Friday, March 31

thoughts on community

I'm up at the office on a Saturday, trying to get stuff done, but not exactly succeeding. The internet is being impossible slow and I'm not motivated to get a lot done in terms of grading. I've only got two sets of homework to grade before Monday, though, so things aren't looking too bad.

The "boss" of our office had some teachers over for brunch this morning. She's been having us over in groups big enough to sit around her little table. She made French toast, eggs (WITH CHEESE!), cornbread, and good coffee. It was very enjoyable.

I finished reading Blue Like Jazz the other day. I know, I'm a little behind the times. Everyone was reading that last year, but that's what happens when you live in a foreign country. It was a good read. Honest, funny thoughts about things that matter. Some of the last chapters were on being alone vs. community. He talks about how being alone is good and necessary, but can also be harmful if taken to the extreme. He talks about living so alone that he hardly ever saw people and then moving into a house with several other guys and how challenging it was, but how good it was for him too. I started thinking about my experiments with community and aloneness. Roommates in college were always a blessing and a challenge at the same time. I wouldn't do any of that differently, though, if I had to do it over again. Roommates are necessary and good.

In Korea, when we first lived there, we had a very interesting situation. It was me, three single guys, and a married couple who lived together for about 6 months. I remember at the time that we thought everything was OK. There were people who kept telling us that we had to split up fast because it was going to get bad, but we kept telling them that we were OK. It did get pretty bad at times, but there were also good things about it. We learned some submission. Some of us learned more about how to be direct and some of us learned more about how to be kinder and not say everything that came to mind. Some of us learned submission and some of us learned how to take control. We definitely learned things about others that we wouldn't have learned otherwise. I don't think I would do it over again though, if I were going to move back with a team again.

I moved into my own place after that and it was wonderful. I had two apartments on my own in Korea and I didn't get lonely but a few times, and sometimes loneliness is a necessary and good thing, too. Just before I moved to China, I lived with a Korean family, and they gave me more space than I expected. After the first few days of the girls being with me every moment they could, we all retreated into our normal routines and just saw each other when we could. I would definetly do that again, for the language practice, the insight into the culture, and the ability to save money.

Now, I'm here in China and I feel like I'm in this mix of living alone and living with others. I have my own room/apartment, but I have people over almost every day for different things and I live so close to everyone else, it's a little like being in college again. This time, I'm the teacher, but I still live in a dorm. Most of my friends live just down the hall or a short walk up some stairs or outside to the next building. I can knock on a friend's door to borrow an egg, share some bread, or chat. I'm still more living alone than with others because there's definitely no one else I can get mad at if the bathroom is nasty or the floor needs to be swept, but I think it's a good mix.

The author of this book, though, makes a great point for living with people because of the submission factor. Of having to give up certain things you think you're entitled to. I have given up the idea that I need a quiet place to sleep. Outside my room, there are often people talking, refilling their hot water bottles, or moving chairs around in the open space where there's a TV. But, really that's nothing to deal with. I think living with people again would be a good opportunity. Of course, if I had the opportunity to move in with that one special guy who is hopefully out there somewhere...that would be the best possible next move!

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