[Most Recent Entries]
Below are the 18 most recent journal entries recorded in
|Saturday, August 12th, 2006|
|Still in China
The last week and a half has been an absolute whirlwind of travel, studying, finals, etc.
Today I saw Chairman Mao's body. I had to stand in line for over an hour--I can honestly say the whole thing was one of the most annoying things I have ever gone through. And it was all worth it to see Mao with his face lit so that it looked as though he were glowing from within, like a million glow worms were actually living in his skull, body covered by the Communist flag, surrounded by several potted poinsettias. 2 hours of absolute chaos for 5 minutes of ultimate absurdity. A fitting metaphor for my Chinese experience.
I'm homesick, but I don't ever want to leave.
ps: After I get back, I will be sitting down and writing a bunch of essays/stories about China, so even though I leave Monday, keep checking this space.
|Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006|
I haven't really posted much about my classes here, oddly enough, as they take up the bulk of my time between class itself and preparation for class. Partially this is because I can't imagine that the fast-paced saga of Chinese grammar and vocabularly acquisition is interesting enough for anybody to read. But I had to share this particular word.
It is pronounced, "ma." No tone. And it is a sentence particle that means "indicating clear and evident reasoning." That's right, by adding "ma" to the end of your sentence, you get to imply that your reasoning is clear and evident, no further blustering necessary. In my text it is used when the main character's father talks about the o-so-clear-and-evident fact that Eastern people and Western people aren't well-suited to marry one another.
I hope there are many of you who will get usage out of this gem of language, or at the very least be amused and wish that English had a word with a similar function.
|Friday, July 28th, 2006|
That's right, I am bu hao yisi, known in English as embarrassed.
I wanted to see Magic: the Gathering, Chinese-style. (Those who don't know what that means should quickly go to www.magicthegathering.com.) I went to the website and looked up Friday Night Magic tournaments in Beijing. There are several. My roommate helped me copy down a few of them and then found one of the closer ones for me on my map.
So tonight around 830, I walked to the subway. Bought a ticket, got on the subway, read The Poisonwood Bible
, ignored the man next to me who was telling his friend he could believe a woman had tattoos, took it to the stop closest to my address, and got off. I intended to walk, but I wasn't sure what direction to head, so I went the cab route.
Good choice. I got an awesome cabbie. We ended up talking about Chinese poets, Chu Yuan in particular, because I studied his life story in class this week. He recited a few poems for me. I recited a poem (not the same poet) I had learned for him. Every time he needed to say a number he also said the English word for it and then checked with me that he was right. I whistled the opening bars of the National Anthem and we sang China's national anthem as well. Well, I sung the bits I knew, and hummed the rest.
We got to the address. It was a street full of apartment buildings, with the occasional restaurant. "Who are you visiting?" he asked me. "Nobody," I said. "I'm looking for a store."
Well, I was in the right place, so I paid him and got out of the taxi. I walked up the street a bit--nothing. I walked back to the address. It was absolutely the address from the website. So I swallowed my pride and fear and asked the watermelon guy on the corner if he had heard of the store at this address. Nope, he hadn't. Nor had the Chinese men hanging around outside the gate to the complex. They directed me to the gatekeeper.
Who looked at the address and in one of the thickest Beijing accents I have come, began giving me directions to the apartment. As the guy in charge of letting people in and out, he didn't wonder why a strange white girl was looking for this address, just told me where it was. I must have looked confused because yet another man, with a wispy beard, told me he'd take me there.
He did; it was actually very close. On the way he guessed that I was American and told me that his father moved to New York when he was young, I think to do something with trucks. He buzzed the number I had on the address and called the man down, explaining that there was a waiguoren girl looking for his apartment. As we waited, the man with the wispy beard, who lives in a building across the way, told me more about his father's job, but my vocabulary wasn't good enough to truly understand it.
The man came down, not looking at all like a man who played Magic, at the very least because he was in his 50s. At every turn I had become more and more convinced that I was absolutely mistaken, but people kept offering to help, so I moved on. At this point, I knew for sure that I was just flat-out wrong in some way. I showed the man the address and explained that I was looking for a shop. He asked me to come into the foyer, intercomed his own apartment, and asked somebody to come down.
A minute later his son came down the stairs, looking for all the world like somebody who could concievably play Magic. I explained again, going into more detail about FNM and so on. "Oh, Magic," he said, "okay. But this is my home." "I know that now," I said, "but this is the address that they had listed on the website." "Yes, he said, but this is my home."
I asked him if they had FNM. He said, "yes, but it's over."
"Already?" I asked.
"It starts at 3," he said.
So apparently in China it is not so much Friday NIGHT Magic as Friday AFTERNOON Magic. He still looked a little put out.
"But this is my home," he said. "We don't play here."
"Where do you play, then?" I said.
"At the store."
"Where is the store?"
At this point his father told him to write the address for me. He did, and then his father said, "and your cell phone number." He did. "When are you open on Sunday?" I asked, and he said 11. "Write that down too," his father said.
I apologized and said 不好意思 a trillion times, as well as thank you, and then wandered back out of the apartment complex. I bought half a watermelon from the watermelon guy, who wanted to know if I had found the store, and I explained that I had been wrong, and that the Internet gave me the wrong information. This did not seem to surprise him.
I wandered down the street briefly before realizing I really had no idea where I was and hailed the next cab. 2 minutes later I realized how close I had been to knowing where I was, but of course it would have taken me four hours if I had tried to find something on my own. I never stop being amazed by the sheer size of this place. Its size is unlike any other city I've ever been in.
The cabbie on the way back was silent, which was just as well. He let me out a few minutes' walk from home and I walked home in the shadow of the bus terminal and the markets, somehow feeling for the first time embarrassed without feeling ashamed.
Now I will go eat my watermelon.
So, I actually left for Pingyao a week ago from right now, but it was a busy week, so I am only now showing you pictures. I actually have over 100 pictures of last weekend, so I basically picked at random here.( Read more...Collapse )
Today, after our test, a few of us went to the Silk Market. While Chi haggled over some fake bags, I ended up talking to the girls in the shoe stall across the way about the following, in this order: my shoe size; my boyfriend's shoe size; the unbelievable fact that there are, indeed, people of my shoe size in the world; my tattoos, the fact that they were real and currently did not hurt; why I was in China, how long I had studied Chinese and why; where I lived; the unbelievable fact that I did not live with my parents; the fact the my parents were divorced; the fact that I like my step-parents--and then Chi gave up and so we moved on. These are the things most Chinese people ask me about, though not always in that order.
The Silk Market was a good time--it is astonishing how many people are astonished when a tall pale girl and a tall black girl start talking in Chinese. I also learned that most people have fake Olympic T-shirts for sale, you just have to ask, because they hide them under lots of other T-shirts because being caught with fake Olympic stuff is really bad news. In my 6 weeks here, I have never seen people more scared than when we were (quietly) bartering over fake Olympic T-shirts.
I am now off to find Friday Night Magic in China, and hope to prove my sneaking suspicion that Magic nerds are the same all over the world. I really do not think I will be wrong on this point. Tomorrow I am going to another punk show, the Carsick Cars!
|Tuesday, July 18th, 2006|
|Friday, July 14th, 2006|
Today I went to Carrefour to buy the necessary supplies for PB&Js, which I had been craving a bit; also, I needed to get out of my room after catching up on homework all day. Carrefour is the closest grocery store. It's about a 10 minutes walk, which is the limit of my energy right now. Anyway, the ground level of Carrefour is like a small store, with everywhich thing in it, and the groceries are in the bottom. (The sheer insanities of Chinese stores--how they are laid out, what is next to what, the million registers that you have to go to in order to buy certain things--are enough material for another post; nay, another book.)
So. I go in. I get some hangers so I can do my laundry. I go downstairs, get my PB, my J, and some bread, as well as some grape juice and tissues. Pay for everything. (I am finally to the point where I can manage transactions such as those at Carrefour, which is a point of great personal pride, as I wholly embarrassed myself a few times.) Then, you need to go up this slanted moving walkway to get back to earth level. As I do so, from the top I hear someone calling out "hello! hello!", which I ignore.* At the top of the walkway it is somebody's job to help people with carts get off the walkway. As I approach this man, I realize it is HIM saying hello! I say "Ni hao!" because it is my policy (not to mention the language pledge) to use Chinese.
He says, "You are American, right?"
I say, "Dui, dui, dui," which is correct, correct, correct (and often said several times in a row).
He says, "Well, good luck, then!" just as I am stepping off the walkway and out into Beijing. I would have liked to respond, but the bunch of people behind me kept me walking.
I wish I could have asked him, good luck with what? Not fainting as I walk home in the damnable heat? Not collapsing, victim to today's nasty pollution? My country not being bombed by North Korea? Managing to make it through another day where I only understand fractions of what's going on around me? Reading any sign in a language I know at best 700 characters of? Buying vegetables on the way home?
Whatever he meant, even it just happens to be one of the phrases he remembers from language class, I still appreciate the sentiment.
*I tend to ignore people who call out "hello! hello! hello!" for two reasons: 1. They tend to want me to buy something, and it is the only English word they know (actually, Chinese people say it more as two words: ha-lou). 2. They are being rude to me because I am American. Peter Hessler talks about this pheonomenon in his book Rivertown
(very good, by the way), and it's hard to explain, but suffice it to say, it definitely comes across as rude. There is, of course, a glaring exception to this rule, and that is small children, who I love talking to!
|Wo bing le and the Forbidden City.
Wo bing le: 我病了. I am sick. Or, anyway, I was. I am now in the process of getting better, but Wednesday I was felled by a mighty cold. Actually, Tuesday I started feeling gucky, but wrote it off as pollution-related allergies until Tuesday night, when I started feeling actually sick. During the day I had gone to Golden Elephant Pharmacy, up the street, and purchased what the nice old lady there handed to me after I did a halting job of explaining my symptoms. My roommate read and approved the medicine as what I needed to be taking; although she couldn't explain to me precisely what was in it, she assured me that I should be taking 4 twice a day. I also went to Carrefour, the local grocery store, and bought some food and green tea cough drops.
So, I immediately started taking the pharamacy's worth of asthma medication I brought with me in addition to the Chinese medicine, but the next morning I was out-and-out, head-turned-into-an-echo-chamber, nose-faucet, running-a-fever, sick as a gou. (Dog: which, by the by, say wang wang (long a) here, not woof or bark.) Didn't go to class. Pretty much every Chinese person I spoke with Tuesday and Wednesday immediately recommended "re shui" (热水: hot water). Not tea! O, heavens, tea would be a VERY BAD IDEA for a bingren (sick person)! However, hot water is not very hard to come by in China. You can't drink the tap water, so every floor has a massive water boiler, from which comes just-boiled water. So hot water is always available, and I began drinking copious amounts of it.
I only got more sick. By the end of the day on Wednesday, I was absolutely miserable. My parents called and talked to me, which helped, and my step-mom changed my medicine schedule slightly, which also helped. Yesterday I started feeling better, and now, Friday morning, I am finally feeling somewhat normal, although I'm not capable of venturing very far before I get exhausted. (Which is just as well, because I have a lot of schoolwork to catch up on. I missed a test, which my teacher handed to me and told me to take when I felt better and then leave in her mailbox.)
I mention all this by way of saying that I am not, in fact, going to Inner Mongolia, as I had originally planned. But below the cut I have pictures of Chinese medicine and the Forbidden City, which I visited last Sunday.( Read more...Collapse )
If you reply to this, tell me a specific thing you want to see a picture of, and my next post will be a collection of those requests (so long as they're reasonable, and I'm looking at you, DAVE).
|Saturday, July 8th, 2006|
|Wednesday, July 5th, 2006|
|Sunday, July 2nd, 2006|
|Saturday, July 1st, 2006|
Last night was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I watched the Argentina-Germany World Cup game in a room full of people, and it was great. Everybody--and I do mean, every single person--in Beijing is obsessed with the World Cup, and everybody has different teams to root for. We Americans have been very swept up in the fervor.
So last night, 2-kuai beer in hand, I watched one of the most exciting soccer games I've ever seen in a our activity room with 60 people crammed in every possible, all focused on the game. We had the AC at 16 degrees Centigrade and we were all still pouring sweat, it was so hot in there.
And it was awesome.
I would say, note the power of soccer to bring the world together, but the thing is after the game one of the Argentinan players got in a fight with one of the German coaches. Well, it worked in my corner of Beijing, anyway.
|Thursday, June 29th, 2006|
|Wednesday, June 28th, 2006|
That's right, pictures! I hope! I don't know how to do an lj-cut because LJ is in Chinese here, so if somebody could help me out and post the directions in a comment, that would be great. I'm also not sure how to insert a picture. ack!
I have only completely uploaded 2 so far because of the slow, slow Internet. Tomorrow I might have some free time because Thursdays we don't have homework, we just study a great deal for the three hours of tests on Friday.
so hopefully this will work and soon I can post more:http://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i23/shanderson13/29fc937b.jpghttp://i68.photobucket.com/albums/i23/shanderson13/1afe6121.jpg
The first is me and my roommate, Jiao Nana, who is the reason I could even get these pistures to you in the first place.
The second is, yes, Thai Sweet and Spicy Prawn flavored Pringles. Actually really good.
Tomorrow: more pictures of actual China, which is what you probably want to see! Including Tiantan (the Temple of Heaven) and Zhong Shan Gong Yuan (Sun Yat-Sen Park). What sorts of Beijing/Chinese things would you like a picture of? I'm going to the Great Wall on Saturday, so of course there will be pictures of that.
|Wednesday, June 21st, 2006|
|The only time this will ever happen to me
Yesterday, I'm pretty sure I was mistaken for a Latina. Story as follows:
Last night, a friend and I walked around looking for a place to eat dinner. Background: she is American, but comes from a Taiwanese family and speaks pretty good Chinese (unlike myself). We walked by a bunch of landscapers (Beijing is sprucing itself up for the 2008 Olympics), who basically went completely silent and all actively turned around to watch us walk by. They talked a little amongst themselves, and I couldn't tell what they were saying. As we crossed the street, walking away from them, we got wolf-whistled.
According to my friend, they were saying, "Hey, look, a new foreigner! She looks..." and here, they said a word that neither of us knew but that sounds like a Chinese version of "Latino." So, apparently I look Latino. I guess that "they all look the same" phenomenon goes both ways.
As for being stared at, in answer to several questions, I'm already used to it. I just keep walking. In fact, I completely understand, because whenever I see waiguoren (foreigners) not with my program, I do a double-take. There just aren't that many, we do stick out. The people most likely to flat-out stare at my ass, or say something, are male construction workers/landscapers/etc. So, not all that different from America, really. Which fits in wiht my general impression of China so far: America and China are more alike than not. (corollary: But in the ways that they differ, they differ greatly.)
|Monday, June 19th, 2006|
I really am!
Today (it is currently 21:25 here, according to the computer) my classes started. Which means that today, my language pledge started. No English! I have a bit of a headache. When 8 of us went out to a jiaozi restaurant for dinner we were a little less stringent (Chinglish heavy on the Chinese) but overall, it has been a day of not being able to express myself very clearly, or at all. On the other hand, after two hours I was already hearing Chinese more clearly, maybe because I had to be thinking about it all the time and it wasn't being as muddled by English.
The classes are really intense, leading me to believe that I will probably update this twice a week or so. This week, because we don't have the extra language practicums and one-on-one time, I have class from 825 to 1130. Next week, I'll also have class from 1230-2ish. And then there's the gongke. Hen duo gongke! (Lots of homework!) 3-4 hours a day, I'd estimate. Factoring in eating, not much time left in the day. And then when I go out (like I did tonight, to the store), even less time. Hopefully when I settle into the schedule it'll be a little easier. Also, once I start remembering/newly recognizing more characters my homework will go much faster. I probably spend almost half the time looking in the dictionary.
Over the last week, we've been doing orientation and wandering around the city. I'm somewhat familiar with one bus line (the 103) and much more familiar with the subway, which is a wonderful thing. One ticket is 3 kuai (there are roughly 8 kuai to the dollar) and it's really easy to use. I've eaten all sorts of things, most of which I don't know what they're called or even necessarily what's in them. I've eaten at a hot pot restaurant (which is somewhat like fondue, the broth course), Korean barbecue (DIY), and a few times at the jiaozi (dumpling) restaurant around the corner. Lots of watermelon. Some of it I like very much! The majority, I like, but I'm not used to the flavors of Chinese cooking. Often cilantro, so I'm sure you know how I feel about that!
Tonight we had a lecture from an officer of the PSB (Public Security Bureau) about laws and regulations and safety. It was an hour long--and Zhongwen from beginning to end. That's right, a lecture I would have tuned out in English, I had to sit still for in Chinese. It included helpful advice like "don't give your passport to strangers" and "avoid prostitutes." The more you know, I guess.
Two days ago we spent the day on a city-wide scavenger hunt, in which the following things happened to me and my group: we went to Tiananmen Square, we got completely lost because the taxi driver took us to Capital Library instead of National Library, saw two sex shops from the window of the cab in Chaoyang district, got a National Library card, saw the German embassy, which has a huge sign with the scores of all the German World Cup games outside its gates, took the bus, took the subway 4 times, found an international hospital, and ate a red bean popsicle as well as a corn ice cream popsicle. I also recited a Chinese tongue-twister in front of a large group of people.
It's been a busy week. There are about a gazillion other things I could put in this space, but I've got seven more weeks to get them here.
|Thursday, June 15th, 2006|
|I'm here because I'm here because I'm here
Well, I'm here! It is currently Thursday lunchtime here, though most people reading this were asleep when I wrote it. This is something that it is hard for me to wrap my head around.
Japan Air is a fabulous airline. For the record, I didn't drink anything, though all the alcohol is free, so I'm not sure why the hell not. And that was also the best food I ever ate on an airline. The long flight from JFK to Tokyo (12 1/2 hours) was actually a lot more bearable than I thought it wuold be.
For breakfast this morning I had: baozi with red bean paste (which I would eat for the rest of my life), cold sugared tomato, and cold cucumbers with garlic. It was very good. The tea had leaves floating in it, and smelled like jasmine.
I just took my language placement test. Language pledge starts on Sunday before classes on Monday. After lunch (which is after I write this) I'm going to a department store...of sorts...in order to get things like shampoo and an alarm clock. Which means venturing out into Beijing. (The campus is behind a gate.) I'm going to have to get used to people looking at me, really quickly.
A few other random notes:
--you cannot bring eggplants or tomatoes into China. the sign at customs was VERY specific on that point.
--all universities in China have curfews. They made ours later than usual, so I have to be on the grounds by midnight during the week and 1am on the weekends.
--there is no toilet paper in bathrooms, you have to supply your own. and the toilets can't handle toilet paper, so there is a little basket next to the toilet for the used paper. yeah.
--China, from the window of a plane, is a lot darker than America.
--LJ speaks Chinese! almost all the prompts and writing on the screen right now are Chinese.
My roommate comes tomorrow! I think I'm about to click the "post entry" button. I really have no idea. Here goes...
|Sunday, June 11th, 2006|
|T-minus 2 days
All packed today. I'm taking one backpack and one suitcase that's not full. You only get 2 suitcases that can't weigh more than 140lbs total on an international flight, so I'm taking as little as possible now in order to have room on the way back. I'm not bringing much. Enough clothing, a shitload of medicine, my tattered copy of The Phantom Tollbooth (my favorite book, if I have to pick one), some magazines for the plane, guidebook/dictionary, a bunch of pictures, etc etc.
My mom and Scot and I are taking a train into NYC tomorrow, and spending the night in the hotel that's connected to JFK. I have to be at the desk by 10:30 for my 1:30 flight, so we'll need to be there even earlier in order to do customs, security, etc.
I'm excited! and also, nervous. I'll get into Beijing at some point on Wednesday. I have no idea what my internet access will be like, nor if I'll be able to access LJ--but I'm optimistic.
I'm almost finished reading Oracle Bones
, by Peter Hessler. I've really enjoyed it. I think just about anybody reading this would as well. It just came out, so it's only in hardcover, but it's probably at the library. Hessler was a journalist in the PRC from 1997-2004 (or something like that) and the book is a collection of stories--some short, some long--that illuminate a lot of points about modern China in the context of past and present China. Highly recommended.
|Friday, May 26th, 2006|
I am now in the process of getting everything all set up to leave.
If you receievd an email about this blog, welcome! I don't know yet how often I'll be keeping it, but as far as I know I'll have access to the internet in my dorm, so it should be somewhat frequently. I'll have a camera, so I'll be posting pictures as well.
I've made it so that people can comment anonymously, so you shouldn't need a LJ in order to respond to a post. However, I probably will be doing some friends-only posting, so friend me if you'd like to read that.
What I'd really like to know is--what do you want to know? What sorts of things would you be interested to read about/see pictures of? Let me know through email or a comment.