Days Like This

Kelly Cunningham
September 10, 2015

Today was one of those days. You know, the ones where you're tired, stressed out, and maybe even have a cough or a stuffy nose that won't go away but, even though you wake up and feel all these things right off the bat, you're still determined to have a positive attitude. Despite a less-than-perfect start, you still want to try your best to be produtive and make the best out of the day; do what you should no matter how much you don't want to. So you do. And it doesn't work. Or it takes forever. Or it's harder than you thought. Today was one of those days for me, except instead of cuddling up next to my dog, eating a whole carton of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream, or hugging a close friend, I'm was China, which ruled every single one of those options. 

Before I went to bed last night I promised myself I would go running this morning. I've been trying to regularly exercise while I'm out here and doing pretty well, but I knew it was supposed to rain tonight so I planed to go in the morning instead. When I woke up this morning I didn't want to go running, but I managed to drag myself out of bed and get to the track on campus. Halfway through my workout it started raining. Honestly, I felt a little betrayed. I know the weather app on my phone doesn't have a 100% guarauntee, but I couldn't help but feel a little angry that I woke up early to avoid nothing. 

I finished my two miles and tried to find the silver lining in the rain clouds, I did it, now I'll have more time to relax later today I told myself. Little did I know it was just the beginning. I went to class and despite a little anxiety about tomorrow's test, they went fine. Since it was still raining I thought I'd get my student card (which I had been putting off anyway) so I could eat in the student cafeteria for lunch. I found the office pretty easily and waited in line, gave them money to put on the card and then headed back through the rain to the cafeteria building. I got in line at what I thought was the student cafeteria, but after showing three seperate workers my newly acquired student card I was informed that I was in the wrong cafeteria. I still don't know what cafeteria I was in, but they managed to direct me to the correct cafeteria which was through a couple sets of doors. 

The food looked less appetizing than the food in the "wrong" cafeteria I was in, but after eating little fish with the bones and heads still in tact the night before, I was hoping its looks were deceiving. I picked out my food, went to the counter and handed them my card. In Chinese, the man at the counter told me I had no money on my card and that I would need to pay in cash. I just stared at him confused for a couple seconds, understanding what he said, but not understanding how this could have happened. My mind went blank as I tried to think of a translation for, Seriously?! I just put 70 kuai on my card less than five minutes ago. I managed to stumble out a few words, something like "Today I gave them money" and I think they understood me. One of the female cafeteria workers, however, did not. "Money" was all she could say in English and I know she thought she was helping, but I really didn't know what else to do. 

So I just stood there for a minute. The man at the register told me to pay now, eat, and then go back. So I did. 

I sat alone at a table, my friend who was going to meet me in the cafeteria was no where to be found, and ate my food (not awful, but I was less than impressed, especially considering the circumstances). I started to panic as I ate. My mind was racing about what I was going to do next. What if the lady I talked to isn't there anymore? I don't know how to explain this situtation in Chinese? Where is my friend? Why did I have to pay for this meal? What if I don't get my money back and I have to reload my card anyways? I ate my food way too fast, and then I realized I didn't know where to put my empty bowl or chopsticks. I looked around the room and I didn't see a cart, but I remembered their being one in the first cafeteria, so I walked all the way back there to put my dirty dishes in the proper bins. 

I'll admit I almost went straight to the RAs or a Professor because I didn't want to deal with this situtation anymore. I just wanted it to be easy and I knew my Chinese wasn't good enough to explain the situtation the way I would have wanted to in English. I've had to deal with aggravated customers before so I know it isn't a pleasant job, so I wanted to be nice, but I also really wanted my card to work or at least to get my money refunded. I decided against getting help from someone with better Chinese than me though. I went back to the office where I got my card and hoped the same woman would be there, knowing that would make it a little easier. 

She was there. And as soon as she saw me she apologized a bunch of times and quickly rattled off a long explanation, of which I only understood, "I'm very sorry", "my fault" and "gave you the wrong card". My mind was still blank as she handed me a new one, so I asked if it had money on it, she explained that it did and apologized again. And again. 

I don't know why, but her apology made everything so much better. I didn't understand the details of what she was saying, but I could sense the sincerity in her voice and see it through her body language. Instead of being angry that she messed up, I tried to imagine that she was having the same kind of day I was and the fact that she was trying so hard gave me the inspiration to do the same. 

So I picked myself back up for the rest of the day. I was stressed about my test, frustrated that my tutoring session time being changed (twice), and having a real case of homesickness, but I've done my best to take it in stride. My time in China has already improved my language skills, allowed me to see and try so many new things, and introduced me to some great people, but today I was reminded that there will always be "days like this". 

After this blog post is done, I have to study again. Even though today I only had two classes, I feel as though I learned a few more lessons than I expected. I pushed my limits a little, problem solved, and was reminded that although there are a lot of things not in my control, my attitude and reactions always are. 

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Kelly Cunningham

<p>My name is Kelly Cunningham and I am a Chinese Studies and English major at DePaul University. I love everything about languages-reading them, writing with them, speaking them, etc. I&#39;m studying abroad to improve my Chinese and learn more about the culture.</p>

2015 Fall
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Chinese Language
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