At last, the First Day

Unfortunately, I don’t think this post is very humorous. Just informative. Sorry in advance.
So today was my first day of school, exciting stuff. I woke up, got my hair wet, changed into some clothes, got my bag, went to breakfast with mama. I think I’m the first white person to go there, one of the waitresses must’ve told the cook staff because all the chefs took turns peeking their head out the kitchen door to look at me. The noodles were good, then off to school. We were supposed to get there a half-hour early to get our books and uniforms, which wasn’t really true because they didn’t give us anything. We were just led to our first class, Chinese.
Which was ridiculously easy. We had two teachers (three classes, first two with one, and the last one with another). The first one was young, and seemed like she had never taught before because she was nervous…we ‘learned’ extremely basic Chinese (Ni Hao, Zaijian, Wo, Ta, Ni, Laoshi, Tongxuemen). For you non-Mandarin speakers out there, that means Hello, Goodbye, I/Me, He/She, You, Teacher, Students. Things most people already knew, even if they had never taken Mandarin before. We then did the vowel sounds (which can be hard) and be pe me fe. I can’t really explain be pe me fe to people who haven’t taken Chinese before…my best advice would be to search on Youtube for “Chinese Alphabet Song” and some annoying thing will play, and you’ll sort of get it.
The second teacher, Vala, is one of the AFS people, and she’s really nice. A good teacher, too, she taught us useful words for talking about Tongshenghu (my school). She also gave us a little geography lesson so we knew about Changsha and the Hunan province in general.
Finally, after 120 minutes of that, (with ten minute breaks after each 40 minutes), it was lunch time. The only upside to this was getting to hang out with everyone and talk…no one likes the food the school has very much. After we eat, we have around two hours to sit in this “Intercultural Library” (that we are the only apparant users of) which we aren’t allowed to leave (except to go to the bathroom). It’s like a very beautiful and boring prison…we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to do there every single day. Probably cards of some sort. Moritz had his iTouch, but that got old after a while and only two people can play a game at a time. So yeah, we chilled for a while, not knowing where our next classes were, or if we were getting uniforms or books yet. We talked to Vala and she gave us books (but not enough for everyone, and missing some subjects) but still not uniform. Then off to class.
In my class I have Moritz, Pauline and Karina. Maybe also Guilia, but she was in the hospital apparently for some unknown reason. Hope she’s okay. We didn’t know how many students would be in the class, so we sat in the fifth row (there were like twelve) where there were four non-broken seats in a row. Turns out, the other students only filled up two rows…so we stood out by our clothing, ethnicity, AND where we sat in class. Great. Walking to the classroom had already gotten us stared at by an entire army of small Chinese children. Forty brown eyes staring at you and pointing excitedly. I said I liked it before…now it’s just getting a little annoying. When I went shopping with my sister, people were turning to stare at me even more, one would get a glimpse of me and tell their friend who then would also look and point. I really want to make a shirt that either says “I know I’m white” or “Don’t stare, please”. In characters, of course, so it would throw them off. Maybe. We’ll see.
Anyhow, I had Chemistry, Music, then Physics. Chemistry was sooooo boring. These kids must’ve never been taught any chemistry in their whole lives….and very little science for that matter. Today they learned what a hypothesis was, how to do an experiment (which was in the complete wrong order, along with their definition of hypothesis, but whatever) and what an atom was. No one had ever heard of an atom! Like, holy crap! They didn’t know protons or neutrons or electrons! This is China!
Music was the highlight of the day by far. The teacher is Chinese-American, and only speaks a little Chinese. He was very…Athenian-like, he was all over the classroom, asking individual people questions and being very excited about writing on the blackboard (yes, we use blackboards. No whiteboards to be seen). He gave us all sheet music for “The Rose”, which I remember from somewhere, probably chorus at one point or another. Anyhow, he played it on his keyboard, and I hummed along. We then began dissecting the music, and I was the only one who knew any of it. I felt very proud. Julie, (my piano teacher), if you’re reading this, be proud! I was talking chord progressions and everything!
Physics was…weird to say the least. We talked about heat the whole time, and my teacher kept talking about polar bears. I’ll try to paraphrase part of his lecture: “So polar bears eat. A lot. And then they go into the snow hole and they sleep for FOUR MONTHS! And when they come out, it’s amazing! It’s amazing! They are like SUPERMODELS! So if you want to look like a supermodel, all you have to do is lie in your bed for four months and never eat anything! -laughs nervously because no one says anything- Just kidding! If you do that, you will die! -more nervous laughter- You are not a polar bear!”
Argh, once again, I can’t capture the quirkiness of the lecture…I can never do Chinese people justice! You have to take into note that he has an accent and was speaking verrry slowly, so the Chinese students could understand him. Which I don’t think they did. Oh well.
And that was my day. Not too interesting. Ahhhh I just wrote so much, I didn’t want to write that much! Not about that, at least.
I wanted to write about yesterday! Because yesterday I went to my friend Sang Min’s house! He’s Korean and a boarder of sorts at Tongshenghu. He lives in the teachers dorms, so he has his own little apartment with two bedrooms, a balcony, a living room, eating space and kitchen. His fridge is stocked with fruits. His house has cracks in the ceiling and “Don’t listen to what Mom says” written by the door in Korean (the last tenant wrote that apparently). He has a TV but it doesn’t work, and his ‘mattress’ is about an inch thick and as hard as the wood plank it lies on. His parents are in the brush industry. He’s considered a foreign exchange student because he was one last year, and then just decided to come to the school again. He’s the only person I text on my phone, haha. Hope that doesn’t sound ‘stalker-ish’ or whatever, but two hours of nothing in the library gives you a chance to learn random facts about people. Anyhow, I went to his house to hang out with him and some of his other friends, a Korean foriegn-exchange-y boy who’s name I can never remember (I think of him as Klaus from the Baudelaire series because his glasses are the same shape, so that’s just what I call him in my head), a Korean girl who’s name I don’t know, and a Chinese girl named Pei Pei. They were all very nice, and had just returned from a trip to Walmart (that’s where everyone buys their groceries), and decided they were going to make lunch. Lunch ended up being dinner, which were sandwiches and dumplings. The sandwiches….well….
Basically the worst sandwich I ever had. Pei Pei said not to say if I didn’t like it, so I just ate it anyways. You’re probably thinking “sandwiches are good, Miranda was just being a picky eater!” but no, I assure you, this was no normal sandwich. Picture this: three pieces of bread. Mayo and ketchup spread on all of them. A giant undercooked scrambled egg. Just-cooked ham. Cut cucumbers and tomatoes. Corn (which I cut!!) off the cob sprinkled amidst it all.
Really not a good idea. Don’t try it. I mean, it wasn’t HORRIBLE, once I got used to the taste it was okay, but that first bite…wow.
Anyhow, they finished cooking and were going to be late for class, so they literally ran out the door and back to school, leaving the kitchen a complete mess. I mean, I have never seen a kitchen this dirty in my life! Ketchup and mayo everywhere, an unused bowl of corn, a pile of scrambled eggs, dumpling/wontons still on the stove, piles of ham, dirty knives and whatnot…
And Sang Min had just cleaned before they got there.
I helped him clean up the best I could, but mama came to pick me up about fifteen minutes after they left so there wasn’t much I could do. He’s a great friend though, I would be super angry if anyone did that to me, but he was just accepting of it, a sort of “well that’s what they do” attitude.
He gave me a ‘Happy Cow’ (those little things that bob their heads when the sun’s out) just because, and is going to give me Chinese lessons during our extra study time on Fridays. He thinks I’m one of the nicest people he’s ever met (not sure why, he’s beating me by a lot so far). As he teaches me Chinese, I teach him English. It’s a good system.
I texted him “mmk” before I got to his house, and when he saw me he asked “What is M M K ?” I told him it was a combination of “mhm” and “okay”, he was confused a little at first, but then understood. “Oh. Mmkay.” he told me.
Life is good.

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4 Responses to At last, the First Day

  1. Shelley says:

    Did I really let you go all the way to China to have the teachers speaking in English all day? What do the kids who speak other languages understand? Can’t wait to hear about Math… and see a pic of the uniform, when you get it 🙂 XO mom

  2. Julie says:

    I’m so proud!!! (*sniff*–I might have a tear in my eye!)

  3. Sheila says:

    Miranda, I am so impressed and amazed. What a great experience! I look forward to reading more of your posts. My favorite so far is “scandalous pajamas.” I know you were sick, but I had to chuckle at the vision of you wearing oversized, pink, sweatpant-type pajamas.
    Sheila (Coach Sheila)

  4. Diane says:

    Many eyes staring… reminds me of my own journey to Japan as a college student – walking down the streets and having a entire group of Japanese children turn, stare, point, and say “Gaigin (foreigner” and “Hal-lo!” Even more fun was being asked to be in pictures with total strangers as if I was more interesting than the entire museum or park. In any case, enjoy the oddness of it all – I have no doubt that you’ll learn a lot about China (and about the United States) during your semester abroad.

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