Studying Life

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Friday, April 12, 2013

These last couple of weeks have consisted of me mostly studying.  I have mid-semester exams later this week, so most of my time has been occupied with revising grammar patterns and trying to remember such useful characters such as one which means 'to harness (a river)'.  It seems that you can never escape the parts of uni life that are not fun, wherever you are!  I have a general class for two hours a day where we learn the bulk of our new vocabulary, and on alternating days I have Speaking and Listening or Reading and Writing.  On Fridays for the other 2 hours, I have an elective class, which for me, is speaking.  I have been so grateful for the fact that all 4 of my teachers are really approachable and understanding.  They don't seek to humiliate or intimidate their students, which is unlike the traditional stereotype of Chinese teachers.  One thing that is a very stereotypical method of learning that is very much a part of our curricular is repetition.  The teachers must think very highly of the power of repetition, because we spend hours a week reciting the new words, and then the text in our book, until we can recite the 400 or so words just about by heart. It is coming in handy at the moment, though, as I revise the 12 lessons we have covered, because re-reading these texts again is almost like opening a file from a filing cabinet-- I thought I had forgotten it, but it has come back.  Hopefully I will be able to remember all the specifics when it comes to answering questions about each lesson.  Through these lessons I have learned traditional Chinese mythology, such that the phoenix got its beautiful feathers after it saved all the other bird species from starvation one summer of drought, and so the birds donated their feathers to make the phoenix have a beautiful coat.  Another is the story of how the 7 year old son of a famous strategist outwitted the soldiers and figured out how to weigh the huge elephant. We recently learned of the story of how chopsticks were invented, and how the relationship of left and right hands represent the relationship of a husband and wife (in the way that they need each other, help each other, trust each other, warm each other).  It has been so interesting to learn about these cultural stories, which make China unique.  It does mean that I have to learn such specific vocabulary, as mentioned before, but on the upside, I do now know many synonyms for 'stick', which I certainly did not know before I came to China.  I'm sure that will come in handy some day.

In amongst all this studying, I have made time to catch up with friends, here, and I have enjoyed trying new restaurants and things with my new friends.  I quite enjoy going to the Muslim Restaurant on campus, because the food is really good, and it is a pretty setting.  A few of the cafes on campus are great places to study in when I need to escape my dorm room.  They serve Western food, decorated like a Western café, and one in particular plays Taylor Swift non-stop.  After being in there for awhile, I almost forget that I'm in China because it just feels like a world away from the Asian style that is obviously everywhere. 
It would be expected that general living would be much cheaper in China, so it is no surprise that food is much cheaper here.  Today I went to the fruit market and bought four apples, two bananas and two mandarins for about AUD$2.30, and I ate a full dinner in a nice restaurant for about AUD$5.  Especially when I am unable to work here, it does feel good to see your money go so far.

This week's awesome China moment happened when I looked across at the gym to see a man working out next to me dressed in dress shoes, suit pants, a collared shirt and vest.  Working out like a boss! Only in China...
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Joan Jay on

So sorry to have taken so long to read your blog, but I had the usual computer problems. Glad you are enjoyed "the stories" - they would interest me too. Its good that you have found alternatives to the standard student cafe food. How is your new room mate?

Joan Jay on

I am not sure if I commented on this blog before, but since I have not much to say it wont matter to say it again. Glad the studies are going so well - keep up the good work. Time is running out at a rapid rate of knots so make the most of your stay in China and see as much as you nanna xxx

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