As of yesterday, I’ve been in Xiamen for half a year. I’ve seen half a year’s worth of weather, been around for half a year’s worth of holidays, festivals, and events, and witnessed half of the liturgical year in church.
It’s a big milestone!
The last week or so has felt like a turning point in my time here. For one thing, I’m feeling even more at home than usual. With so many of my good friends still gone on vacation, I found myself really missing them. I wasn’t sad when missing them, though; in fact it was really nice to realize that I have friendships good enough to miss. It was great to welcome them back, share memories of our last semester together and begin making plans for this semester.
As my friends have returned, though, they’ve been joined by a whole new flock of new students. Age and experience are all relative, and thus I have become an oldster around XiaDa. I’ve been through registration and the residence permit process, I’ve taken classes for a whole semester, I know where the cafeterias are and which ones are good, etc.
Kids these days . . . They have no idea how hard we had it, back when I came to XiaDa. We had to wait two months in the sweltering heat for our E-cards!
But, as my stay in China is slightly shorter than a full year, the 6-month anniversary means that I’m actually past the halfway mark of my time here. All of a sudden, I feel like I’m at the top of a hill on a bike with no brakes, because I think the rest of my time here will pass quickly.
I made up a calendar so I could keep track of important dates and vacations this semester, and it is really helping me to put things in perspective. I have the starting date of classes at XiaDa this spring (March 1st) and the starting date of classes at TU in the fall (Aug 23rd) all on one piece of paper. It’s not that far off; in fact, in another 6 months I will be finishing up my first week of classes back at TU.
So while I’m feeling comfortable with my life here, I’m looking forward more and more to getting back. There’s definitely excitement and longing, but by ‘looking forward’ I more mean that it’s just on my mind a lot. It’s kind of hard to wrap my mind around! I’ve been studying Chinese 24/7 since the beginning of last June and probably haven’t touched a calculator since then, so sometimes it’s weird to imagine myself in engineering classes again.
I’m getting hungry for it, though – numbers, equations, and logic instead of this crazy language with its ridiculous characters and stupid 了 particle. I know I sound fabulously geeky saying this, but I can picture the binders of notes in my room and I plan to read through them like novels when I get home.
[Since these things are so much easier when dealing with round numbers, I’m going to share an update about my finances. I know most of you probably aren’t interested in all this, but I put it up here in case a future XiaDa student finds this and is looking for an idea of costs. I’m on scholarship here but it obviously doesn’t cover everything I spend money on. I got a 2,000 kuai (almost $300) settlement when I arrived, to cover textbooks and the basic necessities of moving in and all. Then, every month I get 1,700 RMB ($250) to cover food and other daily expenditures. So far I’ve received $1,800 in stipend money, which has basically been enough to cover my food ($1,150), local transportation ($100), cell phone and internet ($130), personal products like shampoo and things for our room like the fridge ($250), all my textbooks for three levels of Chinese ($65) and the documentation that I had to get at the beginning of the year ($130). My other costs, like clothes, souvenirs, recreation, and travel, have been out-of-pocket. Basically, over the last six months I’m out about two thousand dollars, including $850 for travel, $250 on souvenirs and gifts, $60 for my internet proxy, and $200 on a new camera and hard drive.]