The weather has been warming up, and that has made this week (particularly these last couple days) much more pleasant. Despite the warm weather, I did have some midweek frustrations, particularly with my lack of language skill. I know I’ve been improving, but it’s still incredibly frustrating when you actually try and talk to someone (outside of your teachers) and they can’t understand you, or you have a quiz on a word that, no matter how many times you repeat it, you can never seem to write correctly. My next language is definitely going to be one with an alphabet, because the disconnect between writing and speaking is pretty hard on me. It also doesn’t help it that my throat has been scratchy all week and I’ve started coughing a little, which means I am definitely getting sick – although I hope it goes away without getting much worse.

However, I am enjoying my improved abilities, even if they’re not enough to actually let me function independently in China. I’ve noticed more words that I know on signs and advertisements, and I can understand more of what people say, as long as they speak slowly. My teacher liked the story I wrote for my weekend homework, although she was frustrated at my cliffhanger, and said that this was the first time that she’s genuinely been looking forward to next week’s journals. We also played cards a few times in the breaks between class, and got everyone (teacher included) to play Go Fish together (because it’s a game that’s easy to explain even if you don’t know how to say a lot of words related to cards).

Also, this weekend has been wonderful. After doing relatively well (I hope) on my oral exam on Thursday, and hopefully as well on my written exam on Friday, I went with a smaller group of students to an orphanage to hear about what they do and play and sing a little bit with some of the kids. A lot of orphanages in China (according to one of the workers) have children with disabilities or other medical problems, because families (particularly poor ones) often don’t know how to take care of their children or don’t have the means to get the medical attention they need. I’m not the biggest fan of kids, but it was fun to go and play with them, and it was also fun to just hang out and be able to talk to some of the people I don’t usually see – in English!

Today we went to the 798 art district, which was a lot of fun. It was a very nice location, with a more Western feel (one friend said that it reminded her of parts of Manhattan, so she felt at home), and we walked around looking in galleries and shops as well as at the street art and stalls. For lunch, we went to a restaurant with some BeiDa students, which was very helpful as we didn’t have to struggle through ordering. The lunch was wonderful, with a variety of dishes, and I’m definitely going to look up how to cook green beans and eggplant (two dishes I’m usually not fond of) the way that they do in China. I was too hungry to stop and take a picture of the food, but it was all wonderful. I also got to experience haggling for the first time, although I wasn’t very active in it and mostly let other people do the talking, and I’m very happy with some of the things that I got. With the pleasant weather, it was overall a great day.

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The path along the walk from the office to the dorm – I could smell the pine sap starting to run, and it reminded me of home.

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Paintings done on the inside of glass bottles and beads, done by a man with a little street stall. He also writes names on the inside of these beads, for no extra cost than that of the beads themselves. 

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There were lots of statues all around, many with open mouths, so we had a lot of fun mimicking their poses and facial expressions.

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