It’s been forever since I’ve updated this. Mostly because school’s started up. That previous sentence has vastly different implications to Westerners in Western schools than it does to Westerners in Chinese schools. I have never had so much trouble trying to figure out HOW to attend my classes. I felt like one of those people forced to break up bedrock to dig their own grave. As I’ve grown fond of saying, ‘T.I.C.’–This Is China (Thanks Leo DiCap for that Blood Diamond reference)
I had this wild idea that the BNU Fall/Year program would be decidedly more organized than the Shanghai Summer Intensive Language Program. I thought that maybe, just maybe, the Shanghai lack of preparation/management/professionalism was just a fluke, and that Beijing, being a city full of scholars and gentlemen, would have its proverbial shit together. I was wrong.
Scott and I spent the first few weeks running around like foreigners in a country whose language they cannot speak. The bureaucracy in China never ceases to amaze me–EVERYTHING needs a red stamp on it. You need to hold on to each and every receipt and piece of paper that anyone EVER hands to you. I guess the bureaucracy provides a massive source of jobs, though. People to make all that paper, all that red ink, all the drawers to store said paper forms in, construction of the massive furnaces to destroy said forms after serving their purpose, etc.
Anyway, we had absolutely zero contact with the UC office throughout the whole registration/placement test process, which made it exceedingly difficult and confusing, because every time we waited in the massive lines and got to the front, we were told that since we were california students, we had to do everything differently. How differently, nobody seemed to know. Very unnerving. Like I’ve found in China, though, things just kind of worked out. We took got registered, got our student IDs, our other student IDs (the Chinese have multiple ID cards a lot–they have to carry two or three different passports–bureaucracy, ’nuff said), and we took our placement tests. Since I was running around for three hours before the 9AM placement test, I hadn’t eaten any breakfast, so instead of finishing the placement test, Scott and I both left the last portion blank and got ourselves some baozi. Turns out, we got placed into a class that, honestly, is too easy. At first I was disappointed and was going to move up (which is very easy to do), but then I realized how great it feels to be at the top of your class. It tickles my loins. Plus, I get an easy A and a nice (and much needed) boost to my GPA. And mom, dad, don’t worry–the actual words we learn in class are on the whole completely new to me, it’s just the speed at which the class goes that makes it stupidly easy. And I hang out with mostly Chinese people anyway, so I get more than enough speaking practice.
That’s enough about school though–nobody cares about that. On a much more interesting note, CLAUDIA came to visit during this same registration time period, further adding to the confusion. Honestly, who the hell wants to deal with school and Chinese bureaucracy when they can spend the day with their girlfriend? The Chinese probably would do the school thing, but good thing I didn’t inherit that part of the culture.
Claudia and I didn’t end up doing too many Beijing things, much to her (my) chagrin. That being said, she got to do her requisite shopping. I am not sure how she got it all home, because she somehow managed to bring a full duffle and a huge carry on for a four day stay. Such a girl.