Maria Holland

Spreadsheet Made; All Is Well

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 12:58 am

Today’s valuable lesson from class: If you eat shrimp and vitamin C, you will die.  It’s true, we saw it in a movie.  (But according to Snopes, it’s not true.  Who to believe?)

We also had a listening lesson in which we heard from Yang Zhenning, Chinese Nobel Prize-winner in Physics (and 87-year-old man who married a 28-year-old a few years ago, but that’s a story for another time).  He told us about how he learned English by reading books without looking up words in dictionaries, and letting the language slowly seep into his brain.  Convenient for him that he happened to be learning a phonetic language, no?  The teacher asked us what we thought of his method, and we were nearly unanimously against it.  I certainly don’t think you should look up every word you don’t know – I usually wait until I see the same character come up repeatedly – but the Chinese language demands use of a dictionary.  The meaning and pronunciation of Chinese characters are completely unrelated and the character components only occasionally have a vague phonetic indicator.  There is some use to knowing what characters mean even if you can’t say them out loud, but it’s quite limited.  And this is why all of us Chinese students have shelled out $100+ to buy electronic dictionaries with handwriting input . . .


I went to dinner with 5 friends tonight.  We went to the 东北 (NE China) restaurant and ordered mushu pork, lamb-‘n-onions, a fish, cucumbers and cashews, potato-eggplant-and-green-pepper, and sugared potatoes.  We must have been hungry, because we polished off every last bit of food.  I love how the table looks after a good Chinese meal is devoured: puddles of empty oil; plates of where only hot peppers – added for cooking, not eating – remain; fish skeletons picked clean. 


I sit back, hands on my pleasantly full belly, and think to myself, “We ate that food, man!” 


Ever since I began preparing for my first trip to the northeast of China, I’ve been following the news out of North Korea.  On one hand, it’s always good for a laugh (seriously, just check out the posturing on their official news site; the day something the U.S. just did isn’t being ‘blasted’ or ‘flayed’ will be a strange one indeed), but on the other hand it’s a continual source of heartbreak.  Today there was an article written about interviews with 8 North Koreans in China, and of course there’s no shortage of tragedy in their stories.  They tell of decades of famine, the loss of their life savings after the recent currency devaluation, and the stunning illogic of workers paying the state-owned companies for the privilege of not working for them without pay:

“How would the companies survive if they didn’t get money from the workers?” she asked without irony.

One interviewed was the wife of a party member; her story was different and included “a six-room house with two color televisions and a garden.”  I’m sad to say, there wasn’t much unexpected in the article for me except for the headline picture.  Usually these sort of stories take place in Dandong, in the province south of Jilin.  But these interviews took place in Tumen, a city I’ve been to.  I’ve stood on the bridge in the background of the photo at the fake buildings and real portrait of the Dear Leader.  I’ve stood on the lush green of the left side and I’ve looked across the river at the dead land on the other side.  It’s something you don’t ever forget. 


I’ve been a little bit 烦恼 recently, the kind of funk I get into every time I have to make a big decision.  Yes, it’s that time again (rather, a year or so past the time) – time to choose a school!  I have one more year at TU to finish my bachelors in Mechanical Engineering, but I’m planning on graduate school after that and senior year (a.k.a., a few months from now) is the time to be contacting specific professors and all.  I detest big decisions like this, a hatred I readily admit stems from fear.  But yesterday I got emails from two friends in response to my pleas for help, and that has helped me get started. 

I love these friends, classmates of mine at TU who think more like me than my friends here at XiaDa.  Aleid makes fun of my obsession with organization; both of these friends began their emails with “first, make a spreadsheet . . .” 

That’s what I’m talking about!  All major decision-making processes should start this way – no exceptions. 

Spreadsheet made; all is well. 

  1. It must be comforting to know there are “others” like you out there. It worries the rest of us, but must be comforting to you!

  2. that was funny Cissy!

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