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Mar. 23rd, 2009


Already 1/3 Over! =(

Time is really flying by. It’s already been a month since my last post, which is too long (I’ll try to update in 2 weeks next time!), and it unfortunately means that my stay here in China is already a third over! Oh noes!!! I don’t miss home very much yet. Or, maybe I would if I thought about it too much. But I have a lot of other things to think about, like studying and boys =D

I realize that despite the fact that I titled last month’s post “Friends, Classes, Hot Boys, and Hot Boy Concerts...,” I forgot to actually talk about my classes. The language program is broken up into 5 different classes, which are 精读课(jing1 du2 ke4 – Reading and Grammar), 听力课(ting1 li4 ke4 – Listening), 口语课(kou3 yu3 ke4 – Speaking), 写作课(xie3 zuo4 ke4 – Writing), and 泛读课(fan4 du2 ke4 – Intensive Reading). 精读 meets the most frequently, with 10 40-minute periods a week, 听力 and 口语 meet 4 periods each, and 泛读 and 写作 meet 2 periods a week each (good thing, because they are my least favorite classes).

The grammar I am learning is pretty easy, and a lot of it is review, which at first made me think I should go into a level higher (there are 9 levels; I am in level 4), but I decided to stay because I figured I could concentrate more on building my vocabulary. Also, I didn’t feel ready to jump into a much harder class after not being in school for over 6 months. Another factor in my decision was that I like a lot of my classmates and teachers =)

My 精读 (reading and grammar) teacher is planning to teach Chinese in England in a few months and wants to polish up her English, so she proposed that she and I meet separately outside of class for a language exchange – we would speak Chinese for an hour and then speak English for an hour. We have been meeting for a few weeks now and it’s been great so far. We have similar dispositions; we are both very open-minded, optimistic, and kind. I am also very happy to get extra tutoring every week free of charge.

I love my 口语 (speaking) teacher. He is my only male teacher, and he is very handsome. I like him because he has his own personal style when he teaches the class, playful but serious at the same time. For example, he doesn’t like it when students arrive late to class, so once he locked the door and didn’t let the latecomers in for ten minutes. However, once he opened the door, he was not mad at them, just addressed the class with a devilish smile and said, “Students, do you know why I locked the door? It is 10 o’clock. Please don’t be late next time.” Him, and all of our teachers, speak Chinese most of the time, but occasionally they use English to clarify words or grammar, which I usually find to be unnecessary and annoying. However, 口语 teacher will sometimes speak English with an adorable accent, such as “[when you use this word, it is] so nature (so natural)” or “This student is so humor.” He told us that before he was a teacher, he worked as a model for CCTV 4. He also told us that when he was in college, he often spent whole days in the library. Brains and good looks! On days when I have 口语课, I am sure to never be late =)

听力(listening) is one of the harder classes because my listening skills have always progressed slower than my other skills. 泛读(intensive reading) is also hard, but I’ve found that doing the homework before class makes it a lot easier, hehe. 写作(writing) is my least favorite class, partially because it is not very interesting (we just write things and then discuss them – like an essay class but in Chinese), but also because the teacher is too 严肃 (yan2 su4 – serious, solemn). She doesn’t smile often and her disposition affects the atmosphere of the class.

Guang Hua Towers, where I go to class every day.

I am definitely having a very international experience in China, to the extent that it is somewhat at the expense of having a Chinese experience. Obviously, there are no Chinese students in my classes, and since I live in the foreign students’ dormitory, I don’t live with any Chinese students either. The result is that even though I am living in China, I don’t have a lot of opportunity to meet with Chinese people. However, I am trying to remedy this by joining student clubs and meeting with Chinese language partners. Knowing English is a huge advantage because so many Chinese students want to practice their English. It’s a lot harder for my Korean and Japanese friends, who have yet to find Chinese students interested in a Korean- or Japanese-Chinese language exchange. So many Chinese students have asked to be my language partner. I’ve had dinner or lunch with so many different Chinese students that it feels like I’m speed dating. I wish getting dates with guys were this easy! However, the meetings are a little strange because they aren’t how one usually makes friends. But gradually, I am meeting more and more people who I genuinely feel comfortable hanging around with.

As long as I don’t think about New York that much, I don’t miss it too much. Although I lived in Washington Heights for over 6 months before I came to China, I never felt entrenched in the neighborhood, and my memories of it are fuzzy now that I’ve been away for a while. However, there are some American foods I have been craving lately, like chicken salad and sandwiches (especially salami and roast beef sandwiches). Once, I went to a semi-western restaurant, and on the menu saw “Ice Cream Chicken Salad” … I declined to try it. Asian people have interesting conceptions about Western food. A lot of people ask me if Westerners eat like how Asians eat rice or noodles (a serving at every meal). A Korean friend once asked me if hamburgers are a staple food in the US.

There are a lot of Koreans here. According to my roommate, you can always tell who is Korean by what they wear: Major League Baseball caps and Adidas clothes (plastic black-rimmed glasses are popular too). And it’s surprisingly accurate: the majority of Koreans do wear MLB caps at some point, especially the guys. My roommate has a New York Yankees cap. My Korean classmate has a Boston Red Sox cap. My roommate says they only dress this way in China – back in Korea girls make themselves up more, she assured me.

With the multitude of Koreans here it makes sense that they would also be the most available in the guy department. I like the idea of getting a Korean boyfriend – it would even out my string of “boy firsts” – first guy I went out on a date with: Japanese; first kiss: Chinese; and potentially, first boyfriend: Korean. I wasted the better part of this month worrying about the boy I met in the elevator, whom I nicknamed “电梯帅哥” (dian4 ti1 shuai4 ge1 – Literally, “Elevator Hot Boy”), and who unfortunately lived up to his nickname in more ways than one – he sent me on an elevator ride of ups and downs.

First, I finally saw him again in the lobby, and we had a good conversation for 10 minutes, with the end result of him asking for my phone number and saying that we should meet up together. I was on Cloud 9 for a few days before I realized that he didn’t seem to plan on calling me for a while. I made up my mind to ask him out on a study date, but as it turned out, he had lost his phone and I was unable to contact him for nearly a week. Then, he agreed to the study date, but brought his two female classmates along with him, but was still quite friendly, leaving me very confused. Finally, the nail in the coffin came when we became friends on facebook and I learned that he did indeed already have a girlfriend. Grr. I am a little mad about it because it’s not very nice to ask a girl for her phone number and then never attempt to contact her, regardless of whether one is interested in just being friends or something more.

However, I quickly moved on to pursue the Korean boy that I met at a friend’s birthday party a little over a month ago. He seems like a much more likely candidate, since we have been txting back and forth a little bit over the past month. I told him that we hadn’t seen each other in a while and that we should meet up, and he responded very enthusiastically. Prior to our study date he called me “pretty girl” and after our study date he told me that he felt very happy. He is not as handsome as some other boys here, but he is pleasant enough to look at and plus he seems like he has a very warm personality, very “亲切” (qin1 qie4). I hope something works out between us.

3.3 bike
my bike, about a week before it was stolen =(

3.8 nanjing lu 2
Nanjing East Road on a Sunday.

3.8 nanjing lu 1
3.8 nanjing lu 3
Nanjing East Road at night.

3.8 bund
on the Bund with Pudong as the backdrop... inevitably, there is always some stranger in your China sightseeing pictures.

3.10 yuyuan
Yu Gardens at night.

Feb. 22nd, 2009


Friends, Classes, Hot Boys, and Hot Boy Concerts...

Wow. I have been in China for almost a month already. I also haven’t updated as frequently xD But take that as a good thing, that I have been too busy having fun to sit down and write in my blog. In fact, most of the times I feel the need to write in my journal are when I feel upset about something, so it’s good that I haven’t been writing in it too often =D

The most important events in the past couple weeks have been making new friends, starting classes, and of course meeting new hot boys.

It is interesting to see how the way I feel about friends has changed now that I am in college/in a foreign country. I am a lot more comfortable hanging out with people I don’t know very well. In high school, if I were to hang out with people who weren’t in my core group of friends, I tended to feel nervous and uncomfortable, but here I am a lot more willing and interesting in meeting new people. I suppose it is a because of growing up more, but also comes from a need to not feel isolated in a foreign country. It is really easy to feel isolated here. There is practically no dorm life here. In the US, dorms are places to hang out with friends in addition to being where people sleep and study, but so far it seems that in my dorm here, people only sleep and study. The trouble is, I don’t know where people go to hang out, so if my roommate is out, it is just me in the room alone =( Yesterday I felt pretty lonely until my roommate came back.

Also, despite the fact that I am in China, it is hard to find opportunities to talk to Chinese people. This is because the international dorms and classes are kind of separated from the rest of the university. As a result, lately I have been feeling “Chinese-people-withdrawal”. This is really bad. But I don’t know where to go to make Chinese friends. I did go to the arcade yesterday and talked to some Chinese people around my age playing the same game as me, and got their phone numbers, so hopefully I will see them again in the future. I do have an advantage in that I am a kind-looking girl, not intimidating, so if I just approach Chinese people they are likely to be very friendly. But I still will have to do the approaching myself xD That’s the hard part.

I really like my roommate! We get along very well. She is from Korea. We only speak Chinese to each other but we are able to express a fair amount. She likes DBSK and other K-Pop stars, so we have that in common. We are good roommates for each other. Mostly we just do our own thing, but when we do want to talk, we have a good time =]

I have also been making a lot of Japanese friends xD go figure. There are a lot of them in my class, maybe 7 or 8. Last week I went to dinner with a few and went to karaoke =D We just speak in Chinese though, so I still have a lot of opportunity to speak Chinese. So far I’ve met Kana, Aiko, Akiyo, Chika, Mai, Teru, and Yui. Mai likes cats just as much as me! She has 4 back home in Japan =D Akiyo, the only Japanese boy I’ve met so far, is really handsome. Last week I had a really big crush on him, so much so that it interfered with my class work, but now my feelings have stabilized a little so that I am okay just being friends with him. I don’t know if he is interested in anything or not. He is really nice, but I don’t sense an “I am attracted to you” vibe from him.

In other hot boy news, I talked to a really handsome Korean boy in the elevator a week or so ago, but it was a little awkward because all I had time for was “What country are you from?” “Korea” “Oh, I’m American… Good bye!” “Good bye!” But he seemed really friendly, and I’ve seen him a couple times since then (both times we were inconveniently going in different directions), and he has said hi both times. Next time I see him I want to get his phone number. I’ll explain that we keep seeing each other, but have no time to talk, so maybe we set up a time when we can both hang out. Maybe I’ll bring my roommate so it isn’t awkward.

I also met a cute Korean guy who is an acquaintance’s roommate, and he asked for my phone number =] On the one hand, it seemed like it was in the context of friendship; but on the other hand, he didn’t ask my friend for her number… hmm… He is only a first year student at Fudan, so he is around my age. He is also going back to Korea after the semester ends to go to the army… -_-;;

Finally, last weekend was very fun because I went to see Super Junior M’s Valentine’s day concert! I was closer than I thought I would be, but still kind of far so their faces weren’t too clear. But it was ok. I felt ji4 du4 (jealous) because a bunch of lucky fans got to go on stage and be with their idols =) <3 I really liked the atmosphere of the concert because everyone felt the same way I do about boy bands – the same butterfly-stomach-inducing excitement, the same girly squeals – only most of them probably were even more excited than me. I think Han Geng is my favorite of SJ-M (I bought his poster) because he is really manly =D Also Donghae did a sexy dance ^_^ Henry is so cute too though. Since he is only a year older than me (a libra too!!), he is more like a classmate I have a crush on rather than someone I idolize. If we knew each other in real life, we could be boyfriend and girlfriend =D

The cab ride home after that was sooo expensive though (from a Chinese perspective). Since Minhang Gymnasium is in fat south Shanghai, and Fudan is far north, it cost 99 yuan O.o Okay, okay, in American dollars that is only about $15, but compared to most cab rides that are only around 11 yuan, 99 is a lot. I made up for the price by having a really good conversation with the cabby. I understood everything he said =) I like talking to cabbies. You will never see them again, so you can say anything. It was a lot of fun.

2.14 Han Geng
Han Geng!
2.14 phone2.14 phone close-up
my cell phone
2.15 kitty school supplies
cute kitty school supplies!
2.15 bookmark
funny chinglish bookmark! xD

Feb. 7th, 2009


Arrival in Shanghai and Chillin' with Fudan Cats.

I arrived in Shanghai last Wednesday with little trouble, although China's different rules about baggage caught me by surprise and I ended up having to lug my duffel bag on the plane with me instead of checking it. That meant I had to give my shampoo/body wash/face wash to Chengyue's family for them to keep until I return to Beijing xD I feel a little bad because since I was flustered I didn't get to say a proper goodbye to Chengyue's family. Ah well. I sent them a nice email =)
The flight was so short in comparison to what I'm used to! I barely had any time to do anything xD When I arrived there, the WLE person that came to pick me up was so nice!! She really made sure I was comfortable and settled. She also helped me buy things for my room at Walmart (沃尔玛), and lent me 200RMB until I was able to go to a bank.
My dorm is kind of like a cheap hotel – a little grungy but better than most college dorms (this is because I live in the international dorms, so we get special treatment xD) I have my own bathroom, TV, lots of shelf and closet space, and a balcony. I will have a roommate later, but she hasn’t arrived yet. I hope we will get along.
2.04 room02
bed + desk.
2.04 room01

It feels a little weird being here and not knowing whether I am hearing Shanghaiese or if I just don’t understand people’s Mandarin. I am glad I came to Shanghai though. I felt ready to experience a city that was different from Beijing. Even though I’ve been here before, I am seeing it in a different way, with eyes that are more used to China. Not every street-side stand is a novelty to me anymore; I don’t gawk at every person wheeling around a cart piled with odd things; I don’t feel like I’m walking in a new world on every sidewalk.
It’s “warm,” meaning that it’s not nearly as cold as Beijing. I can wear a blazer and hoodie or armwarmers and feel fine. Lately I’ve been wandering around Fudan’s campus, trying to get my bearings. It’s a very pretty campus. I feel very happy here =D


There are lots of stray cats (流浪猫) around the campus. The other day, one followed me for a while, I think in hopes of getting fed. Many of the cats here are very friendly. That must mean they generally get treated well by Fudan students. They probably get fed a lot.
I’ve decided to give names to all the cats I see. So far there is 猫友友 (Friendly Cat),小红 (Little Red),老红 (Old Red),小怕 (Little Scaredy),红怖怖(Red Scaredy, aka "Boo-Boo"),猫任达 (Contented Cat),猫影影 (Shadow Cat),猫嘻嘻 (Happy Cat),and countless others that I have yet to name.


click to see 猫嘻嘻

Feb. 3rd, 2009


Beijing Conclusions; Shanghai Here I Come!

To read about my last days in Beijing, read the previous post.

Tomorrow I leave for Shanghai =\ On the one hand, I am very excited, but on the other hand, I will miss Chengyue and her family! It’s been so much fun these (almost) two weeks. I feel like my relationship with Chengyue and her family has gotten stronger. My listening and speaking skills have definitely improved. I’m also glad I’ve had this time to serve as a buffer period between arriving in China and jumping into my studies. I’ve had time to get used to being in China (culturally as well as physically) before having to worry about schoolwork.

I feel a little strange in realizing that I haven’t talked face-to-face with another American for almost two weeks. That’s the longest I’ve ever gone without speaking to one from my own country. I’ve barely seen other foreigners, maybe only 4 or 5 times. I think I am getting less stares than before. That must be because of the Olympics. Or it could be because my blonde hair isn’t as noticeable underneath a heavy winter coat.

My journal entries will probably get shorter and less frequent once I am in more of a study routine in Shanghai. I feel very ready to go back to school. When I look at Chengyue’s homework, I miss exercising my brain in that way.

I Like Chinese Hairstylist Boys. Oh Yes. Also, Hutongs Are Cool.

Saturday was really great =]

That night, Chengyue and I went to a club and met up with her friend, who goes to clubs a lot and who is very sophisticated. We got in for free because we were girls, which was nice, although if we had had to pay, it would have only been 20 yuan. On February 21 Paul Van Dyk is DJing, which would be awesome if I were still here. Ah well. I will have lots of fun in Shanghai =]

At first we didn’t dance but finally after an hour or so we started dancing. A boy came up behind Chengyue and started dancing with her, and another boy came and did the same with me, but I didn’t think he was good-looking. I noticed the boy that Chengyue was dancing with had a few friends who were better looking so I tried to make eye contact with one and finally I went over and danced near him and caught his attention and we started dancing very closely. My face was near his shoulder most of the time so it was a good thing he didn’t have body odor.

Finally – it happened! We started kissing! =D We stayed stuck together like geckos for the rest of the time. We went upstairs to a more private part of the club with Chengyue, her boy, his friends, and another girl. We tried talking a little more but it was hard because my Chinese and his English both aren’t very good and plus it was loud. So mostly we just sat together and kissed some more.

He wasn’t stunningly gorgeous, but he was cute, and I really enjoyed being with him. Later I found out from Chengyue that the boys are hairdressers, which makes it even more awesome, because I love Chinese hairdresser boys. In the summer they hang outside their shop trying to attract customers. Many of them are quite handsome, and they always have cool hair.

The boy’s name is Zhen Bingbing (omg cute!!) and he is 20 years old. Since I am leaving Beijing soon, I doubt I will see him again, but I don’t really mind. I am really happy and satisfied with my first boy experience. I never could have foreseen that my first kiss would come about this way, or who it would be with. I hope I have further exploits in Shanghai =]


On Sunday I went with Chengyue to the library. They have a whole floor that is set up with rows of desks filled with students quietly studying. It looked like a giant classroom. In the US, I think a lot of students go to the library to study, but I’ve never seen anywhere where it was catered so specifically to students’ needs.

After the library we went to a photo-sticker booth, like the ones they have in Japan, only it was a lot cheaper. A set of 16 small stickers were only 3 yuan, and a set of 16 medium-sized stickers were only 8 yuan. We got a set of each, totaling 11 yuan, or only about $1.50 (in contrast, the ones in Japan were usually upwards of $3 for a lot less stickers).

2.2 photobooth!
all 32 stickers.

When we returned home and had dinner, I had a really interesting discussion with Chengyue and her mom about Chinese society. I asked them about the Cultural Revolution. Chengyue’s mom said that it was a mistake, a bad result of the revolution (as opposed to good results like women’s rights expanding). Chengyue’s grandfather on her dad’s side (Ye Ye) was oppressed because his family had money and antiques. On a brighter side, Chengyue’s mom fondly remembers the year she spent working on a farm outside Beijing, which all students were required to do before the Reform & Opening Up. She said that since she was young, she thought it was a lot of fun. In fact, the people that we visited in the countryside in 2007 were the people she lived with during that time. She must have had a really great experience – after over 30 years, she is still in contact with them. I hope Chengyue and I can stay in contact like that too =]

I also asked about the Tiananmen protests and it seemed like Chengyue didn’t know a lot about it. Chengyue’s mom talked about how the government wanted power and that a lot of people died, but she also said that around that time she was getting married, so I suppose for her, the memory of the protests is overshadowed by the much more joyous occasion. I told them about Tank Man, and of course they had never seen the picture. I felt like I was spilling some dirty secret.

We also talked about Tibet, and although Chengyue’s mom acknowledged that Tibetans feel that they have been wronged by the Chinese, Chengyue felt that the Tibetans were in the wrong, and they both talked about how the Chinese don’t recognize the Dalai Lama as the leader of the Tibetans.

I am really glad that I got to raise these issues with them, since we don’t often get to hear Chinese people’s opinions on these matters. Because they are controversial topics, they are not questions one can ask to just anyone.

On Monday we went to where Chengyue and her family used to live before they moved to the apartment building they live in now. They used to live in a hutong! A hutong is a group of houses characterized by old, traditional architecture and windy, narrow streets. They lived in a one-family “四合院 (si he yuan),” in which four sides of the house enclose a private courtyard. Many courtyard houses are crammed with many different families, but Chengyue’s family had one of their own. I didn’t even know that one-family courtyard houses were still around.

Chengyue said she loved it because it was so free – all that space to run around in. They moved when she was 10 or 11ish (?). Their story is a classic example of modern development in China. They had to move because their house was marked for demolition to make way for a modern building. Chengyue said she was very sad when she had to move, especially since she had so many friends that lived in neighboring hutongs. As we looked through a book of mine that had pictures of these old houses, Chengyue’s mom said they made her miss home.

When we visited the site of her former home, a tall gleaming, glass-and-steel building stood in its place. The hutong next to it was also being torn down, the character “拆 (chai1),” to demolish, splayed over many a deteriorating wall. Old hutongs all over Beijing have shared a similar fate.

2.2 hutong chai
marked for demolition.

2.2 hutong
view of the building that replaced Chengyue's home through the broken window of a demolished home.

Next we walked through a hutong that was still alive and vibrant, its joyous red New Years’ banners and multicolored markets contrasting with the gray clutter of the previous hutong. We visited Chengyue’s old primary school, and tried to go in, but the security guard wouldn’t let us.
2.2 liulichang
stone lion eats wire! in a restored area of old beijing, "Liu Li Chang."

2.2 primary school
the gates of Chengyue's old school.

Feb. 2nd, 2009


Family and Sightseeing

Regarding comments: unfortunately I can’t reply to comments on livejournal yet (since it’s banned), so if you want to be able to reply then you have to send an email =]

A lot has happened this week! Here is an overview highlighting the most interesting parts. We went to Chengyue’s Laolao’s house (her mom’s mom) for a big family gathering. All of her relatives were there, except for one uncle. Everyone was really interested in me and the U.S. and they asked a lot of questions. I felt very happy because I was actually talking and joking in Chinese without much help.

I love Chengyue’s family! They are very re4 nao3. I felt right at home, as if I were in Connecticut with my own loud and boisterous family. Chengyue’s cousins are very fun. Afterwards we went out for karaoke. I really liked her cousin Wang Zheng. He can speak English pretty well (despite Chengyue and cousin Ren Yi teasing him about it), so we talked about a lot of things. He and one of the girl cousins are actually real siblings (as opposed to cousins who tend to call each other brother and sister), which didn’t seem odd to me until I remembered the one-child policy. When I asked Wang Zheng why his family is an exception, he just said “well, my parents really like kids.” His parents had to pay a fine to have a second child (I think Chengyue’s mom said the fine was over 30,000 yuan?)

I got to sing some songs for the family, which everyone liked. They say that my pronunciation is almost as good as Da Shan’s (a foreigner who is famous because he speaks almost as if he were a native) , but I don’t know if they are just saying that to flatter me or if they really mean it.

We also set some of our own fireworks off. I got to light it. It was great. I asked Chengyue’s grandmother whether she liked fireworks and I think she said no. I wonder if it reminds her of the Japanese invasion and the civil war following Japan’s retreat. I’m sure she would remember them (later I found out that she was born in 1926, so she would have been a teenager and young woman when all of that was going on). It’s strange to think how many things China’s elderly people have lived through and experienced.

1.27 fireworks
The fireworks at Lao Lao's house.

The next 3 days I primarily went sightseeing and rested. Wednesday I hung out with my friend from Tianjin (a city near Beijing). We went to a temple carnival and the Temple of Heaven. Thursday Chengyue and I were lazy and stayed inside all day. Friday I went sightseeing by myself to Tiananmen Square, Wangfujing (a very modern pedestrian street – think lots of shopping malls and neon lights), and the National Art Museum. Most of the artwork was from the past few decades, but using traditional media. I especially liked the embroidered silk screens, which looked like paintings from afar, but if you looked close you could see the individual threads. I also liked the woodwork and jade sculptures. One jade sculpture I liked was of a giant Chinese cabbage and feasting praying mantises.

While I wandered around Wangfujing, a group of people in costume randomly began to do a lion dance. I want to go back to there so I can have the delicious-looking roasted chestnuts and the scorpion kabob.

1.28 temple of heaven
At Temple of Heaven with Tianjin friend.

Lion Dance @ Wangfujing

More about the rest of the week later =]

Erlang the cat.

Jan. 29th, 2009


Chinese New Year Continuation (read post below this one first)

Earlier in the day on New Year’s Eve, Chengyue and I went to Xidan. It was nice to be there again! They built a new shopping mall since I was there. Chengyue has a gay friend who works in a cosmetics store (red earth). He was very nice and painted my nails for me. Chengyue really likes him and wishes he weren’t gay so that she could date him. ^_^ he is cute. Chengyue says that although many people in China still think that gay people are weird or faking it, more and more people are coming out. It’s strange to think that until relatively recently, being gay in China was illegal.

We also went to the arcade there and I played that cool Chinese dancing game that is similar to DDR but with 3 foot buttons and 2 hand sensors. It was quite fun but a little expensive (4 yuan per play – compared to the DDR machine at 77th St. mall a year and a half ago which was only 1 or 2 yuan per play). In fact, it seems like everything has gotten a little more expensive, something that Chengyue affirms. I also bought a cute totoro wallet today for 30 yuan (we couldn’t bargain) but it has a lot of useful pockets, so I think it is worth it. I can’t find my Cool Cat wallet. I hope I didn’t lose it~ I wasn’t ready to let it go…

On Monday Chengyue and I went to Baiyunguan, which is a Daoist temple, with Chengyue’s cousin, Ren Yi, his girlfriend, and a friend. Ren Yi is very funny.

The visit basically consisted of paying our respects to various Daoist deities with bowing and incense, and rubbing statues and stone reliefs for good luck, which I felt a little odd about since I didn’t really know to whom or for what I was praying. Also it consisted of waiting on long lines with a zillion other people and having our feet turn into blocks of ice. I made the mistake of wearing my converses because they matched my bag and blazer instead of wearing warm boots. I’ll never do that again! The line to get into the temple went all the way down the block. A lot of Chinese people go to temples the day after New Year’s to pray for good luck and prosperity and health and all that stuff.

1.26 Baiyunguan

Afterwards we went to a restaurant and it was the first time I saw dog meat on a menu in China, in the form of a meat platter and dog soup. Don’t worry! We didn’t order it. Ironically, it was a Korean restaurant, so the doggy dishes were in fact Korean and not Chinese.

Chinese New Year 1.25.09 - 1.26.09

(放)焰火 – (fang4) yan4 huo3 – to set off fireworks

If you think you’ve seen great fireworks on July 4, you’ve never been in Beijing during Chinese New Year! I will no longer be satisfied by our tame Independence Day displays. Only one or two fireworks at a time, lasting an hour or so at most? Psh! Picture everything you like about fireworks—the noise, the colors, the variety, and multiply it by a billion people. Every time someone sets one off, you know they are getting a thrill out of it. The days leading up to New Year’s Eve are alive with random crackles and pops, getting more and more frequent until the last day of the lunar calendar, when firecrackers are a loud and constant presence. Finally the cacophony of cracks and booms culminates at 12am, and every street corner, every courtyard, lights up in flashes of rainbow and smoke. Cars calmly circumvent fireworks crackling in the middle of the road. Look left, right, up, down; all horizons explode with color.

1.25 fireworks
view from Chengyue's grandparents' (Yeye and Nainai) apartment.

The air is very smoky. I wonder how much New Year’s contributes to pollution. The noise is deafening, but in an exciting way. In addition, every time a firecracker goes off too close to a car, the vehicle’s alarm joins in on the fun. One has to shout to be heard even in one’s own home. It’s a good example of Chinese 热闹 (re4 nao3) – meaning loud, raucous, and full of life. Chengyue’s parents say that in the days leading up to New Year’s, people are not allowed to set off fireworks (despite the fact that many people do anyway), so they do as many as possible on New Year’s Eve.

Jan. 26th, 2009



Woot! First post in China~! It seems as though I can get through the censors by posting via facebook, but this also means I can’t easily do things that are unique to livejournal. Oh well.
The reality of 6 months is beginning to sink in, but it’s not too overwhelming. I just have to live my life as I have been doing—I don’t have to rush around trying to see all of the tourist attractions. I don’t even have to worry about how much my Chinese progresses. All that matters is being in China with Chinese people, and as long as I am satisfied with that, I will be happy.
I forgot to bring my clementines to the airport with me. So I had to buy fruit in the airport. I was glad that I had fruit on the plane, but it did feel like I ate a lot on the plane. Well what am I supposed to do? There’s not much to entertain myself with. I basically ate, watched movies, read a book, and listened to music for 13 hours. No sleeping. My seat was right in front of the wall of the bathroom, so I couldn’t lean back at all. Also there were always a bunch of people hanging around near my seat area. The entertainment features on the plane were pretty good though—the best I’ve had compared to all 6 other 13-hour flights I’ve had. Everything was on-demand, and there was a large selection of movies.
As I looked at Beijing while we landed, I noticed how gray and brown everything seemed to be, and I was surprised. But then I remembered that it’s winter. Since I had only seen it in summer before, the picture of Beijing in my mind was green and sunny. It’s funny how only being in Beijing at that time of year somewhat skewed my perspective of its colors and seasons. I’m glad I’ve now gotten to see Winter Beijing in addition to Summer Beijing.
When I stepped off the plane, the first thing I noticed was the smell. It wasn’t bad, just different. Sort of like smog fried noodles, only more pleasant. It’s interesting how smells can bring back more vivid memories than any other sense. I instantly felt at home, like I’d never left. It was like being reacquainted with an old friend. The feeling is different from how I felt the last two times I stepped off the plane. At that time, I didn’t have a sense of familiarity with it. But this time I felt warm and cozy.
As soon as I saw Chengyue and her parents at the airport, I was very happy. The long subway ride home was a bit quiet, but our old habits of chatter came right back when we stepped into their apartment. For some reason it seemed smaller—maybe because I’m getting used to a bigger apartment. I’ve missed Chengyue’s mom’s cooking.
Ironically I feel like my listening skills have improved in the past year and a half despite the fact that I didn’t have many opportunities to speak to Chinese people. I suppose the improvement is the result of a combination of listening to mandopop, watching TV dramas, and listening to my Chinese teachers speak (even though they spoke slowly).
The next day I woke up early because of jet lag (although I did manage to get a good night’s sleep), so I read my Seventy Wonders of China book. I learned that the naturally-preserved mummies of Tarim Basin (in western China) from the first and second millennia BC had probably spoken Tocharian, which is the oldest Indo-European language next to Hittite. “The fact that Tocharian speakers were located right next to Sinitic (Chinese) speakers…is of monumental significance” because it gives context for the influence of Tocharian and other Indo-European languages on Sinitic languages. For example, the Chinese word for “honey” is in fact a borrowing from Tocharian. I think that’s fascinating.
Later we did karaoke! It was fun despite the fact that I still didn’t have many songs to sing—They didn’t have many Huar songs! Well, they did have a fair number, but not their newest songs, so I could only sing 嘻唰唰 and 我的果汁分你一半. Also my mind went blank when I tried to think of English songs to sing.
Oh yeah, we met up with Cai Dongyan at the KTV! He is taller and shuai-er ^_^ He was nice~ and he has a good singing voice. I guess he is only an asshole when he is around the American boys. Chengyue’s friend “Fiona” and two other (shuai) guys also came. I wish I could understand more when Chengyue and her friends talk amongst themselves. I can usually understand when they say something directly to me, but not other times.
I felt bad because Chengyue wanted to go play pool with them but I was exhausted so we went home. I would have liked to play pool, but I was just too tired. I hope I didn’t disappointed Chengyue.
I hope I can make Chinese friends easily at Fudan. It’s just hard for me to connect in normal situations, let alone when there’s a language barrier. Maybe I’ll be more up to the challenge when I’m not as tired. I hope jet lag goes away soon.

Jan. 23rd, 2009



This is not an actual post. I am testing to see if I can get past China's blocking of livejournal by posting via facebook's app "Blog It". An update will come later =]

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