Maria Holland

A Few of My Favorite Things

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

I had lunch with Lester and XuLei today – it was so good to see them.  A week feels like forever; how great will it be to see people back home after 11 months?!?  I was relieved to see that I could still converse normally in Mandarin even after my weekend all-English-all-the-time vacation in Hong Kong.  XuLei thought it hilarious that I’d missed Mandarin while I was gone, but I’d like to see her try to get by in Hong Kong!

We had class this afternoon, which I was only happy about because I got to see Katrine.  She had been traveling with her parents before I left, so it had been even longer since I’d seen her.  In Listening class, we had one exercise in which 8 out of the 10 answers were C.  Apparently this level of predictability is not unusual in Chinese tests; the teacher even went so far as to tell us never to guess A, because it’s always the most rare answer.  That’s weird, right?

I figured out today that the HKS is actually this Sunday, not this Saturday as I had been thinking.  I’m quite annoyed by this.  The benefit of an extra day of studying is far outweighed by the loss of my planned weekend of post-HSK fun.  I was just thinking about the long line of amazing weekends I’ve had (my birthday, Easter, and Hong Kong) and was looking forward to karaoke and dancing after finishing this test, but Sunday night partying prospects are rather dismal.  Argh. 

I spent the afternoon studying for the test until I finally surrendered to the allure of my bed.  The night bus back from HK kind of messed up the already-pathetic sleep schedule I had, so this was the second day in a row I took a desperate power nap in the early evening.  I have to schedule them right before concrete dinner plans or there’s no way I’ll get up – the promise of food and the shame of standing someone up are the only things powerful enough to rouse me. 

Carlos and I ate in Furong, my second meal of the day in the cafeteria.  I had noodles with chicken bones (basically) and my second bowl of 汤圆 today.  汤圆 are the latest in the long list of foods I’ve become obsessed with here in China.  They’re gelatinous rice balls filled with sweet sesame paste, served in a ‘soup’ of hot water.  No, seriously, they’re delicious. 


As a way to encourage myself about the upcoming HSK and remind myself why I like studying Chinese (because I do . . . right?!?), I’m going to share a list I’ve been working on: my favorite Chinese characters. 

Some are just fun to write, like 之, 弟, 也, 无, 我, and 风.  (Proper stroke order probably plays a part, but go ahead and try!) 

Some look cool because of really awesome symmetry: 亚, 兼, 出, 事, 常, 普, and 互 (which means ‘mutual’, making the symmetry even cooler). 

Others look cool but I don’t know why: 永, 危, 尔, 世, and 吧 (doesn’t it look like it’s smiling at you?!?). 

There are a bunch that look (to me, at least) just like they mean:

  • 门 (door)
  • 凸 (convex)
  • 凹 (concave)
  • 大 (big)
  • 小 (little)
  • 杀 (to kill – a body with an X where the head should be)
  • 酒 (alcohol, with the water radical on the left and what looks like a bottle on the right)
  • 明 (bright, because 日=sun and 月=moon)
  • 岛 (island – made up of a bird [鸟] sitting on a mountain [山])

Lastly, there are the really special ones – the ones I should hate, but don’t.  They’re ridiculous, too complicated, and have more strokes than most English words have letters (respectively 13, 15, and 18).  But I like them anyway.  I like how they look, I like their meaning, and they’re even somehow fun to write:

微, part of the words “smile” and “calculus”.  What’s not to like?

德, meaning ‘virtue’.  Also featured in the name of Germany (land of the virtuous, apparently) and many transliterations (including Metro and KFC)

翻, meaning ‘to turn’.  Waaaaaaaaaay fun to write.  I think it’s the stuff on the right, because I feel nearly as strongly about 扇.


The studying will continue tomorrow.  If my mood sours, you’ll be looking at a list of my least favorite characters, accompanied by hateful descriptions of exactly why they offend me so. 

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