Going Back to Beijing

The first golden week of the school week is finally almost here. Chinese National Day is October 1st, and they know how to do National Day right here, it may be only a day but we get an entire week off. Everyone gets breaks besides airports, restaurants, and tourist attractions basically. Two of my Russian girlfriends and I have booked train tickets and a hotel in Beijing, we will leave at 7:30pm tomorrow. Tianjin is so close to Beijing that the slow train will get us there in an hour and 25 minutes, plus the seats were only 11 RMB…Gotta love China. I can’t wait for the festivities!

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The Beyoncé of Tianjin

If you have heard me describe my travels in China, I may have said that I was the “Beyoncé of China” a time or two…..or more, heck who wouldn’t want to be Beyoncé, right? The reason why I felt that way is because being a black girl in China I have been the recipient of many almost paparrazzi-like attacks and secret photographs. If one person on the street gets brave enough to ask for a photo, others all around want to jump in as well, therefore the impromptu photo shoots commence.

One of the stereotypes about black girls in China are that we can sing and dance. I hate fulfilling stereotypes but I was on the dance team all throughout college, and I am no Beyoncé, but I can find the beat and melodies of songs in karaoke (to my Chinese friends delight). Being the diva that I am I love karaoke, I sing both Chinese and English songs, well apparently that qualifies me to sing for a TV broadcast award ceremony. I mentioned before that I got a call from a producer named Guo Yue to perform on Monday. I had no information other than the song I picked, and the fact that I would be picked up at the school entrance at 4:30pm. The entire day workers from the TV station were calling me to make sure I remembered, was prepared, and knew the make and model of the car picking me up, a bit over the top but the sentiment was appreciated.

I skipped class for the first time that day….I know it’s a horrible thing to do, and I regretted it big time the next day during our weekly quiz, but you live and learn. Anyways, I walked out and met a worker as he escorted me back to the company car. We then proceeded to Tianjin Normal University to pick up the other foreign singer for the show. Her name is Ruth, the girl turns out to be from Kenya, and she has lived in China for five years, as an undergraduate and now as a graduate student. Her Chinese is very impressive and she was really nice and open to conversation the entire ride to Tianjin TV Station. Once there, we were given waters and placed in one of the VIP rooms. After a few minutes we went to meet the last foreigner (a woman named Danita from California…guess what, she was black too!) and to practice our song. They confused us for a moment, saying we were singing a song together, obviously we had just met that day, so how were we to sing a song together? They straightened themselves out and instead our 3 songs were melded together, I sang half of my song, Rainie Love by Rainie Yang, Danita sang half of hers, then Ruth finished with her half. Danita’s song was a very soulful song that I wish I got the name of at this point, Ruth’s was a very traditional song by a Tibetan artist, they both are amazing singers. Going back to the room for lunch we had hours to kill so we spent the whole time joking around, sharing experiences, and eating the lunches provided by the station.

Ruth is actually a paid singer in China, she was on the most watched television program in the world (which basically means every Chinese person in China and abroad watches it….you can see how it means it’s the most watched with those numbers), the Chinese New Year Gala on CCTV. Anyone who performs on that is guaranteed instant fame. She is engaged to a VERY handsome Chinese guy who lives in Beijing, I was excited to hear that because I want to go see a Chinese wedding so badly, I can’t wait to go. It’s a perfect way to see one because I won’t stand out as the only black guest, right? 😉

Danita is here in China accompanying her engineer husband from America (he’s black as well). She fell into a singing career in Tianjin by accident, she won a singing competition (she said she didn’t even know it was a competition per se, haha) and from there has been getting calls and been on numerous programs and TV shows. She looks so young that I would have never guessed she has kids in their twenties, she can’t speak Chinese so she had a translator there as well. Though Ruth and I helped with a lot of translations that night, a very funny experience. I sympathized with her because China has to be one of the least foriegn friendly, first world country, when it comes to speaking english I mean….I can’t imagine it. She’s in good humor though, she joined a group of expat housewives and is making a living out here, she;s expecting to be here for at least another two years. Her husband is such a sweet heart, he just got back from a business trip in Singapore, literally dropped his bags at their home, and took an hour worth of cabs to the TV station, just to watch her sing and record it. (Where is that type of guy in my life?!)

Finally at 8:45 it was time for our act, I was so nervous but both girls kept calming me down, my main concern was forgetting my recently learned lyrics and/or singing off-key, out of us three I was the only unprofessional one. Nonetheless, I pulled myself to gether and had fun singing, the lights were so bright I couldn’t see the crowd well anyways. We exchanged phone numbers and promised to keep in touch, which I will make sure of because they are awesome women, and I’m pretty sure all of Tianjin will assume we are The Supremes or something 🙂

Nights Not Planned

It’s always those spur of the moment nights out that are the most fun. Last night Avi and I were deciding what to do and where to go, lazing around at 9 Avi got a text from my Japanese classmate, Lisa, detailing a get together at a local bar called the Basement. We have been there several times before, it’s the kind of bar that go back-and-forth between fun and boring, totally depending on the night. The place itself is in an actually basement (shocker right?), it’s a laid-back kind of bar, with a fooze ball table and full lights. It’s also hard to find because the cabs never know the place but we always find our way somehow (even walked there one time). It was one of those fun nights at the Basement, right at the door, I ran into a guy from Turkey I met before and his friends from Ukraine. I smuggled a bottle of soju in with me (yes, I am cheap) and drank half of it, I must have been feeling good, because I greeted acquaintances as if they were long-lost siblings. We knew everyone was there for a birthday, but it was hilarious because barely anyone know who’s it was. In the end I realized it was the birthday of some one I already greeted as long-lost family, and did it again anyways. I met some really cool, new people there as well. Avi introduced me to a blond guy from Tampa, FL…what are the odds right? We hung out for a while and he seems really nice. After that, I hunted down this Japanese guy I saw from across the room (the brave acts of those in their cups). He had a goatee, baggy pants, and a NY cap, despite all this he looked cool and not contrived. I started up conversation with him and interrogated him in his preference in women, I knew he had to like them black! And of course I was right, I spent some time flirting with him and he’s interested, but I’m not really, just did it for fun. After a few more drinks, we all headed for the best club in Tianjin, Xi Tang (昔唐). Walking over there I started talking to an attractive, Ukrainian guy who was at my side. He’s really interesting not only because of his looks, but because he is Hindu, so he visits Indian frequently and doesn’t eat meat or drink alcohol. I think that’s so cool. We went into Xi Tang, and it was so packed there was any room to dance, but I prefer packed to empty so I had no problems. The first person I danced with was an ABC from my Chinese class, his name is Patrick and he is pure Texan. I can’t remember if he was good or not because it was only for a second. Then the Ukrainian guy, Demi, came around, coincidentally he is Patrick’s roommate, but that is of no real import. He danced in front of me in the way where I know he wants to dance with me, but Avi’s roommate came up next to him and did the same thing. We did this hilarious round of dancing in front of each other and I couldn’t show too much attention to one guy because I knew he would come behind me to dance, which would make it REALLY awkward for the other guy. Sigh, clubbing is so complicated. So anyways, I ran away into the crowd so I wouldn’t have to make a decision…brave of me I know. Demi came after me anyways and so I danced with him since the other couldn’t see and he gets a prize for being more persistent, right? Everything was just a whirlwind of dancing after that, by myself, with people, on the stage, off of it, after a while it became overbearingly hot so I went outside for some air. There I met more acquaintances and strangers from all over the world, all of my friends were up there as well. After a few minutes, I decided I wanted to go back inside, but everyone was content sitting out there. Avi’s roommate, Abu, and his friends were going back in so I went with them. Somehow he got my hand or something, in the end I know we ended up dancing for forever, I thanked my maker for him because he’s good at it and it’s been too long since I’ve had a great dance partner. The night ended with an aggressive Indian, KFC meal, and a nice walk home. I love spontaneous nights out 🙂

In other news, the Hot-pot social went exceptionally well. We met at a famous hot-pot chain, 海底捞, it was the most high-class hot pot experience I’ve ever had. We had two tables, because there were about 15 students and 3 teachers all together. We were given cute aprons, hot towels, and platters of fruit as we got situated and ordered. The food was delicious and everyone had a great time conversing and giving toasts, the service was incredible, the waitresses would hand me whatever before I even knew I needed it, haha. They also put the food into the hot-pot for us and would serve it to us when it was done, good for me because I can never tell when something is cooked. At the end we got complimentary manicures…yes I really mean it, manicures. I said it was a high-class place haha. In the end we each paid 60 RMB, expensive cost for a meal here in China, but I would expect to pay 100 USD easy if it were in America, so I will never complain!

Mama’s Got Money in the Bank!

I’ve got that happy, routine feeling going on lately. You know the one I mean? When you finish cleaning your place, have everything in order, and promise to keep it that way from now on?…But of course it’s the same mess in a few weeks, but I don’t dwell on that 🙂

As my post title states, I finally have money in the bank, and it feels so good~ I’m at Nankai University on the Chinese government Confucius Scholarship, which pays for my school tuition, dorm, and gives me a monthly allowance of 1,400 RMB. It is a great scholarship, but I was on pins and needles these last three weeks waiting for the money. I checked the atm at least once a day, and two days ago, I tried again, but instead of the depressing zeros I became used to….there was a whopping 3,050 RMB in my account. FINALLY! And more than I expected, the first month you get double to cover the cost of “settling in”. Not only did I find money that same day, I found my roommate in my room when I returned. She has been in Africa this entire time (turns out she was there doing an internship), since classes have been going on for three weeks and she didn’t show up, I assumed (and hoped a little) that she would defer for the semester and come back in the spring. It turns out to be good that my hopes didn’t come true, she’s actually really nice (even if a little quiet), and she helped me solve my internet problems. I have been living like a caveman these last few weeks, living in a room with no internet access…I hadn’t gone that long without internet since I was nine years old. Her name is Dana, she’s from Cameroon, and is a neat freak….I’m in love from that alone, haha. She’s a senior here at Nankai studying Economics, I find it crazy that she can miss three weeks of classes, but with the Chinese school system I’m not THAT surprised. It’s virtually impossible to fail out of college in Asia, all of those crazy tests and classes all day long are for before college. Everyone says here, “Getting into college is stressful and VERY hard, but graduating is not”. I think it’s funny since America is the opposite. Getting into college is relatively hard, though a lot easier than here in China, but graduating college on time is practically a 50-50 shot. Back on track: Everything’s coming around and I have a steady rhythm to classes and studying now, plus having money and internet make it all the better.

Monday through Wednesday are reading and listening comprehension days, we have daily class discussions as well to practice our Chinese. The teachers for those days are Wu Laoshi and Liu Laoshi. Wu Laoshi is very nice, and her power points are useful and easy to follow, my only complaint about her is she talks….sooooo…..ssllloow. Well, at least I think so, I’ve been spoiled by the USF Chinese program, the teachers there don’t accommodate us as much, so I feel annoyed when she does. She also repeats herself uselessly but overall she’s still a pretty good teacher. Liu Laoshi is awesome, in her late twenties, she’s down to earth, her speech is a bit slow too sometimes, but not as much. During the second week of classes, we had an anonymous vote for Class Leader (it’s common for every class in Chinese to have one, basically a person the students can go to for help and the teachers give tasks to). I prayed it wouldn’t be me…truly I did. I have this habit of taking on way too many responsibilities, so this year I vowed not to, but alas, it was practically a unanimous decision. So far it hasn’t been too bad, but there have been several more things on my plate because of it. Actually, this Saturday is the class social I organized, a hot-pot social. I hope most of the students come and have a good time, I will let you all know how it goes 🙂

In other news, I also joined the Xiansheng performance Club three weeks ago. Xiangsheng is a traditional Chinese form of story-telling, usually there are two performers have a “conversation” about a topic, and of course hilarity ensues. October 9th will be the first performance of the year and it is supposed to be small-scale but I am still a bit nervous. I am partnered with a Chinese girl, the skit she chose is called 反正话. I can’t think of a direct translation, but basically I am trying to prove that I have all of the great qualities in a Xiangsheng performer, and make a fool of myself as I do so. It’s funny and the script isn’t TOO long, I’ve only memorized about 1/3 of it and have to have it fully memorized by practice this Sunday though…..I guess that means less partying for me!! Also, I just got a call a few hours ago from a Tv station person, how I always get mixed up in TV lord only knows. All that is clear is I will be picked up from my dorm Monday afternoon and record a Chinese song at 7pm. I love karaoke, but I think my voice is nothing exceptional, this should be funny…I’m still picking which song I want to sing, pray for me!

KTV Time

KTV is the short word for Karaoke here in China, and it’s a verb
they take very seriously.

Yesterday, I finally got around to texting a Chinese girl I met a
few weeks ago while she was working in the KFC across the street from Nankai.
She was very friendly and it was my second time running into her, so she gave
me her number and I promptly forgot to contact her, of course. (I am so bad
about that kind of thing) So I randomly thought of her and sent her a text with
a bogus excuse, something about losing her number haha. Anyways, we texted back
and forth, I found out she’s a student at Tianjin Ligong University and that we
shared a common love for KTV. She invited me out THAT same night to go out with
her friends for the KTV night they had planned. Loving a good spontaneous
adventure, I told Avi that we were heading out in an hour for some good old
Chinese fun.

Around 8pm, we took the bus to the Ligong University stop and met
Cao Ting right there. She is so much tinier than I remembered! But, she’s one
of those bubbly tiny girls who bounce around and always happy, I’m really glad
I finally got around to contacting her. She led us from the bus stop back to
her campus and into the night class that she left to get us, Current Day
Japanese Culture. Walking into that packed lecture was pretty hilarious, the
gasps and silence really made it obvious to the teacher up front, but there was
no helping it. The class didn’t end until 9pm, sorry to be such a nerd, but I
was so relieved to sit in a normal Chinese class again. I noticed that
sometimes our Chinese language teachers start speaking slowly and even repeat
their sentences…it annoys the hell out of me! From the start, Dr. Shepherd
always talked to us in normal speed and made sure the other Chinese teachers
did the same, now I can really see the difference. After the lecture on
Japanese cuisine finished, Cao Ting, Avi, and I went up to the front to talk
with the teacher. Cao Ting is so funny, apparently she likes to skip this class
anyways and the teacher was joking with her about it. She’s too bubbly/sweet to
be mad at. I told him about why I loved his class and he invited us to come
back whenever we want to listen 🙂

Afterwards, we took a walk through campus to go
with Cao Ting to her dorm and wait for roommates. Their campus has the typical
Chinese college hours, therefore, the gates and dorms all lock up at 11pm, no
one gets in or out after that time. That’s when I realized why we were going to
KTV so late….I learned a new Chinese phrase, 通宵 (Tong1Xiao1), it means all-nighter. Ordinary
Chinese people don’t club, but singing the night away until their morning class
is typical, haha. They had class the next day at 8am, and Avi and I had class
at 8:30, not to mention I had the chapter test to look forward to as well. We
thought about it for a moment, but still decided to go to KTV because we haven’t
had that many opportunities to spend time in an all Chinese environment. Living
in the foreigner’s dorm, having classes with foreigners, and being new to town
I was happy to be all around Chinese people again and practicing my language
skills hard core! We took taxis to a very nice, well-decorated KTV, though I
can’t remember the name of it for the life of me.

In total, there were 12 Chinese girls, me, and Avi. We
both alternated between Chinese and American songs, but by the last few hours
it was only American songs…only because Avi and I became live juke boxes. There
are many Amreican songs that they like but can’t sing themselves so we didn’t
mind singing them for them. One thing about Chinese people are that they KTV hard,
there were peanuts, chips, sunflower seeds, beer, wine, cake (it was a person’s
birthday), and tea. When we finally sang “Happy Birthday” everyone got a large
slice of cake and the cake war began. There was cake on the walls and sofas,
not to mention on faces, clothes, and hair. It was hilarious. One negative
about KTV is the sloooow, slow Chinese songs that are so popular here. Without
the fast, American songs to offer breaks I would have been asleep around 1am, I
know. We left at 3am to head back to our dorm and get at least a few hours of
sleep. In the end, I almost fell asleep in class but it was worth it. I had a free
night out (in China the birthday person treats everyone), delicious cake, and
new friends! (And I kind of rocked my test so no worries there~)

First Day of Classes

So to follow-up about the speech it went really well 🙂

When I went to the office, instead of butchering the speech like I assumed they would, the teacher’s just checked it one last time for grammar errors. They also kept a copy for themselves to translate into english, Japanese, and Korean to have one a slide behind me while I spoke. Here’s my speech for any interested readers who read Chinese (I was quite proud of it~):

各位老师、各位同学:大家下午好!

我是美国南佛罗里达大学四年级的学生,我的中文名字叫陆梦生(陆是大陆的陆。。梦。。生)。今天,我带着一种收获的喜悦代表学生发言,我的心情非常激动。同学们,你们一定是因为对中文和中国文化有浓厚的兴趣,才来到南开大学学习的。
首先,我来介绍一下我在中国的经历与感受。零八年奥运会的开幕式实在是让人叹为观止,这让我开始对中国这个国家感兴趣。但我认为要欣赏中国的文化特色就一定要先学习汉语。这已经是我第三次来中国了,但是每次来我都只是呆了几个星期。每次回到美国,我总是期待能再来中国欣赏这儿的文化和风俗。所以这一次我想呆一年。因为我认为只有较长的时间才能真正感受到一个地方的魅力。今年,我很荣幸能有这个机会在南开大学学习一年。我们的同学中可能有人是第一次来到中国,也可能有的同学已经在中国呆了一段时间了,然而无论我们的留学经历、汉语水平或者文化背景有多少不同,但是我们的目标是相同的,那就是,努力学好中文,感受中国文化的魅力。我希望我们大家互相学习,天天都学会不同的东西。另外
我也希望通过在汉语学院的学习,我们能够成为好朋友,建立终生的友谊。

我相信在老师们的帮助下,新的学年我们一定会迅速地提高我们的汉语水平,同时更深入地了解中国文化。老师们,让我首先代表所有的学生对你们表示衷心的感谢。。。请大家为老师们鼓掌。

最后,我想祝大家万事如意,身体健康,谢谢大家!

Right after the speech, there were words from the Dean, a police officer (to explain about Tianjin laws), and we separated into different classrooms based on our Chinese levels. So I still tested into Advanced-high, so I went in there and it was all Japanese/Korean people and me…which means their reading and writing will be amazing, because both countries regularly use Chinese characters. But oh well, guess I will just have to try harder. During the meeting, the teachers gave us a break down of the syllabus and our class schedules. I like the way it looks because I have afternoon classes Mondays and Tuesdays and morning ones on Wednesdays and Thursdays. To celebrate the last Friday before jail classes start, Avi, a new Japanese friend, Korean friend, and I went searching for a club. Our first stop was the Italian section of Tianjin, but there were only bars there…not good enough. So we asked around and heard about this place called Boiling. It had great music, as every Chinese club does, but the crowd was kind of weak. We got a table there and danced around, and talked up a manager, but he could only a discount on alcohol, not a free table…so on to the next club!

There was a place right around the corner called Babi Club, it was much better but to be honest, I feel like a middle-aged woman, so done with clubbing and ready to settle down!! Haha, but not in a marriage way, just to not go clubbing for a few months at least.

The rest of the weekend was spent running errands and cleaning, we also had a wonderful meal with our Chinese teacher from USF (he paid of course). This morning, I had the first-day of school butterflies. I had everything lined up and ready in my bag, pencil holder, electronic dictionary, notebooks, and even tea mug (I’m truly Chinese now haha) was ready. Class itself was better than I hoped, my classmates and I are all around the same level, and I’m not the worst as I feared! I learned some new useful grammar structures and words, from the teachers teaching styles I can tell this will be a fun school year…..at least that’s what I say now~

 

Registration Process

August 29th was the first official registration day here in Nankai University. Avi and I brought our baggage into the International dorms and got to choose from a list of available rooms, we are lucky because the scholarship pays for housing, so the only cost I had to hand over was the deposit for the key and cable TV (200 RMB). In China, buildings aren’t required to have elevators unless they have 7 stories or more, unluckily for us, our dorm has 6 floors…so that meant hitting the stairs with all of our baggage to the 3rd and 4th floors, haha.

Walking into the room, I saw that half of it was already occupied, by looking at the clothes I can tell she’s African (She’s lived here for 2 years already). She is still on summer vacation and I haven’t met her yet, but she seems really neat and already has most of the cleaning products…I’m in love already! That night we set out on the bus and after getting lost for a while, finally arrived at one of the best chain markets in China, Carrefour (actually a French chain but they love it here). I spent 200 RMB buying food, sheets, hangers, detergent, and all of those great items I miss having, you know, the things that indicate you are no longer a nomad? Over the last few days we have gone back and forth buying things and I love decorating my room 🙂 The only problem I may have are the bugs in the room, every time I go inside it’s something new…just last night I was being tormented by a moth, and it was the most docile of the pests…

This morning I went to the Chinese Language Dept to take a language placement test. On the 29th, there was an interview/oral exam portion and the teachers agreed that I should be in the advanced-high class, but I feel my reading and writing isn’t good enough. The teacher made me read a paragraph out loud and still said I was ready, but I insisted on takin the placement exam so they can test my writing as well. I don’t want my GPA to be effected by going for a level I will fail in, haha. The results will be posted on the wall tomorrow during orientation….truly asian style, having a name list and scores right there for everyone to see! I don’t mind but I know in America it wouldn’t fly. Speaking of the orientation, I got a call on my cell phone yesterday morning and it was a professor asking me to be the student representative and write a speech to give. I couldn’t say no, but now I feel VERY nervous, why do I do this to myself? I just got a call from her actually and she wants me to walk over to the Dept right now for further editing, so all of my studying up to now will be useless because I’m sure they are going to butcher and change it 😦 Wish me luck!