The good news: I woke up at 8:30 feeling perfectly well-rested.
The bad news: Class started at 8:00.
I took studied all morning before going to Friday Jiaozi Lunch. For some reason, as I walked across campus I was thinking especially hard about my friends back home and how ridiculously long it’s been since I’ve seen them and how long we still have before we see each other, but God apparently chose that moment to point out much He has blessed me wherever I am. I ran into four Chinese friends (plus a food delivery man that I know personally) on the way to lunch, one after the other, and afterwards happened to meet Aleid on my way back. That, plus the sky was blue!
Today I decided to finally buy a plane ticket up north to see my friends in Jilin. Repeatedly looking up flight schedules and prices on a number of different Chinese-language search engines is fun and all, but at some point it’s time to buy. I went to see my friends at the travel agency and left with a one-way ticket to Changchun City, Jilin Province on the night of May 20th! I leave Xiamen at 7:30, getting to Changchun shortly after midnight. From there it’s just a 12-hour train , 2-hour bus, and 20-minute taxi ride away from my destination!
I know my trip is over a month away, but just having the ticket is making me so excited. I called my friends up there right away, to tell them the dates and just to talk to them. It had been a long time since I had heard Timothy’s voice, but in one sense I’d never actually heard Xiao Zhang or Zai Bin’s voices, so that was even more crazy. Zai Bin is my oldest Chinese friend, and Xiao Zhang is the foreman from whom I learned all my beginner oral Chinese. Yes, we somehow had conversations, but it’s definitely different to talk to them when my language skills are at their current level.
And somewhere during the conversation, as I carefully tried to communicate to my friends that I would be coming to see them in just over a month and just couldn’t wait until I got there, I realized: This is why I’m studying Chinese. I mean, I enjoy lots of things that I can do with Chinese, and my goals have gotten broader since I started this whole journey, but this is how it all started: They were there, and I wanted to talk with them.
Because I really couldn’t contain my excitement, I took a look at some of the written materials I have from those first trips to China. The business cards that have “plumbing supply” or “metalwork” scrawled on them now say as much to me in Chinese. The ‘addresses’ on them confirm my earlier belief that the streets in Hunchun have no names, as they are more descriptions (like “next to the old department store”) than actual addresses. The magical piece of paper that Daryl gave us that enabled us to find the fireworks store reads: “near the round building next to the KeHai computer area”. And the real name of MacGyver, the amazing machinist who could cut a square with a lathe, is not Hunchun like the city, but rather Hongchun. It explains the confusion, even more than usual, that ensued every time we said his name . . .
[Side note: For all of you who weren’t on those first trips I made to China, get excited. You’re about to meet a whole cast of interesting characters, with names like MacGyver, Mob Boss, and Goose Lady. Get. Excited.]
This evening, we went to see a performance art piece. I know, right? It was held over at the Art College and was super classy, with wine and kumquats and everything. The piece began with the performers coming outside, nicely dressed with pink bunny ears (not kidding). One by one, they answered their cell phones and then began walking around among us, talking in their own languages (Chinese, Dutch, Slovenian, Danish, Spanish, French, and German).
As far as we could tell, the texts were randomly selected, including (among other things) a potato recipe. After quite a long time, they filed inside and, one by one, sang a song for us: there was Chinese opera, the Slovenian national anthem, a French drinking song, an traditional song from a region of Austria, a Dutch children’s song, and Las Mananitas.
I found it interesting, but I’m not sure how it was supposed to be interesting. For instance, I was interested to realize that, of the languages spoken, I had the best chance at understanding the Chinese. I was also interested to see my friends wear clothes that I had somehow never seen them in, these last 7+ months. And I was interested to know what the heck was up with the pink bunny ears. But I liked the music :)