Food, Family and Secrets

Well, this post is just going to have whatever I feel like writing, not exactly in chronological order. Sorry. I know I should post more, but I just waited too long, and to tell you every single thing that’s happened would not do. It would simply be too long, and I’ve attempted it three times since I last posted and I just…gave up. So.
I’ve started doing the thing where you eat whenever you’re upset. It’s bad, I know, I’m very lucky I have a high metabolism…cause man, when I have a bad day I go buy Pocky or a roll of Oreos and just shove them in my mouth…I’m not even hungry, nor do I enjoy the taste, I just..do it. It’s something for me to do. I figure it’s better than self-mutilation or something, so… yeah. I just conciously noticed it a few days ago, but I’ve been doing it for a while…it’s pretty sad, my whole life I’ve eaten junk food whenever I’m given the chance but now…I’m given so much junk that I don’t really enjoy eating it anymore. Sometimes I enjoy eating…but not really. I don’t know.
Last week we were transferred into the Senior Department, where all the classes are in Chinese. Originally we were all feeling optimistic about this change, but alas, now we all just sit in class and can’t understand anything or participate. Sometimes I read, or draw, or attempt math, but mostly I just sit and think. I participate in English by correcting the book we use, which is a British-English book written by a Chinese person who is obviously not fluent in English at all. On one of their homework sheets, they had a fill in the blank, and the sentence went a little like “he wasn’t special, he was a ____ person” and the options were ordinary, normal, usual, and average. I informed the teacher that these words all had the same meaning and were synonyms and she said “yes, but they have to choose the best answer” and I said “…but they all are fine” and she laughed and walked away. They also all pronounce advertisement ad-ver-tis-ment, and thought ad-ver-tise-ment sounded super weird… I don’t know. At least I can participate.
My iTouch shattered last week. Someone sat on it during PE (long story) and the screen is completely wrecked. It still turns on and stuff, but the screen has pieces almost falling off…I supposedly (maybe?) have a warranty for the first month from the store, which is up today but the store is remodeling and doesn’t re-open until Wednesday, so I’m going then after school. Hopefully it all works out. If not, well, then I won’t buy another (obviously). Sad though that my other iPod still works just fine (it’s full though) and I’ve had it five years, and then I get the new fancy one and it lasts less than a month. My other iPod has been sat on, dropped, hit with rocks (cause it’s been five years!) and it’s just fine…
With Christmas around the corner, I attempted to go buy presents for my friends over the weekend and ended up buying a few things, along with seventeen notebooks, some for people here, some for friends at home and a few for me. The notebooks here are truly adorable. None of them are just one color or plain or ugly–they’re all beautiful and/or cute. I like it a lot.
On Saturday I was told by my mom and dad we were going out to lunch, I should get dressed. I was already dressed, so I waited for them a bit, and we were off. They had been putting more effort than usual into their appearance so I was confused, but when I asked again they repeated–“we’re going to lunch!” And so I find that we’re driving to Grandma’s house, and I think maybe we’re eating at her place but no, she gets into the car and we drive for forty-five minutes and we get to the place where the other wedding was and there’s a lot of cars there. I think “oh, we’re going to a nice brunch! cool!” and then as we walk in I see wedding signs.
….so I was surprised with a wedding, wearing my plain black shirt and jeans. People commonly wear jeans to weddings here, but still, I was embarrassed. Oh well. The wedding wasn’t as nice as the one I was in and I’m not altogether sure who got married, I had never met anyone there before. Someone on my dad’s side of the family, that’s all I knew. The groom was sort of awkward looking but the bride looked nice.
Oh great, I’m doing the eating thing now…I seriously need to stop…
I just went on this week’s PostSecrets (if you don’t know what these are, you should really go check them out– http://www.postsecret.com) and one made me feel better, “My best friend lives on the other side of the world, I hope she sees this and knows I love her”
probably wasn’t directed to me, but thanks anyways, it did.

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a taste of Thanksgiving

Well I returned to China all safe and sound, the plane ride by myself was fine and actually moderately enjoyable, I found myself studying for my Chinese test by talking to myself in Chinese whilst looking at my vocab sheet. Ooh look, I changed the header so it’s a picture of a giant line of pocky! It really was a stack but I turned the image sideways so that it would fit. My host mom bought all that a really long time ago…I don’t remember when I took that picture, I’m thinking early September. It’s crazy to believe I’ve been here for three and a half months. Friday was the official eight-weeks-left-to-go mark, which is…hard to believe in some ways, but seems right in others.
Oh deary me, it seems that I forgot to write about Thanksgiving because the last time I posted it had not happened yet. Well, my readers, you’re in for quite a treat because I’m procrastinating studying for my test and will instead recount to you the oh-so-interesting details of my life in China.
Thanksgiving was…unique, to say the least. I doubt I’ll have another like it again any time soon. It was basically ten, eleven? American exchange kids (plus one German guy, he came cause he’s cool haha) at a dinner table in the restaurant that had the amazing quesadillas. We sat waiting and waiting for food and then…out came the ‘salad’ of sorts, mine looked like a face. There were three strips of rolled grilled salmon not-so-drizzled with a green sauce that I later found out (to my dismay) to be wasabi. There was a bushel/furrow/plume/explosion of cabbage and the like, which these three little salmon babies were making a semi-circle around. On top of that lovely wasabi sauce were two onion rings (not fried, but literally rings of an onion) and then on each side cherry tomato halves. It seriously looked like a face. The wasabi ruined it for me, without a doubt.
Second course was either Pumpkin or Butternut Squash soup (sorry mom, I haven’t had either in so long I wasn’t entirely sure!) I think it was pumpkin but Lisa thought butternut..anyhow…
oh man you guys. That soup was one of the best soups of my life. And I am not exagerating. Maybe it’s because I haven’t had our kind of soup for so long, but I donno…it was just delicious.

and now I’m not in a blogging mood, sorry! so I’ll either edit this post later tonight or write an additional one tomorrow at school.

Songs I just found that I think you should check out:
Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine
In For the Kill by La Roux (Skrillix Remix)
Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson
Alligator (Toro y Moi Remix) by Tegan and Sara
Dead Cities in Your Heart by Thank You and Goodbye

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Real Food and Facebook

Well, I must continue my Harry Potter epic, mustn’t I?

Since it’s been a while now, sadly, this will be much shorter than was originally intended. Basically, we were watching it with subtitles (SPOILER ALERT sort of) and then at the point where Ron comes back the subs went off, making the 99% (everyone but Karina, Lorena and I) Chinese-speaking audience very angry. This made them talk loudly and whistle, one woman shouted (in Chinese) “If anyone can understand, please translate!”. The theatre was total chaos, and of course the three of us were pretty pissed at everyone for talking so much since we could understand just fine. The movie kept playing ,despite the angry audience…then some people who worked at the theatre came in and yelled over everything that if people wanted to see the movie with subs from the point where they went off, they could go to the theatre next door and if anyone wanted to stay they could. We of course chose to stay, relishing the thought of the theatre to ourselves at a midnight premiere. When does that ever happen? Never. So pretty cool, right?

No. Because after maybe fifteen minutes the movie stopped completely in the middle of a scene (don’t remember which), the lights came on, and the cleaning crew came in. Thankfully, there was a VERY angry Chinese man who had refused to leave his assigned seat, and he well…he made a point, though he sort of scared everyone in the process. He yelled at one of the women who worked there very loudly, and even pushed her at one point…but they started playing the movie again, at first from the beginning but then (after we protested) from where the subtitles had stopped, which was fine. We then watched the rest of the movie uninterrupted..but still. Pretty crazy Harry Potter experience, but the movie was worth it, it was definitely my favorite of the Harry Potter movies. You should see it if you haven’t yet!

Anyhow, I told you all I dyed my hair on Thursday, right? Honestly can’t remember, look on flickr or facebook if you haven’t already seen. I liked it initially, then didn’t like it, but now I like it again. Sure, I look a little paler, but this is definitely an improvement from my gross fading-brown-from-being-bleached-before and huge roots. I feel prettier. Not all of my hair was covered with the dye because I only bought one box but Karina did great considering how much hair I have! So there’s still a little blond tint to some of it, and I like it. I’m in Nanjing now with my American AFS friend Lisa, and she and the other people we’ve met here all say it looks natural and they were surprised when I said I just dyed my hair. So there! Approval from my peers, as a teenage girl what more can I ask for?

So I flew to Nanjing on Friday night, got there around ten-thirty, and upon arrival my phone wouldn’t stop pretending not to have service. On my flight I sat between a Chinese man and woman, the woman on my left slept the whole time, the man looked like he was in extreme pain for the first half of the flight. Flight attendants kept coming to him and trying to help him, giving him water and a pillow, I asked if he was okay in Chinese and he waved me away so I just listened to my ipod. Then, at a seemingly random time, he took out his iPad and started reading the news, acting completely normal. I don’t know, readers, I don’t know. Sometimes I really just don’t understand China.

Back to my phone not working—it’s still like that right now, no idea what’s wrong with it, all I did was turn it off. So for the week I have no phone, using Lisa’s when I need one, which isn’t often. Saturday night Lisa and I went out to dinner with a bunch of other AFS kids at this nice Western resturaunt, real Western food not weird Chinese imitation stuff. The place is owned by a German guy apparently (I Googled it) and the food was delicious! I got a quesadilla and oh man, it…it was amazing. I didn’t realize how much I miss Mexican food. Soooo amazing, I’m glad I got it. Originally I was going to get a pizza because they were cheap but this guy Kale from Montana told me that the pizzas were just so-so and that the quesadillas were amazing, so we both got them and…wow. I really cannot stress how fantastic it was. All the Americans in Nanjing are getting together for Thanksgiving, and we were originally going to eat at the Sheraton but that was going to be expensive…and Lisa saw a poster outside of the Western restaurant we went to, so now that will be where we eat our Thanksgiving meal! It promises to be delicious and really a fun event. I’m looking forward to it a lot.

Let’s see, what have I done in Nanjing…today we went to the former Presidential Palace, it was really beautiful, I think we’re going back Thursday? for part of the day, because the place was just so damn huge. It was seriously gorgeous, though, and the architecture/overall feel made me remember why I had wanted to come here so bad in the first place. I felt like  I was walking through a painting or a dream… and since I know you’re going to get all excited and ask where the pictures are, I still meiyou (don’t have) an adaptor, so I don’t have my real camera. Have to try to remember to charge my battery using Lisa’s…or I could risk plugging it into a normal plug. Hm. I’m considering that now, since it worked for my computer. I’ll get back to you on how that goes. But yeah, I took some pictures on my iTouch but the quality isn’t very good. Lisa took some on her camera as well but I’m not sure when/if I’ll be getting those. My hair also looks pretty crazy right now because I forgot to bring a brush, and combs simply don’t work when my hair gets tangled, as you can probably imagine if you’ve ever seen my hair, which I hope you have if you’re reading my blog. But hey, if you’re some random person I don’t know reading this, Hi there! Go look at my flickr, maybe this will all be easier to imagine then! Haha.

If I’m friends with you on facebook, you’ve probably noticed my sudden presence and posting frenzy. This is because Lisa has a VPN (Google or Wikipedia it if you don’t know what that is, same with a proxy. Please.) on her computer, so I’ve been taking full advantage of that. I know that’s not exactly great to be doing, but it’s so hard to resist. It’s not that I want to really go on facebook per se, but I like seeing my friends’ faces. There are a lot of people who don’t email me (I’m talking to you, Cal people, cough cough) and so I never know what’s going on in their lives…one of my best friends from last year moved to the Philippines! I had no idea! Anyhow, though, going on facebook today, I had a nice little realization. Last year, a lot of my time on it made me sad because, though I have many friends on facebook, many of them are old friends or simply acquaintances. I would get sad because I wanted to really be friends with them, to be tagged in the same picture, to know more about their lives not because it showed up on my newsfeed but because they told me so themselves. Today, though, I looked at some people who had made me feel like this in particular and…all I felt was indifference. For the ones I used to be close with—there was a fork and we each took separate paths. We’re not ‘best friends’ anymore because, to be blunt, we don’t talk, I don’t know you anymore nor do you know me. I don’t mean this in a cruel way, more of just a matter-of-fact one. We used to be close, now we’re not. Life moves on.

And to those who I wanted to be friends with—well, you don’t become friends with someone, like, real friends with someone, by just wanting to be. I mean sure, you can see someone and think they’re cool and decide you want to try to get to know them, but that won’t always work. Sometimes personalities are just awkward with eachother, you’ll never get past the pretend-we’re-good-friends, the small talk, the kind wall posts when really you don’t know eachother from anyone else. There are people that I’ve wanted to be friends with and haven’t…and that’s okay. I don’t have to be friends with every single person I know, sometimes just knowing who they are is okay.

Sorry if that seems really stupid or obvious, but, I just feel much more free. There are people I don’t like, too, but I don’t have to go and tell them all the reasons I don’t like them. I can just hate them peacefully, that’s fine too.

 

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I saw Harry Potter before you did! pt 1

Well basically last night FOURTEEN HOURS BEFORE YOU CALIFORNIANS I went to the midnight premeire of Harry Potter seven part one! I’m really tempted to use smileys because that’s how happy it made me…it was just Karina and I that went, we got there around six and bought our tickets (no buying tickets in advance here) and then just walked around the mall (it’s a Walmart supercenter with a bunch of stores and the movie theatre) for about an hour an a half. After that we bought giant ice creams and sat in KFC for around three hours, just talking. I had been texting Sangmin and he had asked where we were…and then he just showed up randomly. It was really awkward, and he left after like three minutes. I really don’t know what was up with that.
Oh! I dyed my hair! And…well…it was supposed to be dark brown but…it’s pretty black. Sorry Mom! Honestly wasn’t on purpose, my brain just wasn’t functioning when I bought the color…hopefully it’ll fade. Might use a tiny bit of lemon juice but I don’t know…it doesn’t look too bad.
Anyways, back to Harry Potter. We went up to the theatre around ten-thirty or eleven, and sat just waiting anxiously. There were so few people there it was a little unnerving. But yet, we waited. We saw a woman who looked Latina and we sat there debating whether or not she was Chinese…only to have her come up to us. Her name was Lorena and she was originally from Guatamala but grew up in Canada. We all hung out the whole night, being the only foreigners in the theatre. She was really nice, she’s an English teacher, we exchanged phone numbers at the end of the (much longer than expected) night.
So we finally go into the theatre, we’re all excited. There’s assigned seats in Chinese movie theatres, and Lorena’s wasn’t technically next to us but she stole a seat and didn’t get caught. So now it’s eleven fifty-seven and Karina and I are freaking out (we wore Harry Potter gear by the way, will post pics asap) and then we look at our phones and it’s 12:01! And the lights aren’t even out!
Before the movie, a woman with bad acne and braces had ambushed us with “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?” and said she wanted to interview us after the movie because we looked like ‘real Harry Potter fans’. Well, no shit, Karina was wearing a friggin’ Quidditch robe and I had a lightning bolt and glasses. Yes, we’re fans. Yes, we’re foreigners. What else is there to know? The same people who wanted to interview us were taking pictures of the auditorium and then took the first fifteen minutes after the clock struck twelve to give away twenty HP posters in a ticket raffle–one of which Karina won! Which was good, because she actually has a room here to put it in.
but wait! Oh no! I’m being kicked out of the beautiful prison before I can even get to the interesting part! So I’ll blog at Lisa’s and tell you more (going to Nanjing tonight!)

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Well today, in a nutshell, sucked. But it’s the first time I’ve had both good and bad things to write about, so I’m going to write you all a nice fat blog post to make up for the past week. Hopefully. I’m in a pretty bad mood right now but feel a very strong need to write a blog post, so…here goes nothing, or rather, a lot.

THE GOOD STUFF

We’ll start off happy, because that’s the more fun part to read and if you want you can just skip the bad  section after this one and call it a day if you so please. I think everyone would rather hear about how much fun I’m having than how bad of a school Tongshenghu is etc, so here’s your cotton candy, ladies and gents.

Chinese class this week actually hasn’t been as bad as usual…although we have a test tomorrow (and I’ll get to that later in the bad section, I assure you), we’ve generally had a much more fun class. Monday I was a few minutes late to school and decided that would be the day we had a political discussion, which I initiated, that ended up lasting all three Chinese periods (YES!). It was interesting to hear Monica’s perception of Communism and whatnot, and to hear that she knew about Tiananmen Square but just had a different view on it. I couldn’t agree with her argument, but at the same time it didn’t seem like she really did either. She knew about people being massacred but the Chinese portray it as a fight on both sides, Chinese fighting Chinese. I don’t know, I don’t really want to go into all the political things, but we talked about the political situations in all our different countries and I learned a lot, especially about Switzerland and Thailand. Monday was also May’s first time wearing gloves in her life! She tried on Karina’s pair and oh she was so cute, wiggling her fingers and clapping her hands, laughing. Her eyes lit up like a little kid. In Thailand it’s hot so no one wears gloves, apparently.

We have an ongoing joke in our class (that I made up, if I remember correctly), with the sentence “Does May have a little sister?”. In Chinese, you would say that phonetically as May you mei you mei mei? Which basically sounds like (to English speakers) “May yo may yo may may”. It’s pretty damn funny. It may not be to you readers, perhaps it’s just a Chinese class joke of sorts.

I got very excited on Tuesday when I learned the Chinese word for “bad”. I know what you’re thinking, “You’ve been in China over three months and you don’t know how to say bad?”, but I do! Usually people just use “hao” (good) or “bu hao” (not good), I’d never heard of the word ‘cha’ until Tuesday but it’s my favorite Chinese word now. To say ‘how are you’ in Chinese , one would typically say “Ni hao ma?” as in “you good?”. Because I’m me, I asked Vala later that day “Ni cha ma?” and she got very confused and was like “that’s not really Chinese, Miranda”. But whatever. My friends and Monica understand so..who cares?

I discovered an accidental cognate (sort of) on Tuesday as well. The word for motorcycle is ‘motouche’, which sounds like ‘more torture’ when said. Not joking, at all. It sounds like someone with a New York accent saying it, as well, so when Monica said it I had to laugh—not at torture, but at the sillyness of the sound. Was probably one of the highlights of that day, along with ‘wazi’ which means sock, and is so much fun to say it’s ridiculous. Like, you can make yourself sound like a crazy old Chinese lady so easily by just yelling “WAAAAAAAAA ZI!” Monica said that sometimes when she can’t find a sock in the morning, she screams wazi and waves her hands in the air…or at least that’s what it seemed like. “Wazi zai nar?!” (sock is where). Oh man, I’m sorry, I love that word. I’m going to guess that you can’t guess how to pronounce it correctly…I’d guesstimate that phonetically it would be ‘wah zih’ sort of, so, I hope that helps a tiny bit, so you can stare at your screen and yell wazi and wave your hands wildly and feel like the king or queen of something.

Monica’s class has actually been really fun this week because instead of her standing in front of us teaching like normal we’ve all sat at this large table and just sort of collectively studied and talked. She’s not the greatest teacher but is a really cool and funny person. We all like her and get along with her, she’s easy to relate to because she’s only twenty-two. Today, out of the blue I asked her if she had a boyfriend (we all know Vala does, we’ve seen him before) and she said yes, so of course I made further inquiries. [[SIDE NOTE: sorry if my English is funny at some points in this, I can’t really tell anymore because I’m around people who speak broken English so much. I caught myself writing “watch movie” instead of “watch a movie” on a flashcard today, and have been consistently dropping ‘the’ in IM conversations.]] She told us his name, and that they’ve been together seven years! Since they were fifteen, if you already forgot how old Monica is. I was like “so you were dating against the rules, secretly?” and she said “yes, but everyone know. Our teachers know, his parents know, my parents know, everyone know”. She says she calls him ‘doudou’, which apparently means ‘little bean’. They actually call each other that, especially when they hug they say it over and over again. She said he’s ugly (we were like what? You think your boyfriend is ugly?!) and that his name is ugly and not fun to write, but she loves him. She showed us a picture of him, though, and he looked cute from what I could see…it’s odd, in America with your Significant Other you’re usually saying ‘you’re beautiful,’ ‘no you’re more beautiful,’ ‘no, you’re the most beautiful,’ whereas here, Monica described her and her boyfriend as being more like, ‘you’re ugly,’ ‘you’re more ugly’. I don’t really understand, but okay. Monica also told us her nickname growing up was ‘Little Rice’, and that all her friends call her that. She was upset that no one called her that at Tongshenghu because before only her parents called her by her name…now her parents and colleagues do. She prefers to be called Little Rice so I think maybe I’ll start calling her that now, it suits her.

Um, let’s see, other good things…I honestly don’t really remember what I wrote about last time and I can’t look at wordpress to check. OH! It was that dance, wasn’t it? It was stupid and embarrassing and there were a lot of people…but it’s over now. Oh well. Saturday we all went to Walking Street (well not everyone, me, Pauline, Karina, Sangmin, May and Moritz) where we had Subway and I bought a wig for fun. If you haven’t already, you should go look at the pictures on flickr, fun stuff. I’m dying my hair tomorrow actually at Karina’s house during lunch, hopefully the color I chose is close to my natural color. Technically the box says “chestnut black” but my bleached hair is pretty light so…yeah. The color code on the box looks right. We’ll see. Tomorrow night Karina and I are going to the Harry Potter midnight premiere, hopefully. You can’t buy tickets in advance so we’re just going straight after school and hopefully we’ll be able to snag some. Oh I just used hopefully two sentences in a row, ewww.

Speaking of ew, all of us have picked up words and gestures from each other. When you have such a small group of friends, I guess that happens…Sangmin started saying ‘ew’ and ‘shut up’ because of me. All of us do large one-time-head-nods (I can’t properly describe this action, sorry) after Midori, and also use the word very more often. I think I’ve started saying ‘no!’ like Pauline. I don’t know off the top of my head, I’m running on very little sleep right now…but I don’t know, I noticed it today. We are a good group generally, really. I think our friendships will last our lifetime (I hope!). Wait…should that be singular or plural? Lifetime or lifetimes…? See what I mean about my English?

Other exciting things…well I’m going to Nanjing on Friday night, not really sure whether or not AFS has totally ‘approved’ that, but I’m going. May can’t go anymore (she just told me tonight) which is really disappointing but the show must go on. I’m excited to see Lisa and the other American students, I’m sure we’re going to have a lot of fun. Has this been a satisfactorily long of a good section as you were hoping for? It better be, dear readers, because I’m at 1,529 words right now! And that seems pretty damn good to me.

THE BAD STUFF

Be warned, if you hate listening to whining/complaining/annoyances/me, then I suggest you navigate off this page immediately. Or just scroll down a bit, because I don’t think you’d like reading about when I was forced to do the Happy Bear dance, which was the post before this. I apologize if this is an inconvenience to you. (I sound like a lame imitation of Lemony Snicket, I’m sorry)…but seriously, this is my big stress reliever, although writing all the good stuff put me in a better mood. I hope ranting about all this won’t reverse that.

So when I say my school is bad, I mean it. Not in the way that I complained about CHS being bad, but like really exchange students shouldn’t come to this school. Period. The schedule is horribly wrong and…man. It’s a vicious circle of not being able to do anything. That sounds sort of stupid, but here, I’ll explain.

We have three Chinese lessons a day, separate from the rest of our Chinese classmates. When we have Chinese, they have whatever class they’re supposed to have—sometimes it’s English, sometimes it’s Math, I don’t know their schedule by heart. Anyhow, they start school at seven and end at five, also having evening classes from seven to nine. This means that while we’re learning Chinese and being at home, they’re having additional classes (obviously). They also have school six and a half days a week, while we only have five. So really, we have much less school than they do. This is especially an issue with math, of which I only have two classes a week while the Chinese students have eleven, making it impossible to keep up. Tests are always on Sundays, except for ‘finals’ (which are on Friday), and we don’t go to school on Sunday so we never take any tests here. And because we don’t have to take tests and we aren’t given homework, no one pays attention in class, and even if we did (I’m not saying we as in just me, really everyone is having the same issue) we wouldn’t be able to understand because the other students are so far ahead of us. Because we aren’t tested (Vala said we chose this, when really it was inevitable), Vala is claiming that she can’t give us grades. From what she said today, it sounds like before I go home I’ll just get a piece of paper saying I took a Chinese class but my Chinese still sucks, and that’ll be it. No grades. No report cards. So basically a total waste of time.

I tried to explain this to Vala, especially because recently the school has been all “you need to be in class with the Chinese students all the time”, even though all we do is sit there. If we’re not taking tests or getting grades for anything, why are they bothering to force us to sit in class? We’re not allowed to leave on Friday afternoons anymore when we really don’t have class, we have to sit in Unsupervised Study and English class, which is basically three hours of everyone doing everything but studying. Vala always gets in a huff when we bring this up, bringing the “you could study if you wanted to” argument around, when really that is completely unrealistic. The Chinese students aren’t studying one bit, so why should we? She acts like we should just study Chinese, all the time, when really learning Chinese is not the issue at this point. Is it an issue in general (especially for me)? Yes. Has my Chinese gotten better substantially? No. I can’t really worry about that right now though, because if Vala doesn’t give me a report card of any sort…I’m really worried about having to take summer school. Extremely worried. Like, as Vala was talking to us about everything, about how “we did not promise to give you grades” I was physically shaking and almost crying. I ended up leaving the room afterwards and breaking down. Tongshenghu really just is a shitty school to be a foreigner in, I’m sorry. All of our other friends in China are having minimal school problems, when it seems like we have issues every day. Really, they make everything so much harder than it should be…Vala got all defensive and was like “well, what would you suggest then” and no one could think of any suggestions because honestly the system sucks. Hey you punk little American teenagers, you think your system sucks? Come to China, they’ll give you something to complain about. I said that when we have Chinese classes they should have classes that we don’t have, like English, Computers, Biology or History. And then when we’re there, we have classes…so that they don’t have an insane amount more of classes than us (like math, they have eleven we have two), but that can’t completely work effectively because there’s only so many classes you can do that with, along with the fact that they have one more class in the morning and three more classes in the evening than us. I suggested maybe they only have one more class than us in every subject as to even it out…but the math just didn’t add up. It’s a cycle of problems, one being caused by the next etc, and there doesn’t really seem to be a way out.

Tomorrow we have a test for Vala’s Chinese class, which today every single person (except for Midori) confidently thought they would not do well on. Fail. The teaching of Chinese at my school is the least helpful way I’ve ever been taught, and as a result I’ve learned next to nothing from it, what little I’ve learned has been mostly on my own in a useful setting, like needing to buy something or tell a taxi driver where to go. Additionally, for the past month or so I haven’t actively paid attention in class because I’m supposed to be self-studying or whatever, Vala did give me that long list of words when I first got here. And that has helped, I can write more characters off the top of my head now, and much faster. My train of thought when thinking Chinese is also easier for me to follow and more fluid…so yeah, I’ve been sitting in the back of the class doing my own thing, but I’m still expected to take the tests that I haven’t listened to or re-learned the material for. Have I learned this in the past three years? Yes. Do I remember every simplified character and tone mark and meaning? No way. If we had all traditional characters I might be a little better off (I’ve only learned traditional my whole life) but that’s irrelevant.

Just…ugh. There’s a lot that Vala/Tongshenghu asks me/us to do that’s contradictory. They want us to take the tests, but we can’t go to all the classes. I’m told to self-study, but I should know all the class material. We should be speaking more Chinese, but we’re only spoken to in English and are forced to ‘volunteer’ to teach Kindergarteners English. We should be ‘staying with our Chinese class’, when the teachers always have us do special things and go away from class. We’re supposed to be treated like everyone else, yet we have camera crews following us everywhere we go. You just can’t have it both ways, Tongshenghu.

I don’t know, I’m sorry this is so much hate to the school but…literally every day something comes up. I do not exaggerate. We were used as propaganda puppets in the Happy Bear dance, and then the school wouldn’t even let us walk less than a football field to the little fishermen’s restaurant to eat WITH A TEACHER (Max, the awesome music teacher, who thought of it in the first place because he felt so bad for us). Last week we were told we’re not allowed to leave Friday afternoons anymore. Vala told us to all study for her test, but then yesterday she gave us a huge homework assignment (first in a really long time) that took everyone 2+ hours to do, making us not have time to study…

Here is my final sob story, which basically metaphorically explains Tongshenghu life right now (but still remains true):

Monday it started raining in the afternoon. Usually we have language class on Mondays and Thursdays after school but we were told that the middle school had finals so they wouldn’t come. Normal days we get out at 4:40-ish now, and on language class days it’s more like 5:20, so I was anticipating waiting a while…because it was raining, we sort of dragged our asses down to the front of school, walking slowly because we were all going to  have a wait. The usual people were taking the bus except for Pauline, who was getting picked up by her father’s driver. When everyone else went to the bus, we stood in front of school in the drizzle, luckily the driver came quickly and we sat in the warm car for a bit, waiting for Pauline’s sister.

Then her sister came, and I got out and said goodbye, going to go stand under this tiny covering that’s over the card-scanner-admittance thing, that’s similar to those at fairs or amusement parks. The rain’s blowing at an angle and it’s quite cold, I don’t get soaked but I’m still getting wet. I’d estimate that it was around…5:05? At this point.

And so the wait began.

And continued. It went on and on.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been that kid who doesn’t get picked up from school, and watches the other people come and go, every car that’s coming down the way you hope just might be yours, convince yourself that your car is indeed that shape, when the window rolls down you take a tiny step and open your mouth as you’re about to speak but then someone else runs past you and gets in. To see taxis, both legitimate and illegal, drive past you, maybe even slow down, stay idle for a bit because you look like you need a ride. When the security guard asks you after 45 minutes if anyone is going to come get you. When after standing there for an hour in the rain, getting gradually more and more soaked, you call your sister who then asks your mom, who says she told your teacher to tell you to take a taxi home.

And then you cry as you walk down a long bridge in the rain. It’s dark now, the streetlights have been on for quite some time, and there are no more taxis. You go to a hotel that never has any guests, and they say they’ll get you a taxi. When the taxi gets there, the fare is already three times as high as it should be, and by the time you’re home it’s late and you’ve used up all your money.

And when you walk in the door, your sister laughs.

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TSH makes me appreciate CHS

Okay this time it’s not completely my fault—I tried to do another post but apparently it didn’t actually work, and I lost an hour’s worth of work. I know my mom wants me to write about the wedding on Sunday, but honestly I just don’t want to right now. I don’t know if I will soon, but now isn’t the time.

This afternoon was a bad one for the most part. After having a great lunch (I got to talk to Dylan!) we went to Chinese, which we were scheduled to have one class with Monica then two with Vala. I don’t recall the last thing I posted about, so I don’t know if I told you guys or not, but I’ve been having more and more frequent arguments with Vala. I could complain about her and Tongshenghu for quite some time but I won’t. Anyhow, we’ve been watching this new-ish (it was in theaters like after I had been here a month) movie that’s English name is something like Under the Hawthorn Tree (not 100% sure of that). It’s based on a true story and is really, really sad, one of the main characters dies at the end of leukemia and..wow. I cried (although that means nothing, it was enough crying I had to leave the room). Midori cried too but not only because of the movie…we all comforted her, I was hugging her the most and at some points I was completely supporting her tiny body because she just like, collapsed in my arms. It was the first time any of us had seen Midori sad, it was really shocking. I learned why she was crying because she was talking out loud in English but I was the only one close enough to hear her…I’m not going to disclose what she said because it’s not my place to, but after I understood her I started crying again, too. Moritz was laughing while she cried, and Monica and Vala thought she was just really emotional about the movie…idiots. Monica obviously didn’t know how to handle the situation at all, she was trying to talk to Midori in Chinese that Midori didn’t understand, and then was like writing how to say “sad” and “cry” on the board in Chinese. Seriously, sometimes I don’t think these people get anything. At all. It was so completely obvious that she wasn’t crying about the movie. Also, they seemed really unaffected by it…the rest of us (excluding Moritz at first but then he finally shut up) were either trying to comfort her (Karina, May and I) or just being silent and thinking or something like that. Monica and Vala were still being like, their happy cheerful selves, which honestly never works when someone is seriously upset and you’re trying to cheer them up. Just..no. After our 20 minute sob-fest, I got Midori to stop crying and from there class slowly started again…the one thing they did do right somewhat was we watched this cartoon that’s famous all over Asia in Japanese just for Midori. It was a kind gesture by them at least.

After this for an hour, we’re told we’re going to the Kindergarten to help plan an English-learning activity for Friday. We were warned about this on Monday so we had all agreed to it (usually some of us protest because it involves staying late at school). So instead of having two classes with Vala we had one, and then we all walked together. We ran into Max (funny/quirky but cool music teacher) on the way, he was supposed to be doing the English-game thing too. We’re all walking now, Max and I explaining a game that we both know that’s really easy to teach and actually pretty fun. Still not feeling great after the Midori thing but better than before, Max was acting pretty crazy, asking everyone how to say “grand” in their language and then he would repeat it while jumping in the air, throwing his arms up. He’s a really funny guy. Anyways, we get there, go in this big room and are all like “this shouldn’t be too bad”, but then we’re told no this is the wrong room, we go across to a different part of the kindergarten to a smaller room and still everything seems normal.

Notice the keyword in the sentence above, “seems”. Not long after we had put our bags down a line of children less than half my height walk into the room, giggling. Some have small towels tucked into the back of their shirts (like a bib but backwards, I’ve seen this a lot and don’t understand at all). We’re then told to watch them dance.

It’s a cute little Kinder-Communist song and dance, completely in English (though I didn’t realize that until like the third time I heard it) that has very basic lyrics (much more basic than normal kid’s songs, read below) and cute little cheesy dance moves. I can remember a little of the song (at the end it randomly plays the teddy bear song, which I remember from my childhood) and a few of the hand gestures:

Hello! How are you? (repeat four times)
I’m fine! Thank you! (repeat four times)
Hello ____ Hello _____ Hello _____ Hello Bobby! (I don’t remember the other names…)
What are you doing?
Watching TV, Watching TV
What are you doing?
I’m cooking, I’m cooking
What are you doing?
Eating, Eating, Eating
Yummy Yummy! (put thumbs up)
What are you doing?
I’m washing my hands (shake hands in front of your body)
Teddybear Teddybear turn around
Teddybear Teddybear touch the ground
Teddybear Teddybear show your shoe
Teddybear Teddybear that will do!
(repeat whole teddy thing twice)

I feel like it was longer and more ridiculous than that but now I can’t remember all of it, aha. Oh there was also a line in it (the most propaganda-esc line) “We are happy kids! We are happy kids!” that the kids are saying but of course they don’t understand any of the song. They sing some of it in very I-don’t-speak-the-language-just-remember-what-the-song-sounds-like voices, dropping out at random parts (sometimes in the middle of a word) if they can’t remember it. It was very cute, trust me, but then…

“Now you guys go do it with them!”

We were informed that we had to perform this dance meant for 2-5 year olds in front of representatives from the government on Friday. Every single one of us protested. But no, they kept pushing it (Max had no idea this was going to happen, and Vala claimed she didn’t…but I’m suspicious of her). They wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally they said “just try” but apparently they thought that meant we were doing it? So we kept doing this dumb little dance over and over, all of us looking completely ridiculous. They claimed the point of us doing this little dance was to “show that the foreign students play and dance with the Kindergarteners”…to which I suggested we just actually go play with Kindergarteners and have these important people come see us on a tour of the place or something. Be honest, not make up this dance shit and claim we commonly “dance with Kindergarteners”. Because we don’t.

Finally we had to surrender, since they wouldn’t accept anything else, so I proposed a term of acceptance—the school TV station couldn’t film us. These random Senior department kids seem to follow us around and interview us at random times mostly when we’re not looking great or doing something stupid or completely posed. Vala just said “next week I can take you guys out to do something fun…” and I was like “no, we don’t care about that, we don’t want to be filmed. Period” but she wouldn’t listen to me, kept insisting “oh but the TV people will come film you…”. Vala really does not understand me a lot of the time, I swear. Either that or she chooses to pretend that she doesn’t understand. Really. Is it too much to ask that our embarrassing dance for people we’ve never met not be filmed and played for the entire school? Really. Even thinking about it now infuriates me. I really dislike having Vala as our liason, because the liason is supposed to be someone who is outside of your school completely and only one person is assigned to each. For us, we all have Vala and she’s our teacher. Tongshenghu is just a bad school, I’m sorry. Basically everyone thinks that except for Giulia. Ugh. So fed up with TSH.

On a brighter note, going to Harry Potter midnight release with Karina and Sabrina probably, then on the night of the 19th May and I are flying to Nanjing to see our friends…I’m going to stay with an American AFSer that I met on facebook in like March for a week, we’re going to celebrate Thanksgiving together. So that’s something to look forward to, right?

Once again, sorry for lack of posts, but WordPress hates me and these take so damn long to write. I just spent an hour on this post! And it was all negative! Sorry…

Oh and if you want to find some other way to kill your time, check out this cool list of 20 untranslatable words from different languages… I like them a lot http://matadornetwork.com/abroad/20-awesomely-untranslatable-words-from-around-the-world/

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Gold Medals and Great Friends

Well well well, I am very sorry for the lack of posts for the past however-long-it’s-been. Quite a while, I’m sure. More than a week definitely. Anyhow, a lot has happened and I’m sorry to say I can’t write about it all. I’ve posted a lot of new pictures on flickr (www.flickr.com/photos/bright-) so you should definitely check those out! Today is November first, which means National Novel Writing Month started today, which I’ll be participating in once again. As of right now my word count is 1,475, which is almost reaching my daily word goal of 1,666. For more info on Nano, visit http://www.nanowrimo.org
So what have you all been up to? Watching and rooting for the Giants I hope! I’ve been watching highlights on MLB’s website and I watched game 2 live online. Exciting stuff! Hope you all had a great Halloween, too, I sure did. We had a party at Sang Min’s and it was really, really fun. The past two weeks have been good overall-two weekends ago was Karina’s 17th birthday party, and this past weekend was our Halloween party. Both were incredibly fun! Of all the things that I love about China, the friends I’ve made here would definitely be number one.
Last Friday and Saturday was the Sports Festival. Initially I had signed up for one event–the 100 meter dash. I’m more of a sprinter, long distances tend to kill me. So I was all set and dandy to sprint my one event and be done with it all, when on Wednesday Vala is reading to us what events we’re in and I’m informed that someone (later found out it was Mr. Jung, aka Meiyou Toufa [doesn’t have hair]) had signed me up for the 100, 200, 4×100, 4×400 and High Jump, while some of my friends who had previously signed up for one event found themselves without any at all. Really great, right? Competing in the high jump when you’ve never, ever in your whole life attempted or even thought about high jumping.
So, Friday I was scheduled to run the 100 and participate in the 4×400 relay. Pauline was also running the 100, the two of us (and Moritz) were basically the only international kids doing anything. Based on the lame PE standards we’d experienced, Pauline and I assumed that we wouldn’t have any competition, though as we waited to take our turn we realized that those we ran with might actually be fast. The girl next to me, I was told by her friend, was “as slow as a turtle”, but boy when I started running was she fast! I came in 3rd in my heat, which qualified me to run again in the finals. For this, Meiyou Toufa (that’s what we all call him, he’s this guy who’s always at the international department but who’s actual job is unknown, he’s just always there) gave Pauline and I actual track shoes with spikes. Of course neither of us have ever worn these before, so minutes before we have to run here we are in what I would describe the opposite of heels. Spikes are VERY weird to walk in. Pauline and I were in the same heat for the final (obviously, sorry) and we were freaking out. We were pretty sure we would come in last. And then…
we were off! And I was flying like the wind and pulling ahead of everyone else, I couldn’t see Pauline she was behind me (she had a bad start apparently) and out of the corner of my eye I could see another girl a few lanes down and I just…animal instinct took over! I ran so fast and…
I came in first! And got a gold medal!
So that was the excitement for that day, because from then on it just got worse because I was extremely dehydrated and ended up getting sick from that. But yeah, that was really a good moment for me!
The Halloween party was a fun one, we all dressed up (once again, PLEASE go look at the pictures on flickr! They’re really cute!) and Giulia made authentic Italian spaghetti which was delicious. Then we all went “trick-or-treating” (more of just surprising people because we did it on the 30th) at all the foreign teacher’s houses. It was quite fun. We also watched Corpse Bride! Although Karina and I were the only ones really watching, I forgot how good of a movie that is. We wanted to watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show but I couldn’t find any online versions that worked…I really want to see that though, hopefully I’ll be able to buy it somewhere.
Today in class we learned how to describe the type of people we want to be friends with and the ones we don’t want to be–smart, beautiful, cute, passionate, generous, gentle, kind-hearted, strong, cautious and then stupid, ugly, anti-social, stingy, rough, malicious, weak and careless. Vala then asked people randomly who (out of all of us) was the most _____. Much to my surprise, I got most beautiful and smartest ! I was blushing sooooo much, I can’t even…my friends here are so kind! I love them so much, really, this group is just such a great one. We all get along so well and everything just…fits. I’m happy in China and really, that’s all I can ask for.

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