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.

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.

I really talk about Sang Min too much

Last night was fun. After school, Sang Min and I decided to go to McDonald’s for dinner because it was Friday, so we took the bus with Moritz, Gulia, Pauline and May. For the first time when I’ve been at a McDonald’s, they had burgers! What a miracle, a Mickey D’s with burgers. Who would’ve thunk it! I got a double burger, despite the fact that I hate McDonald’s burgers. I’m sort of at the point where anything that tastes like home I’ll go for—today I bought Sun Gold Raisins just because I can predict exactly what they’ll taste like. Anyways, Sang Min got a Big Mac, which until then I had never actually seen someone eat. Even though the burgers in China are smaller, that was still pretty big…I finished mine in about 30 seconds, which shocked Sang Min. He thinks I don’t eat enough, but I felt very satisfied with my double burger, medium fries and medium Sprite. After a mediocre McDonald’s experience, we decided to go back to Tongshenghu to just walk around. Dan (an American teaching at our school) had said there’s whole apartment complexes that are built with no one living in them and it’s really creepy, so naturally I wanted to see.
Now, on a side note, let me tell you that I am a big McDonald’s fan. At home I eat it much more than a healthy person should, and pretty much fulfill the stereotype of “Americans eat lots of fast food”. I throw people off though, because I don’t fulfill the second half of it, “…and are really fat”. I was saddened to hear that all the other foreign students assumed that all American’s ate lots of fast food and most of them were fat, which made me really angry. I honestly know very few obese people, and I eat much more fast food than anyone I know. Most people in our area I think are pretty anti-fast food, trying to be all green, organic, healthy and what not. Super Size Me really did not help America’s global image at all. I say the McDonald’s in China is mediocre because:
1. There is too little salt on the fries. I know that in America most people think we have too much salt on fries but I personally love our amount of salt, I find it quite satisfying to my taste buds.
2. The fries aren’t as full. They have that “old fry” feeling, the ones in California are much fresher. I know what you’re thinking, “It’s McDonald’s, there’s no such thing as fresh” but let me assure you, there is a BIG difference.
3. Everything’s smaller. ‘Nuff said.
4. The sauces for dipping McNuggets in here are given broad (and stereotypical?) names such as American Sauce, Thai Sauce, and like Greek Sauce. Something like that.
5. There are more Chicken Sandwiches on the menu then burgers. It’s just wrong.
Anyways, back to Friday night. Sang Min thought we could take the bus, so I got out some small bills and we started walking. And walking. And walking. After a while I finally thought to ask “uhm, are we going to get a bus? Or taxi?” and he told me that he didn’t know where the right bus would be (even though we were literally just at the bus station…) and he would try to get a taxi if we saw any, which of course we didn’t. So we kept walking on and on..this giant stretch of wall and sidewalk and road, there were lots of large buildings under construction but nothing that was presently being used seemed to exist. After a while Sang Min suggests we cross the street to walk on the other side, so we do, even though you can’t get taxi’s on this side of the street. He felt like the side with the wall was creepier though, and I agreed. Now we had the road to our right and a gross looking river to our left…Sang Min suggested we swim across jokingly, and was like “you go first! You’re a good swimmer, right?” but then, after what I think was seriously considering the thought, he said “no wait we can’t, that’s Alligator River”. I don’t know if that’s true or not…but wow. We found a bridge and crossed to the other side of the road (the roads here have a large physical divider between cars going different directions for the most part) and then crossed again.
Sang Min said he wanted to “go with you to a flower shop”, even though it seemed highly unlikely that a flower shop would be open at 7:30 pm. I think that was around what time it was…whatever the time, it was dark. We came upon a huge nursery and went inside a set of gates, where to avoid the mud we walked on a low brick wall, Sang Min leading the way. He’s so much like a little kid sometimes, he had his arms out like a balance beam and almost fell over once. We walked along a row of small nurseries, all of which were of course closed. I thought the place was a lost cause but he knocked on the door of one and a boy came and let us in…he looked about our age. Sang Min pointed at a plant and said he wanted to buy one. Apparently they’re called Sansevieria? He wanted them to “make the air better” in his house, so we picked out two. Then he said “maybe I want more” and we both got in with the plants and picked out a bunch, ten in all. I paid for them because he didn’t have any money, and the lot were given to us in large bags. Now we looked pretty funny, the two of us walking along the sidewalk holding bags of plants, we crossed back across all the roads and the river and finally caught a taxi. Whenever we’d cross the street (jay walking, because this whole time we had not encountered one crosswalk) I’d be like running and skipping and Sang Min would laugh at me because I find it a little exhilarating. He’s too used to the fun things in life, he doesn’t think they’re fun anymore.
We got a cab, went back to his house. Dropped the bags of plants on the floor to be dealt with the next day, and just hung out. Sang Min bought these horribly old-lady-like slippers the other day, which I gave him lots of grief for wearing. He went through a cycle of activities:
-look at dirty room, say how dirty it is, start cleaning
-during cleaning, see puzzle. Stop cleaning to work on puzzle
-get frustrated with puzzle, take out frustration on magnetic dart board surrounded by pictures of blond models
-sit down, not knowing what to do
repeat.
We made some progress on the puzzle, and I learned that I’m decent at magnetic darts. I ended up staying till like 10 (oops!). Time flies when you’re having fun.
So now for today. I know, you thought this post was going to be over, didn’t you? I’m sorry, dear readers, but I must ask for even more of your precious time. I hope you’re not using this to procrastinate doing something you really should be doing…actually I sort of hope you are. That means I’m more interesting than your homework or job! But enough about you.
Today I slept in till nine, took a shower, and was on the computer by ten. Karina’s birthday is on Saturday and we’re throwing her a surprise party, so I was brainstorming what to make her for her birthday. She loves My Chemical Romance so I thought I’d do something relating to their newest music video from their upcoming album Killjoy (which she named her dog after). I’m watching the music video for Na Na Na (the song’s name) and talking to my real mom when in walks my dad who tells me “put on your shoes, now go shopping with Mommy!”
[side note: I absolutely hate when my family here refers to my host parents as Mommy or Daddy. They say the words in a way that sounds like a four year old, and it’s just really unsettling and makes me antsy]
So right now I’m wearing a baggy sweatshirt and running shorts, my hair’s still wet, and I’ve sort of got my whole morning planned…I try to protest, because I’m going shopping with my friends at 2 anyways, but no no apparently I must go shopping.
Before I know it, I’m in the car headed who knows where. I threw on a decent outfit and put on some makeup, so luckily I didn’t look like crap. Then we’re pulling up to a hotel that I’ve never been to before, and just my mom and I are going in an elevator (my dad was just going somewhere on the ground floor of the hotel?) and we’re at a hair salon. No idea how getting my hair straightened is equivalent to shopping, but oh well. My hair was once again straightened, but these people didn’t talk to me and when my hair was getting washed for the second time today it didn’t feel nearly as nice as when L had done it for me, but oh well. I don’t think they did as good of a job either, but who was I to complain? Wasn’t my idea, but I didn’t have to pay for it. I watched part of Harry Potter 5 on a tv while he did my hair…there were subtitles in both Russian and Chinese.
Then I was taken to my dad’s coworker’s daughter’s 100-day-old birthday party. The whole thing was sort of odd and I didn’t know anyone, but the food was fine. The baby was adorable. I have a feeling that whenever I’m meeting “important people” from now on, I will be spontaneously taken to have my hair done, although this is just a hunch; it’ll have to happen a few more times before it can really be true.
I met with Sang Min, Karina, Pauline and May at the bus station, where we had some ice cream at McDonald’s before embarking on our journey. Destination? Carrefour, a French version of Walmart, pretty much. I had no idea that it was spelled Carrefour because I just kept hearing Pauline say what sounded to me like Garfoo. Sang Min said he didn’t know where it was, then he said he did. Turns out the latter was correct, and I knew where it was too—right next to my favorite Watson’s, KFC and Lucky’s Cake Shop. We were looking for Nutella, which we found, but in an expired, liquid form. I bought some brownie mix, hot coco mix, and popcorn for the Halloween party we’re having at Sang Min’s. That’s a whole different story. We went to different supermarkets, stopping at Starbucks, searching for things that would be good for our party, mainly candy but also pumpkins. We found a tub of Snickers and a thing of M&M’s, which is good enough for now…we each got our own mini-pumpkin. We’re all going to carve our own at the party and then put them on Sang Min’s balcony, it should be nice! I got pretty much everything we need for the party (I’m planning and buying everything because I’m the only one who really celebrates Halloween) except candles. Hopefully those won’t be too hard to find.
Pauline went home, Sang Min stayed out shopping longer, which left Karina, May and I to go home to Karina’s house where we played with Killjoy, the little puppy they found and adopted. Then we had dinner, took Killjoy for a walk, and started getting hyper…
Karina and her real mom live in the teachers dorms at Tongshenghu. Her mom teaches English and Spanish, so she has these old-looking learn-English posters. One had pictures of people doing their occupations, Miss Lens the photographer, Mr. Post the mailman, Mr. Brown was wearing all brown, Miss Write the journalist. Then there was this running guy named Dick… maybe a male prostitute? We could not stop laughing…I swear I have not laughed that hard in a really long time…
By the time Sang Min came back to Tongshenghu, I was wearing a masquerade mask and brandishing a plastic sword, having defeated Karina and May in a mop-lightsaber-war. We headed out singing theme music to go “avenge him ditching us”…look: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bright-/5086084881/ It was…it was really a fun night.
Our duel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bright-/5086268143/ Karina and I
there’s another one but it’s not done uploading yet. By the time you read this I’m sure it will be.

“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.

I Don’t Know, Peanut Butter with your Spaghetti?

Well, this past Saturday is one that I surely won’t forget anytime soon.

Initially, it wasn’t much different than previous Saturdays, I woke up and got on the computer. Not a great habit, I know, but I try not to go on quite so much…I try…anyhow, the previous night I had suggested I cook us all dinner–me, Sabrina, housecleaner , and Baba.

Sorry to interupt, but Midori is singing loudly what sounds like nonsense. Got Moritz to videotape, hopefully I can put a link in my next post. Wow, she’s into this…singing “FUN-KEY” and doing disco hands. This is hilarious, especially now that Midori has explained they’re singing about blood types A,B, and O. You guys will love this video…. will put up soon, I promise.

Anyways, I had a quest to make spaghetti for my family so at noon I was off, traveling alone for my first time in China. Midori is being really distracting by singing so cutely and off tune. Sorry I’ll try to stay on topic. First I went to Walmart and got peanut butter, jelly, pocky, skittles, and pre-packaged gifts from God named Danco Waffles. Then I went to the bank to once again attempt to exchange money…and was happily surprised. There was a woman who spoke English working there, and they all knew what traveler’s checks were. I was given a form to fill out, and everyone was eager to help me. I thought I had filled it all out, and handed it to the woman. She checked it over and was nodding when she realized that I hadn’t put my address. I didn’t know my address. – Side note: Midori is now watching one of the videos Moritz just took of her and is singing along to herself – Sabrina was in school so I called my dad, asking him what our address was, to which I got my official least favorite phrase of all time: “I don’t know”. I gave the phone to the bank employee to talk to him, and then I got the phone back. He told me that he would take me another time….I’ll relay to you our conversation:

Baba: “Next time … I will take you … bank … exchange money!”
Me: “But I’m at the bank right now! I just need our address! What is our address!”
Baba: “Do you need money?”
Me: “yes! I have been here a month and haven’t exchanged any money!”
Baba: “come home and I will give you money”
Me: (improvising) “I don’t have enough money for a taxi. I don’t have money. I cannot go home”
Baba: “come home and I will give you money, next time I will take you to the bank”
Me: “I need money!”
Baba: “Come home and I will give you money”
etc

So I give the phone back to the woman, hoping she can talk sense into him, but to no avail–they hang up, and I have to pack up all my stuff and leave. Once out of the building, I immediately begin crying because I’m a very emotional person. So there I am, Asian-squatting outside of the bank with a bunch of groceries but nothing that I can produce a meal from, sticking out like a sore thumb because of my ethnicity and the fact that I’m crying. Just to disprove that cliche myspace icon, when you’re walking in the rain, people CAN tell you’re crying. Just to clear up any confusion.

So I walk for a while and grab a taxi that’s driven by the first female taxi driver I’ve seen since I’ve been here. I go to a supermarket that Sang Min told me has spaghetti, which turns out to be on walking street. I give money to a poor homeless man who’s only protection from the rain is a garbage bag, and also to a man with no hands. Here, homeless are completely ignored and seem to get no help at all whatsoever from the public. I could write a whole post about how horrible it is…but perhaps another time.

I buy spaghetti and sauce, and realize I’m running out of money. I’m right near a Benefit San Fransisco Brow Bar but I don’t have enough time or money to get my eyebrows done, much to my dissapointment…so I get lucky and steal someone’s taxi, which I wouldn’t have done under normal circumstances but I really needed to get home. My day wasn’t really going well. Oh, I forgot to mention–I got friggin clipped/hit by a motorbike outside of Walmart. Great, huh? I was accidentally on the motorbike part of the sidewalk (which is really small) and was running to the walking part when some guy hit me…I didn’t fall over or anything and he didn’t stop, but I can’t say I enjoyed the experience, and it certainly shook me up.

When I arrived home at last, I didn’t know when to start cooking. Had no idea when Sabrina would get home from school…but apparently I guessed too early. By the time I was done cooking spaghetti (without any butter or olive oil, because I forgot to buy any) and had heated up the sauce with a wok (something I would not reccomend), no one was home to eat it except for the housecleaner. She suggested I eat some but I wanted to wait for everyone else (presumably meaning Sabrina and my dad). Inevitably, the spaghetti soon was stone cold…finally Sabrina came home and it became evident that my dad wasn’t going to. I attempted to reheat the spaghetti in the wok, but there was some previous meal burned onto the bottom and it coated the first plate of spaghetti I dumped in there…so I threw away the spaghetti, the housecleaner washed the wok, and then I began reheating everything together. It didn’t get that hot and tasted like crap. I told them it wasn’t going to taste good because I didn’t have the right ingredients…while we were eating I heard them talking (in Chinese of course) about how it tasted bad…then they got out the jar of chili peppers and put it on their spaghetti and said it tasted better. I was offered some, as well as the peanut butter I had bought before, to liven up my meal.

My attempt at making American food was a failure. Hopefully next time, I’ll be a decent cook. I have to be given credit, though, this was second time ever cooking spaghetti on my own, and I didn’t even have the correct utensils and was being barked orders at in Chinese the whole time by the housecleaner, who was attempting to help me cook spaghetti in the most Chinese ways possible.

The song Midori was listening to about blood (not her singing it) : http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTgxNDQzNzky.html
Another of Midori’s favorites, which includes saying “sky high” numerous times while they claim they’re..from? New York City: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTA3MDQ3MDI0.html

At last, the First Day

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