Maria Holland

Party in the USA . . . Class in China

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2009 at 8:54 pm

What am I doing, on the penultimate day of the year, in class?  (It’s interesting to consider Chinese students in America on February 12th, asking themselves the exact same question.)  There’s a sense of entitlement knowing that everyone who was sane enough to stay in their home country is currently enjoying a hiatus from school – I feel like I have the right to slack off a little bit.  Unfortunately this sentiment is in direct opposition to the desire of my teachers to prepare me for upcoming finals, as well as the little angel on my shoulder who keeps reminding me that I wanted to study this language.

By the grace of God, I got up this morning and went to class – BOTH of them.  Seeing as I was one of 6 people (out of a 20+ member class), I feel like this is significant.  Unfortunately, it was also a significant waste of time.  While I had heard a lot about the rote-style of Chinese teaching, I’m just know experiencing it.  It turns Oral class into a tedious awkward endeavor – we’re given a grammar structure and a topic and several vocabulary words, and told to make a sentence.  Reduced to basically 0 degrees of freedom, everyone in the class basically repeats the sentence from the text.  Today my partner and I managed to change our dialogue a little bit – instead of encouraging him to keep records of his finances like the characters in the text did, I asked him how he was going to buy a house if he didn’t save money?  We used all the suggested vocabulary words, but the teacher came over and told us that we were doing it wrong, that I was supposed to tell him to keep records of his finances – exactly like the text.  Okay, if you want me to memorize a simple text word-for-word, I am perfectly capable of that; please just inform me of your wishes. 

I thought Grammar class would be better, but it was only moderately so.  The teacher began class by telling us that the new words in this chapter were 比较麻烦 (relatively hard) . . . awesome.

After lunch (where I introduced Aleid to the delicious fajita-like meat sandwiches at West Gate), I came back and resumed studying.  I currently have 21 more flashcards due which is probably deceptively few, seeing as they’re the ones I’ve already failed multiple times.  By the way, it is quite demoralizing to fail the word ‘fail’, which I did today – multiple times. 

There were a few rays of sunshine in my day, though.  The first was sent my way by some friends from back home.  The other day while catching up with a friend, she casually mentioned a song that she is obsessed with.  Thanks to the combination of Google and utter disregard for copyright laws, I was able to download it.  It was cool to walk around listening to the song later, because I felt a little bit more in touch with both that particular friend and with American culture right now. 

So, I had the great idea (if I may say so myself) to ask my other friends to do the same – send a music recommendation or two, along with an update if they could.  I’ve gotten several responses already, all of them 100% wonderful.  There was some good music (Party in the USA is especially perfect for walking around in China), updates from friends (who have finished a whole semester since I left), and news from campus (construction on the performing arts center by my apartment is coming along).  One friend even wrote up a list of what’s hot (Glee, sweater dresses, Twilight, study abroad) and what’s not (Fergie, Crocs). 

Another high point was dinner with Alice, including the sumptuous candied sweet potatoes, which are probably too good (and too sweet) to be legitimately justified as dinner.  We talked about New Year’s Eve plans (or rather our complete lack of any) and I’ve basically decided I want to go to Austria for New Year’s.  At midnight, all other music and partying stops and everyone dances a waltz to the Vienna Philharmonic.  Um, how cool is that?  I’ll probably end up at a karaoke bar or something . . .

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  1. I hope you know that your use of the word penultimate instantly made me think of Mr. Vogel… Who is, by the way, a sand blaster now (speaking of updates)

  2. I have pretty-much decided to bring in the new year Beijing time or London or maybe even NY. No late night for me! Hmmmmm…. maybe ALL THREE!! Then, REALLY no late night!

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