I will be the first to admit that I have been seriously slacking in the emailing people department. My best theory and only excuse for this is that I have been too busy "doing things" to write about "doing things" and the more "doing things" that got done, the more "things" I had to write about and the less time I had to write them. I know, I know, lame excuse, but I will try to make up for that in this email, which, by the way, will probably be very, very long. (Sorry about that.)
First off, I have been asked for my contact information, and I feel very guilty about not responding sooner. (I actually believed that I would be emailing everyone about a month ago, but "things" kept coming up.) Anyway, If you are interested in sending a package, letter, postcard, etc...
NSLI-Y China Handbook: "Mail to China takes two to four weeks. Airmail to China costs 94 cents for half an ounce. Most express mail services deliver to China. Their services are reliable and quick but expensive. The delivery time for U.S. Postal Service Express Mail is somewhat longer (approximately one week), but their service is more reasonably priced." Also, "Both the Chinese and English versions of this address should be included on letters and packages. One can simply copy/paste the Chinese or print it out and attach it to the mailing."
Letters and packages should be addressed in the following format:
中国 100102 北京市朝阳区望京科技园利泽中园
International Department, Beijing 80 High School
Wangjing Technology Zone, Lizi Zhongyuan
Chaoyang District, Beijing People’s Republic of China 100102
Alright, now that all of that is taken care of, I can finally share the multitude of "things" (I promise that is that last time I use that word in this email) that have kept me busy since meeting Hu Jintao. The week after I sent my last group email I went to the Beijing Zoo and saw giant pandas. To get into the panda house you have to pay extra money, but it was completely worth it. Since zoos generally put me in a somber mood, I did not really pay much attention to the other animals. Nevertheless, I would still recommend going just for the pandas if and when you come to Beijing.
About one week after going to the zoo, our head teacher came into our class and started talking about clubs, which I previously thought was an activity Chinese students avoided. The teacher said that we can join a club or start our own, but we could only participate in one. Then she said that if we were interested in starting our own we would need to turn in a proposal (written in Chinese) the following day. When I heard that we had the opportunity to start our own clubs I immediately started mulling over ideas in my head. Later that afternoon, while sitting in my friend's dorm room, toying with a tennis ball she brought over from New Jersey, the idea, somewhat ironically, came to me out of the blue: "Improv!"
At this point I am going to do some fast forwarding past my sign making (again, in Chinese) and campaigning to the first day of "即兴演出社.“ To say that I had no idea what I was doing would be an understatement. The first day was really rough on me for several reasons: A) None of the Chinese students had ever heard of improv, B) They were all incredibly shy, C) I had only two fellow Americans in the club, D) I had to explain everything we were doing in Chinese, and E) There was the continuous question of which language we were performing in. All said and and done, I think the first day went okay, and everyone had a decently enjoyable time. Since then, my club has grown (several other international students switched into mine, so I now am leading about twenty students), people have loosened up, my Chinese has improved, and we actually have some improv games that everyone "understands."
After starting the improv club, I joined the school's dance team. Unfortunately, since I am so busy, I can only make it to Monday and Tuesday classes. Their practices are like nothing I have ever done before, consisting of "high-kicks" around the room, multitudes of cartwheels, stretching into the splits against the wall, and handstands. There is not much attention to "form," the most important thing is how high you kick and not how well you do it. Not much has really happened with the dance club yet, besides the fact that I got a cool T-shirt that says "dance" in Chinese cursive.
During the first week of October we had "国庆节," which basically translates to Week-long Vacation...okay, not really, it means National Day, but Week-long Vacation has a nice ring to it. For the vacation I stayed with my host family, whom I had just met the previous weekend. (In my program we stay in the dorms for the school week and with a host family for the weekends and holidays.) During those times I live with a mom and her daughter, the father is currently away working in another country for the year. The daughter is fifteen, likes anime (Japanese cartoons), and writing poetry. The mother is very outgoing and likes feeding you until you are about to pop, but she is practically a five star chef, so all is forgiven.
My holiday with them went well; we climbed a mountain, which apparently is all the rage in Beijing during autumn. At the mountain we met up with some of my host family's friends and I met a college student, who I became friends with. She ended up coming over to my host family's house the day after mountain climbing and we tried to make cookies from a cookie mix I brought over. The only problem was that Chinese people do not typically own ovens, and to make cookies you typically use an oven. We ended up getting creative and made microwave cookies as well as stovetop ones. All in all, they were edible and made of chocolate, so we ate them anyway.
Person A: "Wow I just had a really long week, that was tough."
Sage: "Hmm... a long week. How long was it exactly?"
Person A: "Well five days but it-"
Sage: "Oh yeah, try SEVEN out for size."
(That was a joke)
Anyway, moving on, Beijing schools give students the mandatory three days off for the national holiday plus an extra two so that they have a full week off, but because the extra two were not mandatory, they add them the weekend following the break. So, Saturday=Wednesday, and Sunday=Thursday, and then we had Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday classes.
During my seven day straight school week, I learned that the teachers had elected me to student government as one of the event planning committee members. Out of the two language classes I was the only one to be elected, although several others applied. Later that afternoon, we had an assembly with all of the International Department students which includes: the two language classes of international students, the classes of international students who are already fluent Chinese and want to go to college in China, the Chinese students taking AP classes to go to the U.S., and the Chinese students preparing to go to England. During the assembly I had the opportunity to get up on stage with the other student government members and get my picture taken, which was fun.
The weekend after the "long school week" I actually took the PSAT at the Western Academy of Beijing. The school was basically Breck abroad. Gorgeous campus and facilities, western toilets, amazing library, and really friendly students. The contrast between that school and the Chinese one I am currently at was startling. Don't get me wrong, I like the school I am at now, but you really do not know what you've got until it's gone.
The day after the PSAT I participated in a citywide competition for foreign students abroad. I performed a dance that I choreographed to the song "Wildfire" by SBTRKT. It was a modern-ish, bird-like dance. I still do not know the results from the competition because the most important part, the speech, is not until this coming Friday. And, yes, the speech too is in Chinese. It is titled: "我爱生活," which means "I Love Life" in English. The topic had to be "I love (insert what you love here)." So I chose life, because, well, life can be pretty awesome when you let it be.
The days leading up to Halloween were pretty much spent on preparing for midterms and halfheartedly searching for a Cat Woman costume. The International Department told every class to chose a theme and then dress up in appropriate attire. Our class chose "Superheros/Villains," so on Halloween, attending class was Cat Woman, Poison Ivy, The Powerpuff Girls, Captain America and a bunch of normal people who were to lazy to dress up.
The Thursday and Friday after Halloween we had midterms. I had five tests: Chinese Comprehensive, Chinese Oral, Chinese Reading, Chinese Writing, and Chinese Listening. Due to the speed of our teachers' grading, we got our results by Friday afternoon. A Chinese student (who was born in Italy) and I both won two awards: one for highest grade point average and also another for being most helpful to other students.
That pretty much concludes the super-condensed-written-version-of-my-life for the past month and a half. Planet of the Apes just came to Beijing, so I saw it for a second time with my host family. It was strange because they had Chinese voiceovers. I do not know if you have seen the movie (if you have not, you really should). There is one scene where the chimp says "NOOOO!" to a malicious caretaker, who, ironically, plays Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter. In the Chinese version the Monkey says "不!“ which pretty much sounds like "BOOOOOOO!" I burst out laughing and pretty much had to strangle myself to keep from ruining the movie for the rest of the audience.
I hope all is well with you guys. Sorry for practically sending you a novella via email. Below I have attached some pictures from the Great Wall. :)