Monday, 29 April 2013

Tea leaves

Being in China, hot water or tea has replaced my main diet of ice cold water for a refreshing drink.

There is tea to improve your complexion, your eye-sight, and everyday aches and groans.  Mulling over the topic, I have come to the conclusion that my time in China can be justly compared to these common usages of tea leaves since it’s only after much concentrated, and intense, heat that the results unfold and are able to be enjoyed.
For example memorizing characters over and over again can be quite dulling. Suddenly an exam will appear on the horizon and the pace will pick up speed, so much so, that it feels for a time that there is just a jumble of words in your head. Afterwards though, you’ll look back on what you’ve studied and it seems so simple and to fit together like a puzzle piece. Many of the new words I learn now are just old characters fit together to take on a new meaning. I no longer have to look up the dreaded stroke pattern, and sometimes I will write what I imagine the word to be and it will be correct.
For improving my listening and reading I’ve started watching TV shows with subtitles. Do you know how difficult it is to follow a foreign film? It’s much like if you were in a movie theatre and every two minutes or so the man sitting in front of you stands up to get popcorn and covers the screen, you hear the words being said, but the understanding is lost on you because you can’t connect what you hear with the visual. What should be a 30 minute show turns into an hour and a half. By the end of the episode I’m just hoping the main characters die off so then there will be less of a plot to follow.
Lastly when it comes to speaking, breaking the barrier of silence is hardest of all. As I wrote in a letter to my friend there is a stark contrast between the language you learn in class, and what they speak on the streets. Most pedestrians will not say with proper pronunciation “ watch out that car is going to hit you” they will either say it very rapidly, and unintelligibly, or physically move you out of the way which in retrospect is better than no warning at all. 
So you see studying Chinese can be very intensive at times, a lot is expected of you and there are moments when the pressure becomes especially acute. It’s in these instances that I remind myself the benefit will come after, and the only thing you can do is bear the heat until the pressure is off and all that remains is an enticing aroma to be sipped in comfort.

“There is a contrast though with the outside environment, on the subways and in the streets, it can be startling how stark the difference is. The language is the same but it is spoken with such quickness, and easy carelessness that it’s hard for a beginner to pick up.”

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