Last Sunday I spent my best day in Beijing yet with Fei. I know her from the University of Cincinnati where we both attended graduate school. She’s living in Beijing now, and it was great to wander around the 798 Art District with a local.
On Wednesday, I had a language practicum which involved going to a restaurant with my teacher and asking for a menu, ordering a meal without, meat, gluten, soy or msg, ordering a beverage and getting the check. All good skills! But I nearly cried when she said I had to ask a stranger for directions. Speaking in Mandarin, I asked a man who was repairing a street light where the restaurant was, but he didn’t understand me. My teacher was standing next to me and telling me what to say. It was all very awkward. I didn’t know what the man was saying to me and didn’t know what I was supposed to do next. Then a student walked by (we’re on a college campus) and said in English “It’s that way.” Kind of hilarious. The rest of our excursion was fine. That’s language boot camp, no big deal.
And trying things…
So it’s not all work here. We go on excursions too. After our first exam we had hot pot for lunch. Then we went to the Summer Palace which is located within a huge park in Beijing.
I landed in Beijing two weeks ago and so far my favorite thing about Beijing is the subway. It’s so easy to use, even for those of us who don’t speak the language yet, and it allows me to freely explore this huge city.
I’ll be in Beijing until mid-December. As part of the Fulbright grant I received a Critical Language Enhancement Award which is 3-1/2 months of intensive language study in Beijing prior to beginning my research grant in Jingdezhen, China. Basically, I’m in Beijing for language boot camp. I’m here with 20 other students at a program called CET. It’s based in Washington DC but has language programs in many different countries. The students in the program with me this term are undergrads wanting to improve their Mandarin.