It is Sunday afternoon, and I am sitting atop my white sheet sheathed bed, leaning back against a wall plastered with photos of my loved ones back in America. I have just finished my first week as a Chinese language learning student at Shoudu Shifan Daxue, or Capital Normal University. After we put our week tracing the Silk Road behind us, I and my companions have gained stability in some areas of our lives. I have a blindingly white, simple yet homey dorm room that has a window with which I can gaze out at the city and gauge the smog ratio each day prior to leaving my bed. Today, only a block or so remains visible, while the rest is tucked in to a bed of thick, drab fog. My roommate Sydney and I have gotten into the habit of buying small plants from a woman on the street to bring some color to the room. Last time we went, her companion said that we are “not like other foreigners who don’t really care and walk right past.” Those daily interactions with the people I meet on the street bring me joy in their spontaneity and their ability to diminish the culture gap simply with the shy smile of a cigarette-wielding man or a few stuttered Chinese syllables stumbling out of my hesitant mouth.
We have begun to get into a routine of eating unfathomably cheap street food. I’m never sure what to call what I’m eating, but that does not worry me much as I have consumed as few as three tastes I haven’t enjoyed since we arrived in Beijing. Some of our favorite are some-kind-of bean with a really tasty flavoring, a potato and eggplant dish and some very delicious spinach jiaozi (Chinese dumplings).
My classes are taught entirely in Chinese, which is so thrilling to me as an eager student. I have language classes in the morning from 8:30-10 and 10:20-11:50, and Chinese History from 1-3 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I am sure as the days pass and the night comes quicker, I will be more reluctant to have such a rigorous schedule, but for now I am so enjoying the saturation of Chinese culture and language that is dripping into every area of my life. I find myself constantly translating in my head subconsciously, speaking casual Chinese to my classmates and this week I had my first dream in Chinese! All of these are exciting developments, and I am thankful everyday to be surrounded by a group that is just as entertained by this language as I am.
As for my remaining minutes in the day, each and every one is different. Collectively, our group goes on an outing related to our history class every Thursday. This past week we went to see the Confucian Temple. I was particularly impressed with the beauty of the architecture and the bold colors it is strewn with that have been so delicately preserved to this day. Witnessing such an icon in early Chinese history coupled with our studies directly related to it’s importance is such a memorable practice. On our own we have made a few expeditions to local markets, scenic spots, and experienced some night life, all of which have afforded a variety of new and interesting exposures for our group.
I apologize for the vagueness of this post. Once my timing for posts becomes more regular I will be able to offer a more scrutinized look at our life in China!