Upon hearing that no students were available for teaching as they were all busy amidst an exam period that I had not been previously made aware of, and having a two-week gap to fill until they were over, I left Qingdao to spend ten days in with my family in Shanghai. I continued my educational summer there, surrounded by great company, great food and the Shanghainese dialect. I found my understanding of the dialect to be better than that of my mandarin but, as in the past, I felt more comfortable speaking the latter.
A special occasion gave me the benefit of increasing my religious education when my family and I attended Buddhist prayers for the ten-year anniversary of my Grandmother’s death. I found the affair to be quite a surreal experience but undeniably interesting, as the kind of ceremony was a complete departure from anything I was formerly familiar or comfortable with. To be completely honest, I felt a little too removed from the protocol for it to be spiritually advantageous on a personal level, but despite my discreet mutterings about it being ‘a bit bizarre’, I developed a strong sense of respect for the Buddhist nuns; for their endurance whilst chanting, their kind-heartedness and most of all for their unmitigated devotion and fidelity to their faith. More importantly, I strengthened my personal proclivity for remembrance on an individual and private basis. Although the offering of apples and bananas to an immanent Will adhered to the principles of the Buddhist religion and was pleasing in its simplicity, it was unsettling in its fundamental theory and did not align with my belief that remembrance will always be more significant in individual hearts and minds on a day-to-day premise.
I returned to Qingdao and the University of Petroleum and was soon invited to an enjoyable dinner with Ms Wu, Professor Zhang of the National Cheng Kung University of Taiwan, Ms Liu from the University of Beijing and my friend Zhao Yuming. Conversation was wide-ranging and it was very interesting to listen to the views of such a range of ages, experiences and places. The next day I was met by the news that there wouldn’t be any students to teach as they have now, exams completed, gone on to start internships away from the university. This was very disappointing given my preparation and the time I had spent here, which suddenly it seemed, without purpose. I realised though, that I had come primarily to improve my Chinese and it has, I believe, come on well, through good immersion in many aspects of Chinese life. I have made friends who I really became sad to say goodbye to as they finished their year at university here and will certainly hope to keep in touch with. I have stuck with and have enjoyed my diary-writing and have learnt a lot, even through the tasks of buying train-tickets, doing much navigation around Chinese airports and asking lots of questions with only my Guildford-cultivated wits to depend on, I have definitely grown up a little more and have learnt a great deal about China, about my family and myself in the last month here by the sea at Qingdao.