Time For a Nap睡午觉

That's China - - Contents - Text by / Michael San­difer

Tak­ing a long lunch break in­clud­ing a nap is com­mon in a num­ber of Mediter­ranean, trop­i­cal, and sub­trop­i­cal coun­tries. In the United States, the United King­dom, and a grow­ing num­ber of other coun­tries, a short sleep has been re­ferred to as a "power nap", a term coined by Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity so­cial psy­chol­o­gist James Maas and rec­og­nized by pop­u­lar press.

In my small, ru­ral city in north­ern China, there are about 40-50 ex­pats swal­lowed in a sea of half a mil­lion souls. When I lived in South Korea, I was a part of a seething tide of for­eign­ers. I sel­dom walked nd down the street with­out see­ing an un­fa­mil­iar for­eign face.

It’s im­pres­sive that in a place of sim­i­lar size I can walk around the cam­pus where I work as an English teacher and not see one. When I ar­rived in Korea I was ex­cited, ner­vous, and a lit­tle dis­ori­ented, and took the up the reigns to a promis­ing new ca­reer mold­ing the minds of future lead­ers.

There were ad­just­ments to make but af­ter a few weeks it got eas­ier. Af­ter want­ing some­thing (for want of a bet­ter word) dif­fer­ent, I shifted to China, an ex­pe­ri­ence that has been stretch­ing, but the bruises have helped me ap­pre­ci­ate the cul­tural dif­fer­ences be­tween the two na­tions.

Korean stu­dents are busy; they are al­ways do­ing some­thing. In big­ger cities in China I hear it’s not no­tably dif­fer­ent, but my stu­dents here in Jilin are ar­dent in their ap­pre­ci­a­tion for naps. Our school gives some­where around 2-3 hours for a lunch break, and I quickly learned those hours are in­tended for a long, mid-day nap.

The stu­dents race to the can­teen and scurry back to their dorms for a si­esta. They com­plain fiercely when they are pre­vented from a planned nap. They in­quire ex­pec­tantly about the qual­ity of my own naps.

Both Korea and China have economies built on speed. Peo­ple are busy and life is stress­ful. Both na­tions place their hopes on the ed­u­ca­tion of their chil­dren, and both strug­gle to serve that goal while car­ing for the stu­dents’ over­all well be­ing.

My ex­pe­ri­ence has been that while not ev­ery stu­dent makes it out un­scathed, at least stu­dents here are be­ing en­cour­aged to rest. In a so­ci­ety roar­ing into the future, an­cient rhythms have yet to be snuffed out. For the stu­dents, I hope they never are. As for me, I’ll just en­joy the naps.

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