An English Club in Donghai

June 2013 is here - nine months have now passed since I arrived in Donghai. The speed at which they passed fluctuated across the seasons – unbearably slow during the cold winter, but extremely fast during my last autumn. Nowadays it seems quite stable, however it does feel fast at times, especially since I have a definite direction, having signed up for my next contract to start in September.

During my stay in Donghai I came to realise how people would share with me their strong wishes to use their English, to practice it as much as possible, in their quest to improve their foreign language, to find better work, to bring their dreams of travelling abroad come true, to befriend people from foreign countries, these being just a few of their motivations for learning English.

Almost all the times I came across people with a higher level of English and seemingly more potential to carry out their wishes, I mentioned my own wish to help them achieve their goals in as much as I can in my circumstances, by setting up a conversation club – a physical place where people could come together to talk, exchange ideas and experiences in English, watch films and documentaries in English and discuss these, according to their own personal interests. I envisaged having a connection by Skype with other similar people in the world, so that genuine and less artificial conversations could take place and friendships could be forged.

I was and still am enthusiastic about this idea. I have pushed softly at times, in order to inspire life into these dreams, or at least a vital force as strong as necessary for somebody to practically follow them through and I have yet to find such people. I never envisaged doing it all on my own and then convincing people to come and participate. I always imagined the building up of such a place as a pleasurable activity together, enjoying every step together as well as the result of a healthy and witty community in which we could all feel free to communicate our thoughts and practice our English.

After all, it’s the journey and the atmosphere of togetherness that would sustain the satisfaction all along. On the other hand, I’m not sure of the laws in China, but I’m being told every now and then that as a foreigner I couldn’t open a business over here. Business or not, my vision is that this physical presence of the English Club would not be something for me to take with me wherever I would go next, but rather a pivotal place, an enduring community for the local friends to enjoy, long after I’ve gone to other places.

What impedes people from taking steps towards achieving their dreams? What stops people doing what they know they want? This is an issue that continues to puzzle me to this day. I’ve met this problem in various disguises: people who do not implement that diet, when they know it’s even detrimental to their health if they continue eating insatiately; occasions when one (I am not an exception) would promise oneself to do something for ages, before that thing eventually gets done; stopping bad habits, when one is conscious of the importance of doing so; and I could carry on indefinitely.

Reading a story written by a friend of mine, doctor in psychology, in which she touched on the seven deadly sins, it occurred to me that the impostors were precisely these human traits. If you can follow any problem backwards, as if from the fruit itself, still on the branch of a tree, through the branches, into the trunk and down into the roots of the whole thing, you could reach as far as the roots of the problem, be it wrath, greed, sloth, gluttony, lust, envy or pride, to which we could easily add fear – omnipresent in our contemporary society.

Suffice for me to point this out at this point, as an avenue of thought, I shall leave a detailed discussion for a future essay.