3/25/17 – Ups and Downs

This week has been very long, and very tiring, with some good things and some bad things. I’m going to start with the bad things. I’ve been exhausted all week (although I feel like I say that every week), to the point where I’ve actually started drinking coffee. On Wednesday night, I heard the news that my 18 year old dog had finally died, which hit me harder than I’d expected, considering that I’ve been thinking she was going to die at any time for over a year. This meant that I only slept about 5 hours before my oral test, which nevertheless seemed to go well, and that I was still in a pretty bad mood on Friday.

However, there were good things about this week. I went out with my calligraphy class to get dinner on Tuesday, and after our Friday activity (attending a speaking contest that I didn’t sign up for, although one of my classmates won it so that was exciting), my friend dragged me out to a really nice hotpot place. I ate lots of spicy hotpot and also lots of excellent fruit, tried duck intestine, and also enjoyed watching the famed noodle dance (where a man comes out and pulls your noodles in front of you, flicking the dough around beautifully as he does it). Lots of good food helped me feel better, and I got to go home and try another interesting food, duck blood tofu. The flavor wasn’t too bad, kind of like a hard boiled egg if the white and the yolk were combined, but the texture was…odd. I would not actively try to eat it again, but it also wasn’t really a terrible experience.

Today we went to the Summer Palace, which was absolutely gorgeous, and the sky even cleared up slightly as the day went on. I got baozi for breakfast, because I’d arrived early, and another customer of the little stall complimented me on my language skills (whether or not she would have felt the same if she’d seen me try to order something other than baozi I’m not sure), so that was a confidence boost. We went to the lake, walked along the long corridor, and then went up to the Buddhist temple on the mountain. There the larger group split up, and I went with two American and two Chinese students to see the other side of the mountain, with lots of beautiful architecture, and then to get lunch. It was a really pleasant day overall, and I’m happy that this weekend has been more cheerful than the rest of the week.

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This was in a plaza surrounded by little rooms that were open to the center so that inhabitants of the palace could enjoy opera performances.

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A building next to the main temple, with a hint of the city skyline in the background. It was hard to believe that we were barely a 10 minute bus ride from campus, because the park felt so isolated from the rest of the city, so it really felt like a trip to a completely different place.

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A close up on some of the statues that decorated every building. The number of animals and what they are has significance, but I don’t remember what it is exactly. I thought they were beautiful, though. 

3/19/17 – Final Stretch

This past week has dumped a lot on my shoulders. On one hand, there were extra homework assignments that needed doing, on the other, the weather got suddenly worse, and as an extra push, it hit me that I only have 3 weeks left of classes before finals, study trips, and then my time in China is over.

First the homework. On top of our regular schedule, we had a new assignment, where we were to take a video and dub over it in Chinese. It’s not really due until next week, but the suggestion was to get a first draft done, in order to send it in for corrections. I decided that instead of worrying about tones, I wanted to do a song, which at first seemed easier. Then I realized that some of the fast lines have difficult dipthongs, and that the recording window was slightly off from the music in some cases, and I somewhat regretted my decision. Still, I got at least a first draft done, although it might end up being my final draft, depending on how I feel about the rest of this week. Additionally, we got an extra assignment to do a performance (first thing tomorrow morning) of a story or movie. We chose Shrek 2, which has been amusing, but we have had very little time to work on it, with a written test on Friday pushing everything to the weekend, and one of our members signing up for activities last week, before she knew about our performance, and so the bulk of the work was done today, which also means that we have had no real rehearsal time and we only have tonight to learn our lines. I’m not super optimistic about this performance, and at this point I just want it to be over.

In addition, the weather has gotten terrible. It’s been smoggy all week, with today being by far the worst. The reason is that last week there was an important government meeting, so all the factories were shut down to create a beautiful blue sky while all the important people were here, and that has made this week’s weather that much more oppressive. I’m grateful for my mask, but I miss the blue sky.

But I have had some fun this week. I went to a Beijing Opera mask painting activity, and painted my own mask, although I used very little actual paint. There was a limited amount of it, and almost no black, which was the main color my chosen mask used, so instead I drew on the lines with marker and only painted the red accents. In the evening I went out with some friends to see the live action Beauty and the Beast, which I really enjoyed. We saw it in IMAX 3D, which I think was a little overwhelming for my eyes, as I couldn’t focus during the big sweeping shots, but it was a beautiful movie. I also got to watch Shrek 2 with a friend (as the fun part of our homework). I know I need to buckle down and get everything done, but after my lack of a real break this weekend, I feel like this week is going to be rather long.

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Me wearing my mask. The black and white represents evil characters, which is why it’s so intimidating.

3/13/17 – Halfway through

It’s hard to believe, but at the end of this past week, I’m officially halfway through the term in China. Time has gone so fast, and I feel like the second half is likely to go just as quickly. This week was also the week of me buckling down and getting things done, namely my homework. I was amazingly productive, with the determination to sit down and finish my homework as quickly as possible so that I could then relax a little more during the evening and at lunch. It was kind of a relief, honestly, and I hope I can continue to do this as much as possible.

The weather continues to be warm and relatively clear. I never thought I’d be grateful for sun in my eyes while I ride the bus to school, but it means that the weather isn’t cloudy or smoggy, so I don’t mind it so much. On Friday I even got to sleep in a little, because of an activity planned for later in the afternoon, which meant that I wasn’t leaving the house in the cold early morning and I felt comfortable enough to wear a skirt and my lightest jacket. The activity was a bunch of camp-style games set all over campus, and we were split into teams consisting of BeiDa students and exchange students. The skirt wasn’t the best idea for needing to run around and do various activities, but it saved me from pushups, so I don’t really mind. My shoes, however, were not the best for running around, and that turned out to be more of a problem, as my feet were a little bit sore at the end of the day. This soreness wouldn’t have been so much of an issue if I hadn’t signed up to hike up a mountain (Mang mountain) on Saturday.

Saturday was warm but slightly overcast, which was really too bad, because the views from the mountain were lovely, and would have been better had it not been so cloudy. The thing about hiking up mountains in China, however, is that they don’t have trails in the way that Americans think about trails – instead, they have hundreds and hundreds of steps all the way up to the top. This, to me, was worse, particularly because I didn’t eat enough leading up to the hike, so in the beginning I was a little bit woozy. Luckily I’d bought some huge apples the day before, so after eating one I felt much better, but stairs are pretty rough on one of my knees (which has an issue with too many stairs). It didn’t hurt on the way up, but, as expected, the way down was a different story. Of course, the pain from going down stairs fades much more quickly than the soreness in my other leg’s muscles from favoring my knee on the way down, so I’m still feeling the effects of the hike even now.

Overall, it was a relief not to have a written test this week (although I’m never safe from the oral ones), and I had a great time doing physical things on Friday and Saturday, and then talking with my friends and resting on Sunday. If the rest of the term goes like this week did, I think I’ll consider it a successful time.

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My team and I performing one of the tasks in our games

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At the foot of the mountain there was a large Buddha statue and the 12 animals of the zodiac, so naturally I had to take a photo posing with mine.

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A selfie at the top of Mang Mountain

3/4/17 – Midterms

This week was wonderfully warm and clear, which means that, of course, it was one of the most intense weeks for the students – midterms week. It was also, of course, the week that my occasionally scratchy throat decided to turn into a full blown cold.

Monday was really the worst day, with what I’m fairly certain was a small fever during one of my classes, and just general terrible feelings. I decided to go to sleep pretty early that night, and leave finishing my homework for lunch the next day, which turned out to be a good idea, because I felt relatively good on Tuesday. The rest of the week was just battling exhaustion while trying to stay on top of the continuous new words as well as studying all of the chapters studied up until this point, amounting to a book and a half.

Monday was also the last day for one of my favorite teachers, who told us quite suddenly that she was returning back to her hometown to work (which had been part of her long term plan from the start). This was really saddening, and I’m going to miss her a lot. Because she didn’t tell us we couldn’t get her anything, and I wasn’t sure how to say goodbye to her, since hugging people isn’t really that much of a thing in China and I was barely keeping myself awake in the first place.

I’m fairly certain that both my spoken and written midterms went well. I felt particularly confident with most of the written one, although I did finish 15 minutes early – something that doesn’t usually happen. I decided to take it as a good sign, guarding the pieces of that day’s birthday cake for when my classmates got out of the test. As time passed, I started getting more worried about my speedy finish, and by the time everyone else finished – an hour after the allotted time – I became pretty concerned about my speed. I think a lot of it is that I spent a lot more time sleeping than them (in order to try and make my cold go away), so that I might not be quite as well versed in all aspects of our lessons, but my mind was working a lot better. Most of the test felt fairly easy to me, and like I understood it, so I’m hoping that’s a good sign. I guess I’ll find out on Monday.

After a break, we had a Chinese style painting class, where we used ink and water to paint pandas eating bamboo. I had a lot of fun, despite my frustrations with anything remotely resembling watercolors, and afterwards I went with three other classmates to play mahjong. We did this for a while, and then my friend and I went to get baozi together. She didn’t have much money on her student card, but they’re so cheap that we still both got a lot. Afterwards we went to the store, so I could pick up some sweet bread and snacks. At this store, because I hadn’t eaten much that day, I decided to get more baozi, and was able to order them without pointing at anything – only speaking. I’m really proud of this fact, although it did mean that I got a type that I don’t like as much as some of the other ones, because that’s the one I know how to say. Still, I’m happy with my ability to get them at all, even if it is a very simple task. On my way home I felt so good that I stopped and got some pineapple at a street stall, and, although I did forget how to say pineapple, it’s pretty common in street stalls to point and say ‘how much is this’, so I still consider the evening a triumph. After that I was more than happy to sleep early, and spend all day today resting and chatting with my friends. Here’s to more warm clear weather and successes with my speaking ability!

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My panda eating his bamboo – I had a hard time getting enough water off my brush, so the ink spread a little bit more than expected, but I think that the overall result is pretty okay!