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05 November 2007 @ 11:47 am
Okay, it's been a little while since I posted anything in here, but since we've gotten back from our midterm trip, it's been pretty chill with nothing spectacular going on. Actually, the major activity going on for most of us has been finishing up this 3000 word essay we had to do for Fei laoshi's class. The funny thing was, we knew we had to do this essay since before the trip, and I just could not think of a topic that would be good enough the whole time we were on the trip, then suddenly, last weekend, when I was talking to Denise about the differences between Beijing and Shanghai, it finally popped into my head that I could do a comparison detailing what were the exact factors keeping Beijing from becoming as cosmopolitan and economically developed a city as Shanghai is. It's weird how stuff like that can just pop up when you're not even thinking about it.

Even though I had the topic, for some reason I just seemed extraordinarily loath to do it. I would usually wait until I got "in the zone," and my mind just felt in the right gear for typing. Usually when this came, I could get a good deal done, but then it would disappear and not come back for a while. To deal with this I'd leave the MS word window open, so the temptation to write and get it done would always be present, and eventually I'd just start typing again. Originally it was due this past Thursday, but so many people e-mailed him asking for an extension that he moved it to today (Monday). It was another excuse to be even more lazy, but since I had plans with Denise on Friday, I decided to use that as a motivator and actually got it done Thursday night anyway. Marcus, however, finished it Sunday, getting to work on it pretty much as soon as we got back from Shanghai, so he had absolutely no sympathy for people asking for an extension.

So yeah, I was glad to get that out of the way, and then spend some time just chilling out with friends. I think what I've been really noticing is that I'm kind of starting to get tired of being abroad. The novelty has kind of completely worn out. Actually, it kind of came back for a split second when I was in Chengdu Xiaochi today and noticed every sitting around me was Chinese, that was kind of unsettling once again, but for the most part it's already become familiar, and the routine of class and predetermined activities plus occasional going out has become a little tiring. I miss not being a foreigner. In China, it is definitely a lot easier to feel singled out than it is in Japan, I don't know why, but I've definitely felt it stronger here. Mostly the people who stare at you in Japan are little kids, but in China, almost everyone will stare at you if you're non-Chinese, or even WORSE, a non-Chinese fraternizing with a Chinese!

I don't know if I blogged about this incident, but Denise and I went to Tiananmen together to just check out the square itself, and I had my arm around her (Denise is Chinese-born, grew up in America, but that last part doesn't show on the surface), and ALMOST EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO PASSED US STARED FOR SEVERAL SECONDS. It was ridiculous. If they didn't stare at us on the initial pass, then after the pass they'd turn their heads and gawk thinking they evaded our ability to see them. And it didn't even matter if they were barely more than a foot or two away from us, they would still turn and stare. I actually didn't feel embarrassed or bad about it when it was happening, though, I felt more rebellious, like I just wanted to shout out, in Chinese of course so they could understand for sure, "Yes, look, I am the foreigner, and I am plundering your womenfolk! Watch on in disgust as I contaminate your people with my filthy capitalist touch!" Actually, I don't know how to say "plunder" or "contaminate" in Chinese so I wouldn't have necessarily been able to do that even if I really wanted to.

But yeah, I realize at this point I'm pretty ready to go back to the US, specifically Miami. I miss my dogs, I miss Cuban food, I miss the warm weather, I miss clean air, I miss understanding what's going on TV, I miss being literate, there are a lot of things I miss. I have definitely appreciated my experiences in China and Japan a lot, there's no doubt of that, but I know for sure now that 2 terms is quite enough, at least for consecutive time spent away from the U.S.

I will say, in China I have started to develop a particular interest in Ultimate Frisbee. One of the people in our group is actually on the Dartmouth Ultimate team, so he often gets guys to go play with him in the track/field area on campus. It is really fun, and pretty simple to play, except sometimes it gets kind of frustrating when I'm the shortest guy and two guys whom are both above 6 feet are tossing the thing well above your reach, but I'm starting to really get the hang of it. I learned there was a whole other way of throwing a Frisbee beyond the typical backhanded throw, and learned to master that pretty well. It's pretty intense physical exercise, too, pretty much like soccer. Today we spent a little time playing and it was pretty fun. The thought of joining the ultimate team spring term has definitely crossed my mind.

I've totally been breaking my moratorium on western food lately. I ate pizza and french fries on Saturday, and it felt quite good. I figure I'm getting enough regular Chinese food it just doesn't hurt to go back to good old-fashioned western junk food occasionally. Maybe I've just reached the mental breaking point where I'm just not as interested in pursuing the foreign experience anymore.

Class continues to be class. 3rd year has really proven to be really where I feel good. It's easy enough where I'm still getting A's on tests, but not so easy I feel like I'm doing nothing. I still feel like my listening skills are lacking, though. The whole lack of home stays and regular Chinese TV has meant my conversational and aural capacity has not accelerated nearly anywhere close to the level it did in Japan, even though, according to the Dartmouth year levels I am in both, I am supposedly better at Chinese. The most consistent speaking practice we have is with our teachers, and they, of course, speak slower than normal for our sakes, so we just have not had that same immersion going on to get us used to how real Chinese people speak. Although I can handle myself at an okay level with everyday conversation, but often I hear people speak and just are like "Okay...what did they say?" Even though I am supposed to be more advanced in Chinese, I still feel like I am more functional and comfortable in Japanese. Even Fei laoshi agrees that the whole lack of a home stay, or even just going as far as giving us Chinese room mates, is a big flaw in the program.

Oh well, all I know is that no matter what, all I have to do is open my mouth and I will get a "汉语说得挺不错!" (Your Chinese is so good!) or "ああ、日本語上手!" (the same, but with Japanese). I think I've heard enough of those phrases to last me a lifetime.
(Anonymous) on November 5th, 2007 05:07 pm (UTC)
Hello from Florida
You room, family, and pets are waiting for you in Coral Gables.

RachELcamlina on November 5th, 2007 06:31 pm (UTC)
Heh. If you don't like being stared at, don't come to India. Most especially don't come to India as a woman, or you will be not only stared at but harassed at every possibly opportunity.