After 2 weeks in school I’ve changed classes twice and in the end only take 5 classes with a total of 18 hours per week. The main Chinese class has the greatest teacher ever, teacher Zhang (张老师). She’s a middle aged woman who dresses formally, wears a big smile and doesn’t waste a minute of class time with nonsense. There is only one teacher who is a bit vague in her teaching. She’s the same age as me so I guess it will work out with a few years of experience.
I’ve taken a closer look to find that the person on the North Korean’s badges is the Eternal President of the Republic, Kim Il-sung (i.e. the deceased father). Also, not all of the North Koreans are teachers. One studies automatic control, the stuff you need to make missiles hit their targets (when I studied it in Sweden the examples were often military aircrafts or similar). Actually, automatic control is used in lots of industrial processes, so there’s no need to jump to conclusions. If I were a bit less lame I would just ask him.
The Spring Festival is over and by now I’m almost certain that it’s some kind of mass psychosis. During all the 15 days of celebration there have been fireworks and yesterday the car alarms rang one last time to welcome the new year. I’ve heard that one person was killed and many others injured by fireworks during the festival.
Today classes started again. I’ve jumped up a level since last semester so things are a little different now. I have 2 mandatory courses and 4 selectable courses, in total 20 hours per week. I’ve only had one subject today, so I don’t know yet how things are going to be, but it seems that the level is OK anyway. One seriously cool thing is that I have no less than 5 North Koreans in my class. All of them are men over 40 and some or all of them are teachers. What’s more, all of them wear badges with the beloved leader Kim Jong-il (or maybe his dad, I haven’t looked closely). Given that North Koreans generally can’t leave their country I had never expected to see them in real life, much less talk to them. I’m not sure why but it’s kind of exciting!
It seems I was wrong about the group I’m in, it’s actually beginners level 1, just starting at lesson 16. This is perhaps less than I had hoped for, but we got the books today and the level seems about right. If it’s too easy (which I’m afraid it won’t be) I can move up one class. Actual classes are Monday-Friday 8:30-12:30, starting tomorrow.
There is one other Swede in my class and people from other places like Australia, The UK, Japan, The Philippines and Germany. We all use Chinese names, and mine is 菲利普 (feilipu).
Victory is near! I’m getting on a plane to Beijing in less than three weeks. I’ve got my visa but I haven’t looked for a place to live yet, which is a source of concern for my mother and a source of excitement for myself. The plan is to stay at a hotel the first night and then try to find something. I’ve located BLCU on Google Maps. If you zoom out you can see that it’s to the north-west of the Forbidden City (the big rectangluar structure).
There will be a entrance exam on the first day, so I’ve been studying a little in my spare time in the hope of being able to get into a non-beginners group. Part of that “studying” has been watching Chinese (Mandarin) television dramas. I’ve seen a few good Taiwanese dramas (It Started With a Kiss!), but it seems as if all the popular mainland dramas are martial arts and/or period dramas which have failed to impress me. It appears that some of the voices are dubbed which makes it all seem a bit “off” (dubbed in the same same language as the actor speaks, just like old Hong Kong movies). I wish I were German, then I wouldn’t notice. (I wonder if it’s easier for a ventriloquist to fool a German audience…)
My summer internship at Opera turned out super-awsome and I’m going to keep working part-time the whole year while I’m in Beijing. Getting experience working in China would be awsome, so I hope I’ll have a chance to spend some time at the Opera office in Beijing (although I’ll mostly be working at home, wherever that is). I discovered that Beijing is “bigger” than Linköping, so it might take a long time to get to the office by bus/subway, since it’s not in the same district as BLCU.
I’ve been doing some reading on Wikipedia and found out all sorts of useful things: There’s a chopstick tax to discorage the use of disposable chopsticks. Beijing has population of 8.5 million (Linköping: 136,000). The girl:boy birth ratio is 100:117 due to policital/cultural reasons. Beijing taxis have license plates that begin with 北B. The average height of the Chinese is approximately 170 and 160 cm for men and women respectively. China holds the world record in capital punishment. Finally, you can’t see the Great Wall of China from the moon!
English translation below.
Today I got a letter from BLCU. They wrote “we are pleased to inform you that … we have decided to enroll you to study at the College of Advanced Chinese Training as a General scholar student from September 1 2006 to July 31 2007”. Even though I’m a bit nervous I’m also very happy. It looks like I’m really going to China in September. Now I have to find a room in Beijing.
Today was the last lesson of my evening classes in Mandarin which I have been taking this semester. We drank green tea and repeated some of what we’ve learned. Our teacher presented me with a Chinese calendar as a top of class reward, which I was very happy to receive. The short speech I gave is reproduced here verbatim as a source of future amusement:
wǒ xiǎng shuō yìdiǎnr dōngxi. Xie lǎoshī, xièxie. nǐ lǎoshī hěn hǎo. wǒmen yǒu xué yìdiǎn hànyǚ. qiū zài jiàn.
(I would like to say something. Thank you teacher Xie. You are a very good teacher. We have learned a little Chinese. See you this fall.)
Earlier today I completed the application form for Chinese language studies at Beijing Language and Culture University. I will send the application tomorrow and, if all goes well, the last part of my speech will not come true because I will be in Beijing in September. The plan is to stay for one year. wǔ hěn gāoxìng! I’m very excited!