I have had much to report – about copied and pirated products/labels (for example there are 5 “Apple” stores near campus, and I bought a $120+ “Babolat” tennis racquet for around $50), about food (I’ve documented almost every meal I’ve had here), and about the state of the environment (horrifying).
However, I haven’t been able to put much of it on paper during the past few weeks because I’ve been preoccupied with something a little more pressing: what am I doing here?
Truth be told, my decision to take this cushy government scholarship was one of expedience, and was ultimately the result of my laziness in looking for other things to do last year. Upon accepting the scholarship, I did harbor hopes that the program would, at the very least, improve my Chinese. It has been doing so, but that’s about it.
I feel an acute lack of stimulation here. This may be symptomatic of my just having left the over-stimulating bosom of university life, but try as I might to read on my own, watch the news, etc., the environment here isn’t conducive to making me think critically or creatively. My classmates don’t help much: they’re wonderful and diverse, but, to me, they don’t seem particularly motivated or motivating. The location, a suburb of Chongqing, is full of people, but is a little too sleepy for my liking – normally, there isn’t much more to do in the evening than eat, drink, and sing karaoke. The weather is oppressive – perpetually grey skies hovering over a blanket of something suspiciously resembling smog (it certainly doesn’t smell clean).
Additionally, at this point in my language education, I find what they’re teaching to be less and less practical. I can already have a good conversation with almost anyone, and go where I need to go, and get done what I need to get done without a hitch. It’s time for me to put my Chinese into practice somewhere where it will be useful.
Thus, I am forfeiting my scholarship, packing my bags, saying goodbye to Beibei, and heading to the bustling streets of Beijing, where I have many contacts and will be in good hands while I figure out what to do next. I may work at an American company like Vermeer or Cummins, or volunteer for an NGO like Oxfam.
I am excited to go, but also sad to leave. I’ve made friends with some incredibly interesting people from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Thailand, Laos, Korea, North America, Beibei and Chongqing, and saying goodbye has been hard. Luckily, as we all know, Skype and email easily help erase those miles and hours of separation.
I’ll be heading to Beijing at the next of next week, probably around October 30th. In the meantime, a teaser from a future food post:
A picture of one of the most foul potato chip flavors ever created…