Maria Holland

Why Bother?

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2009 at 12:31 am

My alarm didn’t go off this morning.  My roommate claims to have seen me shut off my alarm, but I question her testimony.  The alarm didn’t go off; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  I managed to get up in time for Listening class, though.  Seeking relief from the cold, some friends and I went to the malatang place that we love.  The logical step after that was, of course, to proceed to McDonald’s for ice cream.

Seriously, though, it’s cold here.  It’s about 55°C now but we got down to 46 at some point today.  It’s not bad at all when you’re walking around, but it makes class (which is the same temperature as outside) unpleasant.  When I got back to my room, I was cold so I added a few layers of clothing until my body temperature reentered the realm of the living.  I have these wonderful leggings that I bought here for $1.50 – think sweatpants + leggings! – and I put on a pair of those.  Then I added sweatpants on over that and, with my little heated gel pack on my lap, I can focus on studying.

After lunch I went to the travel agency and bought the plane tickets for my parents’ visit!  It’s kind of like a game of Ticket to Ride, where I’m making connections between certain cities and hoping the rest of the necessary connections fall into place when the time comes.  So far we have the Minnesota-to-Xiamen and Beijing-to-Minnesota routes (perhaps the most important), as well as Xiamen-to-Guangzhou and Wuhan-to-Chengdu.

On my way back to my room, I picked up a letter from home.  It was quite exciting, after I got over the fact that the letter was addressed to me in China (realizations like this happen every now and then).  There were some pictures from home, a letter from my dad, and a card that they were forwarding me from the Newman Center.  I cried; they were good tears, though.

With the exception of some short breaks, I’ve been studying all afternoon.  I feel like I haven’t complained about how hard Chinese is recently (probably because I haven’t been studying recently…) so maybe it’s about time for another whine.  I’ve been working my way through like 1,000 vocabulary reviews and am currently in one of those phases where I wonder why I’m studying this language.  I don’t mean that I want to give up – I literally mean I’m trying to figure out why I’m studying this language.  My Chinese is good enough right now to ‘get by’ (although I said that last summer, too), which means it’s very tempting to be lulled into complacency.  I’m a very well-qualified tourist but it seems like it will be forever before I’m passable in really any other capacity.  I really want to work towards a specific capacity (i.e., engineering) but I really don’t have the time to do that if I want to enjoy my time here at all.  My new class is the perfect level – not hard enough to really cramp my style, but it’s a little bit challenging and requires more of my time.

We just learned the word for “Why bother?” – 何苦 – and that kind of sums up my attitude right now.  For instance, I’ve been working so hard since I started my Chinese class this summer, reviewing vocabulary and practicing handwriting characters every night.  But there’s this nagging feeling that learning Chinese handwriting is worthless, that I’m wasting my time.  Typing is so much easier in so many ways.  Google’s Pinyin input method is so good that I never even look at the characters while I’m typing; they’re almost always right.  And, if I do want to cultivate my handwriting skills, how perfect do I want to be?  After discovering the difference between 末 and 未, I’m seeing more and more subtle differences like that.  见 and 贝 are in SO MANY characters and I have no idea which is which.  I also indiscriminately use 力 and 刀.  Close enough, right?  Do I want to go back and sort through these characters I’ve already pretty-much learned, or do I just call it good?

The thing is, even with finals coming up, I’m not really worried.  It’s not a matter of the grade; despite what some observers may think it almost never is with me.  I do want to learn Chinese, I’m just trying to figure out how much, and how.

One of the good things about my friends back in the States being on break is that I’ve gotten to talk with some people a little bit more.  I’ve been talking with Wang, a Chinese friend of mine studying at TU, almost every day.  His practically perfect English can beat my Chinese into the dust without any contest, but in other ways we sometimes go through the same things.  He reads this journal (你好!) and sometimes we talk about it – like last night’s discussion of the One Child Policy and the housing situation in China.  I always feel better after talking to him.  Sometimes it’s because I get to talk to someone who understands my frustrations with a ridiculous language.  Sometimes it’s because he talks me through getting asked to a movie by a Chinese guy on QQ (which also happened last night).  And sometimes it’s because I manage to come up with a coherent sentence in Chinese and he tells me that it was good (tonight):


(I think Chinese characters are too hard, why bother to continue study?)

Okay, enough studying for the day.  Bedtime!

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