Still Studying While Abroad (Week 2 of Classes)

A massive thank you is in order for everyone who has supported me thus far, because I have officially passed the two week mark in China! Despite being here for two weeks, it still whacks me in the face that I am in China, I am thousands of miles away from home where my language capabilities are still shaky, and I AM IN CHINA.

Maybe by the time I hit the six week mark I’ll be used to the idea.

Sunday, I met my language partner – a lovely 21-year-old aspiring teacher named Wang Yuan Yuan. The teacher had all of the Americans in the front of the room (it was like a bizarre auction) and as she called our names, our partner stood up to greet us. When Wang Yuan Yuan stood up, my first thought was “Wow – I think she’s the prettiest person I’ve seen in China.”

Wang Yuan Yuan is definitely a quiet, sweet, and demure personality and I think she was intrigued by my more outgoing personality. Considering the limitations of both my Chinese and her English, we’ve been conducting our conversations in a bizarre Chinglish mix and sometimes we can’t help but laugh because both of us are at a loss for words. We’ve talked about everything from weddings and celebrations to what we do on the weekends to Chinese grammar, and I’m really grateful for what unseeing force paired me up with her. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to take a picture together yet, but I’m going to visit her at her campus this coming Wednesday, so I’ll be sure to get a bunch of pictures. She’s going to take me to get hot pot, one of the most renowned (and spicy…) foods in the Sichuan province so that should certainly be an experience.

Class definitely intensified this week (just when I thought that wasn’t possible) with three quizzes, two homework assignments, a 400-character presentation, and a test jam-packed into four days. I don’t think I’ll ever be fully confident in the class, since it always takes me a couple extra moments to process what’s going on, but the feeling of drowning has subsided into mildly panicked treading and I’m okay with that.

The 400-character presentation was probably the highlight of the week, despite the amount of pressure it brought with it. We were in groups of 2-4 (I partnered with Marthe, my roommate) and we were instructed to come up with a presentation/dialogue where we each spoke a minimum of 350 characters and talked about renting an apartment, security deposits, rooms and furniture. We had done these sort of orals back in the US and had come to realize that the key to an excellent oral is creativity and drama because a) when you inevitably botch pronunciation or drop lines due to nerves, overacting will distract the audience from this and b) pairing dialogue with actions like running around the room or killing a cockroach makes things a lot easier to remember. Marthe and I put together a massive production where I was the host of a television program (House Hunters: China) and I was helping her decide between three apartments: one that didn’t have furniture, one that was cockroach-infested, and one that was just right. Our pronunciation was a little off, but we clearly won huge points for creativity and enthusiasm so both of us were pretty excited about that.

This weekend we get to go see pandas (I can barely contain my excitement) and Tuesday I get to meet my host family, so we’re definitely in for another wonderful weekend adventure.

All I can think about are pandas,

P.S. I can now walk AND eat with chopsticks at the same time. It’s one of my greatest life accomplishments.


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