Published: July 25th 2010July 24th 2010
OK, so, it's one month in and I am struggling to find time to update this blog. Just want to say that I have taken lots of pics, and, in particular, a lot of video. However, it seems that the video clips are not working out as I would have liked. Regarding my Sony Handycam, I did not bring the software disc with me, and, even though I can download what I need from the internet, apparently my netbook's Window 7 Starter is not compatible! So those vids will have to wait for the moment. The video on my camera is good but maybe I will upload the clip of the Lama Temple next month (it takes AGES to upload stuff on this site!). However, the video I like using the most, but which I have clearly not gotten used to using, is the camera on my iPod. What's the problem? Well, I managed to record the first clips sideways and even upside down - because there are no instructions to tell you which is the correct way to hold the camera up! A few of my iPod clips are on the blog. And anyone with a laptop will be able
to turn their screen in the appropriate direction to watch the clip properly. Everyone else will have to use their imagination!
Anyway, enough of the video clip saga! How am I? What have I been up to? Well, I am good. A little emotional that the first course is already over. Said goodbye to the Vietnamese girls - Lannhi and Trang just the other day. I cannot believe 4 weeks has passed so quickly. One month of my year in China is ALREADY over, and it sad to be closing off that first, albeit often incredibly frustrating, chapter.
So, did we sort out the accomodation? Yes, and no. We are currently on campus now in the International Students House (the best accomodation on campus apart from the Conference Centre where business people often stay). I have to say that when we first arrived at BLCU we went around the different dorm buildings, only to be shocked by dirty and dingy spaces they called 'rooms'. We were very determined to get into International House, and eventually, after many visits, lots of complaining and paying a huge deposit, we managed to reserve a place there.
However, when it came
time to leave the hotel, we did not really want to go! We had gotten used to living off-campus. Cycling to and from uni. Enjoying the night market at the top of the road, where you could eat amazingly cheap street food (my fave 'Chinese burger' costs 25p - yes a whole meal for 25p!) and you would just have to suffer any upset stomach related issues gladly. I miss watching the World Cup in the reception, sitting in a swirl of cigarette smoke (people smoke anywhere and everywhere) and battling for the one computer which actually worked. But mostly I miss sharing a room with Maria Rosa. We were cruelly split when we arrived at International House - although, to be honest, she lives only 3 doors down, and now I see her more than ever! Anyway, they gave us the choice of nationality for a roommate - 'Meiguoren haishi Aodaliyaren?' (American or Australian?), I was asked. Why would I want to share with messy, beer-swigging, good-time Yanks/Aussies?! I wanted a quiet roommate. Someone discreet, clean, respectful...needless to say I asked for a Japanese roommate! And Yumi is cool. She does not speak much English, so our conversations involve
a lot of hand gestures and me constantly dipping into my dictionary. Yumi has also rewarded me by going to Shanghai for two weeks to do some voluntary work! So now I can enjoy the room all to myself for a bit!
The Mandarin course has been very intense. Only 4 hours a day, but lessons start from 8am. Why oh why, 8am, I ask myself? I feel that I am getting up at the same time I used to to go to work! Boo hoo! Anyhoo, we have two 'laoshi's (teachers) per day. And one of the laoshi's scared me on the first day when she said that 'Outside class, we friends, inside class, we not friends'. I guess she wanted to make sure we got the most out of our lessons with her! We tackle one topic a day, with about 20 or 30 words to learn. In total there were 219 new words in our first text book. I am sure I only know half of those words at best, and worst still, I cannot write many Hanzi (Chinese characters). So the teachers are cool. We have the same structure of learning every day - listen
and repeat, over and over again.
The class was a mixed group of youngsters in the 18-22 age bracket. Mostly Americans, a Korean, an Aussie, a Canadian, one other Brit and a Turkish guy. At first I kept myself to myself during the 'xiuxi' or breaks. However, in the end I would chat happily with my classmates at breaktime, and I found their individual stories for coming to China to be very interesting. So I am even missing them now, my old class, with whom I got comfortable with. No more 70's era-clothes-wearing Hugo. No more Constantine coming in super-late and hungover. No more Edward not even coming in at all. No more JoJo looking, and sounding, completely lost. No more Kelsey giving another detailed account of what she had been up to the night before with the locals. No more Jonathan being quiet. No more Jiyn He looking cute because she does not understand a word of English. No more Angie (wode hen hao pengyou or 我的很好朋友 - my very good friend) battling with me to answer the teacher's questions the fastest...
As you can see in my pics, I have managed to fit in a bit
of sight-seeing in between studying. The very first trip was to visit part of the Great Wall. I think we went on the hottest day of the year, and I must have lost half a stone in sweat! I have also visited the Forbidden City (huge)／故宫, Tiannamen Square／天安门广场, Bei Hai／北海 and Hou Hai／后海 lakes, as well as the Lama Temple／雍和宫. I have discovered there are three, yes, three Zara's in Beijing, and now I am safe in the kowledge that my wardrobe will be set for the winter period! And I have also discovered an Arsernal store Sabrina, which seems to be quite random. I have not yet been inside, but I am very curious, and will check it out soon.
Although we have many student friendly bars and clubs in Wudaokou, the Universities district, here in the north-west of Beijing, the main area for going out is Sanlintun／三里屯, in the east. Unfortunately for us, however, it is a 30/40 minute ride away by taxi! And that's like 10 times the cost of a meal in the uni canteen. Anyhoo, I have been a couple of times - it's a bit like the West End - it has shops
(Adidas, Apple etc), bars, restaurants and clubs, but I was not that impressed. Too many foreigners, I guess. However, I must admit to getting my groove on recently at Mix as you can see in the video clip..."Gangster, gangster...gang-gangster"...Hey, maybe I'll be forking out the return taxi ride again sooner than I think...
Anyway, that's it for now. I realise I have not even mentioned any culture shocks as such. But I assure you that I am storing them all up for next month's instalment. And what else have you to look forward to for next time? Well, me bonding with my new class. Me getting over the departure of 我的很好朋友' - my very good mate, Angie. Me starting work teaching English at a school in the centre of town. Me sorting out my visa before I get kicked out of the country. Me trying to find someone who does not want to learn English from me, and just actually wants to be my friend..!
Until next time, people, zaijian!
There are more photos below