Saturday morning began with a welcome ceremony for the international students. It was more a reiteration of rules than a welcome, necessarily, but I was so relieved to be a part of a group again that I didn’t mind at all.
I met a few friends for lunch in the CaiQingJie Cafe – Joseph from Ethiopia and Joao and Antone from Capo Verde. It was nice because it was the first meal that I had eaten communally since coming to China. A few times I had eaten by myself, but even when I ate with the UNC students in the canting, we had our own meals. I had missed eating family-style, but this was a chance to put our chopsticks in the same dishes together.
Apparently Joao and Antone know my roommate. Her name is Lenira. She is also from Capo Verde and is also studying Biochemistry. She’s in Shanghai right now, visiting her sister, and her classes don’t start until the 12th of September, so she won’t be back until then.
In the afternoon, we had a campus tour. The English-speaking group was rather large and we had one soft-spoken tour guide, so I didn’t get a whole lot out of it. We did, however, go up to the top of the Tall Building (don’t know the name yet) for a great view of campus:
After the tour I went with some friends who live off campus. Sonia is from Germany, Dietrich is from Holland, ?? is from Sweden, and Joey is one of the few other Americans (from Chicago). We bought some beer (wine for Sonia and I) and then climbed approximately a billion stairs to get to Dietrich’s apartment. It did, however, have a great view of campus, the city, and Gulangyu, so I guess it was worth it. We had to stop eating and drinking at 9 because of the physical examinations in the morning, so I went home, took a shower, and fell asleep immediately.
This morning we had to meet at 7:50. We took a bus up the coast to a hospital for our health examinations. It was . . . an experience. It was very crowded, although that might have been our fault. It was also surprisingly centralized; basically, the hospital consisted of one hallway with signs over the doors like “X-Ray”, “Bloodtaking”, “Gynecology”, and “Surgery”. While there was a little less concern for privacy and hygiene than in America, it was only striking in one instance. We had to give a urine sample, which required us to pee in a cup. I’ve done this in America, but usually the cup comes sealed in a sterilized package and has a cover . . . here, though, it was a flimsy plastic cup without any sort of lid. After filling the cup, we placed it in a closet lined with shelves, next to dozens of similar cups – not a pleasant sight. Anyway, it was very hard to produce such a sample after over 12 hours of no drinking!
I called Carlos, a friend from Spain, when I got done, and we met at the ferry station. He also brought a friend from Turkey, David. We bought our tickets to Gulangyu, but they were more expensive than we had expected. We figured out why about 40 minutes later, when we realized that we had gone almost all the way around the little island – apparently we got on the tourist ferry. Once on the island, we shook off a few wannabe tour guides and just started walking. We happened on the Organ Museum and went in before going to lunch. Afterwards, we went to Haoyue Park, where I finally took some pictures.
We bused back to campus, where Carlos showed me how to use my air conditioner (!) and I took a shower (!!). I met up with Jamie, a Chinese friend, for dinner at the canting – not my favorite meal there ever, but it was okay. Then she took me to the big supermarket just off campus. By “big supermarket”, I basically mean Target. It had clothes, groceries, cleaning supplies, blow dryers, etc. It was just like being in America because they had almost all of the products that I use back home. They have Pantene, Dove, Venus, Tide, and more Johnson & Johnson baby care and Clean & Clear products than I’ve ever seen in America. There was even a Tupperware lady!?! It was a little bit ridiculous. No sign of American deodorant or lotion yet, but I’m still looking.
They had two whole rows of feminine hygiene products and Jamie asked me how to say them. I told her that these ones were called pads and I tried to find some tampons so I could teach her that word. I really didn’t want to have to pantomime it, but she didn’t know what I was looking for. Finally I told her they were the things that go inside, which confused her because she said they all go inside. I shook my head . . . Finally I found them – about four packs of o.b. tampons hidden on a middle shelf. She said they don’t use them, but maybe she will try. I felt like the mother of a pre-teen.
We went to a small park nearby to sit and eat the ice cream that I had bought. There was too much for us, so I tried to give some away . . . apparently I scared the people I asked, though, until Jamie taught me how to explain what I was doing. I don’t know that I would take ice cream from me either, but it finally worked. We sat there and talked for a few hours I think. Mainly, she spoke English and I spoke Chinese, but I cheated some :-/ I don’t remember exactly how it came up, but I told her that I liked to play card and board games. This caused her to ask me if I had ever played a game called 杀人 (Killer). It sounded familiar, because she was describing the game Mafia! I told her that I knew it and then tried to explain what a mafia was – significantly harder than I thought it would be, by the way.
We talked about food (she has never eaten butter!), standardized tests (she took the GRE!), music (she likes Avril Lavigne), and our families (she’s one of SIX kids!). I told her about my family and tried to say that I’m going to be their tour guide (dao you) when they come to China, but actually said I was my brother’s wife (da sao). Oops. That’s definitely the most embarrassing thing I’ve said in Chinese – yet. (Although I did make the mistake – relatively common, I think – of telling Carlos I was pregnant instead of embarrassed when we were speaking Spanish earlier. Not doing too well today, I guess!)
I learned a lot of new words while we were talking, and so I am feeling pretty good about my prospects of learning Chinese this year. I do wonder, though, if I will get used to responding to English in Chinese as a result of these language partnerships . . . that would be funny!