Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oh my Lady Gaga!

Earlier today, Maeve and I met up with two Chinese guys for coffee/tea and then lunch. We met them because one was seeking English speaking friends to have a language exchange relationship. The two guys were really nice and smart and both spoke English very well, but I also spoke Chinese with them a lot. I've already been using Chinglish a lot with my foreign student friends and it is fun to speak it with Chinese friends too. I don't remember what we were talking about at the time, but our friend Frank mentioned that in China people say "Oh my Lady Gaga" instead of "Oh my god." He said that his friends use this frequently. When I first heard my student Lily say it, I assumed it was a relatively isolated thing, or that it was at least specific to her age group.

Later today, when Maeve and I were sitting outside with another language buddy, a Chinese girl who is new in the area came over to talk to us. She was an English major and spoke very good English with a very clear accent compared to many people we've spoken to. Then, at one point when she was embarrassed about something, she exclaimed, "Oh my Lady Gaga." I've now encountered a ten year old girl and two 20 year old guys from Qingdao who use this phrase, and also a 22 year old girl from Jiangsu province who says it. I'm really curious as to who started this.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sometimes people surprise you in the most wonderful ways.

I've been nervous about being open with my sexual orientation since arriving in China, but in the past few days I've had a number of lovely little coming outs that have gone better than I could have expected. A number of people guessed and asked me for confirmation which I willingly provided. Then, I came out to a couple of Korean classmates when I saw a good opportunity. After class one day they were joking about a male classmate being gay. Then they said that he wasn't really. I asked them if it would have been a problem if he actually was. When they said no, of course not, I told them about me. Later, I found out about two classmates who are also gay including one who has already been here a couple of semesters. When I found out he was out to nearly all of his friends I came out to them too.

Right now, I am having an unexpected yet lovely conversation online with a Chinese friend I met a few weeks ago about homosexuality. She started out our chat by telling me that she showed a picture of the two of us to one of her friends and her friend said that I looked like a very handsome boy. She then said that if I was a boy, she would have pursued me. So, once again I saw a good opportunity and I added (in Chinese), "or if you were a lesbian." She just said 呵呵 (hehe), so I added a follow up, "what do you think about homosexuality." She responded that she doesn't really understand it. I explained that some people are homosexual and some people are heterosexual and that's just the way it is and there isn't anything wrong with it. She quickly agreed and said that I explained it well. She even wound up saying something along the lines of "We ought to explain it to more people so that the world will be more beautiful and harmonious" (loose translation). She then told me that there are some lesbians at her school and she started sending me pictures of famous Chinese lesbians. It was a really great conversation. It is things like this that make me hopeful for the future and make be believe that social progress is happening even amidst all of the back tracking that seems to be going on.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Short post before bed

Today I spent three hours teaching English to my two different students. I'm really enjoying it and while I feel like I'm a rubbish teacher right now, I think I will get better quickly. I am learning as much from the kids as they are from me. Both Henry and Lily are extremely smart, but Lily's English is much better. After our lesson in the morning, Henry's parents took me out to lunch and then to the Olympic Pier on the beach. It was really nice. They also brought me some delicious strawberries which I already finished.

Learning how to teach English is really making me see a life for myself here (even more than I already was before). I would love to teach English while learning Chinese for several years.

Okay, bed time.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Both of my parents have pointed out that it's been quite a while since my last post. Surprisingly, I've been told that this blog is read by people other than those who raised me. So, sorry Mom and Dad and whoever else reads this silly thing. I haven't had time or motivation to write a blog post because I've been busy with school. I've also been continuing to enjoy hanging out with great new friends from all around the world.

Last Sunday I had my first hour of private English tutoring. I'm teaching a nine year old boy who I'm planning on naming Henry when I see him again tomorrow. While he was able to read very well, his speaking and comprehension levels were pretty low. I wound up having to rely upon Chinese pretty heavily to explain what words meant. He was a very shy kid and was reluctant to have his parents leave, but I think I got him warming up to me after a while. After our lesson, his parents insisted on treating me to lunch. At the restaurant, which I frequent, the waitress came over and asked the parents if they were my "Chinese parents." They said that they were just my friends, but then they asked me if I wanted them to be my Chinese parents. I said sure! In addition to treating me to lunch, they brought me a bunch of bananas and a bag of delicious cherry tomatoes. They also asked me if I wanted to go to the beach with them, but I politely declined because I had too much homework to do. I'm excited to have Chinese parents.

I'm going to go out of chronological order here and write about the other tutoring that I did later in the week. Thursday night I started a new job with a 10 year old girl. It was a really interesting experience. Her English was much better than I expected it to be, especially after how bad Henry's was. We were able to conduct the whole lesson in English. She was very interested in my appearance. She carefully studied my eyes and then lamented how small hers were in comparison to mine. She also noted that she was surprised that I didn't have blue eyes. This wasn't the first time that it seemed that a Chinese person was extremely surprised and confused that all Americans don't have blue eyes. I mentioned that Americans have all sorts of different eye colors and hair colors. She was shocked when I mentioned that my dad and sister have green eyes. At one point she also pointed to her skin and said "yellow" and then pointed to mine and said "white."

In addition to being amused by her curiosity about my appearance, I was also greatly amused by some of the things that she said. Apparently she had a Filipino English teacher before who taught her to say "S-O-S-O" instead of so-so. When I asked her about her interests she would say that she liked something "S-O-S-O." I tried to explain to her that the phrase was so-so and that saying it the other way wasn't really English, but she just responded that she liked saying it. By far the most entertaining thing of the evening was the alternative to "Oh my god" that she used. Apparently, she learned from her classmates to say, "Oh my Lady Gaga." I cracked up the first time she used it and had to stop myself from giggling every subsequent time she said it. She is a very sweet girl named Lily. She was also very hyper and was easily distracted. It was a fun experience, though and I'm looking forward to continuing to work with her.

Wednesday, some friends and I went mountain climbing again. I will actually really post about that later including some pictures (when I find my camera cord).

My second full week of classes went really well. The teacher that I have most often is really fantastic and everyone loves her. My other teachers are great as well. For my culture class that I have once a week, this week we went out to lunch. She said that we will do a lot of field trips and learn outside of the classroom. The food was great, but felt really expensive compared to what I usually eat. By that I mean I spent about $5 American on the meal instead of >$1. Maeve and I have been eating street food at least one meal a a day. None of the items you can get cost more than a $1 USD, but it is some of the best food that I've had. We discovered great stir fried noodles a few days ago.

Okay, well I think I'm done with this post now. Sorry that it is a bit disjointed. I swear I will get around to posting those mountain pictures. There are some pictures up on my facebook of the first time we went hiking. Here is the url for those of you who know me on facebook.!/album.php?id=1094010550&aid=2091623

Goodbye for now. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

我*别提多*高兴。I just learned the phrase between the asterisks in class today. Literally translated it means something like "cannot be raised more." When you put an adjective after it, it means something like "[sb] could not be more __." When you put the word happy after it, it just about describes how I'm feeling right now. Despite the fact that I could not be more sore and I don't remember the last time I was this physically exhausted, I am the happiest I've been in a really long time. Today after class I went hiking with Maeve and an American friend named Patrick. It was incredible, exhilarating, and terrifying. I'll be making a post hopefully tomorrow with some of the dozens of beautiful pictures I took. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tonight Maeve and I decided to spice up our routine a bit by going out to dinner at a new restaurant. We had passed this Korean place a bunch of times and decided to give it a shot. It was a bit on the pricey side, by which I mean we each paid about $3, but the food was excellent. We just had to be a little careful with the menu at this place. I was able to read enough of the Chinese to make a good decision about food, but I was also able to read some options that Maeve and I weren't too eager to try. As I was browsing our options, the words 狗肉汤 caught my eye. To those of you who don't read Chinese, that means "dog meat soup." There were several different dog meat options on the menu that we made sure to stay far away from. I'm all for trying new things (I've eaten jellyfish already) but I draw the line at eating animals that I've owned as pets. I could never look at Razzle the same way again if I knew what dog flesh tastes like.  Instead of dog, I ate a delicious tofu dish. So, that was the first and probably not the last time that we will have the option of eating dog.

Street food!

So far one of my favorite things about China has been the incredibly delicious and unbelievably cheap food. Lately Maeve and I have been eating at least one meal a day from a food cart on the street. Vendors line up their carts right outside of our classroom building, so it is a perfect place to have lunch. Today we had these delicious wraps for 4 kuai (less than $1). The man puts an oiled tortilla like thing on a little round stove, then adds mix of vegetables, noodles, tofu, and egg. Then another tortilla goes on top and they fuse together to make a pouch. It gets flipped a couple of times, folded, and then cut so that the final product looks something like a burrito, but a bit more flat. They are absolutely delicious. There is little more satisfying in this world than eating a fantastic meal while knowing that it cost next to nothing. Oh, I also had a slice of pineapple on a stick as an appetizer.

I love this place.

Kung Fu

I just finished my first Kung Fu class. I think it is very likely that I will have difficulty walking tomorrow. Well, it's not like Maeve and I are planning to go hiking on a mountain or anything...oh wait, we are. It looks like I've got a very good chance of getting in shape this semester. The class was fantastic. It was insanely difficult, but I enjoyed it. There are two masters teaching us. One is an energetic and tiny man probably in his fifties and the other is more calm and I'd assume a bit younger. We did some kicking exercises in lines and then we worked on some forms. I video taped the master doing one of the forms so I can study it outside of class. I'm terrible at remembering the steps (it's not nearly as easy as Chinese characters).

The little master seemed to like me. Whenever we do anything wrong he comes over and corrects it immediately. I'm pretty sure that he said something about my stance being very beautiful for one of the steps. Once he came over and fixed a few things, he said it was really good and then he had me hold the stance so that everyone else could come look. By the time they all looked I was already shaking from the strain on my muscles.

I'm really excited to improve. One of the girls in the class has been studying it here for about six months and she looked really impressive, though she's also got a big advantage in that she was a dancer before hand. I was just about the least flexible person there.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Part two of Friday fun post.

This was a pretty view on the path toward the pagoda. There were people selling cool things all along the path. Most of them tried to get our attention to sell us things. For the most part we just looked at their goods, smiled, and then kept walking. 

View from one of the lower levels of the pagoda.
On our way to finding the pagoda, we got a little bit lost. There was no direct route, so we walked around trying to find a way up. As we were doing so, a group of Chinese teenagers came over to see what we were doing. They excitedly took pictures with the foreigners and then decided to go with us to find the pagoda. Thus we made our first Chinese friends. We wound up spending the next five hours hanging out with them all around the city.

Qingdao has some interesting architecture.

Our Chinese 朋友.

The view from the pagoda (which was really a tourist trap that we paid 10 kuai to get into) was well worth the money.

After leaving the pagoda, we were walking along the street and came across a movie set. They were in the process of filming right on the street. Apparently the guy in black in the chair is famous in China. I think is name is He Bin.
So, that was exciting even if the scene they were filming was not. We got to witness 20 exciting seconds of a take in which two people push a cart up a hill. 

After leaving the movie set, we made our way to Zhong Shan Park. It's a big park with an amusement park within it. 

We rode this exhilarating and nauseating carnival ride. I should have gotten a shot with it in the air. It looks much less scary when it isn't moving. 

Afterward we walked around the park. We came across this statue. I have no idea who it is, but apparently he was a great man...

My friends were confused about why I took this picture. They asked me if the English was wrong and I tried to explain to them that it wasn't wrong, just amusing. I've got some other funny sign pictures that I will eventually put into a post about funny signs/bad English translations. 

Our group split in half and we were escorted back to campus via bus by three of the girls. The one on the left met up with us later in the day. 

They loved taking pictures with us. 

We later realized that this group of friends we made was going back to the town they live in the following day and that they weren't actually from Qingdao. We exchanged contact information and Maeve and I have been talking to some of them online. 

Chinese people are extremely friendly. I've made friends with a cashier at a book store. I befriended a girl who randomly came over and talked to me because I smiled at her. Between the people and the food (I spent less than 50 cents American on a delicious dinner tonight), there is more than reason enough to want to stay here forever (don't worry Mom, I'm coming home even if I don't want to).

As promised...

On Friday after class, Maeve and I decided to go see the ocean. Qingdao is pretty much surrounded on three sides by the water, so we'd seen it from a distance before. We got on a bus that we were pretty sure would take us there. As far as the buses go, we figure if we're not in a hurry, taking the wrong bus is more an adventure than an inconvenience. Also, each ride costs 1 kuai each, so it isn't a big waste of money. We wound up on the right bus, though. We got off and walked toward the beach. It was a beautiful sunny day and the water was incredibly blue.

There were some really pretty mountainous islands in the distance. 

So, of course, as the tourists we are, we were obliged to take lots of pictures. 

There are beautiful pagodas everywhere. After seeing this one we decided to try to get to it. 

Before leaving to find the pagoda, we walked past several crazy old men in speedos. Some of them were exercising on the beach and some even went in the water. It was cold and windy (around 30 F) and Maeve and I were cold even in our jackets. We were talking about how nice it will be to go to the beach when it is 40-50 degrees warmer while these guys were enjoying the sun, seemingly unaware of the season. 

There was a bit of a carnival set up on the beach. There were bounce houses, bumper cars, a carousel. 

And of course, you gotta have your KFC on the beach. 

On our way to the big pagoda on the hilltop, we stopped to appreciate the scenery from this smaller one. 

The view was pretty nice. 

Maeve was looking off into the distance.

While on this pagoda we also met a nice couple from Shanghai who were on vacation to Qingdao. It's not hard to see why it would be a popular tourist destination.

Because of photo uploading difficulties, this is going to be a two part post. More to come...

Friday, March 4, 2011

Photos from Hong Kong

Well, before I post pictures and descriptions of Qingdao, I though I should post the pictures from earlier this week. We spent one night in a Hong Kong hostel before going to Qingdao.

 This is the tiny one bed hostel room that we shared for the night. Due to lovely jet lag, I didn't actually sleep very much. 
This and all subsequent pictures were taken from the bus on the way to the airport in the morning.

Hong Kong has lots of beautiful trees that I really wanted to climb.

I was amused by the KFC, Burger King and 7 Eleven all connected to each other.

Maeve on the bus.

Settled in and Loving it!

The past two days have been rather hectic, but also quite wonderful. Thursday we had our welcome ceremony where we were told about the college and the Chinese language program in three different languages. I was extremely proud of myself when the English translations came as repetitions when I understood the Chinese. After the ceremony, we went to the classroom building. I had been placed in the level 202 class. I got to the classroom and quickly became acquainted with a nice Italian classmate. She speaks practically perfect English, extremely good Chinese, as well as French, and of course her native Italian, while I'm just patiently working on my second language.

So, it turned out that we had to wait an hour for class to actually start because our first teacher of the day was still having to work registering new people and couldn't come. We had to wait for our second teacher to get there to be able to start class. My classes are extremely difficult, but I'm enjoying them for the most part.

Unfortunately, my second class yesterday was not fantastic. I think we just wound up with a rather poor teacher. My class is made up of myself, two Italians, six Koreans, and one Japanese man. The textbooks for my other classes have English translations for the vocabulary which gave the Italians and me an unfair advantage. Regardless of translation, the teachers go over all of the vocab and make sure we understand it. This teacher, however, went over the vocabulary in such a way that I had no clue what was going on. I was at least aware that my classmates were on the same page as me. The class is about Chinese news listening, so once we went over the vocab we would listen to a short news story. I had even less of a clue what was going on there. I'm going to give the class another try, because if I really can't stay in it, my only option is to move all of my classes down to the 201 level. I don't really want to do that.

I still have one more class that I will have for the first time next week. It is about reading the newspaper. I'm looking forward to it a lot.

So, this post is just about my classes and such. I was originally going to include everything from the last two days, but I didn't want it to be too disjointed. I will be posting later today about my already wonderful social life here and my adventures around the city. I'll also be trying to figure out how to post the pictures that I took yesterday.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finally here

I am currently sitting on my bed at Qingdao University. It is 6 am and I've already been up for an hour. After having gotten around 5-6 hours of sleep over the course of two nights, I couldn't manage to stay up to try to beat this jet lag thing once and for all, so instead I slept from 9-5.

After the nightmare registration process yesterday, Zhang Laoshi took Maeve and me out to dinner and also showed us around town a little. We ate a tomato, egg, and flour soup and a really delicious dish with shredded carrots and pork. In addition, there was a dish that I was a bit reluctant to try. It was celery, bean sprouts, and jellyfish. I timidly took a bite of the jellyfish and found that what it lacked in flavor it more than made up for in texture. It was something akin to eating a rubber band. I didn't particularly enjoy it and I probably won't be doing that again.

After dinner we went back to the dormitory in the international students' building. We each wound up with double rooms to ourselves. They are equipped with two beds, two desks, a television, private bathrooms, and more storage space than all of the rooms in a Simon's Rock mod combined.

Once the sun comes up and it's a reasonable hour to begin doing things, Maeve and I are going to finish paying our tuition and housing and will take our language placement tests. Afterward, we are off to explore the town and shop for some necessities. Zhang Laoshi explained to us that pretty much every bus stops at several downtown stops and also at the university, so getting lost with public transportation will be difficult to accomplish. We are also within reasonable walking distance of the downtown area, so the buses won't even be necessary.

At some point when I'm taking a break from exploring the city and feel compelled to be productive nonetheless, I will post some of the pictures that I took in Hong Kong.

Oh, look at that, it's actually light out now. I think that means I get to start my day.