I’m really lucky that when I’m at a bit of a career crossroads, and I decide to spend a few months back in China, I can easily do it. I try to keep this constantly in mind, as if by being more aware of it, I can be more deserving of the opportunity. Really, I’m able to find a job here mostly because I happen to be a native English speaker at a time when foreign English teachers are in great demand. I do put effort into my work — I plan interesting lessons, I work to be a better teacher, after being granted a work visa as a completely unskilled new grad, I now have years of teaching experience — but I can’t forget just how much of this opportunity is mine by luck. My native language is in demand, I didn’t do anything special.
This morning, the staff needed my keycard for a minute, and then we had a bit of a misunderstanding, basically I thought someone was bringing me the key when they thought I was picking it up. And then when I realized what happened, I thought I’d go pick it up, but of course now someone was dispatched to give it to me, so it wasn’t there, and I’m boring myself explaining this. It was the kind of misunderstanding that occurs regularly when you have a toneless, tiny Chinese vocabulary, and you’re still determined to do everything yourself. And by you here I obviously mean me.
Then the housekeeper came to my room to give me my keycard, and I thanked her. I tried to use a complete sentence, and as I was struggling with it (You guys. My Chinese is really, really bad.), she said “your key” in English.
So, the person who takes out my trash is better at English than I am at Chinese.