~ Language Lessons
I'm back in school now, picking up my Chinese lessons where I left off all those months ago, so I'll be going to class three times a week for 3 hours at a time, for as long as I can manage it. The teachers, secretaries, and administrators at the school (mostly women) tend to gravitate towards the belly, and on my first day back I shied away from many of the breaktime hallway conversations, mainly because I was kind of embarrassed that I had forgotten so much of my Chinese during my 8-month hiatus. The next lesson, I came prepared for recess small talk, having made sure I had reviewed the phrases for "give birth," "girl child or boy child, I do not know," and "Yes, it's a very naughty baby who kicks me often."
In class, we typically have to come up with phrases to demonstrate our understanding of the language points that are introduced, and since I had forgotten so many of my Chinese verbs (and adjectives and nouns), I found myself using being pregnant in many of my sentences. Today's language points included "It's been a long time since..." and "I'm afraid I'll be unable to..." Both of which just lend themselves so well to using pregnancy as the pivotal event: "Before I was pregnant, I enjoyed dancing. Now, it's been a long time since I've been to a nightclub." And: "I am pregnant, so I'm afraid I'll be unable to play basketball with you this afternoon." To be fair, I realize that my liberal use of convenient pregnancy references in my grammar exercises is probably what opened the floodgates, because now, after only my first week back, I am positively deluged.
During the lesson covering "You should...," it wasn't "You should eat green vegetables so you stay healthy," or even, "You should study hard so your teacher will be happy," which formerly would have been frontrunners for language point examples coming from our slightly nosey, slightly bossy, little old Chinese teacher. With me in the class, instead we get "You should walk four hours every day so the birth of your baby will be easy." I'm used to this, and I know this was her daughter-in-law's fitness regimen prior to giving birth to the 4.5 kilo grandson, so I smile, okay. Later, when we were reviewing how to use lists of complementary adjectives, she went for the language point double-up, with the example, "You should give birth in a Chinese hospital. Not only are Chinese hospitals clean, they are also safe, and cheap."
This is the kind of thing that would drive Mik absolutely crazy. Same with some of my former classmates from my beginners' class last January. It could be because she is an older lady and holds to an older style of teaching, or maybe it's a China thing, but her teaching materials are just loaded with outright propaganda, peppered with phrases extolling the beauty of Beijing and the convenience of its public transportation system: "Not only is the Beijing subway fast and clean, it is also cheap." I think it's good entertainment, and almost as interesting as when, during our very first class in January, she burst out singing this martial, Soviet-era anthem during class, to demonstrate what, we never found out, maybe it was just to show off her Russian. Anyway, I don't mind the unsolicited advice, and I think it's very sweet that she sees me off after every class with, "Go slow and be careful." It always sits with me for a little while afterwards, kind of like a vague secular blessing as I go off to contend with the jam-packed elevator and then the cars and bicycles coming at me from eight different directions even on a one-way street.
The StorkNet Pregnancy Guide Online says the average baby is 5.5 pounds(!) at 35 weeks. I know he/she is supposed to be starting to run out of room any day now, but somehow the kid's still getting enough leverage to deliver some fairly serious rib kicks. Occasionally I'll be walking around somewhere when I get booted or punched, and it'll be so unexpected that it makes me gasp and I have to stop and catch my breath for a second. Mik was probably thinking I was just being wimpy until one afternoon when he happened to have his hand on my belly during a particularly vigorous baby aerobics session, and he was shocked at just how strong the movements are. I know he's already dreaming about future athletic glory. The little booger likes to squirm around while I'm swimming, too, but probably just because he/she gets shifted around by my freestyle stroke, which is kind of long and stretchy (and slow, but who cares about that now).
Speaking of stretchy, a few stretch marks are finally starting to turn up on my belly - hardly noticeable for now, just a couple of small (~one inch square) squiggly patches. The women in my family all get stretch marks, so I didn't have high expectations for avoiding them altogether, but I am pleased that I had such a long reprieve. I also broke out in a heat rash earlier this week, with bumpy, itchy patches on my thighs, hips, and butt. I recognized them as heat rash right away because I remember my little brother getting them as a baby in the Manila heat - and realized that the warm swimming pool and the heavy moisturizers I'd been using immediately after showering were probably to blame. I switched to moisturizing before bedtime instead, and ta-dah, the rash cleared up in a couple of days. I later read that pregnant women are really more prone to heat rash, and it helps to make sure that your skin has time to breathe and cool off after exercising or being exposed to heat.
That's it for this week's developments, and now I have some homework to do. I actually like having to study and do homework again, and obviously there's the added incentive of knowing that if I work hard at it, someday I'll actually be able to communicate with people beyond the basics. And best of all, as any self-respecting brownnoser would do, I can use studying instead of my pregnancy in my grammar exercises: "I have to study, so I'm afraid I'll be unable to play basketball with you this afternoon" just sounds so much better.