Monday, October 28, 2013

Good reasons for a bad habit

Midterms are funny to me, this time in the semester, because the difference between what I want and what the reality is is so large and noticeable that it spills over into absurdity and all I can do is just laugh. 

Come time for midterms, it's like halfway through the semester (obviously). This means that I've been like working my butt off for a good number of weeks already! To my mind, midterms is like, the time when I should be getting ready to take a long weekend or something like this. Of course this is never  the case according to the school calendar: it is the time when the real works starts, as if all that you had been doing before that was just like, for fun. The teachers are all like, "oh you thought that was bad??" And then they pull out the midterm assignment. 

So I just have to work with it. I have a really good method down, where I do exactly what I want when I want  over midterms period. For any sane and reasonable person, I probably wouldn't recommend this. But there are some good reasons why I have made this bad habit work for me. 

The first reason is that up till now if I have been legitimately working hard and doing homework, I usually have a pretty good understanding of the class material. I can just do one really big cram session before the test and work it out. My grades usually are pretty sturdy anyways, so if I do bad on a big test, it won't be totally devastating to my grade. 

And the second reason is that if I don't feel relaxed and happy and ready to get my stuff done, I will just stare at my computer screen for unreasonable amounts of time, or like watch movies online. I might as well admit that I am stressed and not ready to go to work, unwind, and then get to it when I am ready. I feel like doing "fun" things is time spent more wisely than just forcing myself to do something that I am mentally resisting. Then I usually end up spending less time and getting a better product. 

So anyways, midterms is upon us, and I am feeling pretty resistant against the giant stack of papers and presentations and reports that are coming up here... Going to probably do some more fate-tempting here in the next couple of days, so wish me luck! I'm gonna need it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Impressions - Fall is Magic

It's smack in the middle of fall, and you know how it gets sort of romantic around this time.

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

Chinese School

So this has been my first week going to a full five days of classes at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine--so cool! Finally going for a full week is really allowing me to settle in, and see things with clear eyes, instead of the initial "ohmygod where is my classroom i'm so late" sort of eyes.

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

Clothing in China

counterfeit clothing
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 over vacation, Betty and I of course had to do the little shopping trip or two, and let me just say, purchasing clothing here is surprisingly expensive, and not in the like, 物美价廉, you get what you pay for sort of way.

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

Wonderful trip to Hangzhou!

Hi all!

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!