04.04.2015 - 13.04.2015
Blog Entry 2
March 13, 2015
Time in Chengdu seems to fly by; already nine days since my last blog entry! On the fifth, I met a group of Chinese business students who had plans to walk the lantern-lit streets in celebration of Lantern Festival; the last day of the Chinese New Year. They asked me to join and I agreed with no hesitation. The four Chinese students and I strolled down a beautiful walking street along the river. Chinese families, couples, and groups of friends filled the surrounding area with laughter and traditional Chinese songs. I did not see another foreigner the entire time! The following day, I went to my classroom to meet my teacher, Zhou laoshi, and my new classmates. The diversity is incredible; students from Korea, Japan, France, Israel, India and Italy filled the room. I am the only American! That evening, I was invited to go to a local Chinese bar with some Chinese guys that I met in the gym. They told me that foreigners do not often go to this bar, and it proved to be the case. Again, I think I was the only westerner in the entire establishment. They taught me Chinese games; mah jong, Chinese dice, and higher or lower. Surprisingly, I picked them up very quickly. They say that having a few drinks helps one speak a foreign language better and I fully agree. I believe that the nervousness of making a mistake disappears while ones confidence in their language ability increases. In addition, I have practically been limited to speaking Chinese for the majority of my time in Chengdu, so my speaking ability has improved!
A few days ago, I met a friend of my program manager. His English name is Sheldon and he too likes to go to the gym. Thus, we decided to go together. Sheldon studies business here at Sichuan University and knows many Chinese students whom he agreed to introduce me to. At the gym, I worked out with four Chinese guys and two Koreans. They are all very helpful, helping me convert kilograms to pounds, teaching me weight room vocabulary and explaining some Chinese jokes (all of which are too inappropriate to post on my blog). Since that day in the weight room, Sheldon has proven to be my best Chinese friend thus far! He regularly asks me if I need help with my homework (I kindly decline his offer) or if I’d like to eat dinner with him. It’s a good feeling being able to create such a close connection in a foreign language.
In our spare time, a group of us, both Chinese and foreigners, have been going out to experience Chengdu’s culture. We went to the bamboo park and got lost in a maze of bamboo, to a Buddhist temple and chatted with some monks about Buddhist teachings including Anatman, suffering, and the problems in Tibet and a local tea house!
On Monday, we had our first day of classes. Our teacher only speaks in Chinese and expects us to do the same. Our first class, which is Monday through Friday, is Chinese Comprehension in which we learn to read, write, speak and listen. Our second classes focus on one of these subjects and are taught one or two times a week, depending on the course and day. In the afternoon, I attended my first Daoism class. Every other week we will take a field trip to a different temple! Yesterday, I attended the Chinese Contemporary History class. Man, does our professor have many credentials; a doctorate, several Bachelor’s degrees, and he’s been to dozens of countries and every state in the U.S. The detail of his curriculum seems extreme as well; on the first day alone I learned of several major events that occurred between 1911 and 1917 that I had never heard of before! I’m very excited to see what this semester brings!