Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I've been in China six months now. Officially it might have been yesterday, but with the time difference between America and China (and the fact that I didn't blog yesterday), today is just as good. Six months is a long time. It's one fortieth of my life, and that's counting baby years that you don't remember.

Today was an encouraging day to hit my six month mark at, though. As I've been relating, I picked a class that was over my head in the hopes that I'd grow and have been discouraged that I'm not a giant yet. It's a rare day that I don't look like an idiot in class. And yet...

Our homework was to memorize the three sections in our lesson text to be able to recite them in class the next day. I knew that since more than half our class had been absent because a school field trip to Inner Mongolia returned late, that they would be exempt. That meant that I would definitely be called on to recite the lesson. I also knew that our teacher takes volunteers for each section, so if I could memorize the first section really well, then I would be able to have some hand in my own execution.

The urgency of knowing that I would have to speak combined with the strategic knowledge about only needing to know the first section really well and got me in a decent mood for class.

Sure enough, the field trippers were off the hook. Sure enough, he asked for volunteers. And then I recited my passage. Don't think that this was a marvelous memorization feat. I plowed through it, had a slightly embarrassing dialogue where I confessed that I messed up a phrase because I didn't really understand what it meant, and deviated at the end to give only the general idea instead of the exact words. But when I was finished, my teacher had an expression approaching a proud smile and said, "Not bad."

Then when we were discussing the topic "generation gap" in small groups, I think I accidentally said my sister was retarded. Progress is slow. In some ways, I wish I was here for longer, because I feel like just when I've gotten the hang of my teacher's expectations, the "term" is over and we have to change to a different teacher for the second four weeks.

We start discussing our last chapter tomorrow: Environmental Pollution and Protection. And as I've found out during my night of looking things up, I'm only 87 words short of being able to discuss it. Those words range from "carbon monoxide" and "erosion" to more innocuous words like "plant." You ask me how I could have taken Chinese for so long and still not know the word for plant, but I'll just tell you that I'm not surprised. When it's not "tempuratura" like back in the easy days of Spanish, which takes about ten seconds to memorize, learning 温度 and the corresponding pronunciation leaves less time for words like "plants."

However, if anyone would like to discuss air pollution in China in Chinese, give me a few days and I should be able to talk like I know something. Or at least I'll be able to recite my part of the lesson.


Mom said...

At last! some feeling of success in this hard program. So glad you figured out a way to work the system and managed to memorize that hard passage!

David Griffen said...

Wow, good job at plowing through that class ^^
And yea, I would like you to talk about air pollution ;D I can wait :)

Julie said...

i just choked on an m&m when i read that you think you may have called melanie retarded.

glad you got a "not bad," though!
i'm happy for you :)