It's official - I'm now a legal resident of Beijing until August 19, 2009. I got my new work visa and Beijing residence permit for another year, so I'm all set to return in August for another year of teaching.
It's funny - last year at this time I only planned on spending one year here and then returning to the States to get a "real job." I didn't know that I'd love what I get to do here so much and I didn't think I'd ever be motivated to learn more Chinese than was absolutely necessary. But now the next few years are up in the air - I have no idea exactly when I'll finish my time here. Part of me feels like it would be cool to teach the Jr I students I had this year as more-mature Sr I students three years from now. But then again there's the pull and the pressure to get a job in the "real world" and join the ranks of people working for The Man in order to have enough money to retire on someday and not be penniless on the streets.
Every day here is an adventure. We had the biggest downpour I've seen in Beijing, and maybe ever. It started midway through my elective this afternoon. The sky blackened and a storm directly over us shook the building and sent down fire bolts from the sky. I saw too many people running around outside who looked like they had fallen into a swimming pool and I didn't want to ruin my leather shoes, so I put my socks and shoes into my bag and rolled my pants to my knees. All the students who were standing around waiting for the rain to let up thought I was really funny-looking and weren't afraid to say so. A student took pity on me and walked me to the building we live in under her umbrella. The water still came up to my ankles! Beijing isn't used to much rain and the drainage system is terrible. Later on, I set out to get some dinner and parts of the road were so flooded that the water was halfway up my bicycle tires!
There are many stories I could tell, but my favorites are about the students who are looking for a friend or who are too excited to show me around their city and share their country's 5000 years of history. Since China's one-child policy was passed in 1979, most students grow up without siblings or cousins close in age. Their classmates become their family and the we as foreign teachers often become their role models or their big brothers and sisters. It's so much fun to make cookies with them or play games from the U.S., like Uno (we added more rules and renamed it "Funo"), Skip-Bo, Phase 10, and Scum.
It's worth it to be here when I get encouraging e-mails like this from students:
"I think you are a good teacher and I want to talk with you about everything you like, like friends."