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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Stale urine and fermented garbage

The reality of where I am, hits home. And where is my home? It’s here in China. How odd this suddenly feels. Since I’ve started editing the first draft of my book, I’m feeling far more grounded in China than before. By ‘grounded’ I mean to say that my 2 feet are firmly here… and no where else. I never realized just how much the actual act of writing can bring a person into the here and now. This blog grounds me differently than the book. The book appears to be the work I should be doing and it’s come with the past ‘ventures’ I’ve had, whereas this blog lets my current experiences live and breathe.

Sometimes it’s the hard situations we face that force us to see that this is real life. Challenging times remind us that life doesn’t always smell of roses. And since the change in the group of foreign teachers I work with (Mike C leaving and Ricky arriving), this is exactly what’s been happening. The roses are still there, but the scent hasn’t been as strong as it once was. And only occasionally the sweet fresh smell of fruit will fill the air… but the scent of stale urine and fermenting garbage has been tickling my sense of smell more frequently. 2 things have been going on. I’ve been doing my best to ignore the scent that turns my stomach. I’ve been trying to turn away and avoid it by focussing on the sweet scents that remind me of all the simple things in this Asian world that inspire me.

I always have the tendency to take-off, to drift, to float… But in the current situation, if I do so, I know that I could loose myself. I’m not too sure what part of myself I could loose though.

The situation at work really hasn’t been good. I’m not going to make it into something better than it is. I’m being brutally honest by saying that I’ve struggled in keeping myself on top of this life. And it’s because of how I’ve been feeling in our office environment.

When I first walked in 11 weeks ago, it felt positive and full of life. But over the past weeks it’s gone sour. I’m not the only one to have noticed this. I remember how good it felt to be there… and so the change is something I can’t help but to have noticed. The environment that once was open, free and friendly has so subtly become enclosed. And so I’ve created an invisible guard around me with the unintentional purpose of not letting my teaching and my classes be affected negatively. I was (and probably still am) becoming an island – isolated and inapproachable. Everybody has noticed the change in me. And my guard has been getting stronger. So strong in fact, that I was hardly able to hold on to it any longer. As the pressure of was teaching increased, along with the preparation that’s involved in every class I teach, so the extra guard I was holding on to - so as to keep a distance from those in the office who weren’t ‘smelling so fresh’ - caused me to nearly crack…once again.

Being forced to switch between the sour office environment and the happy classroom environment – almost constantly – during the 10 hours days (on Saturday and Sunday), caused such friction. But I managed, up until I walked out of my last class on Sunday night and felt the most intense pain in my back. It was like something was being pulled from within my chest, but there was nothing to be pulled at. My head wanted to either explode or melt and I was an emotional mess. I couldn’t speak for wanting to break down. I just knew I had to get my things and go home. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t see anything amazing along the streets that would usually bedazzle me. During the taxi ride home, I was in a bubble, looking out the window, seeing the streets with different eyes… Although I think my eyes could have been shut because I can’t remember a thing. All I recall are the thoughts I had of breaking free from whatever it was that was making me feel trapped.

I had thoughts of leaving. I really thought there was no point in me staying if I was feeling so unhappy. But… these thoughts didn’t last. Because… (and this is where REALITY hits home)… I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE!!!! I realized this yesterday. I’m not willing to up-sticks and move, just because something isn’t feeling too good right now. No way. Usually, when being away from home, this would be my initial reaction: leave when it feels right (which is also often when a situation gets tough). But no! I don’t want to go. I’m here, I’m in China. I’ve a job! I’m a teacher! And I’m not leaving just because the scent of fermented urine and garbage can fill my days and cause me to jump in a taxi and ‘bubble’ my way back to my apartment instead of trotting along the streets full of the joys of summer and letting my sense of smell savour the fresh fruit! No way. I’m here and it’s NOT time to leave. No matter how tough this situation gets… Nope… I know that I’ve more work to do here before I can even think of moving.

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