Maria Holland

Back to the Daily Grind

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Today was back to the daily grind.  I started with class at 8 a.m.  It was good to see my classmates and teacher, but we also had a pretty large number of new students.  This is weird, as we are a month and a half into the semester.  Most of the new students seem nice, but there’s one Russian girl who insists on speaking English.  It’s annoying and quite jarring during class, which is otherwise all Chinese.

The most interesting part of class is when the time comes to share how you did on the homework exercise we just corrected.  The teacher will ask someone how many they got right and then ask if anyone did better than that.  What a way to build up confidence!

I had lunch with my Dutch friends in the third floor of the other cafeteria.  It’s the ‘Muslim’ floor – decorated as such, and they don’t serve pork.  It’s by far the classiest one, even more so than the other place I eat all the time, with wooden tables and chairs, bright white walls, and even some paintings.  More importantly, the food is good and varied and, with the Muslim/halal association, I trust it more than anything else I eat here in China.

Other things from today:

I got a text message from the Deacon saying that he doesn’t have any free time right now to study English with me.  This means no more education in Catholic Chinese, which I’m pretty bummed about.

I had my temperature checked when I entered the dorm.  They use one of those radar things pointed at your forehead, which I find scary in a Big Brother-ish way for some reason.  I wonder if this is to become a regular thing.

I went to China Mobile to check on my phone account. This is always fun, navigating the all-Chinese kiosks and employees while dealing with something that I don’t always understand in English. I finally got an account statement from September, though – success! It turns out that I pay 13 kuai ($2) a month so that I can see who’s calling and for my basic account, which includes 50 free text messages. Above these charges, I paid another 13 yuan ($2) for phone calls and 8 yuan ($1+) for text messages. This means I spend just over 1 yuan a day, compared to over $1 a day in America (and I don’t text there).

Texting is an interesting thing. Before coming to China, I had sent probably 50 text messages in my life, most of those in the first month of freshman year when I was living with a texting freak. I have no interest in learning to the special typing skills, think that most conversations can be completed more efficiently with a phone call or email, and, even more importantly, am intensely bothered by the culture of texting in America, where it is permissible to text someone while conversing with someone else.

But in China . . . I text. First of all, phone calls with Chinese people are pretty hard to understand. This goes whether we’re using English or Chinese, incidentally. Texting allows either party the luxury of consulting a dictionary on their own time before responding. It also eliminates the problem of accents.

Secondly, as I have a Chinese phone, texting in Chinese is super easy. You type in pinyin and a list of characters appears, in order of frequency. You can do short phrases or even choose words that the phone predicts (which are surprisingly often right-on). In English, on the other hand, you have to spell every word out by pressing each key multiple times. It’s so easy to text in Chinese that most of us foreigners use it even when talking to each other.

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do when I return to the US, as most of the factors I cited for not texting will probably still exist – and my phone won’t be able to handle Chinese characters Of course, it’s also about 10 times as expensive in the US – in fact, I just learned that I can send a text message to the US for as much as it costs to send a text message to the US from the US. Crazy!

It’s been a slow day.  I’m still settling back in from the trip – next step is the 1,300 vocabulary reviews that I have due on Anki :(  I’m also rehearsing a script in my head for tomorrow, when I go to get my e-card.  I have a feeling that this will be the day.  Between threatening a sit-in and promising to tell all American college students that the Chinese government is a liar, I’m feeling rather persuasive.  Wish me luck!


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