This week has been China Studies Week in the high school where I work. What that means is that everyone in the high school, teachers included, venture off to various corners of China to explore Chinese culture in more depth. To become more “China engaged”, if you will. Some groups go visit the Shao Lin Monks and learn the art of Kung Fu. Other groups travel to Inner Mongolia to walk in the footsteps of the great Genghis Khan. Some visit the birthplace of Confucius and some even get to travel to the quaint little city of Shanghai to…I’m not sure what they do in Shanghai…shop?…eat dumplings? Ting bu dong.
Anyway, this sounds cool, right? In theory, it is. Students, and teachers, are exposed to aspects of Chinese culture that they rarely encounter in their day-to-day life. Like riding on smoke-filled trains, eating a duck head and shitting in holes. See how the ‘theoretically cool’ turns into ‘a big freaking nightmare’ real quick when you are talking about China?
We are supposed to love China Studies and believe in it with our whole hearts but the truth is that pretty much everyone DREADS it. It is amazing how many teachers suddenly have chronic back pain or a scheduled knee surgery around China Studies week. Anything to get out of traveling with 40+ 9th graders to the middle of nowhere to sleep on a hard bed and eat nothing but rice and MSG.
I actually can’t complain AT ALL because, so far, I have been spared this particular form of torture. Every year China Studies Week has rolled around I have either been knocked-up or had a small child at home that prevented me from being shipped out.
But, don’t worry, I still suffer. I suffer because Brado has to go. Which means I’m a single mom for the week. This was never that big of a deal when I had just one little nugget. But now there are two. And contrary to popular belief, parenting two children is not twice as hard as parenting one; it is A MILLION times harder. How DO you single mamas and papas do it? Seriously, if I wore hats, I would take ’em off for you (FYI: I don’t wear hats because I have an abnormally large head. Fact.).
The point is that during China Studies week, I stayed at home with the kids and helped chaperone the’ Local Beijing Trip’ with all the kids that, for whatever reason, couldn’t travel outside the city (usually the “reason” is some made up ailment that their parents vouch for. They don’t want to shit in holes. They are 15. They aren’t dummies.). This year the local trip had an art focus. Basically we looked at a lot of art. Analyzed it. Discussed it. Questioned it. And created it.
It was exhausting. And I am not even being sarcastic. Flat out exhausting.
It did my head in and I may never go to another art gallery for the rest of my life.
I know this makes me shallow but I don’t really care about art. I mean, I’m really glad it exists. I really like looking at art. Art makes me happy. But I don’t care how it is made. I don’t want to study it. I don’t want to interpret the meaning of paint splatters.
I feel exactly the same way about wine. Love it. It makes my life significantly better but I don’t want anyone to tell me about the vinification process. It does not enhance my experience of consuming it. In fact, it sort of ruins it.
Also, here is the difference between learning about wine and viewing art. Throughout the process of learning about wine, you are drinking. By the end you are, at the very least, buzzed. And if you do it how my friends and I do it, you are the drunkest you have ever been in your life and doing cheerleader stunts in the middle of a park at midnight. Not so with viewing art. You are just exhausted or confused or, most likely, both.
So anyway, this week I walked around Beijing and viewed art.
Despite my very first-world complaints, it really was beautiful and cool.
I just never want to do it again.
The best part of the week for me came on Day 5 when we got to sit down and create something of our own. I made this:
I love it. Even though I cannot take credit for the idea (it is a total rip-off of Mandi at Vintage Revivals – check out her version here. It is amazing!), the execution was all me. Thus, I am proud. And each one of those nails saved me. This little labor of love (no pun intended) restored my faith in humanity and gave me a reason to live when I was in the pit of despair.
I’m being dramatic. It wasn’t all that bad. It could have been worse. I could have been one of the only white people with a sockless newborn baby on a crowded street in Pingyao, China. More on that next week!