It feels like you had closed your eyes only five minutes ago when a blaring horn wakes you up. You check the clock and see it’s one freakin’-o-clock in the morning and your Chinese neighbor’s at it again, honking his horn to wake up his wife and open the door for him. For the nth time you think, “Why can’t he just give her a ring on the house phone?!?!?!” You cover your head with your pillow and start counting in your head all the eggs you’re throwing at the neighbor’s car until you fall back asleep.
You’re startled awake, confused at the jack-hammering sound your alarm clock is making. Then you realize your alarm hasn’t even gone off yet; your best guess is there’s a construction down the street, but you don’t understand why they have to start at six a.m.! You give up on getting another hour of sleep and spend half an hour in the shower; the cold water helps soothe your raw nerves.
The walk through the park on your way to work is usually a pleasant one. This morning, however, there’s a toddler squatting and taking a dump beside a flower bed right across from the public restroom! And his grandmother is simply standing idly beside him, waiting for him to finish. Because you were distracted, you nearly stepped on a puddle of slimy spit. Oh, it’s not even nine a.m. yet and the day’s not looking good already!
You arrive at the preschool where you teach English to four- to six-year-old Chinese kids. You go through the morning routine and get them settled. You hear one child coughing and remind him to cover his mouth. Another child sneezes and you remind her what she’s supposed to do. You feel frustrated trying to teach the children basic hygiene in school but the habits seem impossible to instill in them when their parents don’t follow through at home.
At the end of the school day, you’re feeling very tired due to lack of sleep and you feel like you’re coming down with a cold. But you still have to make a stop at the bank to deposit your check. Of course, when you get there, there are no lines. Not because the bank is nearly empty, but because the Chinese just can’t master the skill of forming straight lines. Your head begins to throb.
Finally, you’re on your way home. You take a different route because you need to buy some groceries. Along the way, car horns are blaring in unison as if that will magically make the sea of cars part and cause the traffic to flow smoothly. The throbbing in your head starts to feel more like the jack-hammering earlier in the day, only this time its your skull that’s being drilled.
You arrive home and pop two Tylenols. You quickly whip up some dinner and you look forward to some much-needed rest, a very early rest. After cleaning up in the kitchen and getting ready for bed, you drag yourself to your bedroom and literally crash on the bed.
At exactly one in the morning, your neighbor’s blaring horn wakes you up again.
Ah, the pains of culture stress in China. Some days are worse than others; but certainly, most days are a lot better. There are also stresses back home in the your own country, and you are very much aware that when you’re having a very, very bad day, every nuisance and annoyance gets magnified, completely obscuring all the good reasons why you decided to move to China in the first place.
Some days are worse than others, yes; but when you’re reminded of how wonderful China can be every time your elderly neighbor invites you to sit with him for a cup of tea at dusk and you listen to his precious stories; or when the nice lady who sweeps the streets every morning greets you with a warm smile; or when you talk about the future with the Chinese love of your life, these moments can make the crappiest China day you’ve ever had worth all the stress.
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