Friday, September 26, 2003

Comments, Links

Tianjin weather has hit Ann Arbor. However, I'm in a position to cope because I've gotten two good pieces of advice. Corey from the Virginia house mentioned that he takes an extra pair of socks in his backpack on rainy days. Yung from Harvest Mission highly recommends layering clothes, because temperatures can vary from classroom to classroom, and it's nice to be able to strip down -- or up -- to the appropriate thickness of cover.

Nice full day today, but not a busy day.

Chinese class in the morning, where a rebellion is brewing. John and I have talked before about how our book is not the greatest. Today in class, one of the higher-level students came in a grumpy mood and let loose about how he's not learning much, a position I expressed my agreement with. I consider this class a sort of "stasis" until I go back to China. We're at a level where the language is not a mystery anymore, and learning is just a matter of memorizing more and more usage and vocabulary. It's very frustrating when the class feels like a Long March through an awful book, merely for the sake of finishing the book. We really can't blame the teacher -- she's never taught Chinese before, and she's really just subbing until the real teacher gets back. I'm not sure what the solution is -- my way of dealing with this has been to supplement the class with outside material: downloading Chinese mp3s and watching Taiwanese dramas. While ruining my accent, they nonetheless motivate me to persevere.

After Chinese, I brown-bagged lunch in the Social Work building, where the International Institute is. When it got noisy, I moved to my favorite desk in the grad library stacks and did the day's China Under Communism reading, interrupted only by a short nap and the creak of people walking on suspended marble floors overhead.

I had scribbled on my calendar that there would be a talk by a Dr Zha on Sino-Japanese relations at 4:30 PM, so I wandered down to the Education Building and found that a classmate of mine from CCS 501, Zhoufang, was actually hosting the talk. Since me and another waiguoren who spoke Chinese were the only non-native speakers there, the talk was conducted in Chinese. Of which I understood about half. So it was as much an excercise in language as a chance to hear about how China and Japan are getting along -- Just Fine, says Dr Zha. The main issues are stuff like Japanese omission of wartime atrocities in high school history textbooks, treatment of Chinese laborers in Japan, a mustard gas incident that I wasn't familiar with, etc. Dr Zha wondered if he was an "arrogant Chinese" for saying that Middle Easterners are hard to deal with and dishonest (he has done research in the oil business). We thought that was funny.

After that, I grabbed a couple of hot dogs from the stand outside the Social Work Building and walked to Dr Liberthal's China class which, as always, managed to keep me awake till the conclusion at 10 PM. Today we went over modern Chinese political history, from the end of the Great Leap Forward up to the conclusion of the Cultural Revolution and Hua Guofeng's arrest of the Gang of Four.

Xiao Chen and I chatted on the way to get my bike, which was nice because he's an older student and a Chinese teacher, and intimidated me a little.

Now I have to come up with a topic for my research paper in that class, so I can wake up early and swing by Krogers for some avocados. Long story! (but since when has that ever stopped me?)

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