Monday, December 23, 2013
Been back at the gym lately! Going to the gym just makes me feel so much better: more relaxed, stronger, makes me sleep better, and on and on. I feel alright if I don't go, but I just feel awesome when I start going again, I wonder why I ever stopped! So there is a university gym here for students. 8 kuai to use the treadmill for a half hour and weights! Good deal.
But really, there was a good reason why I didn't keep up at the gym since I arrived in Nanjing. I figured that, like in the United States, the gym would be mostly full of dudes working out. In the US I can handle being the only girl in the gym, or usually there is at least one other female person. But over here, it is a little different. It is very clear than when I lift weights, I look really really odd. People take long, undisguised looks, and not going to lie, it is really uncomfortable. I even got my picture taken the other day, and no, they did not ask my permission first.
Being here, just doing what I always do, I can feel the differences between peoples' reaction to me. Going to the gym is one of my things, and one of the differences is that people just think it is really weird for me to want to work out. China doesn't really emphasize physical education as something worth pursuing. Sometimes I see people walking around who clearly have never done any physical exercise. People with no muscles. No butt whatsoever. Arms that aren't used to lifting more than a finger. Awkward, uncoordinated running strides. So when I arrive at the gym in my work out clothes and have a good run and do squats and lift weights, I just stick out like a sore thumb.
I feel like another aspect to my awkwardness has to do with my female-ness. Sexism is still alive and kicking here. I feel its presence in odd and subtle ways once in a while, and I get that feeling when I go to the gym. There seems to be so many reasons why someone would stare at me or take my picture that it would be difficult to say definitively why it occurs or attribute it to any one reason, but I feel like the female thing is definitely playing a role here. I feel almost subversive when I show up and pick up a set of weights.
Though its terribly awkward, I will keep going to the gym. I will keep showing up there doing what I always do, because I know there is nothing wrong with me working out, or wearing cute work out clothes, or lifting weights. I actually kind of like the idea that I can make people uncomfortable, because it means that they're going to have to reflect what is is that is making them uncomfortable, and why, maybe. As long as I can take the heat first. Because really, it is really weird.
Thursday, December 5, 2013
So this has been the weirdest week I could have ever imagined.
Sunday-Decided to come home to take care of this liver thing, I think I mentioned it before.
Monday-Was on a plane home.
Monday (California time)-Doctor's visits galore.
Tuesday-Thursday-On the phone with the doctors office.
Hopefully I can get in with the Liver specialist tomorrow, considering all the time we spent complaining on the customer service line. Best case scenario they will tell me that I am fine, and that I can just resume business as usual. That outcome seems almost anticlimactic, given the circumstances, but I would certainly be most happy with that, of course. This is still too surreal to like, reflect properly on though, so I will just leave it to your imagination.
Besides that, being on the airplane not even 12 hours after my tickets were booked was crazy. It was like I might as well have take a ride in a spaceship or a time machine or something. Suddenly I was worlds away from where I was just a few hours ago. I packed light, got my passport stamped, and got on my way. Shayn took me to the airport bus, which was such a good way to start my journey. Overall things went well, and are going well, but I just want to get back to my program. I feel like I just suddenly had to leave all of my work and all of my friends behind on no notice at all. I am sad. To say the very least. Being home and seeing my family is wonderful, but such bad timing. I'm just trying to trust in what the universe brings, that these are all good things that are happening. It's hard on me. But what can I do? Just relax, stay calm, enjoy, work hard, keep moving forward... I'm trying my best here. Wish me luck people.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
On Thanksgiving day, China time, I went to class, and took a test, and then came back starving, and like wolfed down a whole bowl of hot clay bowl mixed rice in like five minutes flat. I didn't even think about it being Thanksgiving for like even a second while I ate dinner! Later while talking to a friend, she asked me what I was going to do for Thanksgiving dinner, and it dawned on me that I have just zoomed right on through it! It was so odd, do think that I had actually forgotten to celebrate Thanksgiving.
Anyways, despite the fact that I am a horrible person for forgetting thanksgiving, I was able to talk to my whole family that morning, which was such a treat. They called me on Skype, and I got to say hi to my mom and dad, sister, uncle, grandpa, and great-aunt. Very cool.
And now, I'd like to take a second to share all the things that I am thankful for. So many things, where do I start?
My family! How lucky I am am to have such an amazing group of people that I get to share my life with! How lucky I am that my parents love and support me enough to put me through school and let me go halfway around the world, and who help me navigate all sorts of stupid problems that I get myself into. Check bounces in a foreign country--call Dad. How to make pie dough--call Mom. Feeling tired and/or confused, don't know what to do, and need a pep talk--call my parents. For times to marvel in wonder at the universe--call my sister. Haha, it makes me sound like a baby, but I just really love my family, and I feel so blessed by them.
I feel grateful for the getting the opportunity to study and get an education, especially here in Nanjing. This experience has been absolutely 100% positive, empowering, eye-opening, fun, and challenging. I feel like my Chinese is improving, I am making wonderful friends and connections, and that I am getting to know a part of myself. Its as if this world is my home, and I am simply getting to know areas of my home that I have had yet to explore. I cannot express how important a role education has played in shaping me as a person, and is such a gift.
I am grateful for my healthy body. I wake up in the morning happy, pain free, fully abled. My body lets me walk to the bus station, lets me read and write papers far later into the night than is reasonable, lets me stay up late and have fun, and still doesn't keel over. I did recently discover that I have a cyst in my liver which I am being urged to handle as swiftly as possible, but oddly enough, these days I feel better than ever, and I feel like this cyst thing is just unimportant in light of all the good things that I have going for me. Maybe not the most practical though, but hey, I'm just saying.
I am thankful for my sweetest, nicest boyfriend, Will, who is working his butt off in SF, doing all manner of jobs, and films, and acting companies. I just couldn't be any happier for you baby. I am grateful that you are doing so well. I am grateful you haven't keeled over yet from all of your 18hr work days!
In short, I am grateful to be alive, to feel the cold air on my face in the morning, to get tongue-tied speaking bad Chinese, to dance Zumba class with all the onlookers looking-on, to drag my ass out of bed every morning and to the office, to eat delicious delicious chinese breakfast burrito that may or may not be cooked all the way. This life just couldn't be any more delicious, like biting into a cool crisp apple and crunching it all up with juice running down your fingers. I say, so what if it's getting a little sticky, to hell with it all, because this apple is just so delicious! And this apple is my life. So thanks Mom and Dad for having me, thanks SF State for teaching me, thanks to China for taking me in, thanks to my friends for loving me, and thanks to the universe for letting me exist here, right now.
Friday, November 22, 2013
But so then later I had one of those you're-doing-it-wrong epiphanies. So get this.
I was like complaining to my friend Ben about how long my paper is, wah, whoa is me, this sort of thing. By that time I had written about 4 pages, and the word count was only at like 2100 words. So I relate this to Ben, saying that if I go on like this, this paper is going to be like 6 pages long, but then he looks at me and says, no way. He was writing a paper at this time as well, and says he's on page two and has 2000 characters--there was clearly something not matching up.
He goes, "Wait, are you using word count or character count?"
Me: [mind gets blown] "I'm sorry, what?" There is a difference?
Yes folks, there is a real big difference, to the tune of like 4500 actual characters, as compared to 2100 "words."
So I'll explain a little bit. The essay is in Chinese, and the "character count" is 3000. But I was just going off the "word count" that is listed at the bottom of the page in my word processor. I thought that this would be fine to use, because in Chinese each character is its own word. But then two words next to each other can have a new meaning, almost like a new word. We suspect that somehow the program, Pages, was actually counting character phrases, which literally chops the actual word count in half.
So this was the day before the paper was due, and here I was thinking that I had such a long way to go, when in reality I had written far more that was actually necessary. I'm sure that you can imagine, I was so surprised and happy. It was such a relief.
The other funny thing is though, that I have been going off of this "word count" for my entire career in college. So all of the assignments that I have ever written have literally been twice as long as they were supposed to. Surprise! All the time I could have spent....
For all of you unsuspecting Chinese students though, for all that is good in the world, use character count, and save yourself the trouble! Anyways, that was a funny moment this week, thought I would share. Love, R.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
I've been sitting in this office all day long, feverishly writing this paper, the longest paper I've ever written in the shortest time I've ever been given in a foreign language... And I'm like not kidding about the feverish part, it's all this hot tea and lack of movement, it turns my face all red and hot... GOOD TIMES.
Anyways taking a break from all that to share my good news... I passed the HSK 6! This is exciting news, I didn't think that I would pass! HSK, 汉语水平考试, hanyu shuiping kaoshi, "hsk," is the standard test of Chinese language, 6 being the highest level. The test covers reading, writing and listening. Surprisingly, I did the best in writing, which is kind of cool I think, because I like writing.
I only passed by 6 points, which is to say my score was just above 60%, haha. Among Chinese college students, there is a saying 百分之70万岁, "Long live the 70th percentile," referring to the relaxed standards of passing college tests. In our case, we can say long live the 60th percentile, even better! Haha.
Its kind of a weight off of my shoulders, because from what I gather through the poorly communicated rules of this program, we are "required" to pass level 6 of this test at some point, or something. There will be a second test in the spring that we will take, but since I already got level 6, there will be somewhat less pressure for me to test well down the road.
Having a little personal celebration! Thought I would share with you guys! Wahoo!
Friday, November 15, 2013
|"Being single is eating wontons in the cafeteria, alone."|
To all of my single readers, I would like to wish you a happy Singles Day, and that you soon are able to not be single!
On November 11th, 11/11, this holiday is celebrated by singles across China, popularized by the number of one's in the date. You are supposed to eat 4 油条, "oil sticks," a fried donut type thing shaped like the number one, to signify the date, along with a baozi for the dash in the middle. Singles day in 2011 was especially well received, I'm sure that you can imagine.
If you are single, then people will send you all manner of text messages to wish you a happy holiday and that they hope you will be able to not be single soon. I thought that this phrase in Chinese was particularly funny- 早日脱光, "early day take off your single-ness." A friend in one of my classes is single, and she said she was plagued all day by texts from friends sending their wishes to her. Singles can sort of celebrate being single, but it seems more sad in a way, more like a reminded that you haven't yet found a 对象, a target for marriage.
Another aspect to singles day is, like all great holidays, consumerism! Some people have asserted that this holiday was only created by companies so that they could have Singles Day related shopping promotions. Online shopping websites, ahem, Taobao, 淘宝, have big promotions starting at midnight the day of. Some of our roommates here I heard took advantage of this to pick up some stuff, haha.
Anyways, just wanted to share this silly holiday with you all. Cheers!
Monday, November 4, 2013
Monday, October 28, 2013
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
These days when I go to dinner at the cafeteria, I come outside its already turned all dark. I get to walk back home under the trees in the gauzy orange light from the big round street lamps. Sometimes I wear a face mask to keep my allergies at bay, and since it covers both mouth and nose, it gets warmed up from my breath, and has sort of an effect of a scarf, except on your face. Walking home under the trees with all the other students in the dark with only my eyes poking out from behind the mask is just sublime.
Laundry is hang-dried here. I have the big rack outside of my window where I hang all of my wet clothes, and so does everyone else, and you can see all kinds of socks and underwear hanging around. Even people who have dryers prefer to hang their clothes outside in the sun. One of my teachers said that the clothes just don't come out the same when you use the electric dryer. My roommate also said that I should sun my bed comforter too. It gets fluffed up out there, and makes it smell like the sun, she says. Crawling into bed on an autumn evening with a freshly sunned comforter is so crisp and cozy.
No one drinks coffee, only green tea. Hot water pots are as ubiquitous as coffee makers in offices here. Loose leaf green tea in a sort of tall tupperware-like container, or a tall glass jar. Green tea with goji berries and chrysanthemum in your jar will last you from early morning to late at night, you can just keep filling it up with hot water. After a couple rounds of water, the tea turns this cloudy shade of neon green, and the flowers open up and float on the top. I have gone a few days here and there without coffee, and it left with a slight evening headache, maybe the tiniest of fevers, and feeling dreamy.
Subway rides to school are long. Long enough to read a chapter in a book, long enough to listen to a whole album, to write a few emails, read a newspaper. Not doing anything productive on my commute is my little way of protesting going all the way out there for class, and it has been a really great idea. I get to school ready to work and listen, because I had just spent that whole train ride just doing whatever, relaxing, enjoying my book, thinking about Will, missing San Francisco...
I feel calm and relaxed and good and happy and open, and just a little melancholy. Its my own fault for listening to this Do Make Say Think album too much, it's anyone's call. Anyways, love to all my friends and family and classmates and supporters, I'm thinking about you. Thanks for reading,
Friday, October 18, 2013
First, I want to say that after all of the headache that it took to manage, I want to say that I am actually really glad that I am going to a different University for classes that my other flagship classmates. NUCM is almost entirely made up of Chinese students, a big contrast to Nanjing University, where I could go all day just speaking English with all of the foreigners. I see a foreigner once in a while, but they are few and far in between. In one of my classes, Basics of Chinese Medicine Theory, and I am the only exchange student/flagship student there! It is really cool to be completely immersed in my classes, it feels like such a once in a lifetime kind of thing: 难得可贵！
Second, I want to say that I think everything that they've ever told us in America about how lucky we are to go to school there, and how school in Asia is really intense, is like 100% true. All the buildings are grey and look exactly the same, and are like a maze. And then once you find your classroom, you're teacher may or may not show up, or the room might have just changed an no one told you, or the class was just cancelled. Luckily I didn't run into these problems, but lots of my class mates did. And then, once you pin down the class, and the time, and the place, you actually have to like, go and attend the class.
Class in China is sitting and listening to the teacher talk into a microphone at the front of the class, while she/he clicks through a powerpoint, which is just lines copied from the book, that you are supposed to have in front of you. There is no eating allowed, but you can drink tea. The desks are indescribably uncomfortable, because the chair is attached to the desk at the weirdest distance from the table, and you can't move it around, and sometimes the chairs are broken. During class, if the teacher asks you a question, you stand up, and find the answer in the book as fast you humanly possible, and then read the paragraph where the answer is; none of this "say it in your own words" nonsense. Also, there seems to be some elusive kind of system where the teacher hopes that you will finish her sentences, and that if you have correctly memorized the material, you will spontaneously say the answer/finish her sentence in unison with her and the rest of the class. The one thing that the teachers seem to be lenient on is talking in class, and at some points during the lecture, a wave of low-pitched talking rises up, and literally every student in the class is just talking, and the teacher's sadly amplified voice is like, completely drowned out. But she never says anything, it is just so odd.
I also have a short break between classes, where I like to just walk around and check things out. There is always people riding around two to a bicycle, or best friends holding hands. They broadcast the campus radio program over the loud speakers outside for everyone to listen to, and they really like to play Coldplay's "Yellow." It give things sort of a sweet feeling, walking around listening to "yellow," eating tangerine's in the twilight...
Overall, I am really enjoying my classes out here. I feel so lucky! Also, I took some photos of the campus, you can check them out here.
P.S. Just a note for future Flagship students: If anyone is reading this and is wondering if they would like to take classes at Xianlin area, where my school is located, let me just tell you up front that it take A REALLY LONG TIME to get there. They tell you in the office that it takes an hour, but you best be getting along a good hour and a half before your class starts or your ass is about to be late. *huffing* That is all.
秋高气爽了！Happy Fall everyone!
Monday, October 7, 2013
|Ah yes, I "LOAE" Paul Frank too! ...My guess is that |
counterfeiting probably has something to
do with the exorbitantly high prices in China also.
So we are in downtown Hangzhou just checking out the area, and Betty spotted a shirt that she liked, so we go in to check it out.... And this shirt is cute, but its really lacking in quality, practically coming apart at the seams, and the fabric is really thin and this sort of faux-suede material. I would say comparable to something you would find at Forever 21 in the states, the price point, if I were to guess, couldn't have been more that like $15 USD or so. But we flip over the price tag and it was a whopping 540元, which is like almost $100 USD! I couldn't believe it!
This price turned out to be standard at most of the other stores that we went into in the area. Most things hovered in the 450-600元 range, and for anything nicer that like Forever 21 quality, you were looking at something more like 1000元. I couldn't believe my eyeballs, I tell you. I asked Betty what she thought of the prices, if it was just that this area was extra posh or touristy, but she said that most of the shops around our university in Nanjing were in similar price ranges, and seems to be the standard range for clothes purchased in-store.
As we browsed the racks, I thought of my sister Sofie, who has a part-time job at a high-end retail store. She is always talking about the large number of customers visiting from China that she helps. This always struck her as sort of remarkable, because really, they go in and buy A LOT of stuff, and spend a lot of money. We always wondered what that was all about, and I always conjectured that it was just the Chinese 追求名牌 "chasing brand name" phenomenon that we learned about in my Chinese class, but now that I am in China shopping, it seems like it could also be simply attributed to a cost benefit thing.
For example, if you could pay $90 to get a cheap shirt from some no name clothing retailer; or you could stalk up on name brand, better made stuff for just a little bit extra when you like, visit your Uncle in the US or something like that, which would you do? You would probably just wait it out, to get a whole bunch of the good stuff at one time, right? For like a similar price! So to them, purchasing "luxury" goods in the US is basically the same price, with more benefits: you get the flashy logo on it, which definitely has appeal here in China, and, if that shirt we saw the other day was any indicator of the quality of clothing here as a whole, you also get much nicer and well made pieces of clothing.
It really was an interesting experience to go shopping here, and it sort of put things into perspective for me as far as why American luxury brands are so popular with Chinese people. Very interesting.
Sunday, October 6, 2013
Last time I posted, I was complaining about having class on Sunday, but now I feel very refreshed from a really nice vacation. Betty and I had a lot of fun, walked around the lake, took a boat ride, ate delicious dinners, went shopping...
The only hitch we had was with the hotel. Apparently it is common for some hotels to be unable to accept foreign guests, and the hotel that we originally booked ahead of time online was one of these. After several calls with CTrip, the online booking agency for Asia that we used, everything seemed to be sorted out; once we actually arrived at the hotel though, they weren't willing to let us stay. Good old China though, usually if you just refuse to leave and make a big enough fuss, someone will help you out, so, that is exactly what I did (in a nice way of course). Eventually, the workers relented, and helped us out by finding a way around the regulations, and we had a place to stay! So just a word to my fellow travelers, Pod Inn 布丁酒店 is not recommended for foreigners ;)
I took some great photos! I decided that I don't like the way photos display on my blog though, so I posted the on my photo bucket! Please take a look by clicking here. I hope you enjoy!
Monday, September 30, 2013
When I first heard that we would be required to make up all Fridays off by holding class on SUDAY instead, I was surprised, to say the least. First of all, there is the logical thing of, why would we make up only Friday's class, and not do anything about Thursday's missed class? And what about all of the other days we miss for longer breaks? All of this Friday class make-uping has actually given us a surplus of Friday class sessions, and now we've attended it two times more than classes on other days of the week, and a week of attending class six days in a row!
And then the little anglo-christian deep inside of me was like--"You can't do that, Sunday is the day of rest!" I felt it so clearly, sort of like a violation of the sanctity of Sunday or something. I have not considered myself a religious person for a long time now, so it must have been something left over from way back in my childhood, when my family would go to church.
When we asked our program why the class schedule is arranged this way, we got a few different answers. It turns out that the holiday schedule is different every year, and that schedule does not get published until after the school year starts; this makes it impossible to know exactly how many class hours you will have when you pay your tuition. So that whole making up class things is so that you can what you paid for as far as class hours go. But there is another questions too, which is why isn't the holiday schedule the same every year, and why does it take so long to get it published?
But its not just schools that are affected: government organizations are making up the days too. That means that thousands of people are living with uncertainty of their vacation time, and without the benefit of a fixed schedule. This creates problems as far as traveling, and creates a rush to buy tickets for the holiday. For example, if you're going to visit relatives, you have to either take a gamble on the dates to buy tickets before the rush comes on, before the dates are announced; or wait until the dates are announced and fight for train tickets and hotels with the rest of 'em. I have a classmate who decided to try and get plane tickets before the travel rush, but he got his dates wrong and had to miss a week of class because of it.
These are just the facts of life in China: waiting on government bureaucracy, odd regulation... No one bats an eyelash when this type of thing happens. Most people just shrug and say "It's just China," and get on with it. And it is a rather trivial matter...
Anyways, food for thought! Happy National Day everyone! Cheers~
Monday, September 23, 2013
But now that I am here, I know exactly what it means. It means 24hr/day construction. It means leaving for a year and not knowing what your town might look like when you come back. It means new structures going up so quickly you kind of wonder if they are structurally sound. It means ditches in the road, ambiguous traffic directions, and dangerous intersections. It means NOISE, all the TIME noise, the oh god did I just damage my ear drum a little bit kind of noise. An army of men in orange helmets out on the street running cement saws in flip-flops.
Right down the street from my house, there is a big sports stadium where they will be holding the Youth Olympics next August, so in preparation they are putting in all manner of new underground stations and flower planters by the road.... SPORTS *shakes fist*
Sometimes at night I can here the high powered trenching machine at work. It makes my boyfriend's flat in San Francisco, conveniently located on 19th avenue (aka the freeway), seem like a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. It is very odd to see everything torn up like this. I am not sure if I just happened to get plopped right down in the middle of one tiny construction project, or if this is really related to the ubiquitous "China is changing" trend. I feel like it must be, on some sort of grand scale.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Yesterday we went to Purple Mountain 紫金山 to see the Sun Yat Sen's Mausoleum and to see the Ming Xiao Tomb (I don't really know the official name in english). WOW so magnificent, you must look at these pictures.
These places are particularly beautiful not by accident; they are chosen specifically because they have the best fengshui 风水.They are south facing so that the sun will be shining on them the whole day long, and also must be facing water, a symbol of clarity. They must back up against a mountain for protection, and must themselves be up in a high place, so that you must look up towards the tomb, a sign of respect. Very cool, had a fun time walking up all those stairs.