I guess it’s for the best that I forgot my wireless card. I’m sitting outside at a foreigner cafe, drinking over-priced beer. Can’t play on the internet, but for the most part I’ve been using the internet just to connect with people through MSN or Google Talk. And right now you’re all sleeping. I’ve been frustrated with the time it takes to resolve most American-based websites. And I’ve had trouble accessing my normal news sources. This I find to be the most troubling. But anyway, I can write a blog post offline and post it once I’m back in my room.
I suppose it sounds funny to call it a “foreigner” cafe, but that’s what it is. There is a small stretch of cafes that cater to a foreigner crowd. The staff will speak English if you like and they have foreign food on the menu – American, British, French, Japanese, Korean. It’s where the foreigners go for comfort and the locals go for a taste of the exotic. Also, they serve the beer cold. Which is not something you can assume. And they have wireless internet. Of course, that only works if you have a wireless card, which I already told you I forgot mine back at the dorm.
Yesterday I shameless made a flier and posted it around all of the foreigner-type places, advertising english tutoring. I think maybe the rate that I published (100 RMB/hour~12 USD/hour) is totally outrageous, but we’ll see. I’m not terribly pressed for money, although I could obviously use it. My classes at the university are 90 RMB/hour (~11 USD/hour). Already paid, but that’s the kind of buck I shell out and I’m in China for goodness sake! There are millions of people that speak Chinese here, but how many are native English speakers?
Like I said, totally shameless. Oh, the most shameless bit is that I put my photo on the advert. Ha!
Anyway, more importantly I should report that I submitted all of my paperwork to get a study visa. This is a tremendous relief. I finally caught the more sympathetic of the two administrators. The other woman, it turns out, is getting married today! How funny. I should receive my passport back next week. This is only inconvenient for the purpose of changing money – you can’t use a copy of your passport for that transaction, only the original will do. But I live frugally, excluding the present excursion to a foreigner cafe. I eat at the cafeteria most meals and that costs 10 RMB ($1.25) for 2-3 meals. I shouldn’t need to exchange anymore cash for a while. Although I do want to buy a digital camera…
This morning I also stopped by to talk to Chen Laoshi about one of my teachers that I’m not really getting along with. She diplomatically suggested that she talk to her, and I give her another chance to improve. I reluctantly agreed. I feel like the class is a waste of time because she basically writes all of the vocab on the board in pinyin and hanzi (Chinese characters), with examples and things. Then, I copy it all and then we read it all. Not really interactive. While I have to admit that she’s taught me some hanzi, I am more interested in learning how to put together a sentence and hold a conversation. I mean, there are plenty of people in China that speak but not write.
Of course, the adult way to handle the situation is to directly talk to my teacher, but I haven’t really felt comfortable saying anything. On the other hand, I didn’t have any trouble bringing the issue up with my speech teacher. I told her that I really lacked confidence when it came to talking, and she was understanding. She’s very young, so she doesn’t have a lot of experience teaching, but teaching Chinese is her major. She’s very eager to get it right, and it’s clear she wants to try to help me. So she agreed that we would focus just on the pinyin for now. She insisted that she could understand me well, and that I’m not having as many problems as I think.
We played a game in class today, counting from one to one hundred. We counted back and forth (she says 1, I say 2, she says 3… etc.), but the game is when you come to a multiple of 7, you don’t say the number – you clap your hands. I turned out to be very bad at the game and messed up three times. Afterward, she explained to me that when you lose at a game like this in China, you have to put on a “performance”…. I vaguely remember someone telling me a horror story about this last time I was here. She wanted me to sing a song or something. So, I pulled out one of my drawings to show her. I guess it wasn’t really a performance, but it did the trick. She really liked it and immediately offered to model for me. So next week she’s going to bring some “traditional garb” and model for me after class. Wow! How cool is that? I should practice drawing this weekend and maybe buy some new paints. I just have oil pastels and I’m not very good with them.
The other day (Was it yesterday?), my dad was telling me about Janice Able, a graphic artist from Chicago. He was very enthusiastic (of course!), so I looked her up. Last night I read through a lot of her how-to’s on making comics. It’s all posted at her website . Pretty cool. I’m inspired. I don’t have a good story yet, but I feel really empowered by her explanations. She totally demystifies the process. I’m not sure I can find all of the materials I need here, but anyway I’ve promised myself that I would start with what I have and only buy the proper materials once I have some decent content. I can get a lot done with the paper, pencil, and ink I already have. It’s not archival (something she emphasized), but for practice it’s fine.
So, the World Cup continues. I hardly notice, but there’s definite excitement everywhere. It’s not really my scene, but it’s fun to see the international flavor infect the locals as well as the foreigners. Everyone’s routing for Brazil and Argentina. What’s-his-name from Brazil (?) is plastered all over the ice cream stands, advertising something or other – probably ice cream, eh? The café I’m at now has tonight’s games listed on a chalk board, but I don’t recognize the country names (in Chinese).
I’ve started to connect with my teachers through email and MSN. This is super cool. We can write in a mixture of English, Pinyin, and Hanzi (Chinese characters), although I suspect they will favor English. We’ll see.