Tuesday, February 10, 2009


by Ruth

Conference is over and after a few days at the beach and then 21 hours of travel, we’re back in Weinan! I usually find conference to be a good time overall, even though every year is particularly difficult in different ways. I appreciate having time in Thailand to step away from the situation and reflect and process and get a bigger picture.

I find the China session particularly interesting because we get to hear about larger trends being observed in China, such as continual urbanization, the growth of an urban middle class who is interested in deeper things – and more open about their interest, significant unemployment, and so on. Even though we live in China, sometimes we don’t hear about what is going on in a bigger level. When we meet together, we also get to hear about what is happening in other cities, new programs, and exciting opportunities.

People from each of the countries also have a time to report on their own challenges and opportunities so we can think about them together. Almost all the countries are suffering from a lack of teachers. Some countries are seeing a lot more openings than in the past but don’t have enough people to fill the needs.

We also had time to meet as a team, to reflect on last semester and plan for the spring. We couldn’t plan much about teaching since we didn’t know what we would be teaching or when the term started (we just learned it will start next week), but we talked about our other ideas for the term. We talked about working together more, what students we want to spend more time with, and came up with all kinds of ideas for really beneficial things to do this term.

All these ideas make me excited but also nervous. Last semester was so busy and stressful by the end and now we are planning even more things for this semester. How does this fit with our definite need to slow down and rest as well?

Kevin and I went to a marriage workshop and one thing the leader was talking about was dealing with stress ('cause -who knew- I guess that affects marriage). We looked at a list of about 15 physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral symptoms of overstress and at least 12 of them described me really well. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it was still disconcerting. I always think I shouldn’t be as stressed (as if that will help), and a different person would be able to handle things much better. Unfortunately, I have to realize how much stress is negatively impacting my health and relationships and therefore my overall effectiveness. Which brings back the old question of how to balance all the great ideas with my increasingly obvious personal limitations.

Thailand has been a good time for Kevin and I to spend time together too. It’s nice to get outside of everyday life and talk about things beside schedules and what to eat for dinner. It’s been good to play games and have meals with other friends too. The person leading the marriage workshop said that certain research shows the difference between a “good marriage” and a “great marriage” is that the couple has fun together. Kevin and I both tend to be too serious about life, so it’s been good to be around others who are naturals at having fun.

But now, even though I was sad to pull back out the down coat, I am ready to be back. I recently realized that we live out of suitcases for a fourth of every year and that makes me really appreciate my own bed, my own shower, and my own schedule. I am ready for a few settled months.

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