Today, we all arose rather late in the morning. This was mainly due to the lack of having any predetermined plans for most of the day. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, we met with Colin in order to take a diagnostic exam, which is used to determine general knowledge of the country of China. Overall, the test dealt with more economic issues, the field in which Colin is an expert. Two of the girls and I took the evening being open to travel over to the Pearl market, a famous marketplace that usually sells knockoffs of American items. Although I did not purchase anything, I know I will likely do so before I leave the country.
When we awoke today, we all knew exactly what our mission was: to get registered at the university for our Mandarin classes. Around 10am, we met Colin in the lobby and headed over to the other end of the complex to find the registration area. One down there, we had to show our admission notices and passports, have pictures taken, and continue with a confirmation process. Then, we received our information for the giant test-in, which determines the level of Mandarin you know. We all then dispersed until 2pm. At that time, we had our first English-taught course. Colin introduced us to the professor and then left. The professor told us that his degree is in Medieval European history, but we should rest assured that he is qualified to discuss the history of his nation. He told us to ignore the syllabus that we were provided by CAPA (my program) and that his idea for the course would be the way we progressed. He stated that the final exam will be a brief paper on a topic of our choosing, and that, along with attendance, would comprise our grade for the course. He went on to begin our first lesson about the ancient dynasties of China until he decided that the class should be ended. We left from the room rather happy with the professor and his ideology.
Today was spent mainly relaxing and just exploring more of the local area. We did not have any scheduled events until the evening, and we took the opportunity to go about our own business and familiarize ourselves with the neighborhood. I walked around and discovered a supermarket with very fresh produce and a wider selection of general merchandise. I also discovered the deliciousness that is street dumplings. These dumplings are usually cooked by someone who sells them on the sidewalk to those who pass by. They will probably become a staple to my diet out here. We had class that evening for 6:30 at BCLU (Beijing Language and Culture University), which is a distance away from our campus. We left around 5pm in order to get on the bus to take us there. We got off at WuDaoKou, a famous shopping district that is very close to BCLU. We met Colin in front of one of the shops, and he escorted us to the university so we would know how to get there and where to go to meet the professor. We went to a cafe inside the campus where the professor had planned to see us. We all sat down and had a delicious vanilla tea and began to review the syllabus for the class. The professor and Colin will be dual-teaching the class, but it won’t meet every week, because some of the CAPA events will cut into Wednesday evenings. After reviewing the syllabus for about 2 hours, we concluded class and began to head back to our campus. We then went out to grab a light dinner from the local street vendors, who were enthused to see foreigners buying from them.
This morning began with a sense of tension in the air. Today was the big examination for all the students to determine the appropriate level of Mandarin into which they will be placed. The whole morning, most students were found face deep in books, reviewing for the exam. I went over most of what I had learned before I had come to the country, so I was less concerned. I probably should have been more concerned. The exam was created to truly striate the levels of students. The test jumped from basic grammar structures to the most complex very quickly, and I was left in the dust. In regards to reading comprehension and writing characters, I am generally weaker, because the Chinese classes I have taken focus more on speaking the language in contrast to reading/writing. During the oral portion, however, I was able to hold a semi-proficient conversation with the instructor in Mandarin. Then, she had me identify and pronounce characters on a paper. I was able to complete about half of them with no problem. I explained to her that I have received more oral training than writing, and she assured me that it was okay, because the test will place students into classes based off there categories: speaking, writing, and reading. Overall, I feel that I should be placed in an intermediate level for the speaking and writing, and probably a lower level for the reading.
Friday (8/29) through Sunday (8/31)
This weekend was rather uneventful, as there weren’t any planned events for us. We spent the weekend doing some minimal exploring and taking in the nightlife of the city. On Sunday, however, we went to see the Temple of Heaven. It’s such a fascinating sight. The complex was finished in 1420, and it contains an altar for tribute, and two separate buildings used for religious ceremonies of days long gone. The complex is now surrounded by a massive park where the public can enter and spend the day, free of charge. The park was filled with people enjoying a lovely Sunday morning. Our Mandarin classes start Monday, and that makes us all pretty excited.