My First Full Week Of Chinese Classes
It looks as though that whole trying to “post on a regular schedule” goal I had isn’t going to work out. I’m going to be too busy, and although I know I sound like a broken record, the slow internet connection makes everything, especially blogging, a bit more difficult. I also wanted to throw out a small warning that since I’ve been so busy and therefore have tons to write about, the seamless transitions, extensive vocab, and flawless grammar that I’m known for may be lacking as I try to describe everything I’ve done over the course of my first weeks here in Beijing. Now that that’s all out of the way: Week 1 of 16 weeks with no English.
Spending about 20+ hours a week in the classroom isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I have three classes in the morning starting bright and early at 8:25 and going to 11:30, I eat lunch from 11:30 to 12:00ish, and then I have a fourth class in the afternoon at a different time every day. I have a ton of homework (which was expected) so I’ve been finding myself going to bed between midnight and 1:00 and waking up at 6:30am. Believe it or not, it hasn’t been much of a problem (probably because my internal clock was so messed up from 20 hours of travel and a 12 hour time difference that it just gave up trying to regulate itself).
Not speaking English is relatively easy too. The first day there was definitely some awkward silence, but I think once we all came to the realization that currently our Chinese is really bad, there was no fear of being judged and everyone just went with it. Other than having to use a lot of adjectives to describe things and/or pointing at something and saying “that thing” because we don’t know the actual word, we communicate with relatively few problems.
We eat out at a lot of different restaurants, but I think I’ve found my favorite. If it has a name, it’s definitely not on the sign outside so I just call it “my restaurant” or “our restaurant” and people usually know what I’m talking about. While we always order different dishes that are shared among the group, I have a personal favorite 3: bamboo shoots and shredded pork, any sort of meat dumplings, and chuan(er) or meat on a stick.
Most people probably already know this, but the Chinese food you get in the U.S. has about zero resemblance to Chinese food you get in China. Don’t get me wrong, The Yee Dynasty on South Willow St. will forever be one of my favorite eating and drinking establishments on Earth, however, their pu-pu for 2 isn’t exactly authentic.
I have yet to eat (that I know of) any sort of tails, tongues, testicles or eyeballs, but the other week I did have some duck neck. Of course, seeing as I’m a newbie to eating random water fowl body parts, I shoved the whole thing in my mouth not realizing there’s bones, etc. still in the neck that you’re supposed to eat around. Luckily spitting isn’t really frowned upon, even in formal settings.
The “gym” at CET pretty much tanks, and the staff already know that so I have no qualms about writing it. I’m too cheap to buy a membership to the gym a few blocks away, so I started working out at the park down the street. As you can see in the picture, having access to just a few pull-up bars and a set of bars that can be used for dips, I guess you can say I went old school, Rocky style (minus the beef factory). We’ll see what happens in a month when the weather takes a turn.
Speaking of weather, I guess our coming to China was cause for the weather gods to take pity on the city of Beijing. Except for one afternoon and one other day when it rained, it has been between 80 and 85 and sunny every day. (Of course, as I write that now, I’m looking out my window at the thick fog rolling in.) The weather has been so nice that I haven’t even bothered checking the air quality, although I probably will with the sun coming out less and less.
Last Friday, CET took us to see a Kung Fu show. I was expecting some genuine ass-kicking like at the end of Karate Kid (and yes, I know that’s karate), but seeing as it was a “show”, it was more like a manlier version of River Dance. And I mean much manlier. It may have all been acting, but all of the actors definitely knew Kung Fu, and could easily kill me with their left thumb.
I’ve still been able to make it out on the weekends, and I think the farther into the semester we get, the more of a necessity it will be. As they say, all work and no play makes for a crappy study abroad experience. I’m lucky enough to have 2 friends from Holy Cross (who came to China during their junior year abroad and moved back after we graduated) that know the city and take me everywhere. One of the places we went to this weekend reminded me of those awesome clubs in A Night at the Roxbury – smoke machines, flashing lights, dancing girls (with their clothes on), etc. – everything you need to have a good time and a seizure.
Monday was a holiday in China and as we didn’t have class, we decided to go out on Sunday night too. I don’t know the name of the place we were at, but as packed as it was, we somehow made it up on the front stage. The DJ was playing Lonely Island songs like they were real songs – needless to say I was beyond pumped.
I figure every few posts I’ll try and include some interesting aspects of Chinese culture that I notice along the way. Here’s today’s edition: When it gets above 80 degrees in the afternoon, men lift their shirts above their stomach, almost like a male belly shirt; Just to back up my claim that people don’t follow any traffic laws in China, we did an entire unit on that one topic in class last week; there are signs everywhere that say don’t spit, but it’s actually more of a surprise to not have someone right behind you expelling mucus from the depths of their throat; and I’m still baffled at how cheap this country is.
I need to figure out how to do a load of laundry and probably get a haircut, but other than that, I’m pretty solid. We’re taking a boat tour up to the Summer Palace this weekend, so check back next week sometime for a post and some pictures from that little expedition.
Just like I did during my first few weeks in St. Andrews, I took a few hours to walk around the area where I live and snap some pictures. Keep in mind my area is only a small part of Beijing, so once I have more time, I’ll try and get more of the city up here.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get back to you!