I’m one month into the semester so I thought I’d fill you in with how things are going.
This year I changed departments. Before I was in a different department, but now I’m back to teaching English majors. I wish I could say it was some grand gesture to get back to my roots, engage my students on a deeper level and make a difference. But honestly? I changed departments because of air conditioning. My former department didn’t have any, and English majors do. Yep. I’m that shallow. But can you blame me?! It was 95 degrees on October first with no signs of cooling down. It makes the workweek much better.
But I have to say things are going great. Of course their level is higher, which makes everything easier, but their enthusiasm is off the charts. They engage, they are eager and they really get into the lessons. Unfortunately, they are pulling me in and making me more engaged and interested in them which is bad news for my work/life balance. Oh well.
Not that I am stuck on campus tending to my students needs all the time. Besides the crafts fairs, hikes, days at the beach and dinner, each semester, I pick a “theme” for the semester and devote my time to it. My first semester it was just to meet people and make friends in my new home. Last semester was writing. I wrote a book in one month, and then spent the next few months sitting in cafe’s editing it. (Update, it’s with agents right now, waiting to hear back. Fingers crossed!)
I put a lot of through into my project for this semester, thinking over various goals and accomplishments I wanted to achieve. But then my project kinda found me.
I’ve been playing badminton weekly for the past six months and I’ve really gotten into it. I don’t know why, but I’ve fallen in love with the sport even though I’m mediocre at best. I even went from playing once a week, to twice a week in the summer. We play in a giant warehouse with no air conditioning, no fans, no open windows. In fact, the big industrial windows are covered in thick, blue tarps. Moving air disturbs the birdie after all, and we can’t have that.
So the place swelters in the summer. When temps are in the high 90’s outside, they are even higher inside. And I hate the heat. (Hate it so, so much.) When I started I figured I would just play until May or June and quit for the summer.
But that didn’t happen. In fact, I found myself going twice a week, and willing to play on any holidays or other free time. I would leave dripping in sweat with a shirt sticking to my body and feeling great. I always though athletes were crazy for punishing themselves in the heat, but now I get it. While I’m playing I don’t even notice how much I’m sweating except to wipe it out of my eyes.
And while I’ve been making strides, I have been feeling a bit frustrated. In my club, we just play games. While some players are at a higher level, and they have shown me some tricks and tips, no one is a coach or a teacher. We don’t do drills or exercises, and we don’t practice basic skills. And I think it’s something I am really missing. Most of the people in our club are Asian. They’ve grown up playing the sport in P.E. class. They’ve grown up watching tournaments and reading about famous badminton players. I haven’t. Aside from playing in the backyard with friends, badminton isn’t a big thing in America. I didn’t even know the rules when I started.
So I feel like to improve I need a teacher. Someone who can teach me perfect form, who can drill me, who can analyze my game play and tell me how to improve. One of my friends is an excellent badminton player. He is so good he doesn’t play with my club because we are too low a level.
He helped me find me a teacher who is one of the top badminton players in all of Xiamen. He’s not a pro, he has a day job, but year after year, in the Xiamen tournament, he regularly wins the men’s singles title. So yeah. My teacher, Lin Laoshi, is arguably the best player in Xiamen. Talk about intimidating.
He doesn’t speak any English, but any words I don’t understand he just shows me with body language. Class with him is exhausting but exactly what I wanted. He’s teaching me the basics and we are drilling them again and again. After our first class, I sweat so much when I sat down I thought there was a drip from the ceiling so I changed my seat, yet the dripping continued. I finally realized the underside of my ponytail was so soaked it was dripping on my back. Gross. Yet in the car ride home all I could say to my teacher was how kaixin I was (happy).
Once he made me play a game with his and his friends, all amazing players. While I can hold my own with my friends, I was way out of my league with his. I basically defended the front of the net, trembling with fear that the birdie whizzing by me at breakneck speeds would smack my face. Wasn’t my proudest moment, but it’s how you learn I guess.
And you can imagine I pay top dollar for this coach. Twice as much as it would cost to get a Chinese teacher to teach me Chinese. And yet I didn’t even think twice about it. For some reason it is worth it to me (which is super strange if you know me. I’m more of an arts girl, not a sports girl.) I don’t have a solid goal like with my writing, but my general idea is to play for 6-months and level-up. (Be accepted into a higher level club than my own.)
Or, at the very least my goal for this semester is to not hurt myself. Fingers crossed.
Only three months left in this semester, but I have great students, new goals to accomplish and badminton games three to four nights a week (four if I can handle it, but usually just three is hard enough). This semester is gonna wizz by faster than a birdie that was just slammed.