This is mostly a note just to say “Hi” and put your mind at ease about my abrupt disappearance. This is my second week living in China and so much has happened. The days are these odd conglomerates of study and vacation. The weekend does not seem so different from the weekdays, and it’s playing topsy-turvy with my head.
I have finally set aside some time to write, read, and take a break from life in general.
I’m over my head cold and feel in good health! I signed up for a gym membership, and plan to go at least twice a week; this way I’ll keep my body active and be stronger in case any other type of illness tries to attack me. I’m even lucky enough to have a personal trainer, named Shaun, who is basically forced to be my language partner when I exercise. He speaks to me a bit, but laughs at me mostly, than tries to crush my spirit by making me lift heavy weights and do repetitious drills. One day, I will be strong enough to throw him across the room but until then I must grin and bear it.
My classes have started and I’m really pleased with them, they’re fast-paced but not overwhelming, and I have really good teachers. My main teacher, who is a male, speaks completely in Chinese which might have scared me before, but now I see it more as a challenge to overcome. He gives us plenty of chances to speak, and to write characters on the blackboard, which reminds me a lot of elementary school.
In fact I feel very much like a little kid again, I have to remind myself to be patient and to be easily entreated. I know repetition is what solidifies what I’ve already learned, and makes it easier for me to grasp new concepts, but it can be hard to remember when I’m still writing out characters I learned 6 months ago. Yet like always, the Chinese characters amaze me in the many uses of one character and how one slight change in the pronunciation can give it a whole new meaning. For example, in my Chinese name Měilè (美乐) the second character lè (乐) means to be happy, but pronounced without emphasis le (了) it’s a word particle used to indicate a completed action. So depending on how you say it, you are either paying me a compliment on my temperament or insulting my reputation.
As you can see there are a whole bunch of mispronunciations just waiting to happen and it’s pretty funny when they do. When eating out with others I’ve met in my dorm, or on campus, we swap stories. Since most of us don’t have a fridge we tend to eat out a lot and gather together in big groups. I’ve made friends with two Italian guys, who are hilarious, and will most likely be the stabilizers of my life in Beijing. My closest classmates are from Sweden and Australia. I make fun of the latter because when he pronounces “A” I swear it sounds just like a perfect “I”. He says it was impossible for him to order water when he traveled in the U.S. and I’d believe it.
My roommate as I’ve mentioned before is from Mongolia and we are getting along great. She has started classes, and I even help her out with her homework now and then. When I washed my sheets, and had nowhere to let them dry, we devised a plan that basically turns our dorm room into a tent fort. We hung strings from the door to the window and then hung the sheets horizontally to make a type of roof. All we needed were marshmallows and hot chocolate and we would have been camping.
I’ve also met some of her friends who are very sweet but hardly speak English as well. One of the first words one of them said to me was我爱你 which startled me so much that I’ve decided to now stick to English whenever I’m around him.
Life is good though, and I’m very happy to be here. There is still a lot of changes happening but at a slower pace. I have a new phone with a Chinese number and I’ve survived the subway station! I must say that after that experience I’ve felt much more confident, but I still don’t know if I'm brave enough to ride a bike, that might still have to wait a couple of weeks.