In class yesterday, we had a couple classic cases of tone-induced misunderstandings. We started with a 听写 (listen-write) test, which is kind of like the Chinese version of a spelling test. One of the words was ‘shǔ jià’, but I didn’t remember learning “bookshelf” in this lesson. Well, it turned out that we hadn’t, but we had learned “summer vacation”, or “shū jià”.
Later on in class, one student attempted to say he was afraid of ghosts (guǐzi), but ended up saying he was afraid of closets (guìzi).
Two of my classmates had bought new dictionaries with me, so we spent the breaks between classes sharing the things that we had discovered. It’s pretty cool! I can write characters on the screen with a stylus or find them by typing pinyin with the keyboard. Although some things are a little bit more 麻烦 (annoying) than I would like, it also has tons of features that I don’t need. MP3, MP4, and Flash capabilities; lots of English-study tools (with questionable grammar, of course); phone book, diary, schedule, calendar, timer, financial records, and everything I could need to keep my life on track; and Paint! There are a few extra things that I may actually use, namely an e-book program and a dictionary of GRE words.
Yesterday evening I met a Chinese friend for dinner. Her name is Hu Jing and she is the engineering student that I found a few weeks ago. We went out to dinner at Sichuan restaurant and then walked around the West Gate area, talking the whole time in Chinese. It was really good practice and a good time. We didn’t really talk about engineering, mainly just getting to know each other, but afterwards we went to the bookstore to look for some textbooks and such. I bought a dictionary of electrical engineering terms (factor of safety = 安全系数), but more importantly, Hu Jing showed me to the English section of the bookstore! It not only exists, but is enormous – I will be returning soon.
In addition to the English book section, I made two exciting discoveries last night. First, I found the retailer of my favorite purse, which sports the following words:
I plan to return for it later :) The other item – a cross-stitch kit – I bought immediately. Nestled in among the kits to make ornaments featuring such things as cute animals, there was one with a golden, heaping swirl. I asked Hu Jing what it was, and after an embarrassed silence, she asked me what I thought it was. For the second time in my short stay here in China, the word 大便 (poop) came in handy. I guessed (correctly) and, of course, bought it.
This was especially funny the day after my first poop-related discussion on this trip to China. On previous trips to China I was working with manure every day and, more importantly, sharing two bathrooms with 14 other people, so discussions of bowel-movements and related topics were pretty commonplace. Karolina and my other Polish friends seemed to think that it was a little weird, though, when I attempted to discuss the differences in ‘consistency’ (if you know what I mean) resulting from the Asian diet. Things are just a little bit more urgent here . . . I’ll leave it at that.
Leinira and I came back to the dorm at the same time, so we had to file through the temperature check. When this happens, I feel like a product at the grocery store being rung up. Living in China is sometimes a dehumanizing experience.
My internet experienced a total shutdown last night, which is why I didn’t update. The good news is that this deprivation helped me finished my vocabulary reviews after about 4 hours of going through flashcards.
Today I was feeling a little under the weather, so I hung around my dorm room for most of the day. I went to Chinese Mass this evening, and am definitely noticing an improvement in my comprehension each week. I followed the entire Gospel – reading along in my Bible, but understanding what the Deacon was reading in Chinese. Even more excitingly, I understood the announcements after Mass! The Deacon instructed people on the proper way to receive Communion (with both hands, responding “Amen”) and talked about an upcoming pilgrimage to Beijing.
The first few times I went to Chinese Mass, the people around me seemed either ignorant of or indifferent to my struggles, but the last two weeks I have sat by some very helpful people. They find the correct pages in the song books, follow along in the missal with their finger, etc., which I really appreciate.
On the way home, I stopped by the supermarket for a few things. I bought a couple things to try, including Sprite Ice. Sprite ice “has a hint of mint, which Coca-Cola says gives it “maximum refreshment.”” My opinion? The “hint” of mint is more of an unpleasant aftertaste. If it’s not available in your area, just brush your teeth and follow it immediately with Sprite.
I did a Skype ‘interview’ with Steve Nelson (my old campus minister from TU) for his podcast, and then got to end the day with a less pleasant phone call. I had to call my bank to change my mailing address, which meant I had to spell out my address (Xiamen Daxue Nan Guang Wu 406, Xiamen, Fujian, China 361005) at least three times. Probably wasn’t that fun for the guys on the other side, either . . .