Monday, June 25, 2007

First Week!

I got through my first week!

Classes were... hard- verrry hard. The teachers here would assign 80-100 characters a day to memorize. Note: assigned vocabulary. That is not including all the characters in the daily reading that I don't recognize. To keep you from slacking off, they give a quiz everyday on the vocabulary and the reading. Plus, the size of the classes is very small. I am usually in class with only four other people, so the odds of me getting called every other minute for three hours are ridiculously high. Stressssful to the nth degree.

Am I learning? Yes. Definitely.

I really do like the teachers though. There is Zhu1 laoshi, the director. She's the one who gives me money to eat every week. :-) Then, we have a Hao3 laoshi, who is just really happy allll the time (hao3 means 'good').

The participants here are pretty awesome too. I've met a lot of new people from all over the country with whom I have become fast friends.

What do I eat? Well, life is pretty good since I have to eat out pretty much every meal. I found this jiaozi (dumpling) stand nearby that is incredible! The cost of one order of jiaozi is only 3RMB (which converts to just under 40 cents). As a result, I've eaten there three times in the last two days. :-D

This weekend, I went to but not in Tiananmen Square. Since i've been there before and with all the construction going on for the '08 Olympics, it is just not worth seeing. Instead, I went shopping. Yay! My friends and I went to XiuShui, the mecca for counterfeit items. Well, I guess that is China in general. I bought two Polos for around 30RMB each, Armani wallet for 20RMB, and sunglasses for 20RMB. The salesperson's starting price for these three items were all way over 100RMB. Haggling, it's fantastic!

This thursday: the GREAT WALL! Can't wait!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Diving Right In

First weekend in the motherland was... interesting.

First off, food is phenomenal! I haven't had a bad meal, no lie. Lots of red meat, just the way I like it. It is like I'm back in Brazil! Americans and their 'sustainability' need to learn!!! The food here is also incredibly cheap! Eight of us went to this Korean BQQ where the staff brought out this huge platter of... beef! We got to grill the beef ourselves and ate it all. Huge meal... price? $30 total. Deliciousness.

On friday, I took an entrance exam for placement into one of the language classes. Since I've only taken level one Chinese, I was expecting to get into level two and maybe, hopefully, three. Well, they put me in level... four?


I speak pretty well, but I can't read or write well at all! FBI - remember?! Fluent But Illiterate! I looked through the first assignment, and I have to look up every other word... it's not good. Furthermore, I don't even know the meanings of some of the chinese characters' english translations! Like... what is a leaderette? A female leader? A young leader? Hm...

So, after thinking about it, I am going to try this level four business for a while. If it is really over my head and I can't handle it, I will have to talk to Zhu laoshi.

Another dilemma - host family or no host family? Right now, I'm living very comfortably in a building with AC, internet, TV, shower (with a tub! don't take tubs for granted!), and fridge. It is where everyone else is living. It is also right next to the building where classes are held. Do I want to give this up to live elsewhere where those conveniences are not guaranteed?

The pros of a host family, for me, is that the family could be amazing and could become life-long friends. They would really help with my chinese. They probably know the city very well and could direct me to awesome destinations. Also, they would probably feed me (I hope).

However, the house might be really far away. I might miss out on 'bonding experiences' at the dormitory. Getting to class will require much more effort.

Hmm... like the level four challenge, I think I'm going to give the host family a shot. It could very well be the best experience this summer.

Interesting 'encounters' thus far:
- Being startled by random guy jumping out of the bushes. What was he doing in the bushes? Use your imagination...
- Laughing at jokes posted above urinals. Badly translated jokes.
- Meeting random people in the streets and then having lunch with them.

Finally, I want to apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. The internet here is so slow! I would open up a page, go to lunch, and come back just in time for it to be fully loaded. It crawls. Hopefully my host family will have a faster connection, and I will be able to upload away!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Obrigado Para Um Tempo Bom, Brasil!

Brazil was AMAZING!

I'll start with my favorite: Food
Yumminess. Deliciousness. So, at several restaurants that we went to, the cooks would just bring out huge slabs of meat and cut off how ever much you want. Beef! Chicken! Pork chops! Ribs! Lamb! It was meat heaven! They really know how to eat over there. We, over here, have so much to learn.

What we actually went there for: Concerts
The Yale Concert Band played six concerts at various venues in Sao Paulo, Campinas, Santos, Sorocaba, and Rio de Janeiro. I thought we played pretty well, but the audiences went crazy! They are crazy over there! I've never seen any crowd get so excited over a concert band performance! Ah! It was ridiculous! They exploded after every song and, strangest but coolest thing ever, clapped simultaneously when they demanded an encore. We played so many encores during each concert that we literally ran out of music. It was glorious.

Rush of a lifetime: Hang-gliding
Wow. Highly recommended.

The scariest part of hang-gliding was jumping off the mountain. After that, it's smooth sailing - just enjoy the view. I did it tandem, and right before the jump, my pilot tells me that two weeks ago, a pilot forgot to clip himself in after he had clipped his passenger in. After their jump, the pilot promptly fell off and left the passenger all by his lonesome. Thankfully, he had a parachute and was able to crash into the trees without fatal injuries. Poor passenger... can you imagine seeing your pilot fall? I would have freaked out. The passenger crashed into the trees as well and survived. =)

Anyways, here's a video of my lift-off!

Geography: The beaches and the mountains
Rio de Janeiro is gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Fifteen miles of beaches, surrounded by rolling mountains. If I knew Portuguese, I would probably live there. I really don't know how to describe Rio's beauty, so these pictures that I took will have to do:

Anyways, as I write this post, I am waiting in Detroit for my flight to China. Even though I've been back a couple of times already, this time is especially exciting. I won't have my family to rely on, and I will be with lots of students my age. Hopefully, the transition will be painless.

I will let you know.