Maria Holland

Posts Tagged ‘TU’

50 Hours of Chinese Study Prepared Me For This

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2011 at 10:36 pm

I have a Chinese minor!

Yes, I graduated from college nearly four months ago.  Yes, my Chinese studies officially ended over a year ago.  Yes, I actually have taken 50 credit hours of Chinese, which is as much as some liberal arts MAJORS require. 

And yeah, I have no idea what a minor is good for either.

But don’t trivialize this accomplishment!  I am possibly as proud of this addition to my transcript as I am of the fact that I actually KNOW Chinese. 

It’s the principle of the thing, really.  Tulsa tried VERY hard, for some reason, to give me this certification, which just made me want it more.  Remember the ordeal of getting Lester’s residence permit?  If anything, the obstacles seemed like a test of my actual working knowledge of China. 

If I can remember back through the whole year+ ordeal, I talked to a college dean, an associate dean or two, two department chairs, one professor, three academic advisors, and countless secretaries.  Americans can shift blame with the best of the Chinese, apparently.  Emails were disregarded with abandoned, phone numbers presumably lost, useless protocol followed. 

But I persevered, and eventually triumphed!  Honestly, it feels like my entire year in China was just preparation for this. 

So bring on the bureaucratic bullshit, America.  You can’t out-red-tape the Reds. 

What Was On My Mind (IV)

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Goodbyes and my return home, captured in facebook statuses:

 

Maria Holland is done with finals, including the one where I had to talk about my favorite holiday for three minutes. I am now done . . . with kindergarten.
July 13 at 11:11pm

Maria Holland wants to play Apples to Apples more than you could possibly know. I will be home in 7 days, by the way . . .
July 15 at 1:31am

Maria Holland still 5 days before I leave, but maybe tomorrow’s goodbyes will be even harder :-/
July 15 at 11:50pm

Maria Holland i’m ready, i’m ready, i’m ready (said like Spongebob). Three days left, just packing and last-minute adventures remain! But yeah, I’m ready to go home.
July 17 at 4:31pm

Maria Holland for so long, I was going home in 七月份 (sometime in July). Then it became more specific – 20号 (the 20th). Last week it was 下星期二 (next Tuesday). But now we’re down to 后天 (day after tomorrow). It’s crazy!!
July 18 11:23 am

Maria Holland is in that period where I don’t remember clearly the great things about home and I don’t notice the annoying parts of life in China anymore. All I can think about is the friends I’m leaving here . . .
19 July 3:28 am

Maria Holland is, according to my calendar and plane ticket, heading home in 6 hours. Don’t ask me, because I don’t quite believe it.
July 19 at 10:47pm

Maria Holland The good news: I’m in the land of free internet (and it’s amazing how fast facebook is when you don’t have to pass through a proxy).
The bad news: This land is called Hong Kong and I’m stuck here for the near future. Cathay Pacific FAIL
July 20 at 12:00pm

Maria Holland is going to be optimistic, even after the fiasco of last night. I’m adventuring towards home (Hong Kong is, after all, one step closer than Xiamen) and may – or may not – arrive tomorrow at 6 p.m.
July 20 at 4:27pm

Maria Holland Well, so much for that plan. In addition to everything else, Cathay Pacific has lost my baggage so no other airline will accept me. If this keeps up, my return is going to be a birthday present for my father (or, even worse, a wedding present for Rachel!). If there is a hell, it is surely managed by Cathay Pacific.
July 20 at 11:08pm

Maria Holland will get home at midnight IF this typhoon warning turns out to be nothing and we get off the ground within the next hour. We’ll see . . .
July 21 at 3:02am

Maria Holland is home! It took 48 hours and one suitcase didn’t make it, but in a way I’m surprised it even went that well. Cathay Pacific made me miss my flight, took 3 hours to find me a hotel, lost my luggage, made handwritten tags for it once they refound them, and made up a flight number that didn’t exist. Considering the lightning storm and typhoon as well, it is quite remarkable that I made it at all!
July 22 at 2:07am

Maria Holland is home, and the last bag made it tonight as well. Unfortunately, it was apparently mauled by a bear and run over by a plane en route to me, but it’s about what I’ve come to expect from Cathay.
July 22 at 11:31pm

Maria Holland three days ago I had to be in my room, plugged into a lan, and signed into a proxy to access facebook. now I am writing this from my blackberry . . . crazy!
July 23 at 11:52pm via Facebook for BlackBerry

Maria Holland everything is just as I remembered it. Minnesota summers are gorgeous, my mom’s cooking is the best, Americans are really polite, and I can’t park. Only differences: my bed feels soft by comparison, and Rachel Middlebrook is married!
July 25 at 1:32pm

Maria Holland would like to thank goodwill for allowing me to put off my return to American prices for one more day. Three dresses for $7 (40 kuai) each!
July 26 at 12:53pm

Maria Holland successfully stayed up the entire day, but the only emotion I feel is tired. Even 14 hours of sleep can only do so much, apparently. Better luck tomorrow . . .
July 26 at 10:19pm

Maria Holland don’t have to lock my computer while I’m at home; every time my parents try to use it they end up asking me how to “get rid of the Chinese”.
July 28 at 12:04pm

Maria Holland realized today that the last 12 months of my life have been the best 12 months of my life. This is a challenge that I hope the next 12 months will be able to rise to!
August 5 at 10:47pm

Maria Holland is finally back at TU. There’s a huge building outside my apartment that wasn’t there before, I can’t walk from KEP to ACAC, and I’ve only seen one familiar face (and she is a freshman!). At least QT and Blue Bell are just as I remembered!
August 18 at 8:57pm

Maria Holland was afraid my year in China hurt me as an engineer but it turns out that’s not the case. I was the first to figure out the design problem Tiptop gave us!! All because I have no qualms about peeing in public (or at least talking about it). Squatty potties and split-bottom pants FTW!
August 24 at 1:21am

1 Down, 31 To Go

In Uncategorized on August 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm

But who’s counting?

I’ve finished the first week of my senior year!

We got two new classmates in Chinese class – one is Russian, and it was so comforting to hear Russian-accented Chinese again!  But, maybe due to the larger class size (5), the teacher put the kibosh on my freeloading.  I was told I had to either enroll in the course or stop going, so . . . maybe I’ll try again next semester.  In good news, I now I have a three-hour lunch break on Mondays and Wednesdays!

 

On Wednesday we had our second Design class.  We brainstormed ways to get across the construction zone between Keplinger (the engineering building) and the rest of campus.  Because we were going for quantity over quality, and because we had to write every idea down, we ended up with a list that included:

  • zipline
  • scheduled fenced-in sidewalk
  • door in the north side of ACAC
  • skyway
  • monorail
  • teleportation
  • giant eagles

Have I mentioned that I love my professor and my classmates?  Stuff like that is worth staying awake for.

 

I’ve been spending my spare time reviewing notes from the previous three years of classes.  My old mentor said that you should write notes with the 5-year standard in mind – that you should be able to pick them up and understand them five years down the road.  It’s been interesting putting mine to the test!  They’re doing pretty well so far.

It’s fun to remember stuff I used to know, but more fun because of the quotes I write in the margins.  For instance, the brainstorm sheet from Design on Wednesday featured these gems:

“I can’t believe I’ve been here 25 years and I haven’t dug a tunnel to my office!”
– Dr. Tipton

Alli: “You’re breaking the rules!” 
Dr. Tipton: “You’re breaking my heart!”

 

But college isn’t all about classes, of course.  I’ve been reminded in a powerful way of the prevalence of free food and t-shirts on American campuses.  Remember when I had to run the 100m dash to get a XiaDa t-shirt?  I went to the activities fair on Thursday to get one (and if I’d wanted to, I could have had a soccer t-shirt as well).  There was Newman lunch on Tuesday, Pizzas of Tulsa on Tuesday night, WOW on Wednesday, a Newman cookout on Wednesday night, and WOW leftovers on Thursday night.  Not bad!

 

On Thursday night, I went to Caravan with a bunch of friends.  Caravan Cattle Co is a 21+ country two-step bar, which I heard about all the time last year because my friends were immediately obsessed.  I spent the last year learning every kind of dance except two-step, but I needed my dancing fix so I decided to check it out. 

It actually ended up reminding me a lot of The Key (in the good old days of first semester, not second semester when it became lame).  There were some creepy older men and some skanky young women, and a lot of people who just wanted to dance and have fun.  Cowboy boots and hats were slightly more prevalent than I remember from Xiamen, but I guess that’s to be expected.  It turns out I don’t really care what we’re dancing or what we’re dancing to, as long as we’re dancing :)

I Don’t Remember What Homework Is Like

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Tuesdays are much better than Mondays (and Thursdays even more so!).  I started the day with Microcomputers for Mechanical Engineers at 11.  It’s a freshman course, but I wasn’t ME as a freshman and, for various other reasons, I hadn’t gotten around to taking it until now.  So it’s about 30 freshman and me, the Super Senior.  I actually already know one girl in the class from Newman, though, and I think it will be kind of fun to get to know the freshman. 

Interestingly enough, I counted only 4 females in the class of about 30.  Everyone in China made such a big deal out of the gender imbalance in engineering, but I rarely notice it until others point it out. 

There’s an associated lab on Tuesday afternoon; this week’s task consisted of designing a personal web page.  I had done one way back when, as a freshman in The World of Physics.  It was embarrassingly out-of-date (probably about how this journal will look in four years, come to think of it) but all I had to do was update it. 

 

My last class is Resources and the Environment, an economics course that I’ve been looking forward to taking for at least two years now.  Economics is my second favorite department at TU, largely because of this professor, Dr. Settle, and this specific course has been recommended to me by two trusted friends (and one a fellow ME).  I’m just auditing it but I’m looking forward to the reading and especially the class discussion.  The rest of the class is basically the senior Energy Management majors and there are only two other students from the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences, so I wonder if my perspective really will be different. 

 

I’m taking 14 hours, auditing 3, and “showing up” for 3.  18 is the maximum allowed without special permission, so if I were taking all of those for credit I guess it would be a little ridiculous.  But as it is it doesn’t seem like too terribly much.  Anyway, I can’t really remember what it’s like to have homework, or to have more important commitments than dinner at West Gate at 7, so I can’t imagine what made me so busy in previous years at TU.  I’m sure this year is going to be a breeze – haha. 

One thing that should be awesome, though, is finals week.  Is it strange that that’s my favorite part of every semester?  Tests are my specialty, and when it gets to the point that they’re the only thing between me and vacation – that’s where the fun begins.  Out of my 7 classes I’ll only be taking finals in 3.  Just how I like it!

Another observation after two days of classes that mainly consisted of going over syllabi – man, that academic dishonesty stuff is a big deal here!  I could never picture a TU professor willingly overlooking blatant cheating, and I could never picture a TU student saying that if someone else wants to cheat, it’s none of anyone else’s business.  I mean, I know that people must cheat at TU as well – but they fail classes and get expelled.

First Day of Classes

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Matt and I high-fived each other as we reached the top of the stairs at 7:55.  “Five minutes early!  Go us!” we exclaimed.  Our class was not in Keplinger, the engineering building right next to both of our apartments where we usually spend our days (and occasionally nights), but instead was all the way across campus – thus, a timely arrival had required superhuman feats of waking up early.

And then we walked into our Writing for the Professions classroom, where the professor was already halfway down the first page of the syllabus.  What on earth?  Who just starts a class early, much less one at 8 a.m., much less on the first day of classes? 

Great way to start off the year.

 

Next was Control Systems Engineering.  I have some things to review for that class, but it’s a finite amount so it’s okay.  I like Dr. Mohan and the vibe I get from our class is almost as awesome as the dynamic that existed among my old classmates.

The only frustrating thing was the syllabus.  I went through and wrote down the test days and big due dates, and ran into a problem.  Seriously, at this point in the school year after a year away I have like two events in my planner, and there’s already a conflict.  Gotta snap out of China-mode, where tests were optional and finals doubly so!

 

I then walked back across campus to another non-Keplinger building for Chinese.  I found the room and looked in to see a Chinese teacher, a guy, and a girl, just standing around.  The teacher asked who I was and seemed a little doubtful when I said I hadn’t taken Intermediate Chinese or passed a placement test but that wanted to attend the class anyway, but within a few minutes of “repeat-after-me” exercises, she could tell I was going to be okay.  The class is CHIN 3003, Advanced Chinese I, and without bragging I will say that my level is significantly higher than the other students. 

It’s not due to any special ability, but a year of living in China and studying Chinese in Chinese will do that to ya I guess.  I have spent possibly orders of magnitude more time speaking and listening to Chinese (with native speakers) than them, and when students are only studying Chinese we tackle a lot more vocabulary.  As an example, they knew one word for “understand”, while I can think of 5 (明白,懂,理解,了解,体会). 

I think I’m going to stick with it though, at least for a little while.  I like the teacher and it’s still good practice for me.  I feel bad because I think I might intimidate the other students, but maybe I can be a help instead.

 

After lunch, we had Senior Design.  I adore our professor (and, I’m realizing, the ME class of 2011 is not half bad) but I’m mildly terrified.  It’s just the first course of two that serve as the culminating experience of our undergraduate engineering education, nbd. 

I really thought my year in China was going to hurt me as I tried to get back in the swing of things with my ME major, but apparently that’s not the case.  After Dr. Tipton lectured us on creativity and intellectual blocks, he described a problem for us and asked us to brainstorm solutions.  Basically, there’s a room with a concrete floor, into which is set the base of a tube.  The tube contains a ping pong ball with very little clearance .  The challenge is to get the ball out of the tube without damaging the floor or the tube, and all we had to do it was:

  • claw hammer
  • hanger
  • box of Wheaties
  • plastic spoon

One guy shouted out “Use the Wheaties to make yourself salivate and then spit into the tube until the ball floats out!”.  Good idea, but I immediately responded “It’d be faster if you just pee in it.”  At this point Dr. Tipton stopped the exercise because he said I’d gotten the answer he was looking for.  He was trying to illustrate cultural/environmental blocks to creativity; apparently there is usually one kid snickering in the corner for about ten minutes before finally saying that idea out loud.  Well, if there’s one thing that my experiences in China have taught me, it’s that there are no inappropriate times to talk about defecation or urination. 

Biogas digesters, squatty potties, and split bottom pants FTW!

 

There was a room change before our next class (Introduction to Numerical Methods), but our teacher didn’t get the memo.  She came hurrying into class a few minutes late and made a comment about M4 being a good approximation of U9.  We ALL laughed – ah, math humor.  In a class like that, you take what you can get.

I think the class will be useful and not deathly hard, but it was during this class that my record of not falling asleep in class all day bit the dust . . .

Mondays and Wednesdays are pretty long days for me – 6 hours of class spread out from 8 to 5 with only an hour in the morning and two hours for lunch.  That’s a long way from XiaDa, when the most class I ever had was 3 hours and the shortest lunch I ever had was also three hours. 

But . . . I really liked it!

Back at TU

In Uncategorized on August 22, 2010 at 11:51 pm

I’ve been back at TU for a few days now.  As I expected, it has been significantly different than going back home to Coon Rapids was.  The changes are bigger in every way – people, places, and things. 

My brother and I turned the corner onto 5th Pl. and caught sight of McFarlin library around 4:15 on Wednesday afternoon.  I stopped in the apartment office to get my key and then raced across campus, ready to be back at my apartment after 15 long months.  But I was driving distracted, my attention hogged by the behemoth on the horizon – a behemoth that was NOT there when I had last been on campus.  It’s the TUPAC (or “the Thing”, as I call it), and while I knew it was going in while I was gone, I was not prepared for its [enormous] physical reality.  The Thing is HUGE.

Due to The Thing and other construction sites, it took me three tries to get to my apartment.  Fortunately, the Apt is the one haven of familiarity that I’ve found.  My furniture was all in place, my cups were in the cupboard, and there was even a small pile of pasta preserved in the exact position it had been left.  Matt and I unloaded the car and I spent the next few days getting settled in.

 

We went to McNellie’s that night for $3 Burger Night, joined by a friend who left TU after my freshman year to enter the seminary.  Another night, my former roommate came into town from OKC and we walked around campus talking about the changes we’d witnessed over the years.  Saturday night, I had a dinner party with a few close friends, most of whom had graduated after my sophomore or junior years.  The only current student there had been a junior when I entered but is still working on her degree due to health reasons that keep interrupting her studies.  We were able to commiserate about our victory lap years, while all of us enjoyed talking about the common friends and experiences we’d had here. 

I’ve seen a few friends who are still around, but during this pre-school period I’ve seen more of graduates.  I guess it makes sense, considering that I know 3 classes who have graduated and only 2 classes who are still here.  It’s been nice because in a lot of ways I have more in common with the graduates.  It was easy to join in the conversation of a bunch of friends who all see each other sporadically; it was much harder for me at the Welcome Back dinner hosted by an organization I used to be active in.  There were new members and new projects, and the members and projects I was familiar with were unknown to some of the newbies.  Also, when everyone has a separate life, there’s lots to talk about – but when your common link is an organization, that’s mostly what you talk about . . . and I didn’t have anything to offer on that topic. 

 

But it’s not like I’ve had nothing to say.  People have a lot of questions about China – and, surprisingly, they’re not always the same questions, so it actually makes for interesting conversations.  People want to know about the language, the people, the One Child policy, freedom, religion, health care, food, transportation, weather, everything!  On Saturday night I ended up giving an extensive talk about going to the bathroom in China, including a demonstration.  Apparently when most Americans think of squatting to go to the bathroom, they think of “hovering” over a Western toilet.  The whole geometry of the appliance is different, though, and the body posture is too.  Trust me – it’s not uncomfortable, it’s not hard, and I have yet to pee on myself. 

 

While I was hanging out at the Newman Center (the Catholic student center on campus), a young woman came into the sanctuary, asking about a wedding rehearsal she was supposed to be at.  As soon as I heard her accent I knew she was Chinese, but I gave her directions to the other chapel before asking her.  When she said yes, I switched to Chinese and we talked for a few minutes.  It felt really funny to speak Chinese in America!  She’s a student here and since she comes to the free lunches at Newman on Tuesdays, I think I’ll see more of her.  Yay!  A Chinese friend! 

 

During dinner that night, I used the word “gunner” in casual conversation.  One of my friends, Meghan, heard me and interrupted to ask where I had learned it.  I thought about it and realized that I had picked it up from my friend Matt when we met up in China in July.  He used it several times, so I figured it was new slang back home and started incorporating it into my vocabulary.  Meghan said she had only heard the word from her sister, who is studying to be a doctor, in relation to overachievers in med school.  Come to think of it . . . Matt was heading to med school in the fall and used it only when talking about overachievers in med school.  I just liked the sound of it and liked how clear it was when used in context, so I figured it could be used in lots of situations.  Guess not. 

 

Sunday night at Newman was the first time I saw most people.  The ones I knew – The Sophomores who are now seniors with me and the cute little freshman who act all grown up like juniors now – but also two classes of new people.  Some of them recognized me from a music video I guest starred in at our annual film festival, which was mildly horrifying.  But then again, before I went to China I was widely known as The Poop Girl or the originator of No Pants Week and Drink Naked parties, so I guess I shouldn’t really complain. 

 

It was amazing to be back with my friends and my church community – exchanging close hugs instead of shaking folded hands in their direction, singing familiar songs in harmony, understanding a homily directed towards college students.  But I was exhausted after the few hours of socializing that followed Mass!  I was meeting so many people, it was like being a freshman again.  Worse than the new faces are the new names that are so familiar to everyone that they don’t warrant last names or explanations.  With two Graces, two new Wills, another Alli, a second Caitlin, and – for goodness sake! – ANOTHER Matt, my poor brain was exhausted.

But it’s the night before school starts.  Let the constant exhaustion begin!

Jet Lag and Reverse Culture Shock Aren’t So Bad

In Uncategorized on August 1, 2010 at 12:42 am

I think I actually like jet lag.  Coming back from China is the only time I ever get up early willingly, and it’s also the only time that’s acceptable to feel as tired as I always feel.  Four hour nap in the late afternoon?  It’s just jet lag.  Incapable of staying awake during a 15-minute car ride?  She just got back from a year in China, what do you expect?  Sleeping for 14 hours when a pre-dinner nap went too long?  Well, it’s noon where she was before! 

(Never mind that I regularly do these things – or at least would love to do them – when I have no such valid excuse.)

Since I’m already just this side of narcoleptic, it’s a little hard to tell when I’m over jet lag.  Kind of like how it’s hard to tell if I’m drunk or not; I have no sense of direction anyway and can’t ever walk straight, so don’t jump to any conclusions.

 

After the insane heat of my last month in Xiamen, I couldn’t wait to get home to Minnesota on the 45th parallel.  But when you study abroad you hear a lot about reverse culture shock, when you realize everything you’ve been missing about home maybe isn’t quite as amazing as you remembered it being.  So while I sweated through multiple changes of clothes each day and spent all available moments on the beach in the sun (because it was just as hot anywhere else and at least there it was acceptable to sweat gallons), I wondered to myself if I was seeing Minnesota through rose-colored glasses. 

But no, it’s all true.  Minnesota summers are just as gorgeous as I remember.  I heard some people talking about heat but they were obviously completely crazy.  It was a week before I used the AC in the car, and I told my mom the first day I broke a sweat – a good 10 days after my return. 

It wasn’t until I got back to Minnesota that I realized just how hot Xiamen was.  The temperatures were in Celsius; while I developed a good feel for that scale I could only compare those temperatures to other temperatures in Celsius.  Also, I never once heard mention of a heat index, which must be either a Fahrenheit thing or an American thing.  Looking back now, the heat index on my last day in Xiamen was 124F; the first day of that weekend we lost power was 138F.  The two hottest days of my two weeks in Minnesota were barely even 120. 

So when people complain about the heat, I just say that it’s nothing “compared to China”.  This is actually relevant to many topics.  Weather, prices, population, distance, convenience, courtesy – everything looks a little bit different when China is added to the perspective.  It’s all relative. 

I can’t help but compare.  I expected the price comparison to be especially hard to take but actually overprepared for culture shock in some ways.  I was terrified to come home and have to spend American dollars, but it’s not so bad.  I’ve gotten some decent meals for less than $10, even $5, and the movie theater near my house has $5 movies except on weekends.  That’s what I was paying in China, with the 50% student discount!! 

My haircut was a total rip-off, though (especially when I realized later that, with hair this long, I could easily cut it myself), and taxes and tips suck.  After a long year of dividing by 7 (which I am really awesome at!), calculating 15% shouldn’t be so ridiculously hard.  But it is. 

 

Two things have really surprised me about America: how little Chinese there is, and how much.  First of all, no one knows any Chinese.  Every American has 30 Spanish words or phrases, 20 French, and a few German (gesundheit, danke shoen, blitzkreig, etc.).  We even know some Japanese – domo arigato [Mr. Roboto], konichiwa, and sayonara.  But Chinese?  Before my first trip I didn’t know how to say ‘hello’ in Chinese, and most people I ask back home can’t either. 

It’s kind of cool.  I can say whatever I want and no one has a clue what I’m saying.  There are no congnates to give me away, and even the tone of voice that could give me away in other languages is disguised by the choppiness of Chinese tonality.  I can also write anything in a code impenetrable to the vast majority of the American population.

(Another advantage: When my parents try to use my computer, I end up hearing them call from the other room: “How do you get rid of the Chinese?!?!”)

It would be better, though, if everyone would just learn my top 3 phrases or something.  麻烦, 走吧, and 怎么办 should be as commonplace as hola and gracias.  It would make my life so much easier.  Come on, Americans, get with it! 

But I also said that I was surprised at how much Chinese there is in America.  Characters EVERYWHERE!  On signs of Chinese restaurants, on all sorts of art, on everybody and their brother’s tatoos.  Pretty funny considering how few people can read them at all. 

 

I’m still realizing how different this year is going to be.  I became used to my life in Xiamen over the last 11 months to the point that that became my ‘normal’.  It’s been 16 months since I took a class that wasn’t about Chinese and 11 months since I took a class that wasn’t taught in Chinese.  Thing’s gonna be a little different this year, I think.

My Onion horoscope this week was:

Your belief that all life’s problems can be solved with a heart-to-heart talk and a good night’s sleep will be severely tested this week when you’re introduced to mathematics.

Sad day, considering a large part of my life as an American college student is mathematics.  Specifically, MATH 4503 Intro to Numerical Methods. 

I mean, I know I’m headed back to TU, back to ME and all, but I can tell I’m still thinking in China mode.  I had to buy a new computer (because my LCD backlight died and our open-heart surgery proved less than successful), and just like the army always fighting the last war, I found myself buying a computer for last year.  I pictured myself watching whole seasons of DVDs on that screen (when I have a huge TV in my living room), obsessed over having USB ports with the ability to sleep-and-charge (although I’ll have outlets and power strips galore in my bedroom), and worried about portability (even though I’ll be treating it as a desktop just like I did the year before I left).

In the end, I bought a computer.  It has a sleep-and-charge port but is just as ludicrously large as the brick I hauled all across China.  My laptops have an average lifespan of 2 years, though, and who really knows what the second year of this one will bring?

A friend called me a few days after I got home.  Stephen managed to get a hold of me on the day I left for China and also ended up being the first one to call me upon my return.  It was great to hear from him, although the familiarity of his voice reminded me instantly of my last year at TU and how, without him, it won’t be the same.  After we chatted and caught up, he asked me what was different about home.  I searched for something deep to say but came up with nothing.  You know, being gone from Minnesota for a year really isn’t weird at all.  When I’m at school in Tulsa I only make it home for a few weeks around Christmas between summers, so this year wasn’t all that different.  My parents even came to see me around the time I would have seen them normally, so I just missed out on seeing the town and the few friends left up there.  Coming back to my parents’ house after a year away felt just like that – like another year away.  Not that long, nothing special, just another year away. 

But TU?  Being gone one year from a place where the average turnover is four?  That will be different.  As I said, it’s all relative. 

 

Like sleep and my Anki reviews, reading the news got put on the back burner in both the pre-departure rush and the post-arrival chaos.  I finally got around to my Google Reader starred list after a week at home.  Lots of random articles and a whole series of them about the oil spill.  As far as I was concerned, oil was gushing til the end of the month (although it was actually capped on July 15th). 

I wonder if I’ll stop being out of touch now that I’m back in the States?

下课! (Class is Over!)

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I went to my last class at XiaDa this morning!  It might be my last Chinese class ever, but I may audit Advanced Chinese at TU next year, so we’ll see.  It was really anticlimactic; we did a bunch of exercises and then it was done.

I got online when I got back to my room and found out that a friend of mine is pregnant!  It kind of sucks to learn news like that online; punctuation just isn’t enough. 

I also read the news – more updates on the oil spill.  A few of the companies involved are only familiar to me from my time at TU – Halliburton, Anadarko, etc. – and I wonder what reaction, if any, there has been back there.

I had lunch with YongZhi, which was probably not that fun for him.  We walked to West Gate in the midday heat and I was so hot that I didn’t even have energy to complain about it.  We ate mostly in silence.  I am a horrible friend – especially when it’s hot.

Much Better After Today, Thanks!

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2010 at 3:42 am

I’m feeling better today, only hurting 15% of the time instead of yesterday’s 50%.  I still didn’t go to class, though, because 15% pain plus 80% boring is just not worth it.

But XuLei finally – after months of nagging – arranged a trip to KTV so I got dressed and went out with her, Lester, and two other Chinese girls.  Karaoke is more than just singing here; it’s a way of life.  Towns as small as Hunchun have whole streets filled with karaoke bars, while cities as big as Xiamen have numerous karaoke cities.  There’s just no other way to describe these places – room after private room with supermarkets inside so you can sustain yourself during epic karoking (is that a verb?) sessions. 

We ordered up a nice mix of Chinese songs with a few English thrown in for Lester and I.  We foreigners also tried a Chinese song or two, but the lyrics are all in traditional characters which turns karaoke into the vocal equivalent of doing brain surgery in mittens – it’s already so hard that it just seems unfair when this further obstacle is thrown in.  All those characters I could never learn to write in my summer course when we learned traditional – 聽(听) and 還(还) and 過 (过) – came back in a flash of terror . . .

I did a few English songs for everyone’s listening pleasure (I think?).  They were delighted that to hear a song called Maria (they have no idea!), and I think they liked “I Wanna Have Your Babies” although XuLei kept repeating the title over and over as if I would at some point realize what it means.  Lester and I also did a duet together – “Glamorous” by Fergie, with me doing the spelling (“G-L-A-M-O-R-OUS”) and him doing the rapping about making money to buy me shoes.  It was memorable. 

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We spent a few hours there and then went for dinner, my first real meal in 48 hours.  I’m subsisting on a diet of crackers, noodles in clear soup, charcoal pills, and yogurt.  And my stomach is still unhappy.  What is going on??  We’re not even back in America yet; save your hissy fit for the return. 

 

Tonight was another big game for America – although to be honest, each time America plays in this World Cup is a Big Game to me.  We were playing Algeria at the same time as England was playing Slovenia, in the final two matches of the group round.  Dave Barry explains it much better than I could: basically we wanted to win to ensure we would continue on in the tournament, but a tie could also be acceptable under certain circumstances.

I went to Cafe del Mar to watch, but about half of the viewers were English or Italian and Xiamen’s sole Slovenian was there, so I was far outranked.  Instead, I brought my computer and kept one eye on the live updates from the NYT. 

The English scored in the first half, putting the pressure on us to get a goal (as an English win was not one of the aforementioned “circumstances” under which we advanced).  The second half dragged on with shot after shot in both games – most went wide or got blocked but one American goal was declared offsides (which may or may not have been true, but doesn’t actually matter.  Again, see Dave Barry for explanation).

The game clock reached 90 minutes, but a few more were thrown in for funsies – well, presumably there’s a reason, but I don’t know it.  It was looking like Slovenia and England would advance, and Kristina was making jokes like “When an American asks you where Slovenia is, tell them it’s at the top of Group C!”  But then I saw an animated crowd doing the wave across my screen below the words “GOAL: USA!” and I started screaming and jumping up and down.  Landon Donovan had scored in the 91st minute, winning us the game, keeping us in the tournament, and putting us at the top of our group.  Sweet!

 

Back in my room, I took advantage of the daylight hours back home to call TU’s financial aid office.  After a few weeks of these midnight calls, I think I have managed something akin to alchemy – I have turned fake money into real money!  I’m on full scholarship at TU, which includes a stipend for food that comes in the form of Dining Dollars.  Dining Dollars can only be used in the limited and kinda pricey on-campus food establishments and they expire at the end of the year.  I mean, it’s kind of fun to take 15 friends to the sports bar for dinner on you, and the end-of-semester shopping sprees for literally bags full of candy bars are nice, and I’ll never forget the Drink Naked parties or the times I brought Blue Bell to class for everyone, but let’s face it – Dining Dollars are fake.  They create an artificial economy where efficiency has no place and excess is encouraged. 

So hopefully this works out because, while I am missing American food, I dream of meals at real restaurants – not at The Hut. 

PS – As I hung up with the woman from financial aid, I closed with “bye-bye!”  Yeah, that’s right, I just said “bye-bye” to a grown woman.  I remember when I was embarrassed for the Chinese adults who would bid farewell to me in this way, thinking to myself We just don’t do that in America, that’s just for little kids.  And college students who are culturally confused, apparently.  I even type 88 (the Chinese shorthand for “bai-bai”) at the end of online chat conversations.  That’s not the only Chinese typing tic creeping into my habits.  I sometimes type 1’s at the end of sentences, which are required to select the most likely set of characters when typing in pinyin.  And I have to restrain myself from typing “en” in English conversations.  But . . .  it sounds exactly like the noncommittal grunt I make dozens of times during any given interaction!  “Oh” and “ah” and “hm” just aren’t the same . . .

一边玩,一边学习

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Yesterday was amazing all day.  In the evening, we went out to celebrate Jimmy’s birthday at a fish restaurant near the Lundu Ferry dock.  We sat upstairs on a covered deck, where we had a great view (mostly in shades of blue and gray) of Gulangyu and the strait. 

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The food was good, but the most memorable thing was the service.  The servers came around and arranged individual sets of dishes in front of us, which is a long way from using your chopsticks to punch through the plastic wrap on your 1-kuai set of disinfected dishes.  They put a bowl of lemon water on the table for us to wash our hands, which is a little classier than using the pack of kleenex that you personally brought.  There were also some downsides to it, which made me realize why we always go to such cheap places – they don’t care if you brink your own drinks.  (Also, they’re cheap!  But just to be clear, dinner was still $7 a person.)

I went home after dinner, where I met up with some friends to go to the first beach party of the season!  I had so much fun dancing and just running into basically every foreigner I’ve ever met in Xiamen. 

There were beautiful lights:

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And glow sticks for raving:

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At one point, there were a ton of people all standing around in a huge circle watching a totally wasted guy dance like a crazy person, when I realized it was time for graduation to start back home.  I rushed into the circle and just started rocking out to “Volare”.

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I think dancing the funky chicken at a beach party instead of graduating is kind of an analogy for this year of my life.  They’ve both been incredibly fun, not a little bit ridiculous, and, while not directly furthering my academic career, I’ve certainly learned a lot.

For instance, last night Eunice, XuLei and I were sitting on the beach chatting about boys.  It’d had been a long time since I’d done that, and I’m pretty sure it was my first time doing so in Chinese – it was great.  Then our conversation was interrupted by some very close explosions as some people set off fireworks about 10 feet away.  I wasn’t worried at first but things started falling on us and we ran.  XuLei made fun of me later, saying that I had been “一个劲儿地说不危险" (continuously saying that it wasn’t dangerous) until I finally freaked out.  I didn’t even mind her mocking me because she did so by using, 一个劲儿, which is one of the new words in the lesson we’re supposed to be working on this weekend! 

And that’s how we do it here in China – 一边玩,一边学习  (study and have fun at the same time).