I’ve made it home! Back to the land of internet and other freedoms! I haven’t written in so long that I will be surprised if anyone even reads this blog anymore. Just in case, and because I also want to reflect on the year for my own good, I will attempt to sum up what I wish I could have written weekly.
On learning Chinese:
I know more than I like to believe, but my Chinese is still much worse than my Asian classmates’. When going to class on a daily basis it’s hard to see progress, and some days there isn’t progress. But when looking back on the year as a whole I know how far I have come. Experts say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, whether it be a language, ability to play a musical instrument or a sport. I calculate that I should have attended 500 hours of class this year, 400 of which I actually attended. Outside of class I probably studied an additional 400 hours. By these calculations, I should be approaching 1/10th of the way to mastery. From my self assessment of my language ability I’d have to say 1/10th is pretty accurate. This is both depressing and makes me feel better. Depressing because I still have so far to go and better because the unrealistic expectation that I could learn Chinese in a year can be labeled as unrealistic, and I don’t have to feel guilty or like an inadequate student for not achieving more. Most importantly, though learning Chinese can be frustrating and arduous, it makes sense to me, and in many ways is easier than English. For example, the word for orchestra 乐队 is made of the characters for “music” and “team”. Of course an orchestra is a music team. Why don’t we call it that in English?
On dorm life:
The dorm really grew on me as time went on, especially after I moved to a bigger room. Sure there were annoyances, like how all visitors have to sign in with their passport number and leave before 11pm, how the building is a total eye sore- pale blue with streaks of rust running down its walls, how there are intermittent hot water outages in the winter and power outages in the summer, and how the North Koreans are always doing bizarre things that I can’t ask them about because we can’t talk. Their latest project involved constructing wooden crates which we speculated were being used to ship home appliances which are not available in their country or they may have been building a space ship. Who ever knows? These things aside, the dorm has been a great place to live and I’ve even found myself fearing what would happen if I could no longer live there. It is so easy to live there because there’s no rent to pay, no utility bills, no landlord to deal with. Recently a few friends have moved out of their apartments and there always seems to be some conflict with the landlord that involves paying extra fees for various things, which is hard to dispute as a foreigner. The dorm, though very ugly from the outside, is situated in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Hangzhou, ideal for hiking and biking. Best of all, I have a place to keep my things for the summer and know they will be there when I return in August.
On my relationship:
Though this is now a thing of the past, it is important to mention that, as many people already know, I had a boyfriend this year. I can’t begin to describe the year without touching on this because the relationship was a significant part of my day to day life. Unfortunately, yet predictably it has now come to an end. It’s hard to know exactly when to mention relationships in this blog and it almost seems easier to describe it after it is over, like a complete picture or story. It happened, it was good, now it’s over.
On my work:
Both jobs continue to be enjoyable and profitable. What more could I ask for? I may take on a few more responsibilities next year because I anticipate having more free time because I’ll have less class time. I have also been tutoring a few students who are preparing for the language assessment test which I work for. There are some great stories about this, which I will write about later.
On the summer:
It’s so so nice to be back in Michigan where I can enjoy the clean water, blue sky, family, friends, fresh vegetables, pleasant temps, open roads, internet freedom, cheese and the list goes on and on.
On next year:
My plan is to go back to China in August and officially start my PhD classes (in Chinese) in September along with my next 800 hours of language self study. I have intermittent anxiety about next year because there is absolutely no way I will understand my classes or be able to contribute in any meaningful way other than to smile. But my advisor speaks English and I can use Google Translate to write my papers and maybe it won’t be so bad.