蒸饺 zhēngjiǎo steamed dumplings, Chongqing
The title “moments of clarity” occurred to me a couple of months ago during my winter break, when I did indeed have some clarity, since there wasn’t much else to do except sit and think. Since it’s been a long time between my blog posts, I wish I had some of that clarity now. As I recall, said moments of clarity involved a sense of peace, and in general a clear idea of what I’m doing now in my life.
In January I rented an apartment in the International Gardens complex, about 5 km from where I lived before at Sichuan University. It’s a compact one-bedroom, perfect for me and the dog, on the 15th floor or an elevator building. No more stairs up and down five flights several times a day. I’m actually much happier here; living in the middle of a university campus, I rarely ventured into the outside world, and our little enclave of foreign teachers lived behind a high fence with an alarmed gate and security bars on all the windows. Now, I’m in the middle of the busy city, in a much more residential area, with a completely different feeling from the internationalized area around Sichuan U.
I’m enrolled as a student at the Southwest University for Nationalities, a 20-minute walk from my apartment, and I have 12 classes of Chinese each week. Since I was unable to renew my work visa, I got a student visa instead, hence the shift in focus from teaching to studying. I’m only teaching four class period a week at ILTC at Sichuan U., but I still have my income from being an IELTS Examiner for the British Council.
Funny, when I became a student I considered myself to be on sabbatical from teaching, but my life now is just as busy as before, and will soon become busier – more on that in a moment. If it hadn’t been for the book Super Freakonomics, however, I wouldn’t have known what “sabbatical” originally meant.
A Jewish statute recorded in the Bible required creditors to forgive all debts every sabbatical, or seventh year. For borrowers, the appeal of unilateral debt relief cannot be overstated, as the penalties for defaulting on a loan were severe: a creditor could even take debtor’s children into bondage.
Hmmm, come to think of it, sabbatical must also relate to Sabbath, or the 7th day on which we rest. Indeed, in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary, “sabbath” comes right before “sabbatical:”
“A period of time when sb, especially a teacher at a university, is allowed to stop their normal work in order to study or travel. “(from Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from Hebrew shabbat, i.e., Sabbath, literally a “ceasing”)
In the coming months, I will begin a masters program in Teaching English for Academic Purposes. Since the program is by distance learning (online), I will most likely remain in Chengdu – on a student visa – for another year. It’s highly likely that I will also study toward a DELTA certificate (the Diploma in English Language Teaching to Adults) concurrently.
I’m actually looking forward to being a full-time student for a year. As I mentioned, the sabbatical only refers to taking a break from teaching. I’ve now been a teacher for close to 8 years, and while there are many things I enjoy about it, there are many aspects that I find frustrating. When you reach a certain point in your life or work experience, you realize that you’ve reached a plateau; in order to go on to higher-level teaching jobs for better money, higher qualifications are required. In many ways, this is an ideal time in my life. I wonder if I will still feel that way after beginning my studies.