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Finishing this week has left me very exhausted and very sweaty. Despite this, I think that this “new life” here is growing on me. I’ve grown used to living with my host family, I am able to navigate my way around this section of Zhuhai, I feel more confident in teaching my classes, and I am growing more comfortable with the people here. The heat and mosquitoes still are, and will always be, inconveniences, but looking past these, I believe, is what allows me to really enjoy my time here. If I don’t appreciate every moment, or at least most of the moments, it will pass too quickly. I want to get as much out of this experience as I can.

Megan and I are teaching the acting class for the students, and the kids have really wanted to perform Harry Potter and Cinderella. We originally decided to let the students act both, we made the final decision that we would only do Harry Potter. We then settled on which scenes to perform: the Sorting Hat, Dumbledore’s Army, Dumbledore’s Death, and the Final Battle. We established who would be playing the main characters, but two guys insisted on playing Ron, and two girls insisted on playing Hermione. While we were able to settle the Ron dispute, there was no other way to settle the Hermione dispute then with an audition. Planning for the class beforehand, we secretly feared this outcome, and tried to pretend like it wouldn’t happen. But it was now inevitable. With the help of Phyllis, we established an audition time, and gave them the night to prepare a minute’s worth of material.

Both acts only consisted of about 20 seconds of content, but we ended up giving the part to the girl whose name was Hermione (she literally named herself after Hermione, and while some may say we made a biased decision, I can assure there were other factors involved with our decision-making process). The experience in its entirety was short, but it left me feeling terrible and extremely stressed. I didn’t feel qualified to watch these girls try to act in front of us, and much less, decide and tell them who was better. I felt horrible when I had to deliver the bad news to the girl not named Hermione. Her face sunk, literally, when I gave her the news, along with my feeble attempts to compliment her acting and reassure her that there were other great characters she could play.

Something Hsiao-mei said during our reflection time made me recall thoughts I hadn’t thought about in a while: How different would my life be if my parents had never packed up their life and moved to America? So many lost opportunities, so many different experiences, and the production of a very different person. Seeing how the children of China grow up make me so thankful for the easy life I was given, including but not limited to: bigger houses, constant air conditioning, cleaner environments, less stressful schooling systems, and the chance to learn any extracurricular I want or do practically anything I want. Watching the children of Zhuhai no9 Middle School, I realize I would have been just like them. Sitting in crowded classrooms, stuck in a sweaty uniform (that consists of long pants even though it’s like 80-90 ℉ everyday), ogling over the students who came from the great land of America, and preparing for the “zhong kao” and “gao kao”. Seeing the kids having to prepare for it now makes it so much more real than when my father used to tell me about it. The reality of the “zhong kao” and the “gao kao” alone make me thankful for my easy life in America, as these tests basically decides how the rest of a student’s life will pan out to be. While my dad often tells me that he aced these and went to the best university, I suck at studying and test taking, and know I would have been one of the students to completely and utterly panic and fail. Obviously, I didn’t get the smart genes.

Not only would I have lost opportunities, but so would have my parents. Being able to finish their education in America, securing stable jobs, and raising a healthy family are all blessings. I realize that every Asian kid gets told the same cliché story, but I will tell it again. My dad came to America with $50 ($15 of which he used to send my mother a telegram message that he had arrived safely in America), a suitcase, and little grasp of the English language. Learning English by watching TV and reading the newspaper, they worked long hours and were determined to be successful. They created opportunities for me and them. Something interesting that my mother often tells me is that had she stayed in China and not followed my father, she would have become a very powerful politician, which I don’t doubt for even a second. She would have had power and money, but she now lives in Mason, Ohio, helping to raise a family of four in a beautiful neighborhood, with plenty of friends.

For a few final random notes, we went to an Island to celebrate the Dragon Boat festival, and we drove some go-carts that were much faster than any I had ever drove in America. Best experience ever. Upon my host dad hearing this from me, he simply said, “Oh, this was too slow for me. There are much faster ones, we will take you there.” I’m looking forward to that. I also lost my wallet for the first time in my life, or at least I thought that I had. During our group reflection, I sat down on my usual spot on the big sofa, placed my wallet and sunglasses on the table next to me, and waited for the other members of my team to file into the office. Aditya and Nadia then asked us to sit on the ground (which made my butt hurt, thanks a lot), and I forgot my wallet was on the table. I kind of panicked later that night when I wanted to buy some overpriced chicken and found my wallet wasn’t in my pocket or bookbag, but calmed down when David informed me that I left it in the office. Thanks a lot Aditya. Just kidding, I really enjoyed the reflection and I’ll be extra careful from now on not to lose anything. Daniel out.