Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Yankee Doodle Theme Song from Barney: Let's go to Class - Everywhere

This cold is not going away. Runny nose, fever, hoarse voice complicated by constant Chinese practice everyday, has made the cold drag on.

The first week of Chinese was appropriate for my sickness. The first two lessons basically covered health. By the end of the week, I was able to tell everyone exactly what symptoms I had, the details of a restless sleep and my sensitivity to light.

IUP is thorough. At HBA, I remember covering hundreds of words, knowing definitions of characters but glossing over usages. Here, the teachers grind each word's usage into you. For example, I know about ten ways to express going to sleep. Each term is used in a slightly different way. While the locals will understand what you want to say, they will not correct your words with the correct synonym. Fortunately, all the IUP teachers are patient and eager to help, whether I take their class or not.

Yesterday, a group of students and teachers went to a village preserved since the Ming Dynasty called 爨底下, or Cuan Di Xia. The village is shaped like a round bowl filled with rice, with the landowner's house on the highest spoonful. Most of the structures were maintained for more than 400 years. Tourists come to eat the local cuisine, which is supposed to be unique. My hunger didn't detect anything outstanding, to the cook's disappointment. However, I saw an old lady making cornbread in a great big metal bowl over an open fire. Her hands must be like insulated gloves - she would touch the bowl to flip the patties with her bare hands! Although the fresh bread was meant to be served to the awaiting customers in her restaurant, she sold a couple for the IUP troop to share. The unsweetened bread was the best thing I've had since living in China. The American southern cornbread cannot compare.

Everyone explore the town on their own. I found myself with the teachers, talking in Chinese throughout the day. Had I been with the other students, I don't think I would have appreciated or understood the town's culture, religion and geography deeply. The local geography is confounding - some places are labeled "Eight Mysteries Pool" and "Nine Meditation Stones," but when I actually hiked to those areas, all I found were cesspools dark with algae and nine boulders. I bet if I made a sign that said "Tree of Richard" next to anything resembling a branch, someone would take a photograph. Others areas were breathtaking - river-cut passageways with caves and cavities, single bell temples surrounded by vast green mountains.

Back in my room, I can only imagine my hike through fading memories preserved by these photographs. Outside, I hear American students in drunken stupor. There are a lot of foreign students on campus now as the actual university students leave and summer language program students move in. My opportunities for a Chinese-only environment dwindle in Wudaokou - with English in one ear and Korean in the other, hearing Chinese is a luxury. Maybe if I willingly try to not understand English and Korean, I can get by. Realistically, however, I have told other Koreans and Americans who see me as foreign that I am Chinese. It works - unless I'm talking with another Chinese.

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James said...

I tried those corn cake things for the first time the other day. They're delicious.

Grand Master - 108 Tongues, 中国制造团体, Bust Out! Family said...

aaah 我很想在中国。。。。我打算八月二十三号坐飞机去北京,但是我害怕我们见不到。。。我只有五天在北京,好友我有我得做的事。有可能,有可能,我们见得到。但是我不一定。


Fern said...

i applaud your use of photos to show us what you're describing... they add life to your tales of adventure. :)

i'm surprised you can pass as chinese... i've always thought your features screamed, "I'M KOREAN!!"

(it's not a bad thing. i'm merely stating the facts.)

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