Today, as usual, we all attended classes from 8AM to 12PM, had a two-hour break, and then had tutoring sessions with our language partners. We’re all definitely falling into a routine. We all wake up around 7, and we all get street food breakfast: Chinese style pancake wraps 煎饼 jian bing, tea eggs (eggs that have been boiled in soy sauce, tea, and star anise) 茶叶蛋cha ye dan, yogurt 酸奶 suan nai (literally translating to “sour milk”) and soybean milk 豆浆 dou jiang. Breakfast averages around 6 yuan, equivalent to 1 US dollar. As we eat our college affordable, yet filling breakfast, we sit on the steps in front of our hotel, quietly chatting with each other, usually yawning and mentally preparing for the day.
At about 7:55, we get up, and begin to shuffle to class. Throughout our morning classes, we get a 10-20 minute break each hour. During this time, we’ll either take a quick nap, search for wifi, or mingle with each other and other students. After class, and before our language intensive sessions, we’re free to do whatever we want.
Today, Cindy, Christine and I visited a cat café, about a 10-minute walk away. I heard that Jared R. and Michelle also visited the café later that evening. The café was adorable, with cute and dainty pastries, and cats everywhere. There was a beautiful Siamese cat, two cats with the grumpiest faces I have ever seen and three hand size kittens, to list a few. The café was their playground with toys and cat shelves everywhere. The girls and I had so much fun, ooh-ing and ah-ing over the cats and their antics. We headed back to the school around 2 for our language tutoring. This is everyone’s second week working with our language partners. Suffice it to say, we have all grown a lot closer and are learning even more. We are all improving our Chinese communication abilities, and I have heard that some students look forward to studying with their language partners.
After tutoring, I personally had the privilege of having a local student take me to an allegedly famous restaurant. This student just so happened to strike up a conversation with me the other day, because she recognized that I was a foreigner and wants to improve her English. While on our way to the restaurant, I definitely worried a little: what if she wants to extort money from me (there are quite a few locals in touristy areas who will show you around for a small tip that you won’t know about until after you’ve finished the tour), or what if she brings me to some place alone to do something unthinkable? But I calmed myself down because she seemed sincere. We talked about everything one would normally talk about, her family, her boyfriend, her major, her hobbies, etc. And the trip was worth it. We ate this delicious fish soup with rice, these salty green beans stir fried with mounds of garlic, and this sweet and sour pork, very similar to America’s version, except crispier. This restaurant is so famous that it is only open for two hours every day, with only 16 available seats. The chefs and workers know they will make money, so they take their time, preparing quality food; they don’t care how many people they serve, they only want to do minimal work. The employers also supposedly take vacations whenever they want, closing the restaurant during those times. I was so envious of that carefree lifestyle, I told my new friend, “I’m going to quit school and work here instead!”
At the end of the day, I realized that no matter where one is in the world, humanity will always exist. It doesn’t hurt to be wary because there are some people who do have bad intentions, but there are many more people who have good intentions; people who are just as interested in our culture and lifestyle as we are theirs. I strongly recommend venturing out of our comfort zones for experiences that we will never forget. It’s easy to be anxious in a foreign country, but if we’re open minded, unexpected events can occur. I really hope other students in our dialogue program can experience a similar opportunity as I did. They make an ordinary Tuesday much less mundane.
- Malia B.