I stayed at the hospital with Lester yesterday until late afternoon, when I went home to shower. (By the way, you know how a lot of people dislike the disinfectant smell of hospitals in America? It’s really not a problem in China.) Once I felt decent again, I met up with some friends to go out for the evening. Yesterday was the 15th day since the Lunar New Year, and the last day of the holiday season. Rumor has it the moon was full and exceptionally large, but it was smoggy in China so I couldn’t say.
Anyway, it was supposed to be exceptionally 热闹 (a Chinese word that means crowded, but in a positive way) down at BaiLuZhou Park, so headed that way. We ended up having to walk quite a bit as some streets had been turned into ped malls, but that just gave us the opportunity to experience the 热闹-ness of the night even more. I’m glad that we went out, because 热闹 is a really important (or at least talked-about) part of the Chinese New Year, but I hadn’t experienced it yet.
There were tons of people; it reminded the Dutch of Queen’s Day, and me of last Fourth of July on the river in Minneapolis. One thing I really like about China is the lack of strollers. Granted, if I were a mother I may feel differently, but I like the fact that babies are held at eye level around here. I get to see a lot more of them and they make me smile. This one looked so cute and Chinese (because of her clothing, not just her face) that I just had to take a picture.
The park was really nice; I’d already been, but last night the weather was much better for enjoying an outdoor light show.
I didn’t linger too long at the park because I had to get back to the hospital, where I had told Lester I would stay with him again.
I slept much better the second night because a) I was better prepared with a pillow and sleep sack, and b) Lester finished his IVs before midnight, so I didn’t have to keep watch. Basically, I read a little and then passed out hardcore.
I still woke up at 7, though, because I had to get back to my room and change before my 8 a.m. class – the first of the new semester. A lot of my classmates are the same but we also have some students from the other 二年上 class, including my Thai buddy Pun! Our teacher seems nice and enthusiastic and, more importantly, writes and speaks clearly.
After introductions, we looked at the first lesson. If this is any foreshadowing, this semester is going to be boring. The level seems about right – most of the 生词 are actually words I haven’t studied before – but the subject matter is just mind-numbing. Over dinner last night, those of us who have been studying Chinese were speaking eloquently about the joys of beginner Chinese to the Sietze and Koen (who know nothing). When you’re first learning, the words are so important, so useful, so immensely practical. For instance, numbers!
After you’ve learned the everyday words, though, you move on to learning the name of every temple in Beijing, and this is where they lose me. See, I don’t want to learn the first character of 颐和园 just because it’s in the name of the Summer Palace; I thought that going there might change that, but it hasn’t. (I think that, in many ways, this is true of learning any language. It’s just that learning a new character in Chinese is much harder than learning a new word in any phonetic alphabet; I don’t mind knowing that YiHe Yuan means Summer Palace and Summer Palace is pronounced “YiHe Yuan”, but I hate being expected to see 颐 and know it’s pronounced as “yi”.)
It’s not that I eschew all advanced knowledge of Chinese vocabulary, I just wish we had a voice in the matter. The other night at the hospital, I was pestering a math-major friend of Lester’s, learning how to say calculus (微积分), differential equations (微分方程), and differential equations (偏微分方程). Now, those are useful words!
In addition to being the start of my second, and last, semester here at XiaDa, today is also my 200th blog post. I’ve written a hundred times since Thanksgiving, basically covering the international holiday season from the build-up to Christmas to the Lantern Festival: three months of holidays, trips, vacation, and parties. I went to Shanghai, YongDing, Wuyishan, ZhaoAn, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Chengdu, LeShan, Emeishan, Xi’An, and Beijing. I celebrated Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Year’s, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, an ordination, 2 First Masses, and a few birthdays. It’s been good.
It’s not the only event of note today, though. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games have closed. I’m kind of sad about these games, because the only part I got to watch was the Parade of Nations, and that in Chinese. All my Olympic memories are based on articles I read, which is no way to experience the games. I’ll probably remember these games with sadness, because on paper the glamour and excitement of the Olympics could never overcame the heartbreak of the death of an athlete.
Also, on a much happier note, one of my good friends (and former roommates) back home got engaged! I’m really excited for her and her fiancé (who also happens to be my bestie). Even better, the wedding isn’t until next winter so I won’t miss it :) I get asked a lot by Chinese people, what the typical marrying age of Americans is. I think it’s a very hard question, but there are definitely subgroups of Americans who tend to get married in clumps. Graduates of TU are one such subgroup, which was definitely something I thought about when coming over here for the year. I won’t be back until the end of July, so I wouldn’t be able to make post-graduation weddings in May and June. Luckily, although I am already wishing wedded bliss for some of my best friends back home, I’ll be around to witness their happy days!