We haven’t had internet in the hotel for several days now; the person who borrowed the router apparently has not seen fit to return it. So, had to do my interneting this morning.
The day was fairly nondescript; I worked and made some progress, but never enough :) I listened to country music while I worked, and between that and showing my labmates pictures of my dogs at home, I missed the US . . .
At dinner, I sat across from the undergrad, which is trying for both of us. He is like the voice in my ear that keeps me from getting too proud by constantly whispering “your Chinese isn’t that good”. It’s a blessing and a curse, you know, having understanding friends in a foreign language. I experienced it first among the construction workers I worked with on the farm; for years afterwards I would realize things that I had learned wrong. Friends just let you get away with too much stuff – that’s why we have teachers.
This undergrad keeps me honest, though. Let’s not beat around the bush here – my tones are pretty terrible. Today, I found out that 赵, the last name of both my priest in Xiamen and one of my closest friends here, is fourth tone instead of second tone. If this undergrad were my only friend here, I would have much less fun but my tones would be perfect by now.
We also had an extremely painful convesation about how to make 小笼包, or soup dumplings. At one point, GuoYang offered to translate – from Chinese to Chinese. Sigh.
After dinner, I decided it was time to give them their gifts. I couldn’t wait any longer, haha. In addition to notes hand-written in my childish Chinese characters, I gave Zhao Yan, the only guy who really drinks, a bottle of American Honey (honey whiskey); GuoYang got a copy of River of Doubt, a book I recommended to him because he said he was interested in history and culture; and for Cheng, who is going to MIT this fall, I’m buying her first meal (20 dollars, cash) and I gave her a bunch of music I thought she would like.
So now, I’ve introduced my labmates to xkcd, PHD comics, phrases like “you had one job”, Catan, country music, and honey whiskey. They’ve really gotten the full Maria experience – I think I could only share more of my favorite things with them if we could go to Saddlerack and I could bake them something with pumpkin in it.