Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving in China, or Life is a Crisp Apple

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Wishing so bad that I was back in the states eating turkey and stuffing with everyone right now. Boy, I do love Thanksgiving. Usually, at some point during the meal, I get to mention what I am thankful for, but since I have no turkey dinner, I will just mention it here! But before I do that, let me tell you a funny story.

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.

Love, Rachel.

Friday, November 22, 2013


So, if you read my last post, you probably noticed I was in a bit of a tizzy--I had just been really working hard on this paper, and it was sort of getting to me that night.

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

A little tiny update, HSK Scores

Hi Everyone!

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

光棍节--Happy Belated Single's Day, Everyone!

"Being single is eating wontons in the cafeteria, alone."
Hello Everyone!

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

So what's with the face masks?

I've had a few people back in the states ask me about the face mask thing and why people wear them. There are a couple reasons for the mask, maybe a little pseudo-sciency, but reasons nonetheless. 

I started wearing one if the bluish green surgical masks a couple of weeks ago on my roommates suggestion. I get really bad pollen allergies, and was sneezing for like 10 minutes solid, and the next day she brought some home for me to wear. She said that it's common for people wear them to help with allergies. I feel like this makes sense, because it's a physical barrier between your face and pollen. I haven't had a ton of allergy flare-ups since I've been here, so I can't say definitively weather or not it really works, but I buy it. 

The second reason that people wear a mask is to prevent the spread of illness. You would wear it if you were sick, so that you wouldn't get anyone else sick. Sick days in china are not really a thing, and you probably have to show up to work or class once or twice while your sick, so you could wear one at that time, on the subway, etc. The drawback is that they make your face really hot and are really annoying to wear inside. 

The third reason for a mask is to prevent breathing in dirty air when you are out in the road. I see so many people riding bicycles, on their motorbike, or just walking around wearing a mask out in busy streets. I feel like the pseudo-science comes in a little bit here, but I invite you to suspend your suspicion for just a moment to imagine being in really dirty air. Like your standing behind a tractor for a few minutes, a California afternoon when the southern  half the state is on fire, your sister left the bottle of nail polish open in the smallest bathroom in the house, a campfire that hasn't quite taken yet and is mostly just smoke... These are the kind if smells that you will get out on the street. The kind if smells which you can't tell if they simply smell bad or if they are actually dangerous. A classmate has even told me she gets headaches when she goes  out for too long, so you really can't help but wonder. When faced with these strange smells, you cannot help but want to cover your nose and mouth. Having a mask on can really help with this. 

There are a few different kinds masks, which are the surgical type masks, and then novelty cloth masks. As far as I can tell, neither if these masks have any type if extra protection, other than just being cloth over your face, hence my suspicion of pseudo-science. The novelty ones are funny, baecause they come in children's sizes, men and women's styles, big and small, Lacey and pink, checkered... Quite funny. 

I myself bought this really great shiny pink lepoard one that covers most if my face. Will says it makes me look like a ninja hehe. Not only is it totally adorable, it gets warmed up from your breath and keeps you really warm! It keeps the dangerous and gross smells down and potentially helps my allergies stay under control. It helps keep me healthy and keeps out roadside dirt particles. And it covers my face and makes me look less like a foreigner! So for me and many others, the mask is definitely working.