‘Over the Word Ass’

So today I got to experience every American teen’s life-long dream–to participate in Chinese military training. This was really in my top ten list of what I wanted to do in China, you know?

I mean, it’s not that it was hard, just incredibly pointless. We just stood really straight in a salute for a long time, and then went from that position to standing to one foot out to standing. Then,
squat, stand, squat, stand, squat (etc), then,
-puts hands on brim of imaginary hat- , normal, -put hands on brim of imaginary belt- , normal, -put hands on different section of imaginary belt- , normal.

I don’t know it, it all seemed pretty pointless. The guy didn’t really know what to do with us, so at a few points we just all sat down and listened to him sing random music…? While he was talking to us?(I’m not sure who he was talking to) no one was paying attention, everyone was talking the whole time and he didn’t really seem to care. Then some older teacher-looking people came in and talked for a very long time (while everyone talked over them), and we went out and marched in the rain. Other classes of younger kids were also outside marching, and they all looked at me. I wouldn’t have stood out so much if I had gotten to march in the line of people almost my height, but of course that was a ‘boys only’ line, so I had to just be a head taller than everyone else in my line. Talk about obvious. It was really funny though, because none of us foreigners had any idea what was going on, we just had to watch everyone else and guess what was going to happen next.

After a little more classroom time, it was time for lunch. We waited with one of the teachers until we were taken into the cafeteria-like-eating-room, which was quite a walk away. Eating was just the beginning of the actually fun part of the day.

Midori, my little Japanese friend, is possibly the most entertaining person I have met in my whole life. Her English isn’t very good at all…I mean, it’s getting better, but I’m one of the few people who can communicate with her in our group. Make that the only person. Anyhow, I think it all started when I took a bite of some mystery-meat (cause that’s what all meat is at this point) and reacted because to me it was incredibly spicy. Tasted the spiciest of anything I had eaten in my life. After my big…uhm… spicy fit? I told everyone “don’t eat it! It’s too spicy!” which, of course, made everyone try.

And, of course, no one else found it spicy. Guess I ate a chili or something, I don’t know.

Anyways, Midori is sitting next to me, and she starts to laugh while pulling out her translator. She types in some Japanese word and then looks at me and says “You are…” and points at the word ‘fool’. Underneath that is ‘idiot’. At first I’m offended, but now I’m pretty sure she meant it lovingly. A term of endearment, I suppose.
Anyhow, I turn to her and say “You are a fool, too!”
Midori: “You are crazy!”
Miranda: “I know. We are both crazy!”
Midori: “Whaaat?”
Miranda: “You -point- and I -point- are crazy”
Midori: “no, you are crazy!” etc.
I tease her because her English is so bad, and she tells me “I may not speak English, but I have a… – looks up in translator-…LIVE!” And yes, live, not life. Which cracked us all up, because she was so excited about saying it.
This, of course, got us talking about languages and who spoke what. Being the stereotypically not-interesting-American, didn’t have much to say in this regard because, well, let’s see, I speak English and that’s pretty much it. My Mandarin isn’t good enough to really count by most people’s standards…well, except Midori’s. She said she could speak Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean. I think she speaks as much (if not less) Chinese and Korean as English, so I wouldn’t really count those. But she would apparently (after much arguement, which I lost because I “am a fool”). Pauline won with five languages, French, Swiss-German, German, English, and learning Chinese. But Pauline is not the person of this post, so back to Midori.
One of Midori’s funniest..quirks, is that she randomly asks what words are. Words that have absolutely nothing to do with anything at all. Out of the blue from this conversation, she asks me “Over the word ass what?”
I looked at her, trying not to laugh, “what?”
“Over the word ass what?”
Now I was laughing, and so were Pauline and May.
We go back and forth like this, and finally Midori pulls out her handy-dandy translator, and points to the word “earth”…. “you’re asking ‘over the world is what?'” “yesh!”
“Space”
“Space! Ohhh. okay!”

We sat in this library for around two and a half hours after lunch (which apparently we get to do everyday, fun!), during which I translated to Midori everything that Brett and Nick (our teachers, from Canada and USA, respectively) asked her. It was hilarious though, because Brett would say something to Midori and she would have no idea what he said, but then I would say it slower and…I don’t know, in the way that I communicate with her and she would say “OHHH!” and then answer the question. She’s a very funny girl. She’s always very sleepy, so she decided to take a second nap (she had taken one earlier that day, and when she woke up I taught her the word ‘nap’. Apparently she didn’t fully get it because later on in the day she looked it up in her translator and went “ohhh! Now I understand! Nap! I know!”). She lay down on one of the library benches, clutching a pillow (“cushion! this is cushion!”) to sleep, which gave someone (I’m not sure who) the idea to cover her with the pillows that were velcrowed to the benches all over the library. I will post pictures of this later, because it was hilarious. Once she was totally covered, making faint muffling animal-like noises, we found a feather duster and proceeded to tickle her. I wanted to video, but couldn’t figure out how to and my camera was dying at this point…to attempt to make it plain, everytime we poked her, she made a sound that resembled a dying cat’s meow. Midori is VERY ticklish. And is still just as funny when being tickled, when her hair was being dusted she said “stop! I am beautiful!”
Man, I feel like I really cannot do this story justice, considering it was the hardest I have laughed in a very long time. The kind of laugh where everything hurts and you want to stop, but you can’t cause it’s just too damn funny.

At some point during the day:
Midori: “I rove you”
Miranda: “you love me?”
Midori: -laughs- “just kidding!”

Scandalous Pajamas

Just to warn you, this post will probably be a little surly. Not in a great mood right now.

Hello, all. Sorry for the recent lack of posts, I’ve been sick (as of yesterday) and so I’ve been stuck in the apartment doing nothing at all whatsoever, which isn’t too interesting to blog about. Just thought I would give you all an update. It wasn’t as hot today as it’s been while I’ve been here, it was raining and I’d say in the 70’s, but not sure. I didn’t think it was cold persay, just a nice cool temperature. My mom and sister thought it was really cold, and didn’t want me going outside much because I’m sick, despite the fact that it was barely cold. Our apartment has been incredibly hot, and I’ve been forced to sweat more (because I’m sick so apparently that’s the best thing to do, even though I don’t have a fever to my knowledge). Apparently my boxers-and-tanktop pajamas are not acceptable (who cares? I’m sleeping!) so my mom bought me these….uhm…well I would never ever wear them if I had it my way. They’re very large and pink. And the pants have pockets. The shirt has long sleeves and the pants are really long…they’re sort of made of a sweatpant material. Anyhow, they’re definately winter pajamas and it was very very hard for me to wear them last night…I tried to sleep for an hour and a half in them and couldn’t because I was too hot. Finally, I just got up and apologized and told my mom I was too hot, putting back on my old pj’s (although I compromised a little by putting on a t-shirt instead of spagetti strap). I read for a little bit, and as I was about to go on the computer I was told I had to at least wear the pants, which I did. And was still really really hot.

I’m just very sick of being cooped up in this apartment. I’ve left it three times in the last two days….all three times today, once for lunch at KFC, and the other two for short walks after dinner. I went on the first walk by myself because Sabrina was saying “it’s too cold, ” blah blah and I just really wanted to get out, so I did (I told her though, obviously). I was barely gone, had just turned the corner of our building, when she called me and told me to come back cause she would come with me. I told her I would wait at the bottom of the elevator for her…and it felt like I waited a while, it probably wasn’t too long, but whatever, and she wasn’t coming so I just went back on up. After being told to change (I was wearing short shorts, and was told that “I would be cold”, even though I had just been outside) so I put on longer shorts. And we walked. And Sabrina complained that it was cold. Not my fault she wore pajamas.

On our walk, I thought I saw a dead cat in the middle of the road.
Thankfully, it was just a black plastic bag.

I can hear someone playing “My Heart Will Go On” on the clarinet somewhere from outside my window. Everything is peaceful now.

‘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.

Last Day of Beijing (to be continued)

Hello, all. My name is Miranda and I’m a foriegn exchange student from California studying abroad in Changsha, China. This is my blog(:

Okay, now that that’s over…I’m currently in the FX hotel in Beijing. It’s a very nice hotel, everything is black, white and silver. The hallways are REALLY dark, though, which makes it pretty sketchy because it always looks like it’s night. It’s so dark in the halls that the room numbers are lights. I’ve been here for two days, and I’m leaving on a train to Changsha today around 3 pm. The time difference from California is 15 hours, which is pretty confusing for my brain and body.
Lisa, Kazoua and I (they’re also foriegn exchange students from America) walked around near the hotel today because the AFS people didn’t have anything schedualed for us to do while we wait to leave the hotel. There were lots of stores, some dirty-looking, some very nice. I bought Bri a Gaara notebook for 1 yuan, which is less than a dollar. I also got a English-Chinese dictionary for the equivilant of 4 USD. Not all of China is insanely cheap, a lot of it is about as much as in the US. Food is very cheap though, we went to a supermarket along with Benedicte and her Danish friends, where I got Pocky and a Grape-Appl-Peach-Pomegranite drink, which is very delicious. My Japanese roommate, Midori, just woke up, and soon we’re going to the supermarket because she missed breakfast. She’s also going to Changsha. She speaks very limited English but we’ve gotten pretty good at communicating.
When we walk down the street, I get stared at, which I actually sort of like. It’s pretty funny sometimes, this one guy biked past us and turned his head to keep looking at me, even when he was far ahead of us. Speaking of bikes, there aren’t as many as I thought there would be, although the traffic is pretty crazy. There are hardly any regulations, and despite the fact that you’re supposed to drive on the right side of the road, drivers have to navigate around bicyclists and pedestrians so they often drive all over. There are also few crosswalks, and sidewalks are irregular. A lot of China is dirty, although my hotel is definately not. There are lots of stray dogs on the street, which makes me sad and nervous because they just sit in the middle of the road.Drivers are good about navigating around them. Drivers also honk randomly, which is frightening sometimes because you think they’re almost going to hit you. Maybe they’re just saying hello, I’m not sure.
We’re watching TV right now, and man is TV different. Everything is more colorful and “cute” (with the exception of the news channel). A lot of it is very random, and the talk shows always feature people wearing crazy outfits. So far, China’s pretty awesome.

Check out my photos so far @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/bright-