Monthly Archives: June 2014

Finally Forced to View Failure Differently: “Fail at a Higher Level”

Last week was a defining moment for me in my Chinese learning…and in my mindset about what it means to fail.

I was just speaking to my resident director, 李老师,last week about continuing to find something that connects me to China. I’d bought Case Closed comic books, have clicked through Chinese television channels, would go out near my campus to interact with Chinese people…but everything felt really forced. I was feeling as though I were desperately grasping for something that would make me feel like China could one day be home, that I could adjust here, that I would make some progress in my abilities to speak and listen to Chinese.

…that I could finally finish more than just less than half of my homework after 10 hours of working on it per day and get some damn sleep. My mood was taking a hit. I’d fallen out of habits that I knew kept me focused. As I have been known to say, “I am too through with this nonsense!”


One of the constructive criticisms that 李老师was giving me consistently is that I was expecting perfection. I could definitely agree with him on that. I was thinking, “well…shouldn’t I be aiming to do well in my classes? I have not been able to finish more than half of my homework the whole first two weeks I’ve been here!”

Over time, my mindset had become, “Why shouldn’t I expect perfection. I should aim to perform perfectly…anything else is unacceptable.” My mom raised me to believe that there are people who do well and then there are people who do well. I still believe that…but the mindset that I was raised with in how to reach that latter level wasn’t going to help me in China.

The end and period.

He also asked me if I was one of the top students at my school. Yup. He asked me what did I like about Chinese culture. I joked that I would say something other than, “I really like the food.” Everyone and their mother says that when asked about a culture. I told him that when I was younger, my Father and I used to watch a lot of kung fu movies in black and white on VHS tapes. At the time, I was much too young to understand what I was looking at. It just looked cool – how else do interests start for children? Haha…

I told him that as I got older, I continued to watch these Chinese films…I began to venture into traditional themes and ones about gangs as I really admired the spirit and perseverance of the fighter. The themes of family, loyalty, and brotherhood were emphasized so heavily in those films. I thought the cultural aspect of how these themes were emphasized was very admirable. Of course, even at that time, I never thought I would want to actually LEARN Chinese language…I just never thought about it. I saw those squiggly lines and never even entertained the idea that I would be sitting abroad writing those squiggly lines out to form sentences. Haha!

I told him that I had first learned about China’s role in the world during my sophomore year of college in my East Asia in World Affairs class. I told him that I had learned about the China-Africa relationship and about my surprise that there was actually a power forcing us into a multipolar world (arguably bi-polar) and away from a unipolar one. I told him about the introduction to the movies A Better Tomorrow and The Killer in my Chinese History in Film class! Chow Yun-fat became my husband in my mind, at that point. I told him that I have always thought the characters, in particular, are beautiful and that reading and writing characters are my strong points because of my long background in art.

No. I certainly didn’t tell 李老师about Chow Yun-fat becoming my husband! Definitely left that part out! I couldn’t take the embarrassment if that slipped out… -_-

ALL that to feed to my main point… “Fail at a higher level.”

I was sitting at a café with my friend and 预拌, struggling once again through Chinese homework. Another day of starting the day out thinking, “I’m going to finish this homework today,” and of the inevitable sinking feeling that I probably wasn’t…but it would be a cold day in Hell before I wouldn’t keep trying to somehow get better in this language. Those were my thoughts every day and they were E.X.H.A.U.S.T.I.N.G.!!!

I had been waiting for something to click and it just wasn’t clicking – matter how mindful I thought I was being.

I expressed to my friend that I sometimes felt that I couldn’t do any of this but knew that I would keep trying…but felt that I was trying blindly. I was doing my job…asking for insight from my teachers and listening to advice from students who seemed to be managing the work better. Some of my classmates would tell me, “you’re not supposed to be able to finish the work.” Admittedly, my thought in response to that was, “What kind of nonsense is that…the classes are solely based on our preparation. I’ve been roasted enough times – in front of everyone – for not being prepared.”

I continued to be unsure why my mindset was not changing in my attempts to apply the tips that I felt, at the time, would be useful to me. I didn’t understand.

“Fail at a higher level.”

Then my friend said this to me…and explained the logic when my eyebrow began to rise. He said that I should be failing, but I have to be mindful of what I am failing at and work to know why I have failed at that thing once I’ve failed it.

I shouldn’t say that “everything” clicked, but something began to click. I started to become very thoughtful about what I was being told in that moment and what I had been told by everyone in the last two weeks…then things started to click and settle…especially by the next morning. The perspective about the stress, frustration, and sense of deflation that I had been feeling about this intensive program for the last two weeks began to change.

It is now the end of the week and a lot of my approach and performance in my classes show my choice to adjust my mindset. Heck, the changes started the very next day. I’ve been able to target the specific parts of my work that I need to focus on more than others… and learn to finish those areas, rather than think I have to emphasize a,b,c, d,e…z.

All of the advice that I had been receiving from my teachers and some students began to appropriately fall into place in my mind. I could sense that it was happening that way. Learning this language and succeeding at it will always be one of the GREATEST challenges that I will remember for the rest of my life. I am very sure of this. Of course… I said that about the Fulbright, Boren, and several other things…but the acute difference here is that I am being hit with a WHOLE lot of change all at once and I have long decided to swim, not sink, and now I have to be steadfast in learning how to navigate.

I think this is the first time that I am really accepting that the concept of “failure” is not entirely negative. That should not be confused with thinking that I never knew and understood that failure is a part of a process… I know this, but I am learning to understand this fact in a way that forces me to change an approach to success that I have only made minor adjustments to with each new challenge that I have faced up to this point.

I have had to go through some extreme struggles to become a solid student or to be good at something. Dealing with struggles are never easy. With that said, when you become good at something and conquer more and more challenges successfully…sometimes you have to remind yourself that you will always face some kind of struggle. You have to remind yourself that you might have to change your perspective to something completely different to even have a chance at overcoming the new obstacle that you now face.

Sometimes I apply my determination using the wrong technique and when I have to change tracks, it feels like I am dragging myself over scorching hot coals to make that transition. That’s exactly how it feels in that moment…

But…nothing will compare to THIS situation, I am sure of it. I was raised to believe that one should avoid failure at all cost. So, any time that I have failed, I have worked myself to the bone to turn that failure into a success. I never saw any reason to broadcast that I am failing at something until I have conquered that failure. Hell…even at that point, I called it ‘struggling’. Haha!

From failure, I have learned more than I would have if I hadn’t failed in the first place…. Sometimes I’ve had to work for weeks, months, years to see that success come to fruition. Didn’t always know how, didn’t always know when, but it was going to change and that is what I knew 100%.

…but…the only reason why anything changed was because I was mindful of the process. Failing without being conscious of moving towards improvement is not improvement but a continued inability to progress.

I think in this new context…this “failing at a higher level” thing…failure, as I’ve learned it in my upbringing, can only mean the conscious decision to give up on something that needs to be done – in your mind. For me, I need to learn Chinese…but I also need to apply the concept of failure in terms of learning…not to just an inability to learn…

It’s strange realizing that being fully prepared for my classes is not…possible…but you have to keep failing to actually come out of this program prepared for that future next level challenge in learning Chinese.

That’s definitely different to me. …or maybe not. Maybe I’ve applied this concept to a variety of struggles that I have faced but hadn’t ever consciously realized this?

This will not be my first time learning how to be exceptional at something, but I am learning what it means to be exceptional at something with the use of a very different kind of roadmap that pose both an extreme mental and emotional challenge to me.

I will say this…one of my classmates told me that my professor, 王老师, had told her that she has been very impressed with my work ethic. She said that I am not the best at listening and speaking but she has been extremely impressed by my “diligence and work ethic despite my hardships to learn” and that she is impressed with my abilities to read and write Chinese so well. I mean, YES, that flattered me…greatly and really put the biggest smile on my face.

This blog was particularly difficult to write for a lot of reasons. I am proud of myself for choosing to write it. Sometimes it is ok for people to know you’re struggling with something. Sometimes. Haha!  The stories of perseverance should not only be for  me to know. It is more important that I know that I am going to keep to my determination. I always keep to it…no matter how deflated I feel. This sort of challenge…learning Chinese…really reminds me of that fact.

In a lot of ways, some bits of familiarity have brought me a lot of balance this past week. 🙂

Thank you for reading!



For the Last Two Weeks, Everyone Thought I was Adopted by Canadians

Ok, first…I need everyone to acknowledge just how similar Canada and Ghana sounds in Chinese…
Canada: ( 加拿大)GEE YAH NAH DAH
Ghana: ( 加纳) GEE YAH NAH

Remember how I said I was practicing how to explain myself as a Ghanaian American to the Chinese?

Well. It sounds like I just need help doing so with everyone, including the person who  I see in the mirror.

Today, I gave a presentation on my favorite Suzhou restaurant in Chinese. I was telling everyone how my friend had introduced me to 城东菜 and how I absolutely love the fried rice dishes there. Then, of course, I wanted to add more to my presentation so I went into an explanation about how Ghanaian people also consider rice a staple food. I explained how I felt that was a similarity between the two cultures.

The second I mentioned “Ghana,” I am assuming that is when I started to receive confused expressions from my classmates – including my professors. All of my classmates are American except for the Chinese professors there, including my own teacher, 粥老师。Of course…I didn’t notice the looks until halfway through my presentation but I assumed that was because my tones, as usual, were atrocious.

At the end of the presentation, there was a question and answer. Several students seemed more focused on what I said about Ghana than they were about the delicious beef fried rice that I was heavily advocating! They asked me in Chinese about Ghanaian (or so I thought) dishes and if I’d ever been to Ghana (or so I thought). When I was asked about the Canadian dish, I started to feel confused….the question was something about some kind of famous pudding specific to …Ghana?

I was standing up there in front of the class with my 什么? (What!?) face on asking…What pudding?” Thinking… “This guy doesn’t know Ghanaian food…why is he asking me about some kind of African pudding?” After several more questions, I received my applause and sat down…still feeling a bit confused…and in the back of my mind, wondering why 粥老师had started looking at me strangely halfway through my presentation.

粥老师takes her place in front of the class, pulls out the dry erase board and asks me in Chinese where Ghana (or so I thought) is located. I answer but everyone else is like “北边” (North). I am in my seat thinking, “Since when has the African continent been North of North America? What are they all even talking about?”

Then she says to me…加纳还是加拿大?“Ghana or Canada?” The whole class bursts out laughing when they watch the look of realization slowly setting on my face. Complete 真的吗!?”REALLY!?” look had to be on my face at that point.

I was mortified – and laughing, of course. I told my class…These last two weeks, I’ve been telling everyone 我妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是我弟弟,妹妹,和我都是美国人。“My parents are from Canada but my brother, sister, and myself are all American.” One student said that he thought I was telling everyone that I’d been adopted by Canadians. Goodness!! Another student asked me if I’d ever been to Canada…haha. Goodness Goodness…. And the golden comment was “Yeah…you were saying Canadian…how could you be in this program from the U.S. Department of State if you’re Canadian?”

This made me reflect on the many situations that people were shocked that I was 美国人(American) and I was standing there telling everyone that I was Canadian!? This entire time!? …That my PARENTS are Canadian!? …but goodness…the lady that I have become good friends with who owns one of the supermarkets thinks my background is CANADIAN!


When I taught English at the rural Chinese school, some asked me if I was African and I told them my parents were Canadian and that my brother, sister, and myself are all American. Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.29.54 PM

Somewhere down the line, I began to confuse 加拿大with 加纳。(“Canada” with “Ghana”). I am appalled that I left those school kids THAT confused about life!! Can you imagine… “妈妈爸爸!今天我有英文老师!她是黑人!我觉得她是非洲。。。可是她告诉我们她的妈妈爸爸都是加拿大人可是她的弟弟,妹妹,和她都是美国人!真的吗!?” “Mom, Dad! Today I had an English teacher! She is black! I thought she was African but she told us that both her parents are from Canada but her little sister, little brother, and she are all American! Really?!”

I’m just going to end this blog here. Too. Funny.

I mean, I was talking the World Cup with people…calling Ghana …CANADA…the entire time!

Yes, I can already hear the, “Really, Shirley…?” reactions from anyone reading this.


学很多中文 , 教学生怎么说英文,演出 莎莎舞, 在中国电视我看 Conan the Detective 和 Tom and Jerry Kids 了

So, what does that title say?: “Learned a lot of Chinese, Taught English to Students, Performed a Salsa Dance, and Watched Conan the Detective and Tom and Jerry Kids on Chinese Television!

It is early Saturday morning and I have a chance to reflect on my Friday – that I enjoyed thoroughly…now that I have been able to begin Operation: Make Up for Two Weeks of No Sleep, of course! Friday must be broken down into four parts.
Part 1: Four hours of class – as usual! Part 2: Teaching English at a rural school! Part 3: Salsa/Zumba dancing for the Welcome Ceremony! Part Four: Watching Conan the Detective and Tom and Jerry Kids

So…Part 1:
Friday, as usual, was four hours of Spoken Application, Spoken Development, Reading, and Composition. These four hours are always unbelievably tiring! I was using my last bit of strength to get through the day. My Composition course was interesting today… 老师had a lot to say about the Chinese government. She expressed embarrassment that she had gone on a tangent. I, specifically, was surprised that she told a bunch of Americans all of that. 很有意思。。。”very interesting…”. I think we were all wide eyed over that one.

Part 2:
Right after that, the CLS (Critical Language Scholarship) Program students went to teach English in a rural Chinese school. Goodness! The children were around…10 -12 years old. EVERYONE was staring at the pack of Americans just walking through the plaza. I love children! It’s those combined looks of confusion, intense curiosity, and nervousness that make children prime for learning …particularly since, more often than not, the intense curiosity overcomes the nervousness/fear. Something as simple as asking 你叫什么名字?”What is your name?”and introducing yourself in their language just diminishes so much of the nervousness…and then these curious young minds start slowly taking steps towards these smiling foreigners…wondering (I’m sure)…”are these the 美国人 (Americans) they told us about? They don’t look it.” Haha!

On the playground, we (my fellow English teacher, Hiram Rios, and myself) were soon surrounded by a large mass of kids speaking all at once. There was one young man and young woman, in particular, who were both overflowing with questions. The young boy asked if I was African. Haha! In Chinese, I told him that my parents are from Ghana but my younger siblings and myself were born in America. Hiram helped me to explain in more detail. As I’ve said…it’s definitely a process learning how to explain more about who I am as an American. Based on the thoughtful expressions on their faces after the explanation, I have some room for improvement. Haha! But they were absolutely fascinated by the answer.

Quite honestly, I felt a bit nervous too… it is NOT easy to use Chinese in an immersive setting…but you realize that that is really your ONLY option. There is a completely different connection that you, as a foreigner, can make with people all around the world when you can speak THEIR language. Another blog will explain the hard time I’ve been having with the speaking and listening…they aren’t my strongest skills, but I love talking to the people. The reality is that both ARE getting better…slowly…but they are because I am not supposed to speak English because of the language pledge. Our resident director is very particular about that – and that is an understatement. I have to be mindful at all times and catch myself when I automatically want to respond in English.

At the school, I had to remind myself of what an ambassador told me once… signs of greeting are universal. So I SMILED to death! It doesn’t matter if your black, blue, purple, yellow, green…and all of the colors of the rainbow combined…EVERYONE recognizes a smile and a laugh and a welcoming demeanor, particularly children. I smiled when I approached them and they backed away from me. Smiled when I stopped and just stood there smiling and then asked them their names in Chinese. Smiled as they creeped closer to me, letting their curiosities get the best of them. Goodness…can you tell I love kids?! My smile quickly became more natural.

Before we knew it, the kids were just packed tightly around us talking all at once. Some would run up to me and say “hi” and then run away, then come back and keep talking. Before we knew it, we were all taking photos, throwing our arms around each other liked we’d known each other for more than 30 minutes. Later, Hiram and I were waiting in the hallway outside of our assigned classroom and all of these students are looking at us standing there, waving at us. We waved back at every one of them. Two young ladies came up to us and gave us extra ice cream that they had. We melted completely! These kids are not middle class but they were willing to give us the extra ice cream that they had just to make us feel welcome.

You know…it is amazing how the status of the teacher in China (and in many parts of the world) is much more highly revered compared to teachers in America. This is a sad, but true, reality. Here, in China, you never WALK by your professor in the hallway without addressing them. You NEVER address them by last name, as we tend to do in America. I remember, in Dr. Lester’s Politics and Religions course, we discussed how American students address their professors compared to students in other parts of the world. Often we hear students calling to their professors, “Hey, Lester!” Instead of “Hello, Dr. Lester.”

It’s very true…coming from a Ghanaian background, a sign of respect is to always refer to your elder as ‘Uncle’. I remember a professor invited me to refer to him in a very casual way and my first reaction was “no, no…”. It was very non-negotiable to me to refer to a professor as anything other than “Dr.____” etc etc. I have learned something quite interesting though… I believe, in some cases, when you have formed a solid foundation with a professor and really have a friendship with that professor, you can refer to one another on a less formal basis …but there is still that mentor/mentee relationship. You continue to respect that person as someone who can provide you advice and they have a mutual respect for you as someone coming into their own and ready for the trials and errors that it takes to grow. It is a bit more complex in America….but you know when it feels right to do so or to decide against it.

That aside, in other countries…you never blend the friendship/teacher relationship. For example, in Taiwan… my tutor was younger than I – but she was my tutor. She was very serious about keeping that line between friendship and teacher completely separate! Told me that directly when I had a moment of ignorance and asked her out to lunch if she wasn’t busy. Haha! I might have been raised with Ghanaian values but I have still been cultured a certain way in balancing being Ghanaian and American. From that interaction, I found that I have to routinely remind myself that “ok…some things are non-negotiable in this setting.” We became good friends AFTER the program was over and speak to each other less formally…but I still feel like she is my tutor when she tells me that my Chinese is not as good as it was before. Haha!

In China, you ALWAYS greet and thank your professor. Our resident director, 李老师 (Professor Li) is sure to ingrain that in our heads. A few of us messed that up one morning…and that afternoon he said, “I was thinking, “Do I look like a student to them?” I’m sure no one forgot after that! You never pass a professor in the hall… you MUST say 老师好 Laoshi hao! “Hello teacher” and早 “Good Morning”. Also, when your professor enters the classroom, you say 老师好 again. You do NOT just sit there and not greet the professor. Period. Also, Chinese teachers give criticism of your performance in front of everyone…there is no, “we’ll talk after class so that I can give you an overview of your performance.” You have to acknowledge that you are thankful for the information when you are being criticized…you don’t debate it, you accept it, and show thanks.

I will never forget my first day of class… I performed terribly. TERRIBLY! 王老师 (Professor Wang), in front of everyone, told me that I had received zero points for the day because I could not recite the dialogue. I remember my face BURNING in absolute terror and embarrassment. I was already struggling with the fact that I hadn’t been in a Chinese class for a year and now I was being criticized in front of everyone. I am going to be 100% honest about how I was thinking about this…I’d just graduated with more than several honor societies cords around my neck. I’d received a Fulbright, the Boren, and more than 15-20 other scholarships, I had great work ethic, diligence, and perseverance…and I was being told that I was receiving zero points.

Quite honestly…that tore my pride TO SHREDS. The rest of that week, I felt a stress to make up for that in a way that I cannot even begin to describe. That story is for another blog. Either way, I had to take a step back and think about a different perspective…the reality is ( and I have always known this), that my achievements in college are not going to guarantee that I master Chinese…a foreign language is a foreign language… none of them are easy to learn. The end and period. I had to keep telling myself that…because as someone who is always organized and prepared… that thrashing scarred me for life. I had to keep the straightest face possible when I said 谢谢老师 “Thank you, laoshi.” I just don’t believe in making  a first bad impression…and that’s what happened.

Different than it is in America, huh? Yes…very much so. This new way of teaching puts on the pressure to be prepared in class, that’s for sure! I will say…by last Friday, 王老师was very impressed by my improvement. She knew I was working to death to do better. One night, I remember 李老师 told me to stop being “so fragile,” that I needed to accept that I was going to make a lot of mistakes and that making mistakes is exactly what I am here to do. I keep telling myself that I did not expect perfection, but to an extent…I likely did. I am a perfectionist…I have struggled to be where I am now but I have forgotten that there are fifty million more hills for me to climb in my future. The show never stops when it comes to that… it will always be about how I decide to approach the challenge that will determine my success in the future. I entirely believe that…and so I have been reminding myself of that fact.

Now…in our class, Hiram and I introduced ourselves to our students in Chinese. Then we reintroduced ourselves in English. We instructed our students to refer to me as Miss 马 (Miss Martey) or 马老师 (Teacher Martey) and Hiram as  刘 老师 (Teacher Rios). We told them that we are here to be their English teachers and asked them how long they’d been learning English. Four years! This makes me reflect back to Mr. Craig Allen’s comments during the CLS orientation. Mr. Allen conducts direct trade negotiations with top leaders in China. He was very frank about the fact that America is at a severe disadvantage for not having language training at a younger age compared to other countries. These kids are the children of migrant workers and they are not middle class, yet already know a good amount of English. English isn’t even their first language.

To review English with them, we decided to draw fruits on the board and ask them what the English words are. What is absolutely universal about children is that they ALL have a sweet tooth. So, we encouraged their participation and work ethic by bribing them with 糖 “candy”! It was a fun class and the children definitely knew their English words! Afterward, we played “Simon Says”. To teach them the rules of the game, Hiram explained the instructions while I sat in one of the seats with the children and demonstrated. I think our willingness to stand at the front of the class and walk down the aisles and directly speak to the children in English encouraged them to be less shy about using their English.

We also ensured everyone participated by directly going to some students who seemed a bit shy. After each student gave a correct answer, we led the class in applause after every answer was given so that all classmates felt that they were in this TOGETHER.

Soon…we had to leave! * tear * We took final pictures and thanked them in English for having us. We passed out the candy to all of them. Each of them said “thank you” to us in English and I would respond with a “You’re welcome.” Goodness, they were all so adorable! It was such a great time and the students literally look up to their teachers. It was definitely a different feeling… I remember I taught diversity to students in Taiwan and it was the same exact feeling. They look up to their teachers and have so much respect for them. That is just magnificent!

Part 3 of the day…
Last night, Suzhou University put together a Welcome Ceremony for the CLS, Hong Kong, and Ohio state exchange to China programs. We were asked to prepare performances that emphasized cultures in our countries. Well! At the beginning of this week, Hiram asked me if I would like to be his dancing partner for one of the performances. I snatched up the chance! I just LOVE dancing and thought a performance would be fun. Also, I have been looking for ways to enjoy dancing in China… (Another blog will outline the, uh, trials and errors that I went through trying to find a dancing place. Yes…I will refer to those bumps in the road as “trials and errors” and leave it at that for now.)

I have always wanted to learn how to do salsa/zumba dance. Hiram is Puerto Rican so he knew how to dance to Latin music. He had two days to teach and and practice with me. Three hours per day. It helped – significantly – that I have always enjoyed dance because I was able to catch on to the moves quickly. Helped that I already knew how to feel music. Below is the performance! I am looking for better footage and a recording of the ENTIRE dance…once I find it, I will switch out the videos. This video doesn’t do that dance justice! I think we hit the Chinese members in the audience with a WHOLE lot of culture at once. We did a Latin dance but I’m obviously not Latino. The looks of absolute surprise were amusing but after the performance, many of the Chinese students and directors congratulated us heartily on such a great performance. It was a good time!

Most of the CLS students immediately went to Shanghai so only a few of us were heading back to the hotel. Most of us just needed the sleep – including myself. These first two weeks have been truly a piece of work in terms of adjusting and just figuring out what works for me, in general.

Now, Part 4:
Some of you may be familiar with the Japanese show, Conan the Detective? Also, remember the Tom and Jerry Kids? I ended up staying up and watching late night episodes of both on Chinese television! How cool is that!? I was just sitting in my room laughing because I haven’t seen the Tom and Jerry kids since…since I was a kid!  You never forget that theme song though… All of this Chinese I have been hearing has helped me to improve my ability to listen. I am really good at character reading so the shows had captions and I was able to read what was being said in the shows. Last week, I bought Conan the Detective comics translated in Chinese.

All of that aside…A lot of people have been asking me, “How are you liking China?” I’m adjusting…and that is certainly a process. I keep thinking that my former professor, Dr. Singh, was not kidding about the value of being able to show that you can live in different environments. As I am not heavily traveled, this is definitely not easy for me.

I have up and down days. Sometimes the constant staring is exhausting. Other times, I don’t mind them. (Yes, I know that this is a largely homogenous society…knowing that doesn’t make the hyperawareness any less tiring.) Sometimes I do not know entirely how to deal with just being here in general…but I know that I will not be home until May 2015 – possibly longer considering how things move along in that time.

So, with that said, I need to figure out what makes me feel connected here…also a process, it seems. This program requires the sacrifice of personal time…depending on what you seek to take from it. Four hours of class a day and 4 to 6 hours of preparation for classes. Also, you have to go out into the community and practice your Chinese…about 50 hours a week in all. What I have learned in these two weeks? Don’t sacrifice sleep for anything…that is a rule that I implemented in college and it certainly applies here. As 李老师 told me, “Don’t be so fragile” and “Sleep is essential to memory to learn Chinese.” Sounds like 101 info but it sure isn’t when you’ve been taken right out of your element and are just standing there wide-eyed.

Right now, more than ever, I appreciate being able to connect with my friends and family when I need it. Makes me very grateful that I took the time to get to know all of the wise people that I did while in college. They’ve been my backbone! 🙂 Haven’t contacted everyone but it is a great feeling knowing that I can any time that I needed to. The only people I need to talk to are those who understand how Shirley operates…haha, I know some of them are thinking, “Yup…she’s definitely going to learn some patience.” Haha! Yeah…so I see… I seem to learn the best when things are forced on me. 加油!My goal at the end of the day…is to recognize that I need to be patient but to make it a mindful adjustment to China’s culture so that I am not wasting valuable time.

Some people might advise… “There is no way that you can finish everything…” etc etc. I am not too concerned with what it makes me look like that I 100% believe that I NEED to figure out a way to balance intensive amounts of work. Every bit of this is supposed to improve my Chinese…I will work the entire two months to figure that out if I have to. I will continue to ask questions to gain as much understanding of what I need to specifically focus on to use my time wisely SO THAT my Chinese improves.

I’m here because I knew I was going to have to make some sacrifices…I don’t believe success comes with a foundation of half assing  (to put it bluntly) your work….of kinda sorta getting what is kinda sorta going on in class. I am going to an extremely intensive program after this… I better figure out how to balance this workload. I intentionally put myself through the shredder in order to learn this language. As I was told…there are people who know Chinese and then there are those who master Chinese. I intend to be in the latter category.

So let the struggle continue.

A Rough First Night in China…我卡住了!!!”I’m struggling!”

A few hours ago, I arrived at my hotel in Suzhou, China. My only nervousness was the language — until my $80.00 hair clippers exploding-head1broke and it took hours and hours to figure out what happened — and I still do NOT know.  If I was in America, I could have those replaced for FREE. Now I’m in China and…I need to waste the money to buy a new pair. I am currently working to see if I can reach my barber and ask him if I may just be incorrect about them breaking. I HOPE SO.

Also,  my surge protector busted the entire lights in my bedroom. We don’t have wifi. Ah…and I am nervous about the fact that I have not studied Chinese in a year because I took all of my credits at my university. I left the books at home! Goodness! My head was on the verge of exploding… Well. That did happen, actually…

I have been advised to breathe…so I am breathing.  I have been advised to remember that I worked extremely hard the two years and the summer that I learned Chinese — so I will do my best to remember that. It helped for me to reconnect with some people at home and vent my frustrations. I am so used to everything being orderly…especially when I take care to prepare for everything…and several things happened that I did not expect. It brings me back to what 李老师 (Teacher Li) said at the Pre-Departure orientation… “learn to be flexible…not everything will go the way that you want it to.) If anyone knows Shirley Naa-kowaa Martey, it’s that she LOVES things to be IN ORDER.

I was so overwhelmed and tired of being overwhelmed that I just sat down in the middle of my bed and took some very deep breaths, took out my diary and just let every bit of my frustrations pour onto the page.  This first week is going to be rough – especially with the language pledge. We can’t speak a lick of English. I always say that I am going to need my determination more than ever…but in this particular situation, I am most DEFINITELY going to need my determination more than ever.

I think it was a good idea that I let myself feel the frustration so that I could recharge and feel better. Everything feels better after a nice hot shower.

Tomorrow is going to be a busy day…I believe we are taking a tour. All I know is… can’t make a habit of being up at 2 AM!  I can’t let the jet lag get me!

在台湾我的导师教我 怎么说 “我卡住了!”  (“in Taiwan, my tutor taught me how to say “I’m struggling!”) Why? Because I was always talking about some kind of struggle. How appropriate… I feel that is going to be my go to phrase this entire week.

Yes, yes….I know…first world problems. Oye… I need to sleep this nonsense off!