all – the diatonic “yes-no” “affirm-reject” “succeed-fail” “a-b-c-d” “right-wrong” – the blackwhite dichotomies that pervade everything about the preparation, the test and the aftermath. It’s heartbreaking to see the students so (rightfully) anxious and upset, but there’s really not much I can do here; my job is simply to teach the test, and (from the school’s perspective) nothing more.
In addition to the book and the gaokao, I’ve been keeping busy with the regular schedule of classes. Since we started a library contest for our first-year classes, the library has been packed during lunch – which means that both Brooke and I hold what amounts to office hours in the library for two hours daily. Admittedly, this time is often spent talking with and helping some truly delightful students. But we’ve also been busy getting ready for midterms this week (yes, our semester goes through mid-July) and there are rumblings of the joint Gerald-Brooke-Jonas 2nd-year book project finally getting off the ground. And in a strange turn of events, I’ve been asked to help design a French restaurant in Xining.
This listing of projects is not meant to be simply a litany of complaints about how much I have to do (even though it likely sounds as such). I make time to go running, play piano, and do other activities that get me away from campus for awhile. And on campus, teaching has been going very well – and, despite my bitching, I truly enjoy the time I spend with our amazing students.
The culprit here, as usual, is time. The average day still holds (unless I’ve been misinformed, or am behind on some news) approximately 24 hours. These days, I wish it held more.