Maria Holland

Dat View

In Uncategorized on June 30, 2015 at 10:17 am

The sky was blue today!!!!!

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I feel like I’m a plant, with my physical and emotional well-being completely dependent on the sky.  I was full of energy and couldn’t stop smiling all day.  The people of Beijing are not plants.  They seem to go about their lives without giving the air or weather quality a second thought.  They don’t wear face masks when it’s polluted, and they don’t linger outdoors when it’s nice.  My whole day is different when the AQI is 300 and when it’s 30, from my clothes to my mood. 

 As we got our bikes to go to dinner, I asked if we could get food and eat outside.  At first they were confused by my words; I had said 外面, which means outside but I realized in this context meant off campus.  When I changed to 户外 (outdoors), though, it didn’t seem to get any clearer.  I guess the Chinese are not a big picnic culture . . . takeout is a staple of life here, and I almost tried again with that, but just gave up.  We ate inside.

A similar instance of understanding the words, but not the concept, happened during dinner.  One of the guys asked where I was going back to, and I felt stupid as I kept asking what he was saying.  They all thought I had forgotten these basic words – “where”, “you”, “go”, “return” – but I just didn’t know what he meant.  I’m going back to the hotel tonight and eventually I’m returning to America, but you know all this so why are you asking??  Turns out he wanted to know if I was going back to the office with them after dinner.  Oh . . . then yes.  

As we ate, I mentioned that I had spent Chinese New Year at the home of a friend from church, so one of the guys asked if I am religious.  This led into a discussion of what it means to be “have religious faith”.  He asked if he prays to Buddha before a test, is that religion?  I said, no, that’s superstition.  Huge thank you to Anki, my awesome flashcard program, which had shown me the “superstition” flashcard literally 20 minutes before.

After dinner, we ran into a friend of one of the guys and he introduced me.  I said 你好 and then, as if on cue, his face changed to one of incredulity and he exclaimed that I speak Chinese so well!  I laughed, and said that it always feels funny when people make such comments after hearing me say literally one simple two-syllable phrase.  He defended it, actually, and has somewhat of a point – most foreigners pronounce each syllable like a word, he said (“Ni. Hao.”) or with no tones (“nihao”) but I spoke smoothly and properly (“níhǎo”).  Maybe 你好 is actually a pretty good Chinese shibboleth?


I stayed so late at work that I saw the sun setting out the office window. Cheng saw me staring and asked if I wanted to take pictures. Yes, but the office window is too dirty, I said. She suggested I go upstairs to the top of the building. Um, yes please! She told me how to go up, and I discovered my new favorite place. Our building is 11 stories tall, definitely one of the tallest buildings on campus. What a gorgeous view of the city we have!!


There’s a nice open area up there, too, that seems to just be begging to host a happy hour . . . 

I caught the sunset over the mountains and stayed there until it was all the way behind them, just breathing and smiling.  

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Today I learned: 

I’ve been pronouncing “who” wrong ALL THIS TIME?!?  It’s one of the question words and probably in the first 100 characters I learned.  APPARENTLY INCORRECTLY??  At Mass this weekend, I noticed the priest pronounced 谁 oddly, as “shuí” instead of “sheí”.  I thought it was an archaic pronunciation, or like the way we pronounce 了 as “liao” instead of “le” when we sing.  Or maybe he has an accent?  He has a few verbal quirks, like saying 好 in between pretty much every clause, so I didn’t think too much of it.  But today, when one of my labmates did it, I asked him about it.  Is it an accent, or a regional thing, or some dialect?  No, it’s pretty standard, he said, even the news announcers use it.  I didn’t believe him, but when I got home and looked it up on Pleco, my favorite Chinese app, it lists

shuí: 1. who 2. (used in rhetorical questions) who 3. someone, anyone 4. (used before 都 or 也) everyone, anyone.
sheí: a variant pronunciation for 谁 shuí.


  1. Darn, I couldn’t see the pictures. Hey, do you dream in Chinese?

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