What I’ll Be Saying

Well Happy New Year everyone!
I hope you all had a fun time ringing in 2011, I know I did! We (Karina, Pauline, Sangmin, Moritz, Giulia and I) all went clubbing and it turned out to be really fun, a night I definitely will never forget.

It’s January Sixth today, and you know what that means? Two weeks until I leave Changsha. Pretty crazy, huh? For those of you who have been reading since the very beginning, it’s been a very long road to get here. It’s hard to believe it’s all going to be over. In some ways I really don’t want to go home but in others I’m very excited…it’ll be hard to adjust once I’m back and I’m not looking forward to that at all. I’ll probably be repeating myself over and over, and everyone will think I’m crazy. Some of my to-be-most-commonly-used-phrases will include:

1. “It’s so CLEAN here!!”–I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before (though I don’t know how I could not have), but Changsha is incredibly dirty. Like I really cannot describe to you how dirty…I always want to say the ground is dirty but that seems obvious, doesn’t it? Dirt is most commonly found on the ground. But no, the ground is especially dirty, the streets and sidewalk are, the cars are covered in mud, the streetlights, the seats in taxis, peoples hands and bodies…even the plants near my school are caked in a layer of mud. Even saying all this, I don’t think you can imagine the level of dirt here. So California will seem so so clean I tell you. So so clean.

2. “Look at all the foreigners!”–even here when I went to Guangzhou over the weekend I would say this, though there weren’t many. Whenever I see a non-Asian person here I stare. It’s pretty sad, when we first came here we’d all complain about people staring at us but now I can totally understand why…I saw a blond girl whilst in Guangzhou and I seriously was like almost yelling out of excitement, “Look Michelle! It’s a blond girl! Do you see her? Look at her hair! Oh she just went behind that tree, but I swear, I just saw a girl with blond hair!”

3. “Everyone’s English is so good!”–now this may sound a bit racist but it’s true–I’m going to be utterly shocked when I speak to Asian people who don’t have thick accents. Actually, I’m just going to be shocked that anyone doesn’t have an accent and speaks perfect English..there are so few people here that have English as their first language..I can’t imagine meeting someone new who is fluent in English. I can barely remember what that’s like. I’m also going to have to refrain from speaking Midori-English, which is the extremely simplified version I use when I need to communicate something that she doesn’t know all the words for. This would be extremely embarrassing to use, let’s hope it doesn’t happen.

4. “They’re all wearing…normal clothes?”–Chinese fashion is very different from other countries, and when we all came here most of us were generally appalled by it. A outfit composed of entirely cheetah print? No thank you! But now we’ve been here so long and seen the craziest of clothing, I’ve become pretty immune to seeing people wear sheep print pajamas that appear to be made out of quilts when out and about. I honestly can barely remember what people in America wear normally..we were watching Youtube videos (on a proxy) today from each other’s home schools and Giulia was showing one and I was amazed at the students all wearing different clothing. And jeans! Did you know people wear jeans every day to school? I can’t even imagine! Ugh when I go back home I’ll have to care about what I look like again, I can’t wear ugly sweats everyday. Poor me.

5. “In China they…”–be prepared, friends. I will either talk about this experience non-stop or none at all, I’d prefer the latter but knowing me it will probably end up being the former. So get ready, because all those questions you may or may not have about China? Oh baby, I’ll answer them.

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.

“Skyping with Midori”

My official favorite person to Skype with is… (sorry everyone!) …..

Midori.

Oh. My. God. That girl is even more hilarious behind a computer screen I swear.

The first time we Skyped was Tuesday. My computer has been having…issues with my mic and webcam, thinking that I’ve “disconnected the USB”, when alas they’re connected internally. So I’ve just been typing and not able to talk, sometimes people can see me and sometimes they can’t. Anyhow.

I was told Midori that I was going to New York in March. Before I did though, I said “guess what?” which confused her. ‘I also go to New York! What mean is guess?’ she asked. I used Google Translate to say in Japanese and she replies with “OK!! I LOVE AMERICA!!”. You know what? I’m just going to copy & paste the funny parts of our conversation, I think that’ll work better. To warn you, sometimes my English is modified to second-language-English, which is a simpler version of English that works best when communicating with Midori. Also please note that the changing usernames are Midori’s…first her name in Japanese, then Chinese, then English. I don’t know why she keeps changing. OH and Bianjinzhu is Klaus’ Chinese name. Some of the strange things in parenthesis are smileys on Skype, also.

[9/28/2010 6:02:55 PM] みどり: OK!!   I LOVE  AMERICA!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:03:04 PM] Miranda Shakes: ME TOO!!
[9/28/2010 6:03:10 PM] みどり: I KNOW!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:03:25 PM] Miranda Shakes: you are so funny! do you love japan?
[9/28/2010 6:04:12 PM] みどり: thank you!!!!!  yes!!! I LOVE JAPAN!! but I LOVE KOREAN!!! haha
[9/28/2010 6:04:38 PM] Miranda Shakes: haha yes someday YOU WILL MARRY A KOREAN !
[9/28/2010 6:05:13 PM] みどり: Of course!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i must marry a korean!!!!!

….

[9/28/2010 6:08:52 PM] Miranda Shakes: oh ): he is very cute
[9/28/2010 6:09:06 PM] Miranda Shakes: do you have many korean friends?
[9/28/2010 6:09:11 PM] みどり: yes
[9/28/2010 6:09:32 PM] みどり: but only girls…. i want to cry!!
[9/28/2010 6:10:20 PM] Miranda Shakes: aw !! i have two korean friends in california but they are both girls
[9/28/2010 6:10:20 PM] みどり: ah!! sangmin!!haha
[9/28/2010 6:10:28 PM] Miranda Shakes: ahh sangmin and bianjinzhu!
[9/28/2010 6:10:40 PM] Miranda Shakes: my only korean friends that are boys
[9/28/2010 6:11:03 PM] みどり: we are same!!!
[9/28/2010 6:11:11 PM] Miranda Shakes: haha
[9/28/2010 6:11:14 PM] Miranda Shakes: we should go to korea
[9/28/2010 6:11:40 PM] みどり: yyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeesssssssssssssss!!!   Let”s go!!!!!!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:11:47 PM] Miranda Shakes: that would be very fun!!
[9/28/2010 6:12:22 PM] みどり: yea!!!!  i want to trip with you sometimes!!!
[9/28/2010 6:12:32 PM] Miranda Shakes: yes! very very fun! (:
[9/28/2010 6:12:54 PM] みどり: we are forever friend!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:13:07 PM] Miranda Shakes: (: yes! when we are old ladies we will be friends!
[9/28/2010 6:14:14 PM] みどり: i am very glad and happy everyday!!!   because you are in here!!!
[9/28/2010 6:14:30 PM] Miranda Shakes: you are so kind! i am happy that you are here also!
[9/28/2010 6:14:36 PM] Miranda Shakes: you make me very happy (:
[9/28/2010 6:14:56 PM] みどり: i crying in my heart!!!
[9/28/2010 6:15:03 PM] Miranda Shakes: so cute!
[9/28/2010 6:15:42 PM] みどり: moved to cry!!! ← can you understand??
[9/28/2010 6:15:55 PM] Miranda Shakes: yes, i can! you speak english very well !
[9/28/2010 6:16:28 PM] みどり: 謝謝!!!! I ALWAYS LOVE YOU!!
[9/28/2010 6:16:38 PM] Miranda Shakes: I ALWAYS LOVE YOU TOO!!!
[9/28/2010 6:16:47 PM] Miranda Shakes: forever friends!
[9/28/2010 6:17:30 PM] みどり: whatever happen, i will alway love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:17:40 PM] Miranda Shakes: same!! (:
[9/28/2010 6:18:06 PM] みどり: i feel very good!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:18:15 PM] Miranda Shakes: me too!! we are the same!!
[9/28/2010 6:18:56 PM] みどり: YES!!!!  always thank you!! you always helped  me!!
[9/28/2010 6:19:12 PM] Miranda Shakes: and you always make me smile! we are a good team
[9/28/2010 6:19:31 PM] みどり: I WANT TO CRY!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:19:49 PM] Miranda Shakes: you are so cute!
[9/28/2010 6:20:17 PM] みどり: thanks!!!!!    you don”t like 15 years old!!!!
[9/28/2010 6:20:27 PM] Miranda Shakes: how old am I like?
[9/28/2010 6:20:35 PM] みどり: gess??
[9/28/2010 6:20:42 PM] Miranda Shakes: i don’t know
[9/28/2010 6:20:42 PM] Miranda Shakes: !
[9/28/2010 6:21:02 PM] みどり: maybe…….. i think 25!!
[9/28/2010 6:21:11 PM] Miranda Shakes: sangmin thinks so too :O
[9/28/2010 6:21:18 PM] Miranda Shakes: i dont understand!!
[9/28/2010 6:21:26 PM] みどり: :*
[9/28/2010 6:22:00 PM] みどり: it”s OK!! because you are so beatiful!!! everyone think!!
[9/28/2010 6:22:14 PM] Miranda Shakes: oh thank youu! you are so kind! i am not beautiful, you are beautiful!

…..

[9/28/2010 6:28:02 PM] みどり: you made me my smaile
[9/28/2010 6:28:13 PM] Miranda Shakes: you always make me smile!
[9/28/2010 6:28:30 PM] みどり: really??? (inlove)
[9/28/2010 6:28:54 PM] Miranda Shakes: really! even when i am sad you make me smile
[9/28/2010 6:29:43 PM] みどり: i cry in my heart!!! ←really!!
[9/28/2010 6:29:48 PM] Miranda Shakes: me too!!
[9/28/2010 6:29:55 PM] みどり: ;(
[9/28/2010 6:30:18 PM] みどり: my haret heavy rain!!
[9/28/2010 6:30:24 PM] Miranda Shakes: downpour!
[9/28/2010 6:30:33 PM] みどり: yea!!!
[9/28/2010 6:30:40 PM] Miranda Shakes: you speak english very very well
[9/28/2010 6:31:21 PM] みどり: tahnk you very much my teacher!! i eat dinner!! good bay!! see you again!!

……

(we had been group chatting on Skype for the first time, a bunch of the foreigners)

[9/28/2010 8:22:08 PM] 王爱心: oh…..  ah!!  morilz in here??
[9/28/2010 8:22:12 PM] Miranda Shakes: no
[9/28/2010 8:22:46 PM] 王爱心: pauline!!
[9/28/2010 8:23:01 PM] Miranda Shakes: no, right now just us. They are online but they cannot read this
[9/28/2010 8:23:19 PM] 王爱心: oh!! OK!!
[9/28/2010 8:23:34 PM] Miranda Shakes: do you have their skype names?
[9/28/2010 8:24:11 PM] 王爱心: no!! but i discoveryed!!

……

[9/28/2010 8:37:40 PM] Miranda Shakes: ninja
[9/28/2010 8:37:49 PM] 王爱心: do you know????
[9/28/2010 8:37:57 PM] Miranda Shakes: yes!
[9/28/2010 8:37:59 PM] Miranda Shakes: everyone knows!
[9/28/2010 8:38:02 PM] 王爱心: WOW!!!!
[9/28/2010 8:38:07 PM] 王爱心: (h)
[9/28/2010 8:38:09 PM] Miranda Shakes: in america very very very famous
[9/28/2010 8:38:26 PM] Miranda Shakes: there is an american game called “ninja” that many teenagers play
[9/28/2010 8:38:38 PM] 王爱心: yes!! japan very very famous!!
[9/28/2010 8:38:49 PM] 王爱心: japan have ninja!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 8:38:53 PM] Miranda Shakes: i know!!
[9/28/2010 8:39:01 PM] 王爱心: oh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! good!!!!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 8:39:11 PM] Miranda Shakes: in school I learn
[9/28/2010 8:39:24 PM] 王爱心: really????? so funny!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[9/28/2010 8:39:36 PM] Miranda Shakes: why funny?
[9/28/2010 8:40:11 PM] 王爱心: usually don”t learn!!! so funny!!!! funky!!!!!
[9/28/2010 8:40:34 PM] Miranda Shakes: haha okay! in america everyone knows about ninjas ! everyone loves
[9/28/2010 8:40:47 PM] 王爱心: i am very happy!!!!!!!!!!

……

(I don’t even remember this part)

[9/30/2010 10:42:47 PM] Miranda Shakes: how are you?
[9/30/2010 10:43:20 PM] midori: sooooooooooooooooooo  FINE!!!!
[9/30/2010 10:43:46 PM] midori: now my teeth so white

……

The other quotes are from when her microphone finally worked and we were all group chatting (well for some of these)…I wrote them down because they were so funny. Like, I was laughing so hard my sides hurt and no noise came out.

I was telling her about seeing my family and she says “Your heart very happy? Your heart jump jump?” and then told me that she and her boyfriend Skyped for three hours “my heart very jump jump! My whole body jump jump! High jump!” and when she said high jump she put her hands above her head and jumped out of her seat. Ohh my gosh she’s so cute.

Dylan emailed me that he got hit in the face by a flying peach, and I told Midori. She kept saying WOW over and over (it’s one of her most used phrases) and then told me (I had to have her repeat it because I needed to make sure I was hearing correctly) “I think peach good because if he hit onion maybe he die and then you cry”. So apparently Dylan couldn’t survive getting hit by an onion? Moritz laughed and told her that you could survive being hit with an onion. Maybe not “a stone” but an onion yes, and she said “but onions make you cry!”, which is true.

And to round them all off:

me: “my camera is not working”
Midori: “maybe on holiday?”
me: “no, just not working”
Midori: “I think maybe it is sleeping”

“For lack of a better title, Buying Things”

“For Lack of a Better Title: Buying Things”

Once again I apologize. My computer has taken to being ridiculous when it comes to wordpress, and so I can only post at school…I’m going to email this to my friend Tyler and he’ll post it for me. Fun stuff.

Today, October First, is the first day of China’s National Holiday, which is an awesome week off from school where most people go and travel around. Two days ago, Wednesday, the foreign students were told that we had only a half day of school, so we went…but were told that we didn’t have any classes. We were planning to go out to lunch anyways so we just decided to all go out and explore the city together. I changed into street clothes, as did Moritz. Then, we were off to we-didn’t-know-where because Sang Min is/was in Korea (Klaus, also, but he never comes with us). We took the bus, and got off at the depot, where we walked around for a bit, took another bus and ended up in a giant book/dvd/music store. Technically we went to Walmart first, but there really wasn’t much to do there…we ate KFC and Midori bought a school bus pencil case with nonsense-English on it. I also bought my first perfume ever ( !! ), Nina by Nina Ricci. The bottle is shaped like a little adorable not-symetrical apple. It’s sort of a mix of fruity smell and what I call ‘couture smell’, which is that really strong “fashionable” or whatever smell. Burberry tends to be couture smell, same with Juicy. I’m personally not a fan, but because this is also fruity I like it. We ate lunch at KFC and when there I opened the perfume to put some on…only to realize I had absolutely no idea where you’re supposed to put perfume. I mean I know when you’re trying on perfume at a store you put it on your wrist…so then with Pauline’s help I put some on..my wrists and chest. It smelled for like, a few minutes but then I stopped smelling it. Is that what’s supposed to happen? Or is it a bad perfume? I do not know.
We left the shopping center and started walking in one direction randomly, but the street we went down didn’t have any stores, so we hopped on a bus Moritz knew went to a large store he had told us about on multiple occasions. This store turned out to be a mall of sorts filled with randomly assorted DVDs, CDs and books. Yes, most of it was pirated. In fact, I’d say…90% of it was. You could see the dvd’s being burned right there… pretty crazy stuff. It wasn’t shady at all though, very open and lots of customers. I bought Juno (which according to my housecleaner is not pirated), seasons 1&2 of Pushing Daisies, seasons 1-3 of Weeds, and a bunch of CDs: Recovery (Eminem), a Snow Patrol compilation, three cd’s of Glee music and Congratulations (MGMT). I’m nervous to put some of it in my computer, so as of now all of this lies untouched on my desk. Also, please take into note, I have very little experience with piracy so when I bought everything I didn’t know it was pirated. I’m not even sure if it’s technically illegal here, because there’s very few copyright laws as far as I can tell. In all honesty, I don’t know what most of the laws in China are. It’s hard to tell sometimes…my host mother finally returned home that night, which was really exciting because she’d been gone two and a half weeks.

Anyhow, after we were done walking around the giant store (it literally seemed endless), all of our feet hurt like –insert curse word here- and we were hungry also. After walking down the block and realizing we couldn’t read any menus, we decided we should go to Pizza Hut. Of the group of us, only Karina had been there since coming to China, so it was relatively new. We considered grabbing a taxi, by this point it was only Moritz, Karina, Midori, May & I, but figured we could just take a quick bus to walking street. We walked to the Papa John’s (close enough, right?) Karina and I had gone to briefly with Sang Min on another occasion, only to find it boarded up. Desperate and tired, we settled for McDonalds. Upon arriving, I promptly fell asleep at the table, and was woken up x-number-of-minutes-later by Karina, saying we were all going home. I said I was taking a taxi and headed off to the best place to get a taxi on walking street (it’s nearly impossible) but then kept walking to this shopping center, where I…

Got my eyebrows done!

I can’t even express to you how amazing I felt afterwards. At home, I’m supposed to get them done every two weeks but hardly manage that…but regardless my eyebrows were a mess. When the foreign students had previously gone shopping, we had walked by Benefit (for those of you who don’t know, a makeup brand from San Francisco, there’s one in the Stoneridge mall) and I was really excited…I had seen it yet another time when I was by myself buying spaghetti, because it’s in the same building as that supermarket. The sight of the familiar manikins with their cursive speech bubbles was very comforting to me, as well as the sign reading Brow Bar. I spoke a little Chinese to a woman standing there, very very basic with lots of pointing. At first she was saying that there was no one there to do my eyebrows for me, but after me saying over and over I only understood a little of what she was saying, she yelled “WHITE PERSON!” and a woman came running, who then did my eyebrows.

Yesterday Sabrina had school, so I awoke to..no one home. Again. Story of my life here, haha. Anyhow, my mom had tried to wake me up for school but I told her I didn’t have school so I got to sleep in, which felt amazing. I lazed around all morning, not really doing much of anything, on the computer and listening to music. Ate mostly waffles (bought a bunch at Walmart the previous day). At one got a text from Sabrina “at two mother take you airport see your uncle”, so I jumped into action, taking a shower and doing my hair, trying to make myself look presentable. I thought Jonathan, Xixi, Bohan & Nina (also Xixi’s parents) were coming on Friday so I was taken completely by surprise.

Waiting for them at the airport..was insanely exciting. You have to understand that my cousins, Bohan and Nina, are probably two of my favorite people in the whole world. Of course, I love my other cousin Ray just as much, but he wasn’t visiting me, was he? I also usually get to see him more often than Bohan and Nina because he lives much closer. I stood staring out the glass at people spilling out of doors and down escalators…all Chinese. I was searching for small children and the tall bald head of Jonathan. Waiting, waiting…and then there! Nina wearing giant glasses, hands clutching a bright pink backpack, talking to Xixi, Bohan with Jonathan. I waved and Nina saw me then everyone else did..honestly I was so happy I almost cried. I love them so much! That and the fact that I’m five thousand miles away from home and can still see familiar faces in the flesh. When they came through the gate, I think I might have physically been bouncing a little. The first hugs I’ve had in weeks. Euphoria.

We all went out to dinner, which was fun. Tomorrow I’m going on vacation with them to some national park, it should be beautiful. I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures. Today…

I exchanged money! Finally! I’ve been here six weeks exactly, and at last I have my own cash to spend! It’s a great feeling, let me tell you that friends. The fact that I literally have giant pile of money like in movies helps this, but also I’m just very relieved. Until now the not-exchanging-money situation had been pretty stressful, so I’m glad that it’s over and done with. All of my traveler’s checks have been exchanged.

After this exciting momentum, we all went shopping. I bought a really cute black skirt…it has layered lace over a black fabric with roses..I’ll try to post a picture when I get a chance. Oddly enough, most of the stores were playing songs in English…I heard a lot of Glee and Justin Bieber. I’m honestly pretty scared that I caught myself singing along (with correct lyrics, mind you) to Justin Bieber today…it’s not something I ever intended to know or be able to do. After more shopping and lunch and more shopping (unsuccessfully attempting to buy an iTouch) we went home. A fun day.

Kumquat Trash Ice..mmm, yum

Once again, my computer has repeatedly decided that WordPress is not it’s friend, and so here I am at school blogging during my imprisonment in the library. Now I can’t remember when exactly, but the other day my sister and I went to buy curlers because she decided to curl her hair. Oh I believe this was…Friday? Saturday perhaps? Anyhow, after buying some medium-sized pink ones, we decided to stop at Lucky’s Cake Shop, a nice “sophisticated” cake and drink shop. I got…well, to be honest, I have no idea what it’s made of or what it’s called, only that it’s extremely good. If you’ve ever had Mochi, the outside is basically the same but there’s no ice cream inside, only cake? and uhm, cream? Perhaps. Anyhow, I ate that and ordered a drink with it, since Sabrina was getting a mocha. I decided that ‘Black Currant Bubble’ sounded like Bubble Tea, which I like, so I ordered it. Really it was like a Shirley Temple with something other than Cherry flavor…it was delicious. Like, really really good. While looking at the list of drink options, I wrote down a few because their names amused me: Kumquat Trash Ice, Mint Ice Rule, Plum Fruit Vinegar, Peach More Fruit, Roses Brew Yogurt, Mango Ice a Sand, Nuts Coffee Ice a Sand. So…you can see what I was choosing from. Most of these were under the chic label “Fashion Drinks”, which was news to me. I had no idea that a drink could be fashionable, but it seems they can. Sabrina’s “ice mocha” (literal translation there, she said bing, I know these things) had no ice. One of the things I really don’t understand here is the fact that no one uses ice in any of their drinks…I made a fool of myself at one resturaunt when they served cucumbers with ice and I thought the ice was for our drinks. I grabbed a cube and dropped it in my orange juice and everyone looked at me funny, then started laughing. I hadn’t seen the cucumbers until then, if you were wondering.

Also, when you buy a drink from a “fridge” here at a store, it’s not the same temperature as in America. It’s warmer, so that when you hold the drink it’s slightly cold and when you drink it it tastes only a little chillier than room temperature, which here is generally hot. When you buy ice cream (packaged, of course, drumstick equivilents) it’s always a little warmer than normal, so it’s much more cream than ice. Chocolate’s never a good idea in these cases, always melts and is very sticky.

‘No One Wants to Be Defeated’

As you may or may not know, Karaoke is VERY popular in Asian countries. VERY popular. So popular, in fact, that in some (most?) cars, where a GPS system would be in American cars, there is a karaoke screen. And how does the karaoke come in?
The radio.

Awesome, right? I don’t know how the stations are organized (they seem to be pretty random English and Chinese music) but it’s pretty darn cool. Some of the words are incorrect, or spelled wrong (‘gose’ instead of ‘goes’), but overall I really like it. My host father apparently read the handbook and told me that I can call him Baba (father) and my mom Mama, so anyways, Baba likes Michael Jackson and sang along to Beat It, which was funny and cute. Mama was sang to the Chinese songs, and Sabrina made fun of her parents.

Speaking of incorrect English, I find it hilarious that many people in China wear shirts that have English words on them that don’t make sense. Just like, random words in some order. They’re aesthetically pleasing, I suppose, but I wonder if the people who wear them have any idea that they’re wearing nonsense.
I mean, some of the shirts just have very…’Asian English’, like Sabrina’s PJ shirt that says ‘warmer for you family’. Sure, there’s only one letter missing, but I believe they think that that is correct grammar. Which is fine. Just is funny to me.

Back to music, anyhow, Sabrina LOVES Justin Bieber. Like, has tons of pictures of him on her iTouch, he’s her background (both phone and computer), her QQ (Chinese instant messanger) icon, etc etc. It’s really cute(: I asked her if she had a boyfriend (you’re not allowed to date in school here) and she said ‘Justin Bieber’. Sounds good to me.

“You are not allowed to fall in love”

After a 16 hour and uncomfortable trainride, our small group of six students and one teacher arrived in Changsha, China. Since I feel that I should tell you who’s who, I will make a small list:
Midori – 17 – F – Japanese
Mortiz – 16 – M – German
Pauline – 17 – F – Swiss
Gulia – 16 – F – Italian
May – 15 – F – Thai
and then me, of course(:

The train provided beds for us but no real seats, so we were lying down for most of the trip because sitting up was awkward and uncomfortable. The pillow was itchy): and the food was so bad that the locals were throwing it out. We all got a nice chance to talk, though. When we arrived I was shocked, because Changsha was even more hot and more humid than Beijing had been. Much dirtier, also. Drenched in sweat within the first five minutes, we trudged through the packed train station, finding a van that would take us all out to breakfast. As we drove, the city got nicer and cleaner. Breakfast was noodles, then we went to the local police station to “get registered” (whatever that means), which took about two hours, which was ridiculous. I taught Midori some English. She is really funny, she was reading my “i ❤ boobies (keep a breast)" bracelet, and she didn't understand. I told her the money from buying the bracelet went to try to find a cure for breast cancer, and she asked what that was. I tried to explain cancer, "it grows in you and sometimes you die from it" and then she didn't know what "die" means, so I had to explain that (which is actually pretty hard). Finally, after "OH! DIE! I KNOW!" we used her translator to look up the word 'cancer'. Of course, the correct definition came up, along with 'crab' because of the zodiac, which confused her a lot. "Crab? What? Is crab?" after THAT was sorted out, "what is boobies? what is breast?" came up, and I told her boobies is slang so she looked up breast, which made her giggle. "What? *giggle giggle* what?"
I don't think she understood in the end. Oh well. It was pretty hilarious.

After the long wait, we drove to Tongshenghu, our school. And let me tell you, that is one giant school. It's part of a resort? or something like that. We were then (without much notice as to what would happen) escorted upstairs into a room followed by a camera from the school's tv station. Everyone else was dressed pretty formal, and the six of us were all sweaty and wearing travel clothes. There were perfectly cut and arranged fruit, which no one touched…but there was a LOT of fruit. The bananas were mini-bananas, about the length of my pointer finger. And the grapes were about two times the size of normal grapes. Anyhow, we then were introduced (sort of) to the school officials and what not, and given a long speech which was well written. Among the 'most basic school rules' was "you are not allowed to fall in love", which I found…weird. I understand 'no dating', but you can't really outlaw falling in love… it doesn't really work that way.
Anyhow, after the formal things, I met my family and we took pictures etc then went out to lunch. Some of my initial impressions: the mom has a Loius Vuitton purse and nice shoes, they are all nicely dressed, and they have a big Toyota that is very clean and new-smelling. We drive to visit their second house, which is very close to my school, that they don't live in. It's…beautiful. Perfectly decorated, very neat, very nice. I keep myself calm, because obviously they're well-off. All the floors are hardwood. Nice backyard, too.
I'm quickly escorted out of this house, (I'm not sure why we went there, but that's okay) and we drive to lunch. It's a very nice place at the resort, very beautiful. We sat at the window, which is right on the river that's next to my school. When asked what my favorite food was, I replied Won Ton Soup, or Wuntuntang, which nobody had ever heard of. So I trusted their judgement, which was smart. We got a really good chicken soup, some beef, rice, a veggie of some sort that I disliked, and this reallllllly sweet thing that tasted like a marshmallow but wasn't. I'd have to say, the best part of the experience wasn't the food, surprisingly. As we were sitting waiting to be served, I started listening to the music playing in the background–
Christmas music.

Which I found hilarious. I asked my host sister Sabrina if she knew the song, and she said no.

Very funny to me.

Also, in the car ride to their actual house, Shushu's (what I call my host father, it means uncle) phone rang. His ringtone was some song in English with a woman singing "I'm yearning for your touch, oh I just can't get enough". I wonder if he knows what she's saying…? He's been learning English on his own apparently for quite some time but isn't very good. Hmm.
In regards to what I'll be doing at school and when, here's what I found out:
School starts August 30th for me, and I have registration on the 28th. During the school day, from 9-11:20 I'll have three Chinese classes. From 11:20-14:30 I have Lunch/rest/self-study, and then I have optional classes from 14:30-17:30. I wasn't planning on taking optional courses initially, but since I want to get credits for school it looks like I'm going to have to. Sometime within August 31 and September 3 we're all getting interviewed by the school TV station. No idea whether in English or Chinese…I'll have to find that out soon.
I won't share the entire semester plan with you, because that would be pretty boring, but it looks like I have school on Christmas :/ Winter break here is from January 13th-February 14th, which would be cool if I were here for most of it :/ oh well. It seems like it won't be too hard to do well, but we'll have to wait and see.