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Journals from Beijing - China Studies Institute

2013-09-13 A typical day

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Going to school

September 8, 2013 The first week in China has felt like a month, but in an awesome way. A warning: I may or not be rosy eyed from all the new and exotic experiences that I have been having. It is possible that in a few weeks Beijing may turn on me and I on it and all the fascination may fade away. For now I am staying optimistic. My first week of classes went very well and I am loving the speed that I am learning new words, grammar, and tones. It is amazing how well your brain adapts when focused on a single task. An average day starts with waking up around 7am, getting ready for school, cramming in some extra studying and heading out the door around 7:45. It takes about ten minutes to get to the bus stop where I spend about $.40 kuai ($.08 USD) with a bus/subway card to get to Beida campus. Class runs from 8:30 until about 12:00 when we break for lunch which for now has been either baozi (steamed dumplings) or noodles because that is about all I read from the menus! After lunch ends at 1:30 I am in class until 5:00 and then back to the apartment for homework and studying. We cover two chapters from our textbook and learn about sixty to eighty new words a week. It is hard work but so very satisfying when you make a complete sentence that makes sense to even a Chinese person. So the weekends are well earned and more valuable to us immersion students with seemingly boundless hours of free time. Yesterday, the CSI program took us to Mang Mountain ' where we climbed over 1200 stairs up a forested ridge, north of Beijing. As more and more old ladies came down the mountain while I was drenched in sweat trying to drag myself up, I reflected on how this might be a metaphor for a Westerner living in China. The Chinese visitors to the mountain wore cute skirts and some parents even carried their pets and children up the mountain. While I’m in the city I try to look as composed and cool as possible, but climbing those steps I lost all pretenses of being nonchalant. In my sports shorts and Linfield t-shirt, drenched in sweat and hair falling everywhere, it was plainly obvious that it was a struggle. As a Westerner and outsider, I will never be able to completely fit in to the Chinese culture, and the art of trying to understand the culture (even as an outsider) is difficult enough. But, as with climbing a mountain of stairs that seem to have no end, the view from the top is well worth the sweat and struggle, even if it is a bit smoggy. The point is to never stop trying even if so many people around you are making it look so easy. Hope you enjoyed my attempt at imitating Chinese proverbial wisdom. Erin

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