Maria Holland

#1 Seems Like a Good Place to Start

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I started the day with class at 8:00, which went fine. At 10, we had our second lecture class, which wasn’t so good. This is my first time taking a class that is taught entirely in Chinese, and it’s pretty hard. Not so much what we’re learning, but all the details pertaining to how class is run . . . I can handle the vocabulary and grammar that we’re learning, but I also have to learn the vocabulary and grammar necessary to learn vocabulary and grammar. Does that make sense? For example, I got a couple questions wrong in Listening Class the other day because I didn’t know the word for sentence so I didn’t know what they were asking. Today, I did the homework wrong because I thought she said we didn’t need to write the whole sentence, when she actually said we did need to write the whole sentence out. I feel stupid when the teacher asks “Why don’t we need a ‘le’ at the end of this sentence?” because I know why, but don’t know how to explain it in Chinese. Basically, I think the first few weeks are going to be a little bit harder as I get used to things here, but then it will come more naturally. Right now I just kind of break out in a nervous sweat every time I hear the teacher say something is “zhongyao” (important) because I worry about not catching it correctly . . .

I met a new classmate today – Karolina from Poland. She got the same [incorrect] information as I did about the beginning of the semester, and just arrived two days ago. We had a lot to commiserate about. After class, I went to her dorm to help her with her internet. She’s living with another Pole, Magda, and a Korean, Eunjeong. We went to lunch afterwards and I had another wonderful, eccentric dining experience. Eunjeong doesn’t speak English so we spoke almost entirely in Chinese, which is a second or third language for all of us. But, when we’re all around the same level and we’re patient with each other, it’s amazing how much we can get across. We talked about our studies, our home countries, the things we’ve done and seen in Xiamen so far, and how ridiculous it is that we college students all sound like 5-year-olds when trying to communicate in Chinese. Seriously, it’s kind of sad . . . I read somewhere that no language can make everyday talk sound so banal as Chinese. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I know that it brings my level of conversation down several decades. In my head, I think: “I’m not sure, but I think we take the bill up there and pay at the counter”. Out of my mouth comes: “Bring money there maybe”.

After lunch, I went back to my room for a little bit. I got to talk to Rachel, one of my oldest friends, on Skype, and then took a little nap. In the evening, I did a little shopping at the campus supermarket, including a wonderful new notebook find:

“I AM PRINCESS
I FEAR WHO
Girls always look on themselves as proud princesses, with the exception of either extremely ugly or exceedingly smart ones.”

I’ll begin taking orders now :)

I felt ready for another evening of adventure so I headed for the bus stop and got on a bus. I was looking for one I didn’t know, and figured that #1 was a good place to start. When we passed some interesting-looking shops, I got off to look around. I found a linen shop, a few plumbing supply stores (I always go in and point to the things I know to show off my vocabulary), a dentist with the patient’s chair prominently placed near the window, approximately 40 hair salons, and a few dress shops. One of them sold dresses made in Indonesia and I bought a beautiful blue-and-gold one (go TU!) for like $8.

I got on another bus and the woman next to me started up a conversation. She asked where I was from and then one thing led to another and she asked me to teach her daughter English. I said I would try, and as I gave her my phone number, another woman came over and copied it down. Again, one thing led to another (I say this because the details were a little hazy due to the fact that everything happened in Chinese) and I ended up going to the second woman’s house with both of them. There I was escorted into their bedroom (the only room with air-conditioning) where I talked with the two women and the man of the house. (He is a history professor at XiaDa and, more interestingly, graduated from Yanbian University in Changchun, the capital of Jilin province – where I’ve been before. All the northerners I’ve met are delighted/quizzical when I tell them that I’ve been up there three times.)

That family has a 10-year-old boy (who refused to speak to me, only repeating “不好意思!”- I’m embarrassed!) and the other family has a 14-year-old girl. They just want me to play with them and speak English, which sounds good to me. On Sunday, I’m going to their house again for lunch and we’re going to plan things to do. I’m not sure yet if I’m charging, or how much, but I’m excited about the opportunity. It will be good to see Xiamen with some Chinese people, but more importantly it connects me to some Chinese families. College friends are great, but families have houses and connections and jobs and traditions and things like that.

Anyway, it’s the 周末 (weekend) now so party on!

~ Maria

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  1. If anything it will be a good way for you to continue using English which after a few months of not using it you will fear you’ll always speak as a 5 year old in both languages! Do not worry though you’re English will come back to you eventually! Just make sure you don’t get engage to anyone ;)

  2. you amaze me !!

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