Orientation week was monster busy so the following post includes some random thoughts I wrote down throughout the week…I’m now in Zhangjiagang so I have lots to report on that as well, but for now, here is a week full of thoughts:
Sooo China. Hello! Let’s start with the airport terminal in Chicago and how silly I felt when I had pictured in my head that I would be on the plane with mostly non-Chinese people…why I made that assumption, I’ve no idea, but it was certainly not the case, and it was kind of nice because it gave me my first taste of being surrounded with the language before even leaving the country.
The flight actually felt quite short to me minus one very long minute when I half woke up in whatever REM cycle it is where you’re kind of paralyzed and freaked out in my head a little bit because my half-dream state had me thinking I really was paralyzed, that the plane was going down and that, well, that really wasn’t a good thing. Otherwise the flight was good and I even watched an adorable movie set in China/in Chinese.
I brought the most stuff of everyone in my group….I was already embarrassed by my one massive suitcase but was hoping I would see others with the same…not the case. Everyone else who I met at the airport in our program had less luggage. Oh well…on a fun note, walking out of customs you kind of felt like you were famous or something because you walk down a roped off path lined with people holding signs, I’ve never had a sign held for me at an airport before!
I spent much of the rest of the afternoon/night sleeping and then woke up at 4am, went for a walk with my roomie around 6 and then had breakfast at 7 (this has not happened since…now we wake up at 7:30). I had forgotten how many flavors I missed from my last visit to China! However I will post a “first week of food in China” entry later with pics of food and more about restaurants.
So there are about 40 participants from our program, four of us going to Zhangjiagang and about six who are staying in Shanghai…one poor girl is going to the middle of nowhere by herself and she doesn’t know any Chinese…as you can imagine, we’re all tryin to be extra nice and helpful to her…
And oh right, it’s monster hot here. It doesn’t help that it was all lovely and cool in New York just before I got here, but even if it hadn’t been, it’s never typically this horribly humid there. I am actually looking forward to the wet and cold winter at this point just as a reprieve from my hair fluffing up into a giant fro and my face melting off. However, I have been hearing more and more from people here that it snows very little and that it doesn’t even get much colder until the end of October!
So here’s something great, my Chinese is 80 times better than last time I came to China! Last time I could read about 25% of the characters on signs around the cities, but now I recognize about 60% and can figure out another 10% from context. I’m still complete rubbish at tones but these are actually better than last I was here as well.
I currently have a habit of formulating sentences in Chinese in my head to say to people and then find that either I end up standing mute or English comes out of my mouth instead. Frustrating, but it’s getting better. My roommate in Shanghai has helped because we’re about the same level of Chinese and so I’m really comfortable talking to her. She’s a bit better at actually putting words to sentences in the presence of Chinese people, I’m better at characters and vocab. So we make a pretty good team when trying to talk to anyone.
I am best at Chinese when I am isolated from everyone in our group and confronted with a stranger actually. I think it’s because I know I don’t have the crutch of some of the others in the group and I’m less nervous because this stranger doesn’t have any expectations of how well my Chinese should be. We had our physical exam today and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I was able to communicate with each of the doctors (we had to see literally six different doctors who all did different things, including an ultrasound…)
I will try to make less scattered posts in the future, but I’m trying to make up for the past week without overwhelming everyone by jumping back and forth!
I will leave with a picture of our house here in Zhangjiagang: