“If you can’t laugh in China, you will cry”

Posted by on September 8, 2012

First I apologize for not posting sooner, but it has been absolutely crazy here in the “Jing” since we arrived. This also includes the spotty internet we pay 160 yuan a month for (about 24 U.S. dollars). but luckily I got a VPN so I can stay up to date on everything going on back at Wofford.
After spending over a week in China, I pretty much over my horrible jet lag. If you have never traveled overseas to somewhere that has a completely different timezone, it is tough the first few days to adjust from U.S. time. Luckily the time change is only 12 hours difference from Eastern-Standard timezone to China’s timezone. I found it strange to learn that all of China has one time zone, you would think a country as big as China would have multiple time zones.
Since arriving I have met the other 9 students participating in MIC, CET-Middlebury Beijing Intensive Language Program. I can honestly say it is a pretty good group, and all of Chinese roommates our Assistant Director chose are perfect. My roommates name is 诗琪, she is really nice and is a senior at CNU studying International Relations. She wants to go to graduate school in the U.S. for International Relations.
The first week we were here was filled with orientation meetings, placement tests, and traveling the city. The highlight of those first few days was when we were at the 鼓楼 (Drum Tower) and a three year old came up to me and asked me in english “I want to take a picture of you!” Everyone in our group thought it was hilarious, because here this three year old has a professional camera is taking pictures of me.

3 year old Chinese girl taking pictures of me

This last week was the start of the semester. In total all students have to take 4 classes, my four are: 热点话题 (pretty much the hot topics to talk about in China),体验北京 (literally translates to Learn from experience in Beijing), 商务汉语 (discusses thing we should know or can use when doing business in China),and 一对一: 中美关系 (this is my one-on-one class where we are discussing the Sino-American relationship. I knew this program was a language intensive program, but after doing two summer sessions that had nothing to do with Chinese, and being thrown in to a complete immersion program it is rough. This past Monday we took a language pledge saying that we would only use English in emergency cases, or with our parents behind closed doors. After doing a Middlebury Chinese immersion program last summer its not too bad, except when you have a point to get across and you can’t, then it quickly results in hand motions. The worst days I have are Tuesday and Thursdays, where I have three classes in a row from 10:10-4pm, with only about 50 minutes to grab lunch. Almost every class we have a quiz with about 30 or more new characters. Unfortunately, once we get out of class we have to studying from 4 or so to 11ish. My favorite class would probably be the Beijing class because we have out of class activities (besides those ever so fun quizzes and presentations). For example, this past Wednesday we had to find our own way to the Metro and get our way around and ask “Beijingers” some questions.
Since the start of the program I have made two really good guy friends, Brian and Derek, both of their parents are Taiwanese and they are both amazingly smart. They have said that they would run with me, but it has yet to be done.
Because we are at a university we have some really great tiny restaurants right by the campus. Close by are a Sichuan and Japanese restaurant, and because they are so close I think I have been to both about four times. Both restaurants are relatively cheap, in the end I only have to pay less than 30 yuan (about $4.50). The most interesting food experience I have had since being in Beijing was today after we visited the Temple of Heaven (天坛) and we ended up at a lamb restaurant. Where I am always down to try new things, the dish of the day was lamb backbone meat. When I say this it was not just the meat, it was the actual backbone in huge globs in a bowl. I started to think about the poor lamb, so I stuck to the great Chinese staple…rice. However, it is important to remember it is respectful in the Chinese culture that if someone puts something on your plate to at least try it.
Today was a great day, because it was the first chance we had to “catch our breath” more or less. We had an optional trip to the Temple of Heaven this morning. It was amazing to witness what man power can build. The Temple of Heaven was where the Emperor went to pray about harvests and other important matters. It was thought in Chinese history that the Emperor was the son of God, so only he could communicate with the heavens. The designs of all the buildings and colors were absolutely beautiful.
Since being here there have been a few interesting cultural differences. The first being that our dorm is an international dorm, where there are people from ALL OVER THE WORLD. The majority of the students here are Korean, Russian, or Italian. Well luckily for us, these students all love to smoke inside the building, even though it clearly says all over DO NOT SMOKE. Well as can be expected, nobody listens… so they even smoke in the cafe where I do my homework. I swear I am going to get lung cancer from all the second hand smoke, if the smog or the water won’t kill you…the people living in international dorms will. (Just kidding) Secondly there are the ever so convenient toilets in China. We really are super lucky in the western part of the world, because in a lot of parts of Asia toilets are literally a hole in the ground. Besides the toilets there are the little cute outfits they have for kids to help make it convenient for parents to help their kids take care of their business. These are pants with open flaps in the front and back. And last, another thing that makes our lives in the west ever more luxurious…having a dryer. Tonight I did my laundry for the first time since being in China and there are no dryers, so you must lay our your clothes and wait for them to dry. I miss the times when my mom did all of my laundry!
Well that pretty much is the extent of my life lately in a nutshell, I will try to post more often with quick little quirks. 🙂 I will leave you all with an example of Chinglish…

One Response to “If you can’t laugh in China, you will cry”

  1. Lindsley Harner

    Looking forward to your next chapter! 🙂 Love the Chinglish stories!