Monday, March 23, 2009

Half Way In/There: The Review Post

It's March 23, 2009. I've been in China for exactly two months, and I'll be here for two more. This is where I reminisce about everything that's happened and everything that will happen.

I'll start off with what I miss about home. It probably says something about me that what I miss the most is not my friends or my family (though I love you guys a ton), but the FOOD. I have spent the past few days fantasizing that I could go back to America for just a couple of days, eat, and return to China. In no particular order, I want: a bagel with lax and cream cheese (or lax spread), pepperoni pizza, pasta, jambalaya (my mom makes a killer one), a burrito, a pastrami sandwich, buffalo wings, french onion soup, and clam chowder. Just this morning, I had a conversation with Carolyn in which we talked about all the things we want to eat. I told Jimmy about this conversation, and he told me that the Chinese kids had the same talk in America. I guess it's normal to miss your local cuisine.

I've done so much so far that it's impossible to remember everything. I've taken about 1,000 pictures give or take (a completely random estimate. let's just say I've taken quite a few) of everything and everywhere. I've experienced first-hand what it's like to go to a Chinese school, and let me just say that it's not any better than an American high school. For one thing, they don't believe in heat. As long as it's not raining or windy, they have to go outside and do exercises in the morning, even when it's freezing out. In class, the teacher mostly just talks without much participation from the class. The uniforms are cool. I think the top by itself with jeans looks fine, but with the blue sweatpants it looks kinda ridiculous. There's always debate going on in America over whether we should have school uniforms, because it eliminates the pressure to dress well. After wearing a uniform to school for a month, I can say that I like wearing my own clothes to school everyday.

There are several things about China that are completely different from the US. Some things I heard in the run up to the Olympics that China/Beijing was trying to eliminate are still going strong. There's the spitting for one. People spit constantly, usually preceded by a loud clearing-of-the-throat sound that I've come to cringe at. The driving is insane, but I've gotten used to that. I've had to hone those look-both-ways-before-crossing skills that I've let slide since 2nd grade. Here, cars won't really stop, so if you don't look, you're dead. The shoving isn't so bad. If you're not careful, someone may take your spot or run up ahead of you if you're not paying attention, but other than that it's not a huge problem. The subway is always crowded, and the only time I can ever sit down is on Friday nights past 9pm. It's like Boston's rush hour, but all the time.

I've found myself thinking anything priced over 50 yuan is too expensive, even though that's only about $7. I've been to "America" a few times, and by that I mean gigantic ultra-capitalist style shopping malls. I don't generally buy anything because I've come to the conclusion that any article of clothing a Chinese person will buy is ugly. Most of the things they wear I wouldn't be caught dead in, and sometimes it genuinely makes me gag. It's also expensive. Anything you see in the big Western malls is marked up so that it's basically as expensive as it would be in the US. For example, a sweatshirt that would be $25 in America is 170 yuan here (divide{¥-$}/multipy{$-¥} by 6.84 to convert).

My goals for the rest of the exchange are to improve my Chinese and to explore more. I haven't been speaking as much Chinese as I'd like, although I can understand people pretty well now. Reading and writing's a whole different story. I'm learning more grammatical structures and useful things like conjunctions and prepositions in our Chinese class. There are also parts of Beijing that I still haven't seen, since it's such a huge city. I virtually never go to the western part of the city, and I'm not sure what's there. I've also never gone north of the Olympic Park, or much futher south than Tiananmen Square (though we're going to the Temple of Heaven this weekend, which is further south than that). I haven't seen Mao's body, which I definitely will do at some point. There's so much I want to do, but I have no idea where to start. I just hope the next two months will be as fantastic as the last two. At least it'll be warmer!!!

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