It’s almost 7:00 p.m. on my first day here in Kunming. (Can it really just be my first day here?) I suppose it’s not really interesting to hear about my mundane victories, but it feels like I conquered a lot already.
Last night the school sent a representative to meet me at the airport. I didn’t see him at first, and I was getting worried because the sun was about to set. Everywhere looks more threatening at night, so I was digging through my bag to find the school’s number when I spotted him. We didn’t really have a common language, but from what I could gather he was expecting me to find him parked outside. Parked in a bus. A little strange, don’t you think? I was his sole passenger. In spite of our misunderstanding (whatever it was), he was very nice. And since we couldn’t really determine what our misunderstanding had been, he called a friend from his cell phone to help us figure out that yes, I needed to stay at the International Student Hotel on campus. We arrived as the sunset and he shepherded me to the front desk, where the hotel helped me check in. Safe!
This is my second time to Kunming and to Yunnan Normal University (YNNU), so everything looks pretty familiar. I’m feeling surprisingly relaxed. I guess it’s much easier to be brave when necessity demands it. Last night, before I even unpacked I ran out to a nearby convenience store. I bought the toothbrush and toothpaste that I forgot, as well as some toilet paper and water. Score! I’m a little disappointed with the toothpaste. It tastes just terrible, and I’m not at all certain that it contains flouride.
Anyway, I managed to sleep through the night. I woke up at confusing intervals — unable distinguish between the overhead light and daylight. This morning I finally got up because some terrible chime kept going off every 10-20 minutes. It seemed to be coming from my roommate’s bed. I think it was her cell phone, maybe her message alert… I don’t know. Later in the day I managed to introduce myself to her. She’s from Korea and her (Korean) name is Lee Ji Hyun, her Chinese name Li3 Zhi1 Xuan4. She’s very young, only 22. I have no idea how long she’s been there or how long she plans to stay. We only succeeded in talking when we were both armed with dictionaries. I didn’t ask her about the terrible noise that woke me up.
Our room is on the 6th floor. I guess the hotel/dorm must be pretty full. There’s a big group taking up a lot of beds — about 30 Americans. They just arrived at the University yesterday, same as me, and I have to keep explaining that I’m not with them. (“You’re supposed to be in the computer lab!” I am?) They’re all very young too, students at University of Vermont. They have some language skills under their belt, and it seems to be everyone’s first trip to China. Just the opposite of my situation — I’m familiar with the landscape, but I have a hard time communicating. Anyway, they seem very nice, not the crazy party animal types I encountered here before. I mean, they’re from Vermont, right?
I have everything arranged for my classes to begin on Monday. I’m taking 12 hours/week one-on-one. I’ll have three instructors, I think. All female, no doubt. And probably younger than me. That was how it happened before. I have my books, so I can start staring at them. That’ll help.
I successfully negotiated a longer visa. It’s not the 1 year visa I was hoping for, but it is 5 months. That gets me through October at least, probably a little bit into November. It’s a little confusing, but what I decided on was 6 weeks of one-on-one instruction, followed by 6 weeks vacation, and then half a term in the small group classes. They were only willing to give me a 3 month visa if I paid for instruction through their 6 week vacation. Instead, I avoided paying their inflated rate for that period and paid just for the next 6 weeks and for September through mid-November. That way they will help me get me a longer visa. I assure you I had over a dozen conversations with various personnel before everyone could agree that would work. Anyway, it means I’m under budget and that can’t be bad. And of course, it can be changed later on.
At this point I should probably mention that I am sitting at a cafe drinking an oversized beer, and I can feel coherency slipping away. (There it goes.)
The real tragedy that I managed to deal with today was the destruction of my power adaptor for my laptop. It must have been messed up through one of the many airport security stations I went through. Who knows? But the little green light refused to go on, and my laptop battery was fading. So I consulted with the school’s computer guy and he gave me vague directions (yes, in chinese) to a store that he thought might sell a replacement. I’m sure I was ripped off terribly. You can tell this when they agree to your first counter offer. Dang! Oh, well, it was cheaper than it would have been in the U.S…. at least I think it was. Oh, don’t tell me. Ok, I paid $25… yes, USD. Please don’t tell me how stupid that is. I needed it for peace of mind! And in the U.S. could you really have just walked down the street and bought it? No! You’d have bought it on ebay and it would have arrived 3 business days later. So there.
For the record, I found one on ebay: buy it now for 15 + 9 shipping.
I’m just resisting trying the old one again. Maybe it does work and I was mistaken… But my iPod speakers worked from the same plug… I’m such an idiot…
I’m letting it go.
So, this is the first chance I’ve had to boot up my computer and really just play with it. I think I’m going to use it for studying. I’m not really good at organizing paper. I think my brain has been rewired to work only in a digital world — the ability to cut and paste and spellcheck and everything. I have a little notebook for writing down people’s names and new vocab. That’s a good use of paper, but I’m pretty sure my notes and things are best stored and organized on the computer. I’m just using pinyin, the phonetic romanized version of Chinese, so I can type it and all.
Stay tuned. I’ll try to chronical something more exciting next time — you know, internal termoil that doesn’t involve regrets about how I spend my money.