Second wind

A few days ago, I was ready to write a post called Growing Weary but it didn’t happen because I was too tired to write it! It’s probably just as well as I would likely have grumbled and complained unnecessarily.

We don’t, even for a moment, regret coming here. It’s been a fabulous experience and very good for both of us but living in a completely foreign environment where you don’t understand the language or the culture can be exhausting. China is a rapidly developing country where we see change happening all around us but the standard of living is still far below what we’re accustomed to and it’s easy to start finding fault, especially when you’re tired.

I had three goals for this month:

  • Complete and submit the annual reports that are required of me as Missions President for my church back home, a position that I’ve been filling from a distance since coming here in February.
  • Make up the final exams for my university courses.
  • Plan the trip that we want to make through China after our contract expires at the end of June and make arrangements for our return trip to Canada.

The past couple of weeks flew by as I fought with our frustratingly slow and undependable internet to send and receive emails, spent extra hours at the school photocopying, cutting and pasting (the old fashioned way with scissors and glue) and gradually crossed things off my many lists. As a result, the Missions reports have been submitted and the final exams are ready to handed over to the office staff who will photocopy them for me.

I’m most excited about our travel plans. I usually do all our trip planning myself but this time we’ve decided on a tour. It won’t be the sort of thing where we pile off a bus and follow a flag waving tour guide through all the designated sites however. Instead, someone else is making all the travel arrangements and reservations for us and we’ll have our own driver and/or guide at each location along the way. I’ve been working closely with the travel agent to assure that the tour includes the things we most want to see and do. To date, 32 emails have passed back and forth between us! This a more expensive way to travel, of course, but in a country where there’s so little English and where we’ve discovered that doing things on your own always takes much longer than you expect, this will be a much more relaxing way to end our time here and we’ll actually be able to see and do a lot more than if we were doing it on our own. I won’t go into details at the moment but the tour begins in Beijing, includes a luxury cruise on the Yangtze River and ends in Shanghai where we’ll spend a weekend with Japanese friends who live there before we fly back to Canada. That’s definitely the icing on the cake!

I’ve discovered that even this kind of travel planning isn’t completely stress free. Most of these tours are booked by overseas travellers who pay in American dollars but we wanted to pay in Chinese currency. That meant that our money had to go into a different account than theirs but when the travel agent sent me the information that I’d need to take to our local Bank of China branch to pay our deposit, she inadvertently gave me the wrong account number. With extremely limited English, the bank clerk managed to communicate that there was a problem and that I couldn’t make the deposit. A couple of emails between the travel agent and I sorted that out and it took a second visit to the bank but the deposit has now been made and we’re waiting for final confirmation of all the travel arrangements.

Other than booking the tour, all I had to arrange were our flights from Dalian to Beijing and from Shanghai back to Canada. Even that was stressful though, especially when I discovered how much the prices have gone up since we crossed the ocean in February. Yikes! The completion bonus that we’ll receive at the end of our contract was supposed to cover the cost of our flight home but it definitely won’t. Oh well, going home isn’t optional so the tickets have been purchased anyway.

The beautiful month of May almost slipped away while I was busy with all of these concerns but now that my goals have been met, my weariness has also passed and I seem to have my second wind! Our university classes end in just over two weeks and then our not very heavy teaching schedule will be even lighter. I think the time has come to sit back, relax and coast a little as we enjoy our final weeks here!

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