I woke up early this morning to return to the main island for Mass. Yes, we were already next door to a church, but weekday Masses are on Xiamen so I took the ferry back with Fr. Zhao. It was a hazy morning, which felt about right as mornings in Xiamen usually are hazy, but it felt strange to be seeing Xiamen’s skyline through the haze instead of the familiar green contours of Gulangyu, punctuated by European-style architecture.
After Mass I went looking for Sister to ask about paying for the room last night. She didn’t understand the question for quite some time – she couldn’t understand why I was asking her how much money she wanted. Apparently the question was really ridiculous, because once she understood she called the bishop over to tell him the joke. He invited me to join them for a breakfast of porridge – joking that it would cost 15 kuai. This is the Bishop Cai I know and love!
I’m beginning to like 稀饭 – porridge that basically looks like rice being slowly drowned in its own juices. Throw a couple peanuts in there, some tofu or veggies, and (if you’re unlucky) some pickled radish, and you’re good to go. I’m seriously becoming Chinese . . . I felt especially native today, as I got off the ferry from Gulangyu carrying one of the trademark small duffle bags containing Gulangyu 特产, some dried meat products that especially come from this island. The general rule for foreigners is that 特产 are nasty, but I’m going to visit Chinese friends in Jilin and, as it’s practically required that every Chinese visitor leave with bags full of this stuff, I figured they might enjoy some.
When I left after breakfast, I said goodbye to Fr. Zhao. He’ll probably be gone by the time I get back from Jilin, and I don’t know when or where I will see him next. I never really like goodbyes, but this one was particularly hard. In my culture, a goodbye like this calls for a hug, but between the discomfort that Chinese people generally display when I hug them, and the fact most American priests don’t even hug, I didn’t dare. So sad.
I made it back to campus in plenty of time to get to class. We started a new text in Grammar class, representing a new pinnacle of achievement as far as most boring 课文’s EVER go. I’m quite pleased to be missing the next four classes, in which the rest of the class will hopefully finish discussing the harmful effects of playing too many video games.
As class ended I heard that the HSK scores were out, so I ran back to my room to check. I put in my information and clicked 查询, expecting to see a big number in the range of 3-8, hopefully a 4 or 5, but whatever, no pressure . . . Instead, I see this:
A bunch of numbers, none within the range of 3-8, the possible scores on the beginner/intermediate test that I took. Hmm. So I dig out my HSK handbook and started paging through it, looking for something to help me interpret these numbers! I finally find it, but I must have looked wrong, because this couldn’t possibly be right.
Because there’s NO WAY I got a 7 on the HSK. 6 is the grade you need to go to college in Chinese, and 6 is the grade that I hoped for in my heart of hearts. 5 was my personal challenge and I would have been okay with a 4 I guess, but 6 was as high as I dared to even consider.
Yes, 321 points is in the 7 range, but they must be talking about a different number. Yes, 中等B级 is a 7 but that’s impossible, so I look again. This stupid booklet is entirely in Chinese – if I had gotten a 7 on the HSK (which I couldn’t have!), I should be able to figure it out. As Sheldon would say, “Catch 22, thou art a heartless bitch.” I call XuLei and beg her to come up and check this; she reads all the scoring rules and details and confirms it – I got a SEVEN on the HSK! I got a 6 on Listening, 8’s on Reading and Grammar, and a 7 on the Comprehensive section, which adds up to a 7.
Sweet. Ridiculous, but freakin’ sweet.
While this is probably more attributable to my test-taking superpower than to any mastery of the Chinese language, I choose to interpret this score as complete vindication. I am assuaged of any guilt over my impromptu trip to Guangzhou and Hong Kong the week before the HSK, and get to totally preempt any guilt over my impending 10-day trip to Jilin and the quick visit I’m planning to Hangzhou/Suzhou during the final week of classes. Dance classes, eating my weight in eggplant each week, going to every single event offered by my church, and personally getting to know every employee of Coco – this is all part of my master plan to learn Chinese, a master plan that only includes attending class when no better language-learning opportunity presents itself. Apparently it’s working!
I’m still busy today trying to get things done before leaving for Jilin tomorrow. Pretty much the only thing I have time for, besides getting ready, is getting excited. Really, really excited.