Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Year's Worth of Adventures

Today's the day: one year since I set foot back in China. February 14 will from this point forward will mark the completion of my first complete year abroad, my first year truly staking it out on my own, my first big test in a long time. Guaranteed not to be my last.

In the philosophy of Billism, February 14 will likely take rank amongst the high holidays: December 18, birth of the patriarch; April 10, the passing of the proficiency exam; Halloween. There are other important festivals as well, such as the gluttonous Lunchbox Fest, but that falls whim to the Weiss-M calendar, less predictable than the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

So looking back on this first year, what must we remember and pay respect to?

First, those left behind. Family first: the core of padre, madre, dos bros and un petit sis. They've been busy without me, their own travels taking them as far as Prague. I guess they felt safe doing this with me in China, as the last time I got ditched by the 5 of them I threw one hell of a houseparty.

Outside Byfield we've got a few more [CENSORED], notably my aunt in Pittsburgh who has graced my time in China with welcomed packages of Hershey chocolates. The O'Neils need respresenation, if solely for their sheer number, but I know they are out there somewhere and hopefully avidly reading this blog.

Then there are the friends. I've been able to keep up with many through email, IM, blogs (prior to the PRC crackdown), and the occasional poorly-timed phone call. (Seems like if they aren't asleep when I give ring they've been rushed to the hospital.) Special recognition needs to go to those four who visited my lonely self in Boston immediately prior to last year's departure. Thanks guys, you're missed.

But enough about other people, lets talk about me! I've done a lot the past year, lets gloat:

1. I'm a successful teacher! This might not surprise any of our readers, but I got a knack for finding others' faults and correcting them. Not only have I consistently received the highest student ratings of all the teachers in my school for all levels of class, but I got a waitlist of students waiting to join my classes. And the kicker: the company I tutor once a week wants to pay for me to be flown around China to their other offices to train their other English teachers in the "Bill Method."
My students also learn a lot.

2. I'm a successful comprador! Not only being a teacher, I'm the number one daily go-between for foreign/Chinese affairs! I've defended my school as often as I've championed for the downtrodden foreign teachers and helped to create a number of new, documented policies that have boosted morale and efficiency around the office!

3. I'm a successful traveler! I've taken trips to the four corners of China, braved jungle, desert, tundra and concrete to bring you stories from all over the Middle Kingdom. Also a gift here and there for the lucky ones back home. I've ambled on my own ability as well as relaxed in the comfort of a friendly tour group. Two mountains have been tackled (plus a yak-tastic plateau), at least half a dozen cities beat, countless buses and trains ridden (but only one yak), delicacies downed, friends found, and shoes worn thin.

4. I'm a successful student of the Chinese language! My primary reason for coming to Harbin in the first place, my 'putonghua' is nigh on good. I won't brag too much about this, as there is still so much left to learn, and my pronounciation isn't quite perfect enough for the high-falootin' snobs of the Manchurian Plain, but I get repeated compliments every else in China not just that I know Chinese but that my Chinese is exceptionally clear. Also grammatically correct. Yup, I speak like a textbook, but what can you expect? And is that a bad thing?

5. I'm a successful dieter! Not so much a dieter, perhaps, as I still don't watch what I eat, but I've lost over 30 pounds in the last year. For those keeping track:
165 - Freshmen Year of High School (I wrestled 168)
175 - Junior Year of High School (I wrestled 189)
200 - Sometime between quitting wrestling and the end of Freshmen Year at University (mostly healthy growth)
238 - Weight at graduation from University (mostly beer and Tombs/New South food - NOT HEALTHY)
225 - Weight upon leaving for China in February 2005
190 - Weight as of yesterday
None of my clothes that I left home with really fit properly anymore. All that really do fit properly are those tailored suits I've been getting made. I'm not complaining, not in the least! And now there is no argument: I've got a cute butt.

What's next? Who knows. Thats the great thing. So keep your eyes on the blog and stay tuned for the next round of adventures in your favorite serial and mine.


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