I was up with the construction workers this morning, excited to be heading off to my first day of school. The anticipation of starting something new made me ignore the stomach cramps, and pass them off to nerves.
Arriving at the university with ten minutes to spare, I realized I should have given myself more time. The yard outside the foreign language department was a mess of 外国人 all politely pushing to see the classroom placement list.
Things were organized in typical Chinese fashion. A sort of chaotic mess that leaves you feeling like you should know where things are, but just can’t seem to wrap your head around it. Eventually I found my name – in Chinese – on a list posts on a random wall away from the posting board.
Fully expecting to walk into class today and ace it – if you remember, I was told I could either go into Level 1 Chinese (as that’s where my reading/writing is at), or I could tough it out and try out Level 2, allegedly where my speaking/listening is. I took the easy road.
For whatever reason, administration had different plans and wrote a nice big “2” beside my name. Not having the energy to try and navigate the clusterfeck of red-tape that it might be to get things changed, I bit the bullet and bought my books.
Now 20-25 minutes late for my 汉语 class, I walked in on a scene familiar to anyone that’s taught ESL – the “getting to know you” class. Man, this is my first-day standby whenever I need to start a new class. It’s a great time killer, takes absolutely nothing to prepare, and the students are generally comfortable with it – good to see that crosses languages.
Taking up the last available seat in the classroom beside a self-proclaimed Korean Tai Tai and a rather nice American girl, I went to work trying to figure out what the hell was going on. Basically we were instructed that we needed to present the class with five sentences about ourselves using “是“.
I was initially nervous that I’d be far behind this group of students, most of whom were indicating that they had studied formally for at least a year previous. As it turned out everyone was equally nervous, and rusty, so we all had a good laugh.
After an hour and a half of this, we took a break and then reconvened for our second class – 口语. This proved a much more difficult class. The teacher, who can’t be more than a year or two out of university herself, is a doll, but seemed to crave our blank looks of utter confusion.
I made it through though, and aside from having to try and make sense of a two page dialog that I only know every 5th word of, I think I’m doing alright. It’s comforting to see that despite me being a bit over my head in the Level 2 class, I’m not alone.
So yeah, with nothing but positive things to say about my first day, you might be wondering about that “sick and tired” bit. Mid-way through the second class I started yawning uncontrollably, but assumed it was just not having had a great night’s sleep.
Getting home, I was doing everything to keep my eyes open. I couldn’t figure out why I was so tired. Then, while eating lunch and watching some South Park with Maggie, I turned to her and asked, “why is it freezing in here?” Looking at me with that screwy face only a wife can give a husband, I knew I’d caught a bug.
It’s now 8pm and I’ve been sleeping all day. I feel horrible, but slightly better than when I first started to crash. I’ve had this feeling before, and think it’s likely stomach flu/food poisoning. Fun.
Will see what the morning brings, but it’s somewhat disheartening that I might already be playing hooky and it’s only the second day.