Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese Corner’

Hi, I’m Wang Peng!

In Uncategorized on March 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm

This afternoon I went shopping in the streets between McDonald’s and Pizza Hut.  I bought a pair of shoes that just barely fits, and some super cute keychains as gifts.  I also found a new milk tea place that uses real tea and real milk – giving me confidence that I can replicate this delicious drink when I get home.

I went over to the hospital to see Lester but found him gone.  They finish his IV earlier each day, after which he is free to walk around.  Since hospitals here have zero security, he’s been taking advantage of his freedom to shop and hang out in the West Gate area.  I met him over there to give him his daily Oreo and it was weird to see him in a different environment.  We had an impromptu picnic in front of KFC and wow I just realized how the biggest landmarks around my college are all fast food restaurants.

Aleid and I had made plans to go to dinner, but then I invited Jelle who invited Diederik who invited the French and Yerkin and we ended up going to dinner with 9 people.  We went to a new seafood restaurant, which I’m generally against on principle because their selection is usually so limited.  They didn’t have any eggplant dishes, but we ended up having a really great meal.  Their fried-egg-and-tomato was so good that we ordered another, the mushrooms were possibly the best I’ve ever had, and I even liked all the seafood dishes – shrimp, fried fish, and grilled squid.  Since I’ve now had delicious squid, I think there is only one food left on the earth that I have not ever liked, no matter how they’re prepared: peas.  I can now truthfully say that I would rather eat worms! 

Jelle and I went to Chinese Corner afterwards and had a good time speakin’ Chinese.  I think I’m going to go more regularly this semester. 

More importantly than speaking Chinese (which I do every day), I realized a life-long goal of mine at Chinese Corner tonight!  That’s right, I met someone named Wang Peng!  Jelle’s English and Chinese names are both proving too hard for people, so he made an impromptu decision to go by 王朋, or Wang Peng!  This is the name of one of the main characters in the Integrated Chinese Level 1 book – and also apparently a fairly common Chinese name.  Before coming to China, I put “Meet someone named Wang Peng” on my bucket list, and I can now successfully cross it off.  I hope it sticks . . .

Huh, I really thought I had a lot more to write about from today.

Buy One, Get One – Tempting in Any Language

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2009 at 11:25 pm

I barely stayed awake through class today, but the day got better from there.  I had lunch with friends, and realized how much I’m going to miss Chinese food when I go home.  It’s not just cheap, it’s delicious.  西红柿炒蛋 (fried egg and tomato), 地三鲜 (eggplant, tomato, and peppers) – how I love you.

Afterwards, I walked around with a friend getting some errands done.  Then, as was walking home listening to a Chinese song on my iPod, I had one of those moments where I really realize for a second that I live in China.  Sometimes this realization causes surprise, but today it just brought a smile to my face. 

It might have been the weather – almost 20°C – which caused me to shed several layers between West Gate and home. 

It might have been the quickly approaching weekend and the plans that we have. 

Or, you know, it might have been the shot of brandy warming me from within.  See, my milk tea place was having a 买一送一 (buy one, get one) promotion on their new drink, brandy hot chocolate, and my friend and I decided to try it.  We paid attention while they made it and clearly saw them pour about a shot worth of brandy into the cup.  It was really delicious – much better than brandy milk tea, definitely.

This evening I ended up eating with an American friend of mine.  It turned out that he was the infamous tattle-tale, so of course we discussed the cheating controversy.  I’m still quite surprised by this very significant (at least in my mind) difference between Americans and . . . everyone else?  I especially wonder about the line between cheating on tests and plagiarism (if there is one) and the adjustment that foreign students undergo (or don’t) when beginning their studies in America. 

Afterwards, I bought myself a warm milk tea – without hard liquor, this time – and went for a walk around the lake.  It was beautiful and peaceful and totally wonderful.  I had some time alone with my thoughts and then proceeded to Chinese Corner.  I talked with a nice guy, Oliver, and various other foreigners for almost two hours.  Times like that remind me of why I am interested in learning Chinese – just to talk to Chinese people. 

Confession: I’m an Addict

In Uncategorized on October 30, 2009 at 12:48 am

Seriously.  This morning, a mere 9 hours after my last dancing fix, I found myself on the search again.  This time, I was acting on a tip from some friends who said they knew of a place, by West Gate.  I got up early – only the hope of dancing could get me out of bed at 7:30 – and set off.

Anyway, I found the place alright, although I arrived too late to join in the dancing.  There were about 20 people dancing, including one man that I recognized from last night.  After the music stopped, he came over to say hi, which I thought was nice.  There was also a whole gaggle of women who surrounded me, asking me where I was from, if I could dance, and if I was going to come every day (if only).  I have morning class on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, but we’ll see about Tuesdays and Thursdays . . .

Getting up so early gave me a lot of time this morning, so I continued working on my new Mechanics textbook.  I’m still on the table of contents, but I’ve learned a lot of useful words so far: statics, stress, couple, plane, space, friction, center of gravity, axis, tension, compression, torsion, bending, strength, and fatigue.

When I come down from class in the evenings, I usually find a gaggle of foreigners and tag along with one group or another for dinner.  Today there wasn’t really anyone hanging around, and I was feeling kind of bummed at the prospect of dinner alone.  I made a few phone calls, though, and was soon feeling better as I walked to dinner with a group of friends, connected in many and varied ways.

We ate 麻辣燙 (numbingly spicy soup) which was, surprisingly, neither numbingly hot nor soup.  We selected from an array of speared vegetables, meats, and mystery items, and they were cooked (possibly in some numbingly spicy soup?).  It was really good, and quite cheap – dinner for under $1.

Chinese Corner was going on as we passed by the park with the statue (shown below in the daylight).


I joined my Dutch friend Aleid and three Chinese girls who are studying to be Chinese teachers.  We had a good conversation – all in Chinese, of course – that included Aleid and I complaining about how hardworking XiaDa students are (they agreed).  We also discussed the letter ü, which is, in my opinion, the hardest sound in the Chinese language.  The best instructions I’ve been given as to making the sound is to make the “eeeee” sound while forming your mouth to make an “ooooo” sound.  It’s pretty hard for me and also makes me feel ridiculous while trying.  Anyway, I was happy to come home and read this article, which attempts to make a connection between facial expressions and mood.  The author’s theory is that as smiling is generally accepted to improve one’s mood, there may be a connection between the prominent vowels in a language (which determine the most frequent facial gestures) and the general mood of the culture.  Her prime example is German’s ü and their dourness, but I wonder if China’s ü and my feelings of silliness are connected as well.

On the way back to the campus, I stopped to buy some fruit.  I had to get ingredients for the sangria I’m planning for this weekend, and also needed to get a fix of my other obsession – the mystery fruit of a few days ago.


Turns out, it’s a 柚子, or pomelo.  Like I said, it’s a little bit more sour than an orange, but much sweeter than a grapefruit.  It’s almost the size of my head, and has a thick, cushy peel.  The fruit is so large and sturdy that it’s possible to completely peel down to the pulp, which stays intact.  When I eat oranges, I spend ridiculous amounts of time painstakingly removing every bit of whiteness that I can, but this fruit is a dream to peel.


And then of course, you get to eat it, which is also a dream.

Go Back to Your Fiery Lair, O Evil One

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2009 at 12:37 am

TingLi (listening) class is the bane of my existence. I’m becoming convinced that we had a different teacher for the first week because this teacher was in her lair in the Underworld becoming more evil.

This is probably a slight exaggeration. I hate the class for more reasons than just her. The uncomfortable stools that are too low and have no backs, for instance, or the headphones that are clearly made for Chinese-sized heads and don’t adjust at all. There are also the playback machines, which are fixed in place in a way that seems to be optimized for limiting the usable surface of the desk.

But really, a lot of it is her. These things didn’t bother me nearly as much when we had Ma 老师. But this teacher . . . I hate the way she prefaces each class with a lecture in high-speed Chinese about how important 听力 is and how twice a week isn’t enough. I hate the harsh sound of her voice, and the disapproving sucking-in sound that she makes is even worse. I hate how, when she writes a word on the board that many people got wrong, she always asks “学了吗?学了吧!” (basically, “Have you studied it? You’ve studied it!”). In fact, she is the reason for my automatic resentment of all uses of the particle 吧, which indicates a suggestion or presumption of correctness (as in “Let’s go” or “. . . right?”). I hate the structure of the class since she started teaching it – an hour and a half straight with no breaks, listening to about 10 sentences over and over ad nauseum and maybe even beyond. I hate how she hovers over us as we write, waiting to swoop down with her pencil and mark the one single character that we got wrong.

As if all of this weren’t enough, she had to go one step further in pissing me off today. After an entire class period of getting on our case about tones and how important they are, she tells us to write down what she says: “chun jie”. Now, chūn jié is the Spring Festival, which is a big deal here in China. It’s a big enough deal that I even know the correct tones off the top of my head. It kind of sounds like she’s saying two second tones instead of a first and a second, but I write it down as I know it anyway. She makes a round of us students, contentedly telling us that we’re all wrong, and then reveals what she was actually saying: chún jié. This is a word that none of us know (turns out it means “pure”), but that doesn’t matter. She was convinced that she proved to us the importance of tones, but she actually just reinforced to me the importance of context. And gave me further proof of her evilness . . . as if I needed it.

The evening started improving as soon as I got out of that classroom, as I met my Taiwan group for dinner. We’re a bit larger than we were a few days ago, with the addition of Aleid from Holland and Keiko from Japan. Also, in accordance with the Law of Entropy, our plans are less coordinated than they were a few days ago. Aleid bought her tickets without consulting us, so she’s leaving for Kinmen a day early and getting to Taibei a day later than us. On the other end, Diederik is leaving Taiwan a day earlier than the rest of us. And, after I successfully bought my ticket this afternoon, that flight filled up. Finally, Kinmen doesn’t have a Catholic church, so I’ll have to come back to Xiamen earlier than the others to make it to Mass. This is all pretty much what we should have expected, planning things in China. We’re “adventuring towards Taiwan”.

After dinner, a few of us went over to check out the first Chinese Corner of the year. There were a ridiculous number of people there, and, to my surprise, plenty of Chinese. I made a few new Chinese friends and got some good Chinese practice in, so I’m glad I went. One of the most memorable parts of the conversation was when they were trying to talk to be about an American actress who had black skin, big lips, and a famous husband. The answer? Angelina Jolie. I also found need to memorize how to say Timberwolves (森林狼) and Kevin Garnett (凯文·加内特) in Chinese because that’s the #1 reason why they have heard of my state.

I was a little bit tired, but decided to extend my enjoyment of the beautiful evening a little longer by exploring the tunnel. Just to the north of where I live is a large forest on a hill/mountain. XiaDa has some dorms on the other side, so they built a tunnel right through it.


I went through it on a motorcycle after meeting the families that I’m tutoring for, and saw that there was a lot of interesting graffiti, and I’ve been wanting to go back ever since. It was so worth the walk.







The graffiti is only at the two ends, so I was going to turn back after capturing the paintings on the near end. But my picture-taking was quite the spectacle and had attracted a few Chinese students, who started to walk with me. I didn’t want to turn back, so I went all the way to the other end with them. According to Google Earth, the tunnel is about 0.6 miles long, so it was a pretty good walk. I think it was all worth it, though, both for the conversation with some of the rare Chinese people who actually approached me, and for the murals dedicated to the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan.