Archive for September, 2009

Intruder, Friend, then Traitor: My encounter with Xiaodi

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 by jenniferautumn

So, I was doing my homework a couple nights ago and was startled in an unpleasant way by noticing something darting across my ceiling. I look up to find that I have been joined by a small lizard. After terrifiedly calling my friends to come see him and begging them to get rid of them, which they refused, I looked him up on the internet to see what his deal was. I found out that small lizards eat bugs. After that, I was more inclined to allow him to stay, as long as he stayed on the ceiling corner opposite from me.
My human friends left, and I continued cautiously to do my homework, keeping an eye on him. He darted around, but kept to his part of the deal mostly, and I started to have a conversation with him. When I asked his name, he didn’t respond, so I was inclined to believe he didn’t have one. I argued with my friend, Ben, for about half an hour about what to call him, and we settled on Xiaodi, little emperor. Xiaodi and I became friends, or so I believed. The conversation was pleasant, though mostly one sided (he was probably unaccustomed to having conversations with foreigners) and though he breached his corner several times, I was willing to let it slide in belief that he was eating bugs, and I could see how he might have to leave his corner to chase them.
However, as often happens, the power went out. It was out for a tense hour or so, when I felt that my friendship with Xiaodi had perhaps not progressed enough to be comfortable in the dark with a lizard running around over my head. But when the lights came back on, he had disappeared.
That was the last I have seen of Xiaodi. Whether he had had his fill of bugs or had tired of the friendship and unpolitely darted away at the first chance of escape, I do not know. I feel it was rather traitorous of him to disappear like he did, after all my efforts to appreciate his intrusion. The more interesting question, in my opinion, is how he had entered or exited my room, with a closed door and window. I am only grateful that the creature that chose to visit me through the many small cracks in the room was a lizard, and not a cockroach or a rat, as some of the other students have encountered.
Goodbye, Xiaodi. Our friendship was brief, but entertaining.

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Week update 9/24

Posted in Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Ok, it’s been a little while. Whew, lots to fill you all in on.
Aircraft carrier rave: actually, not a rave at all. Little disappointing. But still fun. We all dressed up in neon colors and took a party bus for 3+ hours to Tianjin; most people were already drunk by the time we got there. It was indeed a giant boat, and they had screens and a DJ booth set up on deck. I made friends with some British kids with face paint, big mistake. I ended up covered in orange paint, which was lots of fun until the alcohol wore off several hours later. But it was useful in remembering who I had made friends with because I gave everyone I met an orange handprint on their cheek haha. We posed for pictures with some of the staff, who were either dressed as navy sailors or were navy sailors, either way I think they had no idea what had hit their boat. When I inspected the pictures later though one of them is doing the thumbs up sign which is hilarious. Don’t worry, I didn’t paint them. We got back to Wudoukou (our favorite and nearby bar street) around 6am, grabbed breakfast, then came home and slept.
Success at internship: I had a great day Monday. I have been working on making designs for the website for a week now, and made a pretty good “blueprint” of an anti-ship missile, fantastic drop shadows for the text boxes, etc. I finished Monday and gave them to the IT guy to put on the website, which they now are. You can see my handiwork at chinasecurity.cs, it’s the lower half of the homepage. That was really exciting, I feel like I’ve actually accomplished something in this world now 😛 Wednesday’s difficult research projects, not so successful. But I’m clinging to my graphic.
Classes: finally got one class dropped, doing ok in others. Now that I’m not taking 24 credit hours I actually have one afternoon to do errands or shop or study. My first couple quizzes and tests I haven’t done so great on, but I’m ok with that because I was sick for them and I’m still passing. We got our first Chinese test back and I got a C, but it was soooo difficult that that’s actually better than I expected to do. As expected, the teacher told me my strengths were grammar, sentence structure, reading comprehension, etc. And my weaknesses, well, essentially everything else. Especially tone work, with I am already well aware of. I really can’t hear much of a difference. Maybe I’m going deaf after all the rock concerts. My other classes are pretty interesting, Sino-American Relations is my favorite. It’s so much to learn though, I feel failed by my school system. When we learned world history we mentioned some Asian events but I could name every king of England but don’t know more than a couple Chinese emperors, or anything but the biggest events of the revolution. Maybe we learned it and I just forgot everything. I just feel like I don’t know anything about this part of the world. In any case, I have so much new information to absorb and remember, it’s going to be tough. Worth it though.
Being sick: mostly better now. I’m still coughing and sniffling, but I think that may just be the climate (i.e. pollution). Or a sinus infection. We’ll see if it ever goes away. But I am feeling much better than last week, so there’s definite improvement.
Qingdao: booked tickets. We have a short break next week due to the National Day celebrations (the PRC is celebrating its 60th anniversary, it’s going to be a big deal) and so my friend Lesley and I booked plane tickets to go to Qingdao, a coastal city not too far away. She’s already been there and says it’s her favorite place, so it sounded like fun to me. It’s also home of Tsingtao (Qingdao in pinyin, it’s the same thing but they changed the writing system a few years ago) beer, our favorite beverage here. Hopefully I can tour the factory. I’m not sure if the beach will be warm enough to lounge on, but I’m bringing a suit and we’ll find out. A short note on the tickets: we stood in line for three hours twice to get train tickets, and everything is booked solid. We gave up and got more expensive plane tickets to get there, and are going to try our luck to get train tickets for the way back. Oh boy. It’s madness.
Other things. I found yogurt here that is delicious so that has been a godsend. It’s not nearly Greek level, but it’s about on par with Yoplait, it’s a little thinner and has bizarre flavors, like red bean or pineapple and barley. I also finally – after two days of trying with super slow internet – managed to download Three Days Grace’s new album, so that’s very exciting. I’m a fan, there’s good stuff on it. It’s good to have my own music, my taste is a little more intense than most people’s here 😉 …
Ok, I’ve written probably about two pages worth, so that’s all for the updates right now. I’ll try again soon.
Love you all, thank you so much to those who have been commenting and keeping up with my antics! It’s so great to hear from all of you.
Jenn

Tanks in the streets

Posted in Uncategorized on September 20, 2009 by jenniferautumn

The last few days have been a lot of fun. Well, aside from trouble trying to drop a class I can’t be in but missed the deadline to drop. I have gotten mostly better from being sick after sleeping for the better part of 48 hours, so we went out yesterday.
First we went to the English Corner, which apparently are designated spots that at certain times become gathering spots for people who want to speak or learn to speak English. If I ever feel lonely I know where I’m going now – within five minutes of entering the corner I was surrounded by a dozen Chinese asking me every question under the sun, from my thoughts on Obama’s health care to whether Americans really act like they do on Friends to how many famous Chinese people I can name. They were probably most excited when I told them I made my own beer (they were amazed at how much American college age people drink, but to be fair Asians can’t handle alcohol like we can haha) and were interrogating me on what goes in beer and how to make it. They were thrilled to have a native fluent speaker and were very curious about everything, I felt like such a celebrity. I made a couple new friends that I am in email contact with now, so maybe I’ll have people I can have show me the best of Beijing. I may have made a mistake because I exchanged email with one charming nursing student but as soon as I wrote mine down the other dozen people in the circle whipped out their cell phones and took pictures of it so they could email me too. I already had three letters waiting for me when I checked this morning! One of my favorites was an adorable little boy who had rehearsed questions for me like what my favorite color was. I wish I had gotten a picture with him!
Afterwards we went to Sanlitun, another bar district a little further away from us. It was not that great mostly because we got lost and no one could decide where we wanted to go and once we finally chose one called Club LA (they had a fake beach out front and inside were disco balls and bubble machines haha) it was so hot and crowded that we left pretty soon afterwards. On our way home though we were stopped by a police barrier and soon as we stopped in confusion about a mile of tanks drove past. It was so loud. I have never seen so many tanks in action in my life. It was another rehearsal for the National Day Parade (China will celebrate its 60th anniversary as the PRC on October 1st and will have a giant parade with military and weapons proudly displayed). It was definitely a little frightening, since it wasn’t my own country’s tanks driving down the street. I took a video on my phone (I’m so angry that I didn’t have my good camera but I never bring it clubbing!) but I can’t upload it still, so I will when I can.
Tonight I am headed to a rave on an aircraft carrier. It will be so crazy. We made a mad power shopping excursion this morning to try to find rave outfits, with minimal but decent success. The best part was probably finding the “Charlie Brown Café” which was pretty much wonderful. It even had Snoopy cakes. I found real coffee for the first time since I’ve arrived, which made my morning. We then found a mall which even had some clothes that fit me, so I found a neon yellow shirt and grey mini skirt to wear – not ideal but decent (don’t worry Hillary, I’ll take pictures for you!). It should be really fun. I am curious to see what the foreigner to Chinese ratio is, since most Chinese our age don’t really party, whereas some of us go out almost every night.
I’m in the process of getting tickets for the bullet train to Chingdao for the break we have in a couple weeks. My friend has been there before and says it’s one of her favorite places in China, and it has a beach. It might be a complete pain in the ass to travel in the break because it will be us and a billion peeps but hopefully we won’t have trouble getting there. It will be nice to see other places and get out of the giant city for a few days!
Well, the party buses are about to arrive. I promise to post pictures when I can!

Death, or so it feels.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 15, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Well, I thought I was getting over my cold but woke up much worse. I went to the pharmacy to attempt to ask for cold medicine and was successful surprisingly quickly, but failed to think that what says “Tylenol Cold” here is not what I’m used to back home. They do not have the same psuedoephedrine regulations here. So I took the high dose before my three hour class hoping to be able to breath by the end of it.
Yep, almost passed out about an hour later. Tried to explain to teacher that I needed to leave because the world was spinning but that got lost in translation. He thought I was cleverly using the vocabulary, since cruelly and ironically the words in our sections were “dizzy” and other not-feeling-well words.
I made it to my bed, barely, passed out and woke up 5 hours later, not feeling any better. Perhaps because the dose is every 6 hours and it had been 9 by the time I woke up but I’m afraid to take anymore.
I have much homework and I’m supposed to be at my internship tomorrow morning. So… Ugh.

Something old, something new.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13, 2009 by jenniferautumn

I had a conversation with a native Chinese yesterday at the Summer Palace, and we asked her what she thought the biggest difference between China and America is. She replied that she feels it is that Americans are always looking forward and finding new paths, and the Chinese are looking back to their history and traditions to find the right path. I thought that was very interesting, and astute. Who knew I would find out so much about myself by leaving my home.

Nothing but contradictions

Posted in Uncategorized on September 13, 2009 by jenniferautumn

China is nothing if not complex. It’s difficult to get a grip on what’s going on here, but so interesting to observe too. I am thoroughly convinced I will never truly understand what it means to be Chinese. Everything is a contradiction. For example, there are guards everywhere, but none carry weapons. There are X-ray machines for bags at the subway, but no metal detectors for the people. Beida is surrounded by concrete walls and gates, but there are no locks on the gates.
I think the most interesting one is the opposite of America. We (mostly) trust our government to keep us safe, but we are terrified of other people. We have locks and guns and don’t walk alone or talk to strangers. Here everyone seems to trust the people, but (in my opinion) it is the government you cannot feel safe with. There is a very low crime rate, really no need to lock doors and no one has weapons. Yet you cannot say anything you want to or do anything you want to because of Big Brother. Just another difference for us but who’s to say which is better.

My favorite things so far

Posted in Uncategorized on September 12, 2009 by jenniferautumn

Some of my favorite things about China so far:

How the Chinese are always singing to themselves.
How stylish the females are.
How helpful and friendly (most) people are.
How cheap everything is.
The abundance of bars, clubs, and super cheap alcohol.
How in some spots, like the small lake on campus, are little peaceful oases in the middle of one of the world’s biggest cities.
How many people bike every where.
The cheap and abundant public transportation systems.
Bubble tea.
Trying a food I’ve never seen before at almost every meal.
All the willow trees.
Figuring out that no matter how much I thought I knew about China, I don’t know anything about China.
That I’ve successfully been able to make several purchases entirely in Chinese and with minimal pointing.
How no one, especially Chinese women, ever answers a question directly, most especially if the answer is no.
Being the center of attention in most places and almost as fascinating to natives as the historical palaces and temples when we visit sites.
That despite defying death every time I get in a vehicle, I have so far defied death.
Learning something I never knew about the world every single conversation that I have here.

And there’s more, but I will make another list in the near future. This is just a tidbit to keep everything from thinking I am not enjoying myself while I get used to the extreme differences here!