Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Is my contact info really not on here at all, Alex? I'm surprised Google hasn't told me to give it to them. My email address is wpenman@gmail.com and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.

As I mentioned before, I was rejected from the program in Harbin I wanted to go to. After a lot of searching, I found a program in Beijing that I've signed up for. It runs from mid-June to mid-August, which cuts it close getting back to UF for the fall semester. It will give me more than a month to travel or do whatever, though, so that should be good. I'll be at the Beijing Language and Culture University, which is a really respected university. (It makes the HSK, which is the Chinese version of TOEFL, which is the English assessment test that foreign students have to take to do anything with English.)

Best of all, this program offers the chance to do a homestay, so I'll be able to live with a Chinese family for two months! Since I'm already in China, I don't feel as nervous about the lack of information for the program. I figure that as long as when I show up in Beijing I can take classes and have somewhere to sleep, I'll be okay. The program is a little sketchy--they have a nice website, but now that I've signed up, I'm not sure how to pay the balance of tuition, or when I need to, or whether I will be able to have a homestay or not. I'm excited about it, though.

On a related note, Giblin was accepted to the Harbin program. She doesn't know if she's going to go, though. I already promised to visit her in Harbin one weekend if she did do it. It would be so much fun to have one of my good friends in China with me.

I just finalized plans for our spring break. Since we cover three semester's worth of Chinese in this semester, we take our second final this Friday. They're giving us five days of vacation soon after that, so everybody is scattering to travel. USAC students change plans until they're already committed to something. I considered going to Hainan, China's Hawaii, but tanning isn't really my thing (although I know that if it were it wouldn't hurt).

Alex, one of my friends here, was in Chengdu last spring, so he knows what's what. He also likes to practice his Chinese, so when he told me that he was going somewhere and I could come with him, I said yes. It was only today that I actually learned where we were going, because we had to buy our tickets.

It turns out that we're flying in to Guiyang, which is south of Chengdu. Then we'll start adventuring toward Guilin, which is in the next province south. The scenery is supposed to be amazingly foreign and beautiful, so we'll see.

Time for a geography lesson. For those privileged people who can access Wikipedia, check out this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangxi

It has a large map of Chinese with the province Guilin is in. Sichuan, the province I'm in, is the second province diagonally up and left (next to Tibet). It's difficult to be precise, since I'm not connected to the Internet while composing this, and China doesn't even want me to be on Wikipedia. It should still give you a general idea of where I am and where I'm going this semester.

Alex and I haven't bought a return ticket yet because we're not sure if we'll make it to Guilin in the time we have or if we'll go to a different airport. Also, ticket prices change drastically daily, so we got this one to Guiyang for a measly $40 and we're hoping that by the time we're ready to fly home we'll spy tickets that aren't too much more expensive.

Almost related to plans: I went shopping today and saw a line of people waiting for a bus. I was so confused. Why were people in a line? Why was a crowd not sufficient? There were no railings that made people be in a line; plus, the line extended into the sun when there was shade nearby. It was so strange. I think it was the first time I'd seen a line since I've come to China. Even buying movie tickets they don't really use lines.

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