I need to apologize for the total lack of updates the last couple weeks. Things have been busy and I have been overwhelmed at times. All is well now and life is back under control. So as a ‘welcome back’ to blogging entry I thought I would give everyone a little taste of my daily life during the week in beautiful Hangzhou.
During the week I am usually up by 6:30. I have gotten in the habit of studying in the morning and using the time before classes to put my day in order. This can be as simple as going through my emails or spending time with me ever growing number of Hanzi flashcards.
The best part of my morning though is breakfast! Instead of a large breakfast of dumplings and noodles I have moved to Hami Gua (similar to cantaloupe) with an apple or orange juice. Sometimes I will splurge and get some of the myriad of interesting bread products.
Mr. Smarty Pants
Four out of five days I have classes at 8am. My breakfast is usually eaten en’route to my classroom, about a three minute walk. Between my three different language classes and my two Valpo classes my week is full of learning.
Classes are broken up by lunch at a variety of places, Western, Chinese, Korean, Middle Eastern. Then the staple cup of coffee and I am back into class.
Let the Fun Begin
I am usually done by 2:00 so I have time to ‘enjoy’ my life here. But, lately I have changed from ‘enjoyment’ to ‘scholarship.’ Chinese is a very very hard language to learn and I have realized I needed to triple the amount of time spent studying. Now my afternoons are consumed with Chinese homework and flash-cards more often than not. I also slide in readings for my Valpo classes and round my afternoon off with a trip to my favorite tea & coffee stand or a quick trip to the fruit vendor for Chinese oranges, better known as green tangerines.
But it Came so Quick!
And before I know it dinner and night time snuck up on me. Dinner, like lunch, is a varied affair. We can travel off campus around town for a change or we stay close. My personal favorite is a tiny dumpling house. After dinner you can catch me playing a game of Settlers of Catan or some such, even watching a little TV on my iPad. The night is finished with more flash-cards and some music or Harry Potter to fall asleep to.
Rinse and Repeat
Today brings about my second week of Chinese classes. I have three total, listening, speaking, and grammar. My schedule leaves me time for study and exploring, except for Tuesdays when I am in class from 8-6. They are going well so far, my characters are almost legible, my vocabulary is progressing, but my speaking is terrible. I did to ace my first three homework assignments and my first two tests.
My first day of classes.
My big event for the week was English corner this past Sunday. Xihu (West Lake) park six for the last 30 years has been the place to go Sunday mornings and afternoons to meet locals and for locals to meet Westerners. We ended up spending over four hours with some amazing friendly people, young and old. This is the China everyone told me about. Everyone was friendly, inquisitive, and a pleasure to meet. I found out my Tom Cruise blue eyes and partially grown beard drive the ladies into a frenzy!
For anyone planning a trip to China, or a non-Western country, please remember to bring over-the-counter medicine. My Dad did a great job outfitting me but no one ever thought about the common cold. It has knocked me on my butt for the past week. I am feeling a little better today but am still on my diet of rice, South African oranges, and water.
In an earlier blog I mentioned the incessant honking on our bus ride into Hangzhou. As it turns out this was not an isolated incident. Navigating in Hangzhou has proven to be a most interesting feat. Unlike in America not a single person yells or offers gestures while driving, they just honk. There are three types of honks, the ‘courtesy’ honk is a simple warning from approaching bikes, scooters, mopeds, pedi cabs, or motor vehicles to someone lower on the food chain that they are coming or passing and you should get out of the way. This is a simple beep beep, or ring ring. The ‘get moving’ honk’ is more of a longer beep that, while still polite, lets you know you should be either speeding up or moving of the way quicker. And the ‘Oh My Lord you are really upsetting the 1.5 billion drivers behind you’ honk is a series of long extending beeps informing the offending driver he has upset the Gods and will be punished for not moving fast enough or simply for hesitating a little to long.
I learned the above lesson on our trip back from a famous restaurant named Lo Wai Lo. Frequented by Chaing Ki Shek and Richard Nixon, it has been open for more than 100 years in one form or another. Said to be the most expensive and most regionally true restaurant in Hangzhou it did not disappoint. Everything from Beggars Chicken, a whole chicken wrapped in lotus leaves and baked in a brick, to Dong Po Pork, semi-sweet pork fatback and meat served in a dumpling pancake, was mouth watering and after two and a half hours we could not have been happier. Below is a tasty dumpling!
The entire experience so far has been great. I have spent the past three days walking around the city. We have ventured deep into a Walmart, see flickr for some interesting pictures, took a saipan onto West Lake, and visited my first Starbucks. At times it is easy to forget I am in China as city life has a very western feel if you do not look too closely.
This post is a lot longer than most as I am trying to cover a lot. The future posts will be a little more manageable. I just have had so many interesting things to talk about it is hard to pick what to write.
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