Out With The Old, In With The New

Out With The Old, In With The New

Happy New Year! I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays. There were a few holiday parties here at the university. I made my way to the “Christmas Party Show” which I was encouraged to attend. I was also encouraged to perform, thankfully I declined. I was severely under-informed yet again as to what this “party” consisted of…  So, I arrived and they told me to sit where I wanted, so tried to sit in the back where I wanted but they insisted I sit in the front with the rest of the teachers… My Chinese has improved a little bit, I understood 90% of a single skit, performed by the group of students from Ghana. I was quite entertained both by the skit and the notion that I was actually understanding them even though they were speaking Chinese.

Yesterday I finished giving my last exam. Most of my students did quite well on their presentations and final exams. There were a few students who still weren’t sure of what class they were in, who I was or what was going on, but such is life… Something I found rather interesting, the one student who received the highest grade overall was the one student who had been studying English for the least number of years, 4 I believe. Most other students began close to 10 years ago… I asked my students at the end of each class what worked well for them and what didn’t, I’m very open to feedback … one student answered after some time that they didn’t get enough practice speaking. I then pointed out that I just gave the entire class an opportunity to give a reasonably short and easy answer in English about what the liked or didn’t like and everyone chose to sit quietly and stare at me instead of take the opportunity to get some speaking practice. The look on each students face said it all.

During this open feedback, one of my students informed me that I will be teaching them again next semester… Not that I don’t like them, but I was under the assumption that they would choose a new set of classes for the next term like most other places in the world do. Nope… One teacher for one group of students for up to 4 years. Now I’ll be spending most of my vacation preparing new material for next semester, and hopefully that will allow me a little time to relax next semester. I was thinking… Cool, yeah, they lied to me about the curriculum but I made one from scratch, now I can use it for a new group of students next semester… Most frustrating

While in a mild rage texting to a friend I wrote “The longer I spend in China, the more convinced I am that this is a third world country behind this bullshit facade” and he agreed quite fiercely. Seriously though, on the surface you might think there are a few problems, but day in and day out, you’d understand how incredibly f***ed up everything is. I’m doing my best to enjoy myself while I’m here but it’s difficult when you can’t drink the water and can’t breathe the air, pollution, pollution… Tom Lehrer anyone? Trying to ease the tension a little… I laughed so it was worth it.

Ben’s visit went well (my brother). We took the bullet train to Pingyao (fastest land speed travel of my life so far, I think it was about 243kmh/150mph) and spent the day there. We walked around on the top of half the wall, checked out some museums and temples, had loads of conversation (my favorite part of the trip), and ended up in some cozy little restaurant for dinner. I had class the next morning, so Ben spent the day in Taiyuan city exploring. During the evening we sat down with my roommate and played a card game called Star Realms, it’s a deck building game with a space theme, very fun. I very much enjoyed his visit.

I saved the best for last here, one last piece of news for which I am beyond excited. My girlfriend is coming to visit me. She’s coming in a few weeks for two weeks, and we’re going to travel to Xi’an together for a few days to sight see, and maybe somewhere else if we’re both up to it. Some of you might be like, hey now… I don’t remember Dan having a girlfriend before he went to China, he must have found a nice Chinese girl. Nope… I met her late in the summer at an outdoor art festival dance party in Boston. We spent the next weekend together, went rock climbing, had fun, talked a lot and then life went on, I went to get my visa, went to dance camp and left for China… After settling into daily life in China, we started talking again and I discovered there was a much stronger connection and mutual interest than I had originally thought and we increased the our frequency of communications… Yada yada yada… She decided to come visit me here (I would have gone home for the holidays but my visa is a one time entry and my travel health insurance expires the moment I set foot back in the states)… Yada yada yada… Her visa is being processed at this very moment and she’ll pick it up (or have it picked up) on Monday. I feel so blessed to have Laura in my life, I’ve been experiencing totally new feels, emotions I didn’t know I had, things that words cannot express. I’m looking forward to sharing new experiences with her and soon exploring new places too. I don’t know how to words about this, just so much muchness, I felt I needed to share.

Loving you all. Have a wonderful new year!


  1. Jan Saferstein

    You really express yourself so well – and I’m enjoying your life stories, good and bad (that’s sort of the way life is). I’m really glad you had a good visit with Ben and am really excited about your new girl friend and I hope you have a wonderful holiday with her. Love, Jan

  2. Sherry

    Happy New Year Dan! Congratulations on getting through the first term with your students – and on being able to understand way more in Mandarin than you did when you first arrived last fall.

    How wonderful that you and Ben had a great time together and looking forward to hearing about Laura’s visit – sounds like she’ll be there for your birthday, so I’ll wish you a Happy Birthday now.

    What an incredible experience your time in China has been. I hope you enjoy your second term as much as the first.

    Best Wishes and Much Love,
    p.s. your blog is great!

  3. Paul Costello

    I’ve been enjoying reading about all of your experiences and impressions… dull and boring as well as bullet train travels and actual conversation with Ben… amazing!
    It may not occur to you that many of us would edit and sugar coat our experiences to fit what we think other people would want to hear us say… I know I unconsciously do that. I’m glad you don’t seem to do that and what you write feels very real.
    I’m really happy for you that Laura will be coming to visit. I hope the time you spend together is full of deep connection and fun.


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