a pensive walk around the agricultural college of guangxi university

Sunday, October 19:  I spend this entire weekend not talking to a soul.  So, I feel pretty depressed and lonely as I go out for a bicycle ride and a walk around the East Campus this Sunday morning.  I want to walk around the grounds of the Agricultural College because there’s a lot of farmland on this part of the campus.  The residences look different as well, and several somewhat scenic ponds dot the area.  I already made a long trek yesterday to the Guangxi Medicinal Plant Garden, so today I want to stay close to home while having a little change of scenery.

farmland around the Agricultural College

farmland around the Agricultural College

Luckily I did speak by Skype to Mike, plus I had some nice back and forth “comment” banter with fellow blogger Dai of An Englishman’s life in Kathmandu and Jo of Restless Jo.  I also shared some Facebook comments with people.  That’s kind of sad when your only communication is through a computer screen.

a house overtaken by nature

a house overtaken by nature

I’ve found it hard to connect with anyone here in China, other than on a superficial level, for several reasons.  The other teachers certainly seem friendly enough.  That’s not it.  It’s more just an inability to find people with the same interests and energy level as me.

wall & foliage

wall & foliage

farmland

farmland

It seems that the younger teachers gravitate toward their cohorts; I can’t say I blame them for that.  I did the same when I was their age.

more farmland

more farmland

a farmer wearing a reflective conical hat

a farmer wearing a reflective conical hat

All of the other teachers, bar none, have been in China for years; I am the ONLY teacher here who has just arrived in the country.  Those expats have traveled extensively and seem to be content to just hang around close to home on weekends.

greenhouses

greenhouses

a glimpse of a pond

a glimpse of a pond

reflections

reflections

A lot of people work part-time jobs outside of the university, doing online teaching or teaching kindergarten or private students.  Other people are involved in work that doesn’t involve teaching English.  Many of the older men here have Chinese wives and the younger men have Chinese girlfriends, so they’re occupied with their partners.

storage sheds behind apartment buildings

storage sheds behind apartment buildings

a murky pond

a murky pond

Sometimes I ask my colleagues what they did on the weekend, and they say they worked all weekend or they “did nothing.”  Or they are trying to complete a graduate degree and had a paper due. Some people have told me they’re here to make money and don’t want to make any friends or go out spending money.

more brick storage units

more brick storage units

If someone is trying to make money, I honestly can’t figure out why on earth they came to China.  I make less than half of what i made in Oman. Even Korea and Japan pay better than China, if the Middle East is not someone’s cup of tea.

apartment buildings

apartment buildings

laundry peeking from behind shrubbery

laundry peeks from behind shrubbery

Because of this lack of connection with anyone, I’m becoming increasingly frustrated.  I feel isolated and disconnected.  It doesn’t help that we have offices at the university that no one uses.  Sure, I can go use mine, but no one else will be there.  We go to class and then we sometimes go have lunch after class, and then everyone disappears into their own worlds.

apartment building on the East Campus

apartment building on the East Campus

another apartment building

another apartment building

It’s a paradox that I’m happy to NOT have to keep office hours, yet I’m disappointed that I’m missing the socializing that often occurs in the office.  At this college, much like at Northern Virginia Community College, no office hours are required.  We do our preparation and marking at home, show up for class, and go back home.  In Oman, I had to come into the office every day from 8-4.  Though I hated having to keep office hours, especially when I didn’t have enough work to fill my time, I did like the opportunity to socialize.  I made my closest friends in the university office:  Mario, Kathy, Anna, Tahira, Mona Lisa.  We became friends by hanging out and chatting in the office.

isolated house along the pond

isolated house along the pond

peeking from foliage

peeking from foliage

In Oman, it took five months before Mario and I became friends.  And it took even longer to become best of friends; of course every friendship needs time to develop.  I keep reminding myself it took that long.  I don’t even really hope to find a friend like Mario; friends like him in life are very rare indeed.  But I do keep hoping to find a partner in crime, someone who is not desperate to save money, someone who likes to go out and explore, someone who enjoys photography, someone who guards their free time and doesn’t let work encroach on it.  Someone laid back, yet with a sense of adventure.  It hasn’t happened yet.

a lonely road

a lonely road

I don’t understand people who say they don’t want to have friends while here.  That makes for a lonely existence.  Sure, it’s great to be here to save money, but what about a life?  I’ve always been a person who likes to balance work and pleasure.  Just like everyone else, I have a lot of preparation and marking to do, but I’m determined not to work on weekends.  I’m certainly not interested in taking on extra work.

I could be happy here, despite missing my husband and family.  My job is actually one of the better jobs I’ve ever had.  The students are sweet and hardworking, and I like the way the teaching schedule is set up.  I don’t have much of a commute.  I’m finished at noon three days a week, and one day I don’t go in until 2:40 and finish at 5:00.  I only have to prepare four 80-minute classes a week, because I repeat the same classes for different students.

The only negatives really are the isolation, the hot and sticky weather, and the oily food that sometimes makes me sick.  Oh, and the fact that sometimes the air conditioners don’t work in our classrooms; this makes me very grumpy.  🙂

cheery flowers

cheery flowers

This weekend, even though I had work I could have done, and I had plenty of free time on my hands, I didn’t do any work.  I went on two outings, I took and edited a lot of photos, I wrote 3 blog posts, I watched Mad Men, which I’m now addicted to, and I spent hours researching places I could explore in Guangxi province over the coming weekends.  I don’t have a long break until February, but at least twice a month, I could go on a weekend trip.  If I have to go it alone, then so be it.  I’m no stranger to traveling alone.

keeping shop

keeping shop

Tonight, I am feeling pretty melancholy, and it doesn’t help that I had a big glass of wine and watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Cairo Time, which tends to make me cry.  I have no idea how many times I’ve watched this movie.  I love it because it reminds me of my time in Cairo during the month of July in 2007.  That was the first time I’d ever been to such an exotic place alone, and I never felt so alive, so aware of every moment.  In all of my travels since Cairo, 16 countries in 5 years, I’ve always hoped to recapture that feeling of overwhelming awe that I had in Cairo.  I’ve never experienced anything to match it since.

wispy flowers

wispy flowers

pretty pond

pretty pond

I just have to keep in mind my goals of travel, and forge ahead alone if necessary.  I have plenty to blog about and plenty of pictures to take.  I can watch TV series like Mad Men, watch movies, and read.  I have a lot of books on my Kindle.  And I can keep going out for walks and bicycle rides.  I’m also due to start a free Basic Chinese class this Wednesday evening.  That will be a fun challenge.

And of course I’ll look forward to having Mike come to visit in February, when we can travel around together.  Though he’ll only be here for two weeks, I really hope someone else will come to visit, like my sons, or any of my friends.  Anyone is welcome to visit while I’m here in China.  I would love to have visitors!

I doubt I’ll never find a partner in crime like Mario, but at least I hope there’s someone here in China who I can connect with on a deeper level.  Otherwise my time in China will be an awfully lonely time.

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Categories: Agricultural College of Guangxi University, Asia, Bicycle tour, China, Chinese language, Chinese language class, East Campus, Expat life, Friendship, Guangxi University, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning, Teaching English as a Second Language, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “a pensive walk around the agricultural college of guangxi university

  1. I’m not sure I want to ‘like’ this post Cathy, you sound so down 😦 hope you are feeling a bit more cheery today! It’s just not a good thing to drink wine and watch sad movies on your own, next time let me know and I will join you 🍸 I don’t often get the blues, thank goodness, and when I do they don’t last for long so I am willing that you are the same. You’ll re-read this post and think “Crikey! That was a bit melancholy” and set off to snap some more great photos for your posse – my favourite here are those storage sheds btw, though to be honest I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to the photos, I just wanted to read what came next! As I have mentioned to you before I would never go to China, but I hope you know that I am with you in spirit and please email me whenever you want! I sincerely hope that you will make friends with someone who is on your wave length – what happened to that cheerful chap who helped you in the beginning? I am sending you a virtual bunch of roses: http://wp.me/p3jVw4-Gp and loads of hugs ((( {Cathy} )))

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    • I was feeling down and frustrated, Jude, but I do feel better now because at least I get to interact with my students. Next time I want to watch Cairo Time, or any other sad movie, I’ll let you know and we can drink wine and cry together.

      I don’t get the blues that often, and they do usually pass pretty quickly. Actually writing down my thoughts and sharing them, and then getting nice feedback such as yours makes me feel more connected to the human race!!

      As far as Caleb, he is teaching now at a kindergarten as well as at the university. He’s trying to save money to return home at the end of this year. He also likes to hang out with his younger cohorts, I think. Thanks so much for all your kind words, Jude, and especially for the virtual roses!! Hugs to you too. 🙂

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  2. Things take time, but you know that. Keep making your adventures and I’m betting that one day you’ll meet someone to share them with.

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  3. Isn’t that a lovely reply from Jude? 🙂 Yes, it’s a bit sad to have online friends rather than ‘real’ ones, Cathy, but much better than nobody. You are a very gregarious lady but you have to remember why you went to China. In search of adventure, I believe, and to see that amazingly different from your own world? (and a little matter of work and cash/money) Well, you’ve certainly achieved that! I think finding a soulmate as well is a bit of a long shot. I don’t know anyone who would do what you have done (myself included- I wouldn’t have the balls)
    I love you, mate! Please don’t be sad. You have an opportunity second to none. The Chinese lessons may help you find someone you can at least chat to, Cathy. I wish with all my heart I could be your companion. I will look at the finances for a visit because I don’t have a clue, but China is a long way from here. Please don’t get your hopes up (I flatter myself- people aren’t usually that keen on my company) Hugs, Cathy. Smile girl! You’re pretty lucky really. 🙂

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    • Thanks, Jo, for your lovely reply as well. I know, I do have to remind myself that I came to China for one reason, to travel and explore as much as possible. Of course that becomes a little difficult when the university keeps taking our weekends; I just found out tonight I have to invigilate for midterms on Sunday, November 9, which I’m not happy about at all because I was planning to travel that weekend.

      It is an adventure, Jo, and for that I”m excited, but of course it’s a lot more fun if you have someone to share it with, especially someone with whom you have a special connection. I had a friend like that in Mario. Friends like him are hard to come by.

      Of course I’d be thrilled to have you come to visit. I know it’s expensive, but there are some amazing things to see here. It’s also a bit of a hardship voyage because of the transport system and the communication barrier. You just have to prepare yourself for that. It’s not as tough as India, however!

      Thanks so much for your words of encouragement. I do have my down moments, but I usually do bounce back fairly quickly. I’m just trying to get the most out of the experience as possible. That’s all I really can do, right? Love ya! Hugs xxx

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  4. Hey Cathy I’m sorry you’re down in the dumps! Seems to me like there are some pretty strange people put there choosing to miss out on spending time with someone as lovely, lively and wonderful as you. It is early days yet and I’m sure things will improve. Meanwhile make the most of every moment, learn some of that impossible language quickly and know that we are rooting for you and looking forward to every post even when you’re feeling low.
    Big hugs honey ((((( 🙂 )))))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gilly, thanks for your kind words! I’ll figure it out, and I do have faith that whoever is meant to come into my life as a friend will come. I’ll try to be open to the most unexpected people. I am trying to make the most of the experience. It will be over in 9 more months, not much time really. It’ll come and go before I know it. Thanks for the hugs. xxx

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  5. Hi Cathy – like Jo suggested, I was thinking that Chinese language class will connect you with other newcomers to the area. Maybe you’ll find a partner in crime there? It looks like you’ve got plenty of places to explore and lots of green places, too, not just city. I can relate to the feelings of loneliness in a place where you know few people and have little in common with those you do know.
    But I am happy you’ve got so much time on hand to explore, be creative, read, write…

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    • Hi Annette, Well, I attended my first Chinese class this evening, and there are only 4 of us in it. And the four happen to be people who I’m already friends with. I like them quite a lot actually, but they are some of the ones who spend all their free time working!

      There are a lot of great places to explore around here. I just have to be brave and do it. This weekend I’m venturing to Detian Waterfall on the Vietnam border. Everyone has told me it’s a nightmare to get there, but if I don’t at least try, I’ll feel defeated and disappointed, so I’m just going to try it anyway. What’s the worst that could happen? I might end up lost in the hinterlands of China, I guess. We’ll have to see what happens.

      Sometimes I feel more lonely than others. This week I’ve been so busy with students and classes, now I’m forgotten my loneliness. However, when the weekend rolls around again, that’s when it becomes a challenge. 🙂

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  6. You have some very candid shots here, Cathy. I’m sad to know that you’re so lonely there. Don’t give up hope. Just keep your chin up and smile your beautiful smile at everyone you meet. How long is your contract for? I’m sure you’re so looking forward to Mike’s visit, and will have so many interesting places to show him. Our children seem to be so busy with their own lives, but it’s great to see them whenever possible. Maybe curiosity will get the better of them, and your sons will also come to take a peek into your new world. I’m sure you could write a book on all the adventures you’ve had whilst teaching. I do admire your courage to go alone into the unknown. 🙂 *hugs*

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    • Hi Sylvia, My contract is until July 18, 2015, so 9 more months. I am certainly looking forward to Mike’s visit; I really would welcome anyone who would like to visit and be intrepid explorers with me! Thanks so much for your kind words; I know I’ll have lonely times interspersed with busy times. I guess it will all even out in the end. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Everyone above has said all that I want to say already…hang in there and remember why you decided to have this adventure. Take care.

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    • Thanks Carol. I never forget why I decided to have this adventure, and even if I feel lonely, I don’t regret it at all. I knew it would be hard sometimes, and it is. As I’ve done this before, I do know that these tough times will pass, and good times will come. It’s the nature of the expat life, at least in my experience so far. Thanks again for your encouragement. 🙂

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      • I think it’s probably the same whenever we start something new. Even though we know things will be different it still takes time to adjust and sometimes we wonder why we decided to make the change. But it all works out fine in the end. I’m sure you will be seeing some wonderful places and meeting amazing new people and I can’t wait to read about them all.

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      • Thanks so much, Carol. There always is an adjustment period, that’s for sure, but it’s also part of the fun. It’s a challenge. So, hopefully, I can continue to meet the challenge and forge my way ahead to explore of much of China as I can squeeze in. 🙂

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  8. Wow you were feeling down when you wrote this one. I’ve had moments like that in my life but generally I love being alone. It’s hard to get time alone here in Nepal but I do manage it often. If you lived in Nepal maybe you would have the opposite problem…. there would always be people around you.

    Some of the apartment buildings there look damp and depressing. That would make me feel down I think. Those store sheds too.

    I would give anything to have a large greenhouse like the one above. I love growing things, Kat. If I had such a large greenhouse, nobody would ever see me unless they came inside my greenhouse. I could have fresh organic fruits and vegetables with every meal.

    I’m getting problems accessing WordPress again. That’s why I haven’t written anything about Tihar (Deewali). Yesterday was Kukur Tihar and a day when dogs get worshipped. It was fun, Kat. If you visit my facebook page you can see Flocky being garlanded by Kumar and Rasmi. All the local dogs running around here were garlanded and wore tikkas on their foreheads. It made me laugh.

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    • Yes, I was feeling down; I guess it was because I honestly didn’t communicate with anyone face-to-face all weekend. But you know, I too like to be alone, I guess I just don’t like to be alone all the time!

      Some of those apartment buildings and sheds are really decrepit and I find them depressing too! I do like the farmland though, and those greenhouses were so neatly tended. I liked them too.

      It would be nice to grow your own fruits and vegetables and know they were lovingly tended and organic and fresh. It’s nice to know where the things you eat come from.

      I bet that was a fun day worshipping dogs! I bet Flocky had a great time. I need to visit your Facebook page to see the pictures. I think seeing the dogs walking around all garlanded would make me laugh too. 🙂

      Sometimes I can’t respond readily because of my schedule. I’ve been so busy; I had classes and lots of planning and 140 papers to mark over the last three days. It’s been very busy and no fun at all. I value my weekends so much, Dai, when I can finally relax and do the things I love. This weekend, I’m taking a trek to Detian Waterfall near the Vietnam border. Everyone tells me the journey there is difficult, but I’m determined to go. It’s my birthday Saturday and I really want to do something special. 🙂

      Hope you continue to enjoy your festival. It sounds like a lot of fun. 🙂

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  9. Cathy, this has been my absolute favourite blog so far! It is strange that some found it depressing, but to me it was almost as good as talking on the phone, getting to know how you are really feeling at this point in the adventure. I am glad you have let your hair down here, and that you have let your multitude of readers know that living and working abroad is not all fun and games. It comes with great sacrifice at times, and a lot of loneliness as well as solitude, no matter how much you enjoy your own company. I am also honoured that you cite me as such a good friend, as you know how much I value your friendship, spirit of adventure, and talents. Thank you!

    My feeling after reading is this, is that this is a time where you are, for whatever reason, intended to spend a lot of time on your own, whether you like it or not. Your best writing I feel will come from this space, not to take anything away from that novel I am dying to read! 😀 You seem to be in the right frame of mind to be your own partner in crime this time around – not easy to do, but often this is when those you seek walk through unexpected doors. But in fact you are not alone, not really, as you have so many people taking this voyage of discovery with you, through media you were not even sure would be available to you.

    We are getting to know as you are getting to know you – however uncomfortable these realizations here are – and I value this enormously. I am not sure if, contrary to what I wrote above, that you will meet anyone to do things with, knowing first hand how much energy and motivation you have to see and do absolutely everything you can wherever you are, but no matter what, I know you will be okay and that you will get the best out of this experience. xxx

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    • Hi Mona Lisa, I really appreciate your comments and know that you can understand what I’m going through as only a fellow expat could. It is an adventure to live abroad, but it has its challenges, as you know. Dealing with a foreign administration and cultural differences at work, making new friends who are like-minded, communicating across language barriers, these are all difficult. Even outside of those things, there are your internal demons that you struggle with daily: your fear of not being able to function in this foreign society, your fear of not being able to connect with anyone, loneliness and frustration etc. Life abroad is not always comfortable, and often it is not, but it is a challenge that helps us to grow.

      Thank you for appreciating what I’ve written here. I do try to share my feelings with my readers and though some people may feel uncomfortable with so much heart-to-heart sharing, it is me and it’s real. All of us have these feelings whether we want to admit to them or not. I hope I can connect with other people about our real human experience and struggles.

      Thanks so much, once again, for your encouragement. Sending hugs your way. 🙂 xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, and once again, happy birthday! This one will live in your memory if no other reason that it rained and that you got a birthday cake with a tomato on it. 😀

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