So I have been writing this update in various installments because I have been so tired and there is never much time to settle in and write. This will be all out of order, but please bear with me because it is an order that makes sense to me. Right now I am sitting next to the lake on campus, taking some time out from meeting people and learning new things about the city I now live in. It is all very exciting, but if you know me very well, you know I need time to mull and think over things and process away from people. The lake is the perfect place to do that. Right now, I can only see two other people and only hear the occasional honk of the traffic on the street that runs by campus. The birds are swinging over the lake, catching mosquito larvae, I would assume, and it is just very, very peaceful and wonderful. I have a dove chocolate bar on my knee, water very close at hand, and a gorgeous view. Can I just say that I love it here?! Everyone whose eye you meet greets you with a smile and a “Ni hao!” As I was walking down from the dorms to the lake, a man came up to me and asked me what nationality I was and started talking about what I think was shade – unless it was some Chinese word lol (this was all in Chinese) and telling me how he didn’t need sunscreen because he was Chinese and it was just very funny. Then he pointed to some building we were walking past and said something about it (I haven’t been in there yet) and proceeded to make sure I knew that we were “pengyou” – friends – I don’t even know his name and he is declaring friendship after making sure I knew that I needed shade because of the sun! I tried to explain to him about sunscreen by using pantomiming and trying out some of his words, but I have no idea if he understood me.
Earlier this morning we were met by ZhangPeng who has been escorting us to places we need to know about and just in general being amazing. He was to take us to get our physical examinations, which cost about 48 dollars apiece (331 RMB). At first I thought this to be a ridiculous price, but when we got there, there were all sorts of tests run on us to make sure that we were ok! They are very, very paranoid about the swine flu (H1N1) virus, so much so that some people wear masks over their faces if out in public! They are constantly taking our temperature here on campus. Anyway, the physical examination - We got our blood drawn, had an EKG, got an X-ray of our torsos, our blood pressure taken, our height and weight in metric measurements, and an ultrasound of our torsos also! For 48 dollars! We go back in 2 days to get our results – TWO DAYS! I can’t believe it, but with communism one of the advantages is punctuality because no one is covering their butts for re-election. It was so funny, when we signed in after getting to the fourth floor where all of these tests were to be run, the woman who gave us our papers to be filled out by the doctors wanted us to write down our height and weight. We told ZhengPeng that we only knew them in pounds and feet and inches, not metric measurements. You should have seen her face when she realized that none of us knew how much we weighed! Disgust doesn’t even begin to describe the face she made!! :)
Then we took the bus back to campus and went back up to our rooms – only to discover that our keys to our room did not work! The keys work sort of like a hotel room key, you have to slide this little gold thing into a slot and then the tumbler moves and a green light comes on. Laura and I found out from Jim that we had to go down and give a lady in a certain office our receipt and then she would make it so that our room keys would work again, apparently they can make them work only for a certain amount of days so you can’t keep getting back into your old room – very smart. So we went down only to realize we had brought the wrong receipts with us and the one we needed was now locked in our room! She gave us a key to go open it, but by the time Laura had come back with the right receipt, all of the people yelling at each other in Chinese had figured out that because we are exchange students we don’t have to pay for our room anyway so we don’t need the receipt to get our room key! It was crazy.
By this time it is like 12:30 and I am starving because they didn’t let us eat because of the physical this morning. We decided to eat in the cafeteria that is literally just around the corner from our rooms and that was pleasant. I met a teacher, I’m not sure what she teaches, but she seemed nice and it is fun to use the tiny bit of Chinese I do have on unsuspecting people. I am so excited to start classes tomorrow and be pushed to learn this language I am surrounded with!
Lunch was the first time I had food I wasn’t completely satisfied with. The dish I chose was really way too spicy for my taste and I also tried bread and it wasn’t as fresh as it could have been. The bean sprouts I had were quite good, a little spicy but nothing overwhelming and quite tasty. Meals are always an adventure here and so far I have been here a week and only been disappointed once! That’s pretty amazing, especially considering how cheap food is here.
Tonight I think I am going to check out the futbol stadium and see if I can walk on to a game being played there, ZhangPeng told me that the guys would love to have an American woman play with them, and I am excited to join them! My goal is to get in fairly decent shape so that I can get together another intramural team at MSU this spring; there is even a work room in the basement of our dorm! I can’t believe it; I thought I would have to just do everything in my room whenever it gets cold.
Since I left you to walk around campus I have had several adventures. I wanted to go check out the futbol stadium and the library. Campus is so gorgeous! I have never seen a culture that includes green within its city just like it is something that happens all the time. As I was walking, I began to realize that I did not know how to ask where a bathroom was – don’t ask how I have been studying a language for almost a year now and have no idea even an idea of how to ask about bathrooms. So, I continued on, still wanting to see more of campus and hoping I would see a sign in English somewhere about bathrooms. I began to get more and more desperate, and couldn’t identify what types of buildings I was walking by. Eventually I remembered that I had stuck my school book in my bag, and I thought maybe it would have a dictionary in the back, it did… but it was in alphabetical order of pinyin. Of course the word for bathroom starts with a W, so needless to say it took me a while to find it, quickly scanning the English words in the (thankfully) short dictionary. I don’t think ill ever forget how to ask that! Lol. I ended up in what seemed to be an office building for teachers, and the woman I asked where the bathroom was ended up speaking a little English and able to give me directions with little to no pantomiming necessary. It is amazing to me – I am not sure if I have shared with you yet what their public toilets are like, but basically, when you say ‘pop a squat’, you really mean pop a squat. They are just holes in the floor and you have to carry around your own toilet paper! I am already pretty used to this and it took me no time at all to get my business taken care of and move on to the next task – finding the library. I knew sort of where it was on campus, and only after one wrong try I am now sitting at a desk in a not very comfortable chair across from another student. I have no idea how to say library lol.