I wore my ‘ne-used’ pants today – the ones that I got taken in by the tailor for $3. Before: American Eagle khakis purchased at Goodwill for $8, hems worn ragged in the intervening years.
After: straight-leg trousers with clean hems.
Quite pleased. I had lunch with some friends at a restaurant I hadn’t been to in a long time. The food was good, but the conversation was better. It started out by XuLei saying that Alaska and Las Vegas are the top dream wedding destinations in America for Chinese people?!? This led to XuLei making a plan to go to Las Vegas to get hitched to a stranger when she’s 30 (if she’s not married by then). It was good to see her blush after she made fun of me for the same at the gynecologist.
I had an afternoon midterm– Listening – but it was over quickly and mainly without stress. Then I took my books over to LunDu, where I sat by the water and enjoyed the view of the sun setting over Gulangyu as I read over class texts in preparations for tomorrow’s midterm. It was a great idea – beautiful environment, and I even randomly ran into Yerkin over there!
I came back to campus for dance class, where I continued learning to shake what my mother gave me but never taught me how to shake. Haha, just kidding. Kind of. After class officially ended, a few people hung around to work on their routines for the upcoming dance competition. I know, my life basically follows the script of every dance movie ever made. Girl joins dance class without any clue, meets amazing male dancer; one day a competition is announced and because of [insert special circumstance here], they enter together; as they learn to dance together, they teach each other about their different worlds and they learn about themselves; they win dance competition and fall in love. Only I wasn’t there the day they announced the competition and Lester asked LiXiang first. He actually did tell me that he was going to ask me if she said no, but today I saw them dance and was flattered that he even considered me a viable backup. Thing is, I’m not dancing-movie lead-actress material – I guess I’m the extra in this movie?
Before class I had a conversation with another student. He’s a law graduate student, and asked me about criminal rights in America. When I say “conversation” here, I mean that in the absolute loosest sense of the word. This is the second time I have realized my absolute lack of all Chinese vocabulary relating to the law besides the word “law”. It’s hard to even work around this knowledge gap, because how can you describe a criminal if you don’t know the words for “crime”, “prison”, “trial”, or “arrested”? I ended up using more theological language, referring to “sinners” and “really big sins”. I remember someone writing in a blog post that fluency is best measured by how you handle ‘curveballs’ in the language – topics that you are unfamiliar with and unprepared for. Thus, while the average Chinese person may be impressed that I know the words to the Mass or names of different dances, my facade breaks down when it comes to things like the law.
This evening, LiuQin added me on QQ. In case you don’t remember, LiuQin is the woman from church who drives me crazy – the one who addresses me by saying “hello, foreigner”, who gets exasperated when I don’t understand new words like “bishop” and “invade”, and who speaks insultingly slow when telling me the simplest things. She is the language barrier, personified. Yet, she seems to like me (enough to invest the time in mocking me?) and I’m duty-bound to forgive her teasing 70 x 7 times.
Anyways, I’m kind of glad to interact with her online, where I have recourse to a dictionary and where our conversation is recorded verbatim. Here’s a translation:
LiuQin: Do you know who I am, Foreigner?
Maria: Of course I know!
LiuQin: Have you decided whether or not to volunteer on May 8th [the ordination of our new bishop]?
Maria: Yes I am going to, but I still don’t know what I will be doing.
LiuQin: I really think you shouldn’t volunteer, you might not be able to get into the church. I heard there are four sections – A is in the church, but B, C, and D will be watching on TV!
Are you listening, Foreigner? Do you understand what I mean?
Maria: Yeah, I understand.
And so the conversation continued for a few more lines, although at least she didn’t call me Foreigner anymore. I guess I’ll be seeing her on the 8th, which is much more of an incentive to work on my Mandarin than my midterm tomorrow . . .