Monday, May 18, 2015

Day 7, First Day of Language Classes

Today was the first day of language classes in Nanjing! The morning started at 7:20 AM as we all got ready for the classes. I still haven’t fully unpacked and being back in school felt a bit strange. Nevertheless, after brushing my teeth and changing in the communal bathrooms in Nanjing, I walked quickly to the classroom building. There were about ten other students in the classroom, mostly from Australia who have been here for a few months. Throughout the four hours of reading, writing, and speaking Mandarin, I found the class to be extremely challenging. Besides the content itself, understanding the teacher was a challenge as well because the entire class was taught in Mandarin. I’m not positive whether or not I belong in the class, and everything that happened today was beyond confusing. Hopefully, I will find the class that I belong to tomorrow and learn Mandarin at the pace that’s suitable and challenging to me. 
After classes ended at 12:00 pm, Dong LaoShi treated us to food across the street at “Lao Di Fang” or “Old Friends Restaurant.” Despite the gloomy restaurant design, the food was delicious. I have had a lot of Chinese food in New York but I’ve never tasted such yummy dishes. Each dish had a unique taste and was all very strong on my taste buds. 
At 2:00 pm, we visited Skyways Bakery and listened to a talk by Patrick Heckelmann, the founder of the store. The Bakery itself gave off a very comfortable vibe and had many desserts. There were a wide range of ice cream, cakes, cookies, and breads. We later learned from his talk that his staff actually made all the foods being sold in the store now. Almost all the ingredients are imported from various countries (aware of the food problems in China.) Patrick Heckelmann is half German and half American, and he was first introduced to Chinese Culture in 1992 when he studied Acupuncture in Nanjing. The idea of opening up an authentic Western Restaurant came to him when he was playing tennis with a friend one day and was talking to him about how bad the Western food here was. After struggling to manage the restaurant and his studies at the same time, he just concentrated on the bakery. Today, he has four bakeries all over Nanjing and he plans to open another one very soon. The talk went into a Q&A session in which Mr. Heckelmann tells us that the Chinese government has been very lenient with his business. They respect you as long as you respect them. As long as you are humble, the government will show compassion towards you. In addition when there are conflicts that ends up going to court, he tells us that the judges prefer mediation between the two parties rather than out-right arguments. It’s big in Chinese culture to save the reputation or “face” of the other person. In the talk Patrick Heckelmann also mentioned that the most popular desserts sold at the store are the tiramisu and the macaroons. I can’t wait to go back to his bakery to try those out!
Following the talk, I went back to my room to do some catch-up on the classes I had today and to study the new material learned in the classes. I’m planning to grab dinner with some friends around the area and then go back to homework. Today has been a bewildering day. I can’t wait to catch up on sleep and get ready for the day tomorrow! 

Michelle F.

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