I was finishing lunch at the primary school cafeteria on Thursday when I found out that my afternoon high school class was canceled. Eureka! I was done for the day. I teach at two different schools–a primary school in the morning, then a high school in the afternoon. It’s an interesting contrast to say the least.
I’ve found that building friendships in China is a slower, more gradual process than in America. People often have a natural inclination to be reserved and shy with strangers here, and it takes time to get past that barrier. There has to be a well established sense of trust to have camaraderie. At first, it can seem as though people are cold relative to their American counterparts. After getting to know you (over months, not weeks), though, interactions feel about as normal as anywhere.
To celebrate “International Women’s Day”, the primary school teachers were taking a field trip to a local movie theater.
“Since you are done for the day, why don’t you come with us?” One of the teachers suggested.
“What movie are we seeing?”
She then searched through her smartphone for the English translation of the movie name. “Fierce China,” she said. “I think that’s what the name means in English.”
“Is the movie in English?” I asked.
“No, all Chinese. It is about the strength and power of China. Maybe you can try and learn Chinese by watching!”
“I’m not sure. Maybe I should get back to the high school.” Considering the movie plotline and the fact that I wouldn’t understand a single word, it didn’t sound like I’d get much out of a viewing. Then again, it was free.
“There is free popcorn and coke too,” she remarked.
“Okay, in that case I’m in,” I said. I quickly got on the charter bus that drove us to the theater.
Even after studying Chinese for a few months and living in the country for half a year, I understood approximately 5% of the film. Not to bash the movie, but as a result of not knowing what was being said, I dozed off about 30 minutes in. I was able to gather that it was a documentary.
It was a worthwhile trip nonetheless; Chinese popcorn is fantastic. Unlike American popcorn, it’s caramel coated. Thus, it’s much sweeter. I had two small boxes.
After the film, I communicated with another teacher via his phone app. You speak into the app, which then translates your words into any intended language.
“Did you see the strength of China today?” the teacher asked me via the app. He was sporting a huge grin.
“Yes, it was amazing to see the growth of this country,” I responded. I’m always sure to keep an upbeat and encouraging response. What can I say, I like making people happy.
After a boast, it is Chinese custom to say something humble and self-critical. That’s exactly how the teacher responded.
“China’s growth rate is 6% now, which is slower than in the past. India’s is higher, and India also aims to be competitive on a global scale.”
“China’s growth is practical and impressive for its size,” I responded. “And Chinese companies are improving rapidly.”
The teacher’s grin widened more. “I would love to speak with you more!” he said as we left the bus.
We’re a few weeks into the spring term here. It’s March 9, yet the city had 6 inches of snow this week and daytime highs below 20. Needless to say, I’m ready for spring!
Changchun translates to “long spring” in English. I asked a teacher when this “long spring” would commence. He smiled and exclaimed, “It is just a name. We have a very spring here. Long winter!”