No Need to Cry

When it's good, it's not bad
When it's bad, I don't mind if you're queer,
Let's be happy while we're here.
-British Sea Power

A couple of months ago, I asked my fellow expat how the Spring Festival holiday was for her last year. The Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year, is the most important holiday for Chinese people. Chinese people return to their hometowns to feast with family, exchange gifts, and set off firecrackers. Spring Festival is a big deal here, maybe even a bigger deal than Christmas in the United States.

She replied, "It was the most depressing time for me ever in China." The weather is cold and miserable. Many people leave Beijing for their hometowns, home countries, or vacation. Since school is not in session, English teachers like us have no work. For expats, the Spring Festival can be a lonely, boring time fraught with homesickness and general weariness of being a foreigner in a foreign land.

I am in the in the midst of the Spring Festival, and I am not undergoing the dreaded Spring Festival blues. I don't like the cold, but I am not sad about it. My most depressing time actually was about a month after arriving. One day I was so tired of the crowds of people EVERYWHERE, so tired of navigating through the bicycles EVERYWHERE, and so tired of not comprehending Chinese people EVERYWHERE, I laid on my bed and sobbed. Fortunately, birdMAN was not home at the time. He would have been very worried and forced me explain my feelings (he is such a good husband). But I did not need to talk -- I just needed a few cry sessions to get over my frustration and countless blows to my ego.

Now, I am in a relatively comfortable rhythm. I understand more Chinese every day. I can read more Chinese every day. I can communicate more effectively every day. The more advancement I make, the more I relish being here. For example, the other day I understood a restaurant sign that I have passed by almost every day for the last three months: "手工水" (shǒugōng shuǐjiǎo). That restaurant serves handmade dumplings. This knowledge is of little consequence (almost every restaurant serves handmade dumplings), but this simple conquest is full of meaning. Maybe there is hope that I won't bumble around China relying on my electronic dictionary and menus with pictures.

Also, I suppose I haven't had the opportunity to suffer homesickness. We are just too busy. As soon as we wrapped up our first semester teaching English, we flew to Thailand and enjoyed 2 weeks of the best vacation we have ever experienced. Two days after we returned to Beijing and its nasty air pollution problem, my sister and her husband arrived in Beijing. They are with us the remainder of the Spring Festival holiday. No time to be sad.

I hope this blog doesn't worry our mothers too much. I know they hate the thought that we could potentially live out the rest of our lives here in China. We know they miss us, and we miss them. We missed our nephews' and niece's milestones: Zephram's first steps, Caden's first day of kindergarten and snow sledding, and Milan's incessant chatter. We missed birdMan's parents' 40-year anniversary. We missed eating my Dad's summer crop of watermelons. Of course, we are sad to miss all those things. But we came here with a goal: to learn Chinese. And we are happily doing just so.
Chinese word of the blog: 进步 jìnbù (progress step)
English translation: improve

This place sells handmade dumplings!