Contemplative Friday


I ended my teaching week with a strange sense of loss and depression. I’ve been thinking a lot about failure lately. My feelings come from equal parts of anxiety about teaching, culture shock, and the remnants of a cold/allergy attack that keeps hanging on.


While exploring my thoughts, I went for a long walk that took me beside train tracks, up and down mysterious flights of spiral stairs, across a high walkway at the edge of a bridge, down narrow lanes bordered with gray walls, and through the cacaphony of an open market. Every produce seller seemed to have a loudspeaker spewing forth a recorded voice touting their merchandise. I had a brief vision of hell as a place of competing electronic noises penetrating my head, repeating themselves into infinity.


I walked past decaying residential blocks, some of which were being demolished to make way for new developments. Above me, an elevated highway snaked into the distance. At long last, I came to the peaceful oasis of Zhaojue Temple, where I contemplated Buddhas, old and crumbling stone sculptures, and funerary monuments. I finally found some semblance of peace.

A long-eared rabbit hopped into view, and then disappeared among blocks of stone that awaited transformation into new sculptures for the temple. The lively rabbit and patiently-waiting stones reminded me of my new life, a process of transformation from something rough into something polished. In the meantime, it’s OK to hop around and to play a little bit.

After my philosophical afternoon I had a brief nap. In the evening I had dinner with another foreign teacher at Pete’s Tex-Mex restaurant. I ate food that I haven’t even dared to imagine in three months – a huge, juicy hamburger with cheese, french fries, and a salad with peppercorn dressing. I came home and tried to watch the second half of Kung Fu Hustle, but the DVD kept getting stuck in one place. That’s the trouble with these pirated movies that you can buy virtually anywhere for less than 10 yuan.

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