Archive for February, 2012

Wednesday

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop on campus drinking an Americano, a 大 (big) one, so get ready to watch my writing get increasingly caffeinated. I just finished my first class (Chinese speaking), and that’s my only class today. I have some reading for my developmental psychology class tomorrow. I just managed to get the textbook yesterday… Since copyright isn’t really a thing here, someone in the class dropped off the textbook at a copy shop, and I just picked up my copy of the book instead of buying it new/used. The guy at the copy shop literally copies it on a Xerox machine page by page. Much cheaper than buying books in the US.

The psychology class will be interesting… I’m one of two foreigners in it (the other is Korean), but it’s taught by an American professor (from Chicago!). There are such huge cultural differences between child rearing practices here and at home. Last week during class, we broke into small groups and two or three of the girls in my group had been sent to boarding school as children at age 3 and saw their parents only on weekends. This was so their parents would have more time to work. It was interesting to hear the two girls’ different reactions to this… one of them said that it made her less dependent on home, while the other said the experience made her want to spend more time with her parents now that she was older. It’s also very common to live with relatives, and to have grandparents assume that they will have child rearing duties to allow the parents more time to work. Definitely interesting to hear different perspectives.

Meanwhile, my Chinese philosophy class is blowing my mind. We started with discussing the question “When you teach a child the word ‘pumpkin,’ what are you actually teaching him/her?” And how we all must take moral responsibility for the initiation of others into the network of information of what it means to have/eat/see/be a “pumpkin.” Ummmmm what? I have a feeling that this class is going to prompt one heck of a existential crisis. Next we start Confucius, so I’ll be sure to pass on any worldly truths I acquire.

I finally bought myself a tea water bottle (and some loose tea… no idea what kind, but it’s good!). Everyone has them here so it makes me feel very official. Oh, and I bought a bike last week! I ended up buying new, because I had trouble finding a used one that wasn’t, well, very heavily used. I named it Gertrude. So far, I’m the only person in my program with one, and I’m completely terrified to ride it on the streets, so Gertrude stays parked in a bike garage, except when I need to get across campus in the 10 minutes between classes.

Also, yesterday I (sort of) learned how to ride with someone on the back of my bike. So many students just hop on the back seats of their friends’ bikes and it looks really effortless. In practice, not so much. If you swerve even a little, that person’s weight exaggerates the swerve, which is a pretty vicious cycle. The person on the back has to seriously counterbalance. My friend and I made it pretty far until we both fell off in the middle of the sidewalk. We were sitting on the ground laughing and everyone was looking at us with a mixture of amusement and disdain.

That actually describes how almost everyone looks at us here. Most people aren’t actively mean at all, but there’s definitely a look that makes me feel really inept. I’ve gotten to the point with my comprehension that I can understand the first few words of what people say… For example: “Yesterday, I SOMETHINGSOMETHINGSOMETHING,” or “Make sure you dont BLAHBLAHBLAHLBLAH.” You’ll note the key part of those sentences are omitted… problematic. But it’s a start at least! Sometimes, I can understand what someone says after about 3-5 minutes of processing (usually much too late). If someone translates, I can usually replay the Chinese in my head to understand it once I know the English, which again, is only sort of helpful.

At the grocery store the other day, one of our friends was trying to buy milk. One of us knew the character for milk, and found a bottle that said something milk, so they bought it. Turns out that character before the word “milk,” the one word she didn’t know, meant “sour,” so she ended up with sour milk. Ooops.

I’ve been trying to be better about buying groceries instead of eating out. I bought some red bean rolls for breakfast, and a lot of ramen (IT’S SO GOOD HERE) for dinner, plus some fruit and (what I’m pretty sure is) yogurt. We went to Walmart on Sunday and I wish I had brought my camera because it was weirdly similar to the one in the states, yet completely opposite at the same time. Some household items were cheaper than our local store, but groceries were generally about the same price.

I’ve been struggling with the air a little bit here. I follow an account on Twitter that monitors the air quality, but it’s not really helpful because it usually said “unhealthy at 24 hours of exposure” and what am I going to do, hold my breath? I have a tiny bit of a cold now, but I think it’s mostly just my body reacting to the pollution and cigarette smoke, because I don’t feel very sick at all. In general, I’ve sort of adopted this attitude to pollution:

This weekend we’re planning to do some serious exploring of Beijing, so I should have some more pictures to post soon.

Am I at the Jersey Shore?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

After a couple of weeks not posting I have much to say.

1) The weather here has been GORGEOUS!! So it gives me ample time to explore.

2) This means that I’ve started to travel…a trip to Como and Venice.

3) This also means that while on the way to these beautiful places I have driven through other places.

 

I start with these three things because my vision of Italy has been forever shattered. While on the four hour bus ride to Venice, I could not help that notice that it was all flat land…like Jersey. It was so much like Jersey!! I could not believe my eyes. And being the daughter of a New Yorker, it certainly put a look of disgust on my face. The Italy I imagined was all rolling countryside and beautiful towns with old architecture and amazing landscapes. Unfortunately, I was quite naive in my thinking. Even on the way to Como Lago (Lake Como, on the border between Switzerland and Italy) we passed through the “ghettos.” We even saw trailer parks! It just reminded me so much of the States.

Regardless of how astonished (and slightly saddened) by these views, they certainly did not put a damper on my day! Going to Venice for Carnavale is one of the best experiences! Other than the fact that it was incredibly crowded with tourists (mostly American), the city was so stunningly beautiful. I have seen pictures, but you truly have to see it to believe it. The canals are also not as prevalent as one would assume; we didn’t take one gondola ride when we were there (mainly because it was 80 euro for 15 minutes).   Along with the beautiful canals, we also happened to go to Venice during Carnavale which was the best treat of all! Everyone was dressed up in the craziest costumes. This party is definitely a lot better than Mardi Gras and Halloween combined! And there was just a huge party in the entire city it was fantastic! It amazed me how creative people got with their costumes. They really take this party seriously.

Then a week later, Maggie, one of my closest friends came to visit me in Milan! She is currently studying in Aix-en-Provence, France and this was her first time ever in Italy. We decided to go on a trip to Lake Como and it was such a great trip! The weather was incredibly gorgeous, around +22°C (or 72°F), and the mountains were just stunning. there is absolutely no way to describe how beautiful the sight was, so I’ll just post a picture.

We also took a funicular up to the top of the mountain to Brunate which is at an elevation of over 2000 feet. It was one of the coolest rides ever! We sat in the front so we got the full view while ascending and descending. It was really nice. I, unfortunately, left my passport at home and so we couldn’t go to Switzerland but that just means that I can go back again!

These past few weeks have made me really really love where I am and not want to leave!

Guess what I ate?

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

I have a strategy for eating food in China. It goes like this: eat everything.
More realistically: try everything.

Even when it looks weird/smells weird/I can’t figure out exactly what it is/it’s still moving.

Even when the server places a HUGE dish of meat on the table and passes around  1. extra napkins (HIGHLY unusual) 2. plastic gloves (now we’re starting to wonder what we ordered) and 3. straws. STRAWS!?

This is how you eat pig elbow. Now you know, and you won’t be as surprised as I was. You pick one up with your gloved hand. It kind of looks like a human heart, but with a bone in it. It weighs about 3 pounds. You put the straw into the center of the bone, and you take a sip. It’s sort of like bone marrow jelly, if that phrase had a positive connotation. Because it was pretty good! Who knew!

For the rest of the night, we kept making slurping noises and cracking up.

Photographic evidence, in case you don’t believe me.

In the background of the picture above is congee… it was really good. You can get sweet or salty (with all kinds of meat or fish). So we each got our own porridge and then shared some other dishes.

The last picture is of dessert… coconut covered sticky rice with red bean paste inside. Yum.

Today we did a whirlwind tour of the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, a hutong, and the Summer palace. Our tour guide (TONY!) is really knowledgable, so I learned a lot of history today, in particular about Empress Dowager Cixi… homegirl had it going ON.

My camera died about halfway through the Summer Place (RIGHT at the Marble Boat, dang it), plus the fact that these are the “best of” pics, really emphasizes how seriously I’m in the “honeymoon phase” of culture shock. Believe me I’ll let you know when I’m experiencing steps 2-3.

Anyway, click here check out my photos.

Also, I almost forgot! GUESS WHO I SAW TODAY?

You know how in Italy, there are tons and tons of saints’ relics everywhere you turn around? Well in China, the state religion is atheism, but oh boy did I see quite the relic… Today I saw Mao! He looked phenomenal (considering he died in 1976).

Getting in the mausoleum was quite the experience. We sometimes play a game where we rate from 1 to 10 how Communist an experience feels. When we’re at a coffee shop on campus that looks exactly like a Panera, that’s about a 0.5/10. When we were at the foreign student orientation and they told us that nationality didn’t matter and we were all “Tsinghua people” now and should uphold our mind, body and spirit for that reason, that was about a 6 or 7/10. Going into Mao’s mausoleum? I would say about a 20 out of 10.

You get in a line that snakes around the entire building, and you’re eventually railed in and divided into two, then into five separate lines to go through security, then you go two-by-two to actually enter the building. There were guards along the way shouting instructions with megaphones. I think I was physically prodded around twice, because for some reason sometimes they wanted the line to be 3 people wide at some points. I got wanded/patted. Weirdly enough, when the guard said “camera?” in English (no cameras allowed in the building), I thought he was speaking Chinese so I was really confused. Hahaha hooray for language immersion!

You pass through a room where people lay yellow flowers and there’s a marble statue of Mao (looking VERY MUCH like the Lincoln in the Lincoln memorial… wish I could find a picture!), then you get to the actual room. Two guards keep vigil and um… well, it’s pretty much Mao laying in the middle of the room looking like he’s sleeping under a red and yellow sickle and hammer blanket. The guards keep you moving, and then just like that you’re back outside thinking “welllll that just happened.”

 

Ten things I’ve learned in a week

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012
In no particular order:
  1. It’s expected that you bring personal tissue with you everywhere you go. For example, the cafeterias have no napkins. On the daily, I have a backpack with: wet wipes, TP, tissues, and “handkerchiefs,” which are basically paper napkins. To figure out which to get in the grocery store, I stood in the tissue aisle until a Chinese person came by and picked one off the shelves, and then I immediately bought two.
  2. Grocery bags are 0.10RMB each. If you don’t understand what the check out lady is asking you when she’s asking if you want to pay for a bag, people behind you will get a little antsy.
  3. Actually, if you don’t understand any question, it’s really just best to make a non-commital “hrnn” noise until the person just decides for you. (Please note this is not a foolproof method for getting what you want).
  4. Chinese elevator doors close very quickly.
  5. In class, we learned the word for “guess” (as a verb). This is very useful for when you don’t know how to reply to someone’s question. If a cab driver asks you where you want to go, just say ni cai cai! (You guess!) (Also not guaranteed to get you what you want.)
  6. Tsinghua is an extraordinarily good school. Hu Jintao went here. No joke! Hu Jintao! There are around 14,000 undergrad and 14,000 grad students. Most students here are taking 20-30 credits a semester. I didn’t see an open seat in the library when we went today. They were studying before classes started this Monday. We were talking to one of our Chinese “buddies” (a program run through the Foreign Student office), who’s getting his doctorate studying renewable energy through agricultural waste.
  7. Chocolate milk tea is AMAZING. Milk tea is pretty good… basically sweet milk with some tea flavoring. But chocolate milk tea? Just so good. It’s hot chocolate, but with a cozy, warm, spicy thing going on. Also one of the few things I’ve ordered on the first try without pointing to anything!
  8. As someone with a catastrophic sense of direction, I actually have a really good handle on which way is North at almost all times. A lot of street signs have an arrow designating 北 , and I guess when I’m on campus I’ve stared at the map so often that I can kind of orient myself. My map is in Chinese though (and inexplicably from 2006), so this internal compass does not necessarily mean I find my destination.
  9. Many times, when you get change under 1RMB, they come in bills. If you try to pay using a 5 cent bill instead of a 5RMB bill, nobody will be amused. Although coins are definitely still in use here, it’s kind of nice to have to cary less of them.
  10. When crossing streets, find someone holding a baby, or an elderly couple. Stick to them like glue, because when they go, drivers might give a vague thought about slowing down, possibly. Look to your right, then left, then right again, while keeping an eye to your left. Holding your breath is acceptable. When you’re across, it’s encouraged to feel proud of your survival skills.

PS. I figured out how to allow comments that don’t require a UMW email address… so feel free to comment!

This is what I woke up to on my blackberry at 8:30 this morning…

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012


This is what I woke up to on my blackberry at 8:30 this morning - YAHTZEE!!!! I promised myself over four years ago that I would absolutely study abroad. My initial goal was to do a while semester, but between money and classes, it just wasn’t working out. Instead, I decided a summer program was the way to go. After realizing that several years of spanish classes still hadn’t prepared me to be fluent, I vetoed my Barcelona dream and instead found this amazing program at the University of Westminster. I really can’t even begin to describe how excited I am, especially since the whole process has been a little convoluted and with the SUMMER OLYMPICS going on as well, I was scared it would fill up too quickly. Fear not, I am in, and I will be in lovely London, England for six whole weeks!!!! This blog will be partly for me to remember everything, but also partly as part of my credit to make this study abroad a global enquiry gen ed credit! Since one of the classes I will be taking is called Photographing the City, I’m sure I will also be posting a LOT of the photos I will take for class!! The other class I am taking is Psychology of City Life. Bonus points for psych! It will probably be several months before I have another update, but I was so excited that I had to start the blog now! haha.

Apartment!

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

The past couple days, I’ve mostly been figuring out my routine here. I have my student ID card and dining card so far…

So excited! Don’t worry if you can’t read them… the image is inverted.

Kind of reminds me of….

 

Hahhaha. Anyway, today I went to my writing class (which was kind of weird because we did absolutely no writing!) from 8am to 9:40. Then I RAN to my Intercultural Communications class, which started at 9:50. Needless to say, I didn’t make it on time! I had to ask two people where it was (one of which I stopped full speed on a bike). My favorite phrase here so far is zai nar (where?). I finally got to class around 10:10. It was SO interesting… we talked about identity and globalization and a lot of the famous news stories about China (SARS, anyone?) and the images of Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming in the US. Unfortunately, I’m going to drop it though… it’s for graduate students, so 60% of our grade is a research paper with a case study that we defend to a jury, as well as present in a mock symposium. Also, although it started at 9:50 today, the lecture will usually run from 9:00 to 12:15 which, in addition to being a LONG TIME to be in a 2 credit class, conflicts with my Chinese class. Next I went to lunch. The cafeterias here (餐厅)get crazy crowded because lunch ends at 1pm and doesn’t reopen until 5pm. Basically you push to the front of the counter you want to order from (lines aren’t really too much of a thing here) and order. My method is basically pointing and saying 一个(one) and ordering a lot of 可乐 (cola) because it’s easy to say!

I had my interview at eBeijing yesterday and it seems like an INCREDIBLE opportunity to do some writing and media projects around the city. It’s been overwhelming so far just living here, so I’m excited to get to a point where I can start working, and past the point where I’m overjoyed when I can successfully take a cab by myself!

This is the building where the interview was, the Digital Beijing Building, right next to the Olympic complex. But you can see the Water Cube with the Bird’s Nest in the background a little bit. My pictures didn’t come out very well because the air here is lovely.

What else… my apartment!

The living room:

We have a giant TV that we usually have on with Chinese dramas (a great way to learn)… also notice the lamp!!! All the furniture in the apartment is from Ikea.

This is the little sunroom we have off of the living room. Most Beijing apartments have one because there are no dryers here, so we have a clothes rack that the sun shines on.

This is more of the view:

Yesterday morning I saw a few people doing tai chi in that park area, as well as some sort of police drill (?)

The apartment has three bedrooms: one double and two singles. Two bathroom- one is attached to the double and the other is off the of the living room. Our Chinese roommate (Charlene) has one of the singles, and we rock paper scissored for the other, which I ended up getting. It’s pretty small and hard to get a good picture! It’s basically a bed and desk from Ikea with a built in closet and mirror along one of the walls. I have much more storage space than stuff, actually!

 

2 days till Portugal!!

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
Le Palais Chaillot

Bonjour!! Hope your weekend went well and that your current week is going great! I'm really looking forward to this weekend because I will be taking my first trip outside of Paris to Portugal!! Hopefully I can cram in enough beginners’ Portuguese before then J
This past weekend started off great with my first meeting with my TANDEM partner Claire. I agreed to meet her at the main entrance to ICP, and could instantly recognize her. She was wearing sneakers, what looked like Hollister sweat pants, a tee shirt, and a hoodie, definitely not the typical Parisian style the girl next to her was sporting. Claire was definitely sporting the laid back Cali look; evidence of the influence her past semester abroad in Cali has had on her. The girl next to her turned out to be her good friend. It was interesting to note the juxtaposition in terms of style between these two friends. Claire flashed me a huge smile and warmly greeted me and introduced her friend. It’s not very common in Paris to see such warm smiles, as Parisians tend to be quite reserved, so Claire’s warm and open character and very American style were wonderfully familiar.
After the intros we went to one of the student lounges to sit and talk. We switched back and forth from English to French while Claire told me about her experience in the states, how she feels about Paris now, and what she hopes to do after finishing her Masters program in English. I told her about my own experiences in Paris thus far, what I think of the city, the people, and the food, my plans while I’m here and my life in the states. It was a great conversation and such a great opportunity to meet a new friend who loves South Park just as much as I do haha!
I also met some new Canadian friends this weekend as my good friend Michelle was hosting two of her good friends from Canada, Eddie and Hamilton. They had fun getting to see Paris by night and day with us! ;p 
One of the great things I did get to mark off my to do list this weekend was climb the steps of the Eiffel Tower. Ironically,that was something I has yet to do even though I live right next to it. But seeing as the weather was soooooo nice I could not pass it up! The view was well worth the endless spiral of stairs! Will definitely do it more often as the weather warms up. 
Speaking of the weather, Tuesday was such a wonderfully warm day-the first one in a long time! After my two hour CM for my literature class, I grabbed a quick lunch with friends at the cafeteria and then headed outside to take advantage of the great day by strolling through the arrondissement. We stopped at St. Sulpice and sat out in the plaza in front of it and passed the time mostly talking about how amaaaazing Paris in the spring will be! I want it now! Haha! 

Fontaine de Saint Suplice


But before I knew it, it was unfortunately time to head back to class for the two hour TD for my literature class. Needless to say, I could barely keep focused after the thought of how nice a stroll through le jardin du Luxembourg would be today, so as soon as class was dismissed I was free to follow my heart’s desire and headed straight for Luxembourg. Picnics with friends in between classes are definitely happening this spring J It was a great day I absolutely love taking leisurely strolls through the 6th while listening to a great playlist on beautifully sunny day.
While I do love this city I am getting antsy to go exploring beyond the Parisian limits so this trip to Portugal could not come at a better time! I can’t believe it is only two days away-5 classes left! I can’t even believe how fast February has flown by-2 months in and I can’t wait for how the next 4 months will unfold!
Till demain! here are some more pics...

Saint Suplice
Candy!!!!!!!
La fontaine Médicis



Edinburgh!

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

This past weekend I travelled outside of London for the first time since I’ve been in the UK.  Really, I can think of no better way to start what I hope will turn out to be a nice tour of Europe with Edinburgh, Scotland.  I’ve never even been to Northern England, let alone Scotland, so I was really excited to travel to the city.  My roommate from Mary Washington, Becca, is doing an internship in the Leeds area, so we planned to travel together to visit a few other friends who are currently studying at the University of Edinburgh.  The trip was thrown together fairly last minute (as in, we bought our tickets the night before) but through perseverance and pure luck Becca and I managed to get tickets on the same train from York to Edinburgh.  I took an early train from King’s Cross in London to meet her there about midday.  We arrived in Edinburgh just after four pm and were greeted at the station by our friend Becky.  As to be expected, Edinburgh was cold and grey! London, located in the southern part of England, had seemed much warmer when I left.

After a quick stop by Becky’s flat so that Becca and I could see her room and meet her flatmates, the three of us headed over to the hostel where Becca and I would be staying. Royal Mile Backpackers was located, as the name suggests, on Edinburgh’s “Royal Mile,” one of the busier streets in the city.  There were ten bunks in our room, each labeled with a cute nickname.  Becca was assigned to the bunk “Late,” while I was assigned “Trouble”.  Appropriate? If you know either of us, I’ll let you decide for yourself!

The highlight of Friday night was the ghost tour of Edinburgh.  Becky bought us our tickets in advance—eleven pounds for the tour and a free drink after.  Not a bad deal, really.  We went in a large group of Becky’s friends, including Colin, another student from Mary Washington.  The tour guide’s thick Scottish accent made his words sometimes hard to understand, but he had an outgoing personality that made his stories very entertaining.  The tour began in the center of the city, where he regaled us with different famous ghost and horror stories from around Edinburgh. When we reached the square where, hundreds of years ago, criminals had been publically punished, he pulled two young men from our group to “demonstrate” how they would have been chained and whipped! The ordeal was sans actual chains, of course, though Becky was lucky enough to wield a whip and “flog” our two friends.  No one was actually hurt, though she did look a little too comfortable holding that rope…

While the first half of the tour centered on the streets of Edinburgh, the latter half was a tour of the underground crypts.  The group was led below an old pub, down some old stone steps, and through a small passageway until we were gathered in the first (and largest) room of the crypt.  Only the tour guide held a small flashlight, which created many creepy shadows.  We were told about different supernatural encounters people had had in these crypts, which gave most people chills.  By the end, the entire group was led into a smaller room with almost no light.  Normally close spaces don’t bother me, but I’ll admit I was getting a bit creeped out! After we left the crypt, we were led back into the pub for our free drinks, which seemed a just reward after standing below ground for so long!

When the ghost tour was over, Becky, Colin, and their friends took us to a local pub that was located just a few doors down from Becca and I’s hostel.  The best part was the live band that was playing traditional Scottish music the entire time! The trio made use of a guitar, small drum, and fife, and they were absolutely entertaining.  After such a long day of travelling, Becca and I soon went back to our hostel to get some well-deserved sleep.

Saturday was a whirlwind of exploring Edinburgh.  Becca and I met Becky about noon for brunch, then walked around Edinburgh until nearly six that evening.  We saw everything! Walking up to the castle was my favorite part.  Taking a tour was too expensive, but we were able to walk right up to the gates to take pictures and enjoy the beautiful view.  Edinburgh is surrounded by beautiful hills and mountains, and from the castle we could see for miles (I thought.  This is probably an exaggeration, of course).  The weather was bitterly cold, so we walked through the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to get some tea and coffee in the café and take a look at the artwork housed there.  I think this was partially for my benefit, being the museum nerd in the group! The museum housed centuries of art, including depictions of Scottish generals wearing traditional kilts and other Scottish regalia.  I took dozens of pictures while we walked around the city, mostly of the beautiful scenery.  I’ll only include a small sample here, this blog post would go on for pages and pages if I included all of them! We ended the day by climbing up the Calton Hill, which includes several remnants of ancient ruins and probably provides the best view in Edinburgh, other than the famous Arthur’s Seat.  We were there right at sunset, and the hills of Edinburgh looked spectacular in the twilight.

f

Of course, I had to get the bagpipe player

Absolutely amazing

The castle in Edinburgh–the long walk up the hill was worth it

Top of the Hill

Arthur’s Seat!

By this time, we were famished from all of the walking we had done.  We called Colin and the four of us headed to dinner at a local pub.  Always the adventurous eater, I was determined to try haggis at some point in Edinburgh.  This traditional pub seemed to provide the perfect setting.  Despite the, er, unusual description, the dish was actually quite tasty! It had an odd flavor that I can’t quite describe, and seemed to be a mix of herbs and spices.  All in all, I’m glad I got the opportunity to try it! We spent most of the night in that pub talking, relaxing, and enjoying the atmosphere with so many Scottish locals.  Becca and I had an early train to catch on Sunday morning, so we went back to the hostel early to pack and get some sleep.

Edinburgh was a beautiful city.  It is certainly much smaller than London, and it was nice to escape the business of the city for a couple of days and enjoy a city with so much history.  However, I love London and am really glad to be back!

Haggis!

How I feel walking around this city

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

First Day of School

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Not technically, because I didn’t have any classes.

Actually, you know what, that’s not technically true either… I DID have a Chinese class but didn’t get my schedule/language placement test results in time to go to it. But no worries, because I’m embracing a way of life in which I don’t worry about….well, anything actually. Haha! Wish me luck! It’s add/drop week this week, so professors are (hopefully) expecting people coming in and out of their classes.

The language classes here are divided into three components: speaking, writing, listening, and comprehensive. I tested into the intermediate level. This week, I’ll be going into as many of the classes as I can to decide which ones I should take, as well as some in the beginner level just to see. The speaking classes are the ones I probably need the most as that’s the area of language I most struggle with. Of course, those classes are the ones I dread taking! I’ll go to the first one at 8am tomorrow and see how it goes.

Today I woke up before dawn (jet lag!) and took our first unaccompanied walk to the university. Crossing streets here is an experience in and of itself… everyone goes at any time, and people are used to a much shorter distance between cars/bikes/people/tuk tuks/literally whatever else happens to be on the street. Our apartment is about a 15 minute walk to the South gate of campus. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the South gate of campus to the North and about 15 to walk the width (East to West gates).

Everyone on campus has a bike. They’re cheap… a used one is about 100RMB or around $15. With a lock and basket at 10RMB each, that puts the total around $17. Sweet. I haven’t bought one yet… as I mentioned, classes are still in flux.

I took a few pictures of campus today during classes changing. BIKES! It reminds me so much of the peloton.

I’m going to interrupt this blog post for a second just to give a sense of how many and how quickly things are happening. I’ve been typing this for maybe twenty or thirty minutes. In the span of that, Sharon (our in-country contact… she deserves a post in and of herself) came by to return our passports after registering them with the police (we all need temporary residence permits). We got our schedule of Chinese classes (half of them conflict with our elective classes…oh well, figure that out tomorrow, probably. We’ve been joking that the answer to every question we have here is “tomorrow, probably.”) Two dudes who only speak Chinese showed up to fix some of the problems in our apartment, left, came back again, and left. I arranged my interview (no small feat! I had to figure out which building the internship coordinator was talking about because she only gave me the address in pinyin. Then once I got the characters, I could get the English translation. Once I got the English translation, I went to the map. It looks like an hour walk, so I wrote down the characters to show to the taxi driver tomorrow. Adventure! But an adventure for tomorrow…probably.) Also during this, the Chinese roommate that’s living in the boys’ apartment came by, and a few minutes later, I met Charlene, who will be living in our apartment. They are both so nice and already really helpful! It’s nice to talk to an actual student.

My Mandarin skills are improving a tiny tiny bit. Mostly in terms of vocab and getting used to the sound and intonation of the language. I recognize more and more characters each day, and it’s only really been a few days.