Maria Holland

A Locked Door Is A Language Barrier

In Uncategorized on March 7, 2010 at 3:07 am

Today was the big day, the day I’d been waiting for since early last semester.  Yes, that’s right: today was the day I finally taught Carlos how to play Catan. 

We met two Chinese friends for lunch first, and then settled down to play.  It was the first time for Carlos and Dong Wei, so Yong Zhi and I taught them how to play.  In addition to using a mixture of spoken English and Chinese, we also made use of my new Catan 中文版 set to make sure that everyone understood the development cards. 

The game was good.  Carlos didn’t listen when I explicitly said that the numbers were important, so he built on an 11,11,12 and a 3,4,8.  Yong Zhi took Longest Road early on but didn’t pick up on my rather obvious plan to steal it from him until it was too late.  Dong Wei kept building roads aimlessly, even after we asked him where he was headed.  Needless to say, I won. 

We were playing in the architecture classroom building, which is actually the other half of the Overseas Education College classroom building.  Afterwards, Yong Zhi took us up to the roof where we had a great view of the ocean and the rest of campus.  (Well, we would have had a great view if the weather hadn’t been so . . . gray.  I plan to return another day with camera.)  It actually made me really mad because this classroom building is divided in half not only by two purposes, but the boundaries are established with locked, metal-barred doors.  The roof is inaccessible from our half, which is annoying because it would be a great way to spend the break between classes. 

But even more than this issue of convenience or pleasure, the physical barriers, like these locked doors, that XiaDa has constructed between its Chinese students and the foreigners who study here mirror the social barriers, both natural and imposed, that I see here every day.  It bothers me that the OEC claims this ideal Chinese-learning environment when I see so many ways that they actively impede meaningful contact with local students – which everyone agrees is the best way to learn a language.  We not only live in our own dorms, but out entire living and studying environment is separated from the rest of campus. 

Yet ironically, as I mentioned yesterday, when it comes to the times when we would perhaps prefer to have a little assistance in our dealings with China, the OEC is conspicuously absent.  Thus I find myself spending my mornings completely surrounded by laowai in our little Foreign Concession, then going over to the hospital for Chinese language practice with doctors and nurses, where it’s not just for fun but a matter of serious health issues.  They don’t give us opportunities to practice without pressure, and they don’t help us out when the pressure’s on. 

Come to think of it, the OEC is rather inept.  Perhaps it’s better than they are regulating my social life, and maybe it’s even better that they’re not a part of Lester’s hospital experience?  There have been enough ‘incidents’ as it is.  Today’s unexpected twist: we got the results from his blood sample, which was taken to be tested about 4 days ago.  The result?  He doesn’t have AIDS . . . which is great, except we were wondering about hepatitis.  Many phone calls were made trying to figure out what happened, but all we’ve learned is that it’s no one’s fault.  It just happened that way, I guess! 

After a quick hospital visit, I went to church.  Missals and hymnals have become more and more scarce each week, so I don’t think I’ve been able to follow along with the readings since I came back to Xiamen.  It makes it much harder to understand and much harder to stay awake :( 

As I was walking towards LunDu to catch a bus back to XiaDa, I followed a good smell and discovered an entire street of malatang and barbecue stands!  I had a nice meal there, after a stroll that revealed the street also specializes in porn. 


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