Mike: June 2005 Archives

Chinese Traffic

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Chinese traffic is one of the most insane things I've ever seen. Cab drivers don't so much as use "a" lane, as they do gently glide from side to side on the highways. People change lanes without looking, and get so close to each other that every single time we merge I'm sure we're going to hit somebody. Most of the time when I ride in a taxi I sit in the back and close my eyes. I tell the taxi driver where we're going and then I trust him to take me there. Many of the taxi drivers here are crooked, and there's always someone who doesn't have an official taxi tag that wants to take you places.

If people think that taxis in the states are a ripoff, China is their dream. Last weekend I went to a mall (which was ridiculously expensive) and the 30-35 minute taxi drive was 32 yuan, which was then split 3 ways, for a grand total of abou 1 dollar 33 cents per person. It's hard to believe that someone who works as a taxi driver in China would ever be able to afford the things in the mall we went to. Most of the western stuff (Nautica Clothes, etc.) was even way too expensive for me... meaning it was relatively priced to how expensive it is in Asia.

On the streets is where most "normal" people want to shop. People sitting infront of touristy wares yell out "Hey Lady, Look at These" in really bad english. Some have even gotten a clue and thrown in some spanish "Look here! Busca aqui!". Once you find something you like, it's pretty easy to bargain with the person. They'll type a price on a calculator, say, 150 yuan, and you will say "tai gui le" which means "too expensive". You then take the calculator, or if you trust your Chinese, respond with a price you think is fitting. For example, a buddy of mine bought a bag last weekend, and after the merchant told him 150 yuan, he said he'd pay 20 for it. They finally settled on around 70 if I remember correctly.

Anyways I just got out of class and am rambling, so I'll write more when something of interest actually happens. Oh, on a side note, if you have the chance to watch real Chinese acrobats, do so because they're amazing.

Third Day of Classes

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Everything is going decently in China, could be better, could be worse. I was put into the "advanced" first year program... which basically means I don't know enough of Columbia's ciriculum to qualify for the 2nd year Columbia book (according to 1 test and a 2 minute interview). There are 6 people in my class, all of us are attempting to get into the 2nd year program because none of us think we'll receive any credit if we stay in the 1st year program. SO... that's been the biggest pain so far, having to sit through remedial lectures about very, very basic Chinese. I know most all of the vocab for the entire 1st year course already, so supposedly on Friday I'll be given another chance to enter the 2nd year course.

Oh, another reason for wanting to leave the 1st year course is that they're forcing us to use "traditional" characters as opposed to "simplified" ones. Everyone in Mainland China uses simplified characters, while in Taiwan they use traditional. My home University, UVA, only uses simplified, so if I'm forced to learn traditional characters, I'm only going to forget them through non-use.

Anyways, apart from the actual CLASS, I think I'm learning Chinese very well. Every day I have to meet with my yudan, language partner, for almost 2 hours. That probably helps me the most, since I can ask her how to say things that actually have relevance. You have NO idea how hard it is to order food when all you know how to say is beef, chicken, pork, and noodles. Yesterday she took me to a cafeteria and ordered for me, which was great. Normally I just keep ordering the same thing, or I let someone who has had more Chinese order for me. Also, if I can, I can point at pictures =D

My roomate is... a roomate. He's mormon so... yeah. It's really a shame they changed the local of the program, or I would've had a single. I had grown so used to not having to sleep in the same room as someone that it's really hard to not find everything my roomate does just a little annoying.

That's about it for now, I've got a tutoring session in like an hour so I should probably go find the building. Zaijian!

In China O_O

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20 some odd hours later and I'm finally in Beijing. We're in temporary housing right now, which is sort of like a hotel, but with a lousier mattress. Word is that we're going to be moving out on the 20th into our permanent housing. The 20th is also when we're going to be starting our classes. Since I've only taken a year of Chinese language pretty much everyone here speaks better Chinese than I do. We took a placement test which was pretty much the hardest thing I've ever seen, and the interview afterwards wasn't any easier.

Anyways, I'll write more later, the food is amazing, and so cheap. Yesterday I paid 8 yuan for lunch, which included 3 courses. 8 yuan is just a little bit less than a dollar!! SO, food is gonna be cheap :) Today I'm planning on buying a cell-phone and some hair-gel... if I only knew the word for gel.


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