Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Everyone seems to talk about how getting sick in China is an inevitability, and they're right. Just as I was starting to think living with 4 other guys for a whole academic year had rendered me immune, Two nights ago, I was finishing up my homework and a fever hit me...hard. I got into bed shivering, and woke up in no shape to go to class. I now figure that out of the 24 hours that followed, I slept for 18. This weekend is our "travel weekend," so I had originally planned to go to Qin Huang Dao, a coastal town where the Great Wall meets the sea, with my roommate and 20 of his classmates. I figured that being in an exclusively Chinese-speaking environment would give my language an extra boost, if not frustrate me to death. Considering how rough this trip could be without sufficient enthusiasm, I pulled the plug this morning. Instead, I plan on seeking out a western movie theater to catch Superman and reviewing some shengci (vocabulary). Considering all the traveling I'll be doing over the next few weekends (all CET organized), and my three-week jaunt south, I'm not too bummed.

This week marks the half-way point of the program. It's going really fast, and it doesn't seem at all like I've been in China for a month already. Classes are going well, and we're moving at a very quick pace. Whereas at Carleton we learned around 60 words a week, here we routinely cover double that amount, sometimes more. In terms of grammar, we're covering an even greater amount, and without the help of English to explain or clarify, it gets a bit tough sometimes. The teachers are, for the most part, great at explaining grammar structures that often have no English equivalent. Our class schedule was a bit hard to get used to, since they didn't really explain it fully before we started. We basically have two primary classes each day, an hour-long grammar class followed by two hours of "drill class," in which four or five students practice the new grammar and vocab. The strange part is that there are two "lead teachers" who teach the grammar classes, who rotate each week between the two sections of our level. In terms of drill classes, there are five different teachers who rotate every day. On top of it all, we then have alternating "language practicum" and "supplementary" weeks, and a new one-one-one tutor each week. If nothing else, it breeds a lot of critical conversation between students about which teachers we prefer. There's a pretty strong consensus at this point about which teachers you want to have and which you don't. Almost all of the teachers are women in their 30s, and they are some of the most energetic, enthusiastic teachers I have ever seen. In the States, only a Kindergarten teacher could rival their upbeat approach. While this kind of smiley front can be clawing, I don't think any of us have minded so far, It's a great cure for our seemingly constant exhaustion.

I forgot to mention, I've been using Skype here (diban525) to make phone calls, so if anyone has a Skype account and wants to chat, look me up. New pictures of the Forbidden City and our campus are coming soon!