Saturday, April 23, 2011

I'm on the Chinese internet

Thursday night I was sitting in the Sharing Bar (the internet bar and cafe on the first floor of my dorm) talking to my friend 曹睿 whom I met because she is a student teacher for my class. I was showing her things on the internet. When she asked me what sports I like and had never heard of hockey, I showed her pictures, etc. Then I googled my dad and showed her that he was in the NHL. She thought that was pretty cool. Because I couldn't get on facebook on the computers in the bar, I showed her my family through whatever pictures came up on google. At one point, google stopped working (as it is wont to do in China). Instead we used baidu, the Chinese equivalent. I searched myself and to my surprise, there was an article in Chinese about the competition I went to last year that included a brief overview of my performance.

Here's the description of me from the above page (I pulled the simplified character version from a different website with the same article, but that didn't have the picture):

这位安静的、酷酷的女孩怀抱吉它坐在舞台上,唱起《对面的女孩看过来》,偶尔抬头腼腆地微笑。她演讲的题目是《我的中国之旅》,介绍了自己在北京留学的经 历。她说:“去年夏天我去了中国,在北京住了两个星期,在那里我看到有些贫穷的老人捡汽水瓶拿去卖钱,于是,我们就把瓶子留在宿舍里。有一次,一个老人到 学校操场捡汽水瓶,我们把200个瓶子给她,她哭了,然后又笑了,我从来没见过这样开心的笑容。”

I'll now provide a (bad) translation for those of you who can't read Chinese (there is some vocabulary I had to look up in there too).

This calm and cool girl hugged her guitar and sat on the stage singing " 对面的女孩看过来" (-Girl over there look over here), occasionally raising her head and bashfully smiling. The topic of her speech was "My travels in China," in which she introduced her study abroad experience in Beijing. She said: "Last summer I went to China, and was in Beijing for two weeks. There, I saw some poor elderly people collecting water bottles [I just noticed that this is a paraphrase of my actual speech] to sell, thus we kept our water bottles in our dormitory [I don't like this paraphrase, it makes my speech sound really lame]. One time, one elderly women came to the school's sports field to collect water bottles. We gave her 200 bottles. She cried and then smiled. I've never seen such a happy smile."

For any of you who can read Chinese, note that I translated 汽水瓶-soda bottles as water bottles only because in my actual speak I said water bottles.

I'm glad they didn't comment on my utter lack of singing ability and the fact that I was shaking head to toe whilst trying desperately not to look at the audience.

In other news, I'm subjecting myself to the torture of performance again at the same competition in a few weeks, but this time in China. There will be around twenty of us from Qingdao University going to Jinan, the provincial capital.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

QQ Ego Boost

I love talking to random Chinese people who add me on QQ (Chinese chat application). I am currently talking to yet another person who doesn't believe that I could possibly be American. This guy thinks it isn't possible because Americans are too stupid to be able to read Chinese.
Here are some quotes from our exchange:
 "不相信,这么复杂的中文你都认识啊 "-I don't believe you. How could you recognize all of this complicated Chinese?
"美国人很笨的 "-Americans are really stupid.
"你是中国人吧 " -You are Chinese.
"你肯定不是外国人"-You are definitely not a foreigner.
“别装了,你是中国人 ”-Don't pretend, you're Chinese. 
I'm still trying to convince him that I'm American.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Don't trust google translate

 Tomorrow I have to give a presentation in my Chinese culture class on an important holiday, or really anything about America (we will have five different countries represented in these presentations, so I'm sure they will be interesting).

I decided to talk about my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. As I was preparing my presentation, I wanted to know how to say "native animal/species." I was trying to describe why the turkey is so important to Thanksgiving. Anyway, my searches for native and indigenous turned up so many results on MDBG (my favorite online dictionary) that I decided to see what google translate would give me.

Luckily, I then checked back on my trusted MDBG.

Note: Turkeys are not important because they are protozoans!

Be careful with google translate. I generally only ever use it for entertainment by translating things I write in Chinese back into English to see how ridiculous it sounds.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Long overdue pictures

These are pictures from our trip to 崂山 (Laoshan) two weekends. As my mother keeps reminding me, I have to remember that not everyone who sees my blog can see my facebook. I uploaded these to facebook and completely forgot about the blog. Oops. Better late than never, I suppose. I'm too lazy to put comments on these at the moment so, I'll just post them all. I might go back and add comments later.

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'm in love...

With the 琵琶(pi2pa2).

Back story:

Last week, I started going to a Chinese music class. It was the first class, so we didn't really do much besides introduce ourselves and talk about what music we like. There were only five of us in the class, but that included two Koreans who could barely speak Chinese or English. Therefore, communication was rather difficult.

Today, I just got out of the second class. I was the only student there from last week, but this may just be because the time was changed this week. Our teacher brought three students from the Qingdao school of music. One of them plays the 二胡 (er4hu2), which is sometimes called a "Chinese fiddle." Another girl plays what I believe is called a 笛子 (di2zi), which is a type of flute. The third girl brought a beautiful 琵琶 (pictured to the right).

I felt rather silly with my little ukulele.

The class wound up being a lovely musical exchange. We played for each other and let each other try our instruments. I was dreadful at the 二胡. As with other bow instruments that I've tried, it is pretty easy to make it sound terrible. I think I accomplished that especially well. Apparently, for a first-timer I did pretty well at the 笛子, by which I mean I was able to make noise...sometimes. After I was practicing it for a little while, the girl whose instrument it was asked me if I was left handed. I said no, and then she told me that in that case I was playing it backwards. Oops.

With the 琵琶 on the other hand, it was relatively easy to make it sound nice. I find that I can pretend like I know what I'm doing with most stringed instruments (excluding those with a bow). The girl who brought it was fantastic. She's twenty years old and has been studying it since she was six. She showed me a little bit of the technique. The right hand finger plucking technique is exactly opposite that which I've practiced on the guitar for seven years. Instead of pulling your fingers toward the hand to pluck the strings, you push them away from the hand. Needless to say, that was a little difficult for me to get.

Now, I really want to learn how to play it. I've wanted to learn a Chinese instrument for a while now, and having tried it, that desire has increased exponentially. Everyone could tell how interested I was, and the 琵琶 player and I exchanged numbers after class so we can make friends and maybe she can teach me. My teacher also said that she has friends in a band and that sometime she will take me to see them play.

I'm extremely excited. Can I please just live in China forever?

Friday, April 1, 2011


Were you ever that really popular kid in high school who everyone wanted to be friends with?
No?  Well, me neither.

But that's something like what it's like to be a young American in China. It's really strange how popular I suddenly am. Within the Chinese program at the University, I'm nothing special. I'm just one of those lucky kids for whom the language we tend to speak socially (among Westerners at least) is my native tongue. But among Chinese people, I am incredibly popular. I've probably had nearly a dozen job offers already. I was worried I'd have to seek Chinese friends to practice speaking with, but they seek me out. We've had student teachers sitting in on our classes lately (which makes sense because I can't think of any teacher you would be better off emulating than Lin Laoshi) and 2/3 of the students have asked me for my phone number and been really friendly with me. The other girl seemed a bit more shy.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from someone in the foreign students office, which is in my building, asking if I could come and talk to him. When I went down he told me that he'd been contacted by a Qingdao University chemistry professor who was interested in having an American student come and do a home stay with her family. My name had been brought up specifically because my Chinese is decent. I said that I'd definitely be interested in at least discussing it, so he gave my number to the woman. I'm going to meet her next week to see if the situation is 合适, suitable, and talk about how often I would want to stay with them.

Before coming to China, part of me always lamented that I hadn't been born in the country whose language and culture I adore. Now, I'm really starting to appreciate how lucky I am to have been born American. As an unqualified English teacher, I'm able to make a better living than 90% of Chinese people. While I don't think that is a particularly good thing, it means that I have a fantastic opportunity to do the things I love in the country that I love without having to struggle to support myself.

I'm really coming to appreciate how lucky I am.

In other news, this weekend is our first holiday weekend. We get Monday and Tuesday off for 清明节 (pinyin: qing1ming2jie2). It literally means "pure brightness festival," and is sometimes called "tomb sweeping day." It is a day for remembering and honoring one's ancestors.

Qingming Festival Wikipedia Page

I'll be staying in Qingdao for the weekend to explore the city a bit. Tomorrow, we are going on a school sponsored trip to nearby Mount Lao (in Chinese 崂山). It is a sacred mountain of Daoism and is around an hour's drive from the university.

That's all for now, folks. I do apologize if my English is turning into rubbish. Twenty hours of Chinese class per week in addition to extensive communication in Chinese outside of class is have some negative effects on my ability to speak my native language. This fact is particularly troublesome since I'm being paid to teach English...