Monday, December 19, 2005

I write this purely for my own catharsis. I warn you not to take it seriously.

I woke up this morning after a superb weekend feeling somewhat anticlimactic. This is a combination of several things. Tiredness is top of the list caused by having a big session at the gym yesterday evening and not a great nights sleep. Secondly perhaps is that having had six weeks of glorious sunshine, the pollution has rolled in over the last couple of days and the sky is looking a little dimmer and little grayer than usual. Third is almost certainly that I'm now filling my schedule to overflowing which feels somewhat constricting. I've managed to get the group activities into some sort of shape, have written a website, am organising reading groups and seminars, various meals for a miscellany of people (It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry - Bob Dylan) and somehow I'm now involved with an expat forum and will shortly be organising weekend fun for fellow Beijingers and visitors. This is on top of trying to finish a paper off this week, learn Chinese and teach English. It's also Christmas or so I'm told but it doesn't really feel like it now. I have a seminar on Saturday morning that I should almost certainly attend as I'm trying to give a good impression and get the group active.

So all of this means that, just as expected, some things are getting to me a bit at the moment. I'm still loving being out here and would change almost nothing given a choice. However for my own release these are some things that are currently niggling my overtired brain:
1) I get pretty wound up by getting e-mails with subjects like: "important notice for postdocs" with the bulk of the e-mail in Chinese. I know this is a problem of my own making but it's pretty damn frustrating and happens about three or four times a day.
2) We went for a great meal last Thursday at a superb restaurant, excellent food, great wine, all good, but it can feel pretty isolating sitting there for two hours while all you hear is Chinese. I was let in on two group conversations, one of which was to do with the traffic accident rate and the other, unconnected was to do with the disgraceful state of the safety of mines here. Don't know if I should be getting some sort of hint. Anyway, I have to make a concerted effort not to retract into my own thoughts in events like this (which happen daily) as I'm aware that I could easily become somewhat withdrawn. I generally feel with things like this that an awareness of the problem and a thorough analysis of the sentiment is usually enough to avert the worst outcome. Hence I'm not worried, just aware.
3) I'm learning the universal truth that busy people are destined to become busier and once you've accepted one responsibility, it's hard to turn down others. NE - I'm sure you know this only too well!
4) If I hear another Chinese rap version of ANY Christmas carol I'm going to start fuming - not quite true as it is inevitable. I can simply compare this experience with being trapped in New Delhi international airport for 16 hours with the same three sitar songs played on piano over and over and over. It almost drove me mad. I had to leave an Indian restaurant in Boulder this summer when one of these tunes started up and almost caused the return of my poppadom and lime pickle (Confusion - Silver Apples).
5) When I'm feeling ratty, the constant coughing, spitting and smoking in the offices is a little trying on my nerves.

Anyway, a few other bits and bobs on top of these but I'm now feeling somewhat relieved to have vented briefly. Things have improved significantly since receiving a parcel in the post this afternoon from an unknown source. All I know is that there are hints of Christmas packaging. Will see in six days.

Thanks for putting up with this minor tirade, my spleen is fully vented.


Anonymous said...

Glad you got that off your chest. Now here's a thing; when asked to do something that will stretch you beyond a sensible limit 'just say no'. I have actually learned to do it so it can be done. You'd be surprised at most people's reaction; they never expected you to say yes in the first place. So if it is exciting and worthwhile and you have the time and energy go for it. If not let someone else do it or just let it drop.

Anonymous said...

I had imagined it could become a little isolating over there not having a fluent grasp of the lingo and your little rant confirmed it. I feel the same over here sometimes when people start talking about things I have no knowledge of. But it can only get better as you pick up bits and bobs of the language. Also, excellent review of the Carl Cox night. You should write for Mixmag. Keen on raving.

Anonymous said...

Incidentally, does it bug you that these things are anonymous and you never really know who's posting?

Luca said...

I'm sort of understand what you're feeling right now. As I came to US three years ago the first month was like how-I-m-visiting-this-city-and-they-re-paying-for-doing-so, but after that it was like: why is this country so weird?
My experience was pretty tough at first. Not understanding what other people saying, or why people look me oddly while attempting to drink my coffee standing at the bar, or what the heck is a quart!
And that is not only language difference, but also cultural: coming from a city where hardly people asks questions to strangers, it was odd to me the easiness of chit-chatting.

But suddenly after the feeling of "where the hell am I?" disappears and one finds him/herself speaking and thinking in a foreign language (thing that requires a bit of adjustment when I get back to Italy).
For you it would be - probably - a bit harder since chinese is much more different to english, than english to italian. But it may happen.

Unknown said...

It all looks a little rosier after a good night's sleep. In fact, after completely sleeping through my alarm, but it's good to vent. I'm certainly finding now that I have a pretty good idea of the subject of most conversations now even if I can't follow everything. That should improve pretty quickly anyway but yes, it can be tough.

As for not knowing who has been commenting -- usually more intriguing than frustrating. A little detective work sometimes clears things up too though I have been completely thrown in the past.

Luca, that's great to hear from someone who's been through a similar experience. It may be some time before I'm thinking/speaking Chinese but every little step helps and most of the time I really don't feel that isolated at all. I now know a decent group of people outside work which really helps too.