Thursday, September 10, 2009

Orientation week

Thank you to everyone for reading and following this blog! I know I haven't been posting here much- the fact is that I have not been able to access blogspot from my internet connection. The Great Firewall apparently hates all sites that contain the word "blog" in their address. The last post was so long because I hadn't been able to update for a week! I actually ended up sending it as a document to Dan so he could post it. But I'm not sure if I want to do that long term, as Chinese internet also seems to dislike uploading and my email account. Right now I'm sitting in Starbucks on a friend's computer. She has a Mac and has installed a program that creates a fake IP address in the US for users. Alas, however, said program will not work on my PC. Next I'm going to try a hack I found on Lost Laowai, but knowing my wonderful luck with computers and Chinese internet so far... well, we'll see. If all else fails, I may be moving my account to a different blog that the government has not shut down yet. I'll try to keep everyone posted. Hopefully soon I can upload some pictures!

This week, unlike the last, has been rather busy and tiring. On Sunday we registered at Peking University. I didn't have very much trouble, as my visa is in order, I didn't forget any of my documents and I'm only staying for 6 months rather than a year. Some of my friends were not so lucky and have had to endure several trips to hospitals and police stations on top of all the other things we need to do.

Yesterday we had our placement test at 7:40 in the morning. It was ugly. There is no other way to describe it. I felt like I was trying to retake the SATs, but in Chinese. At one point in the reading section I gave up, marked all A's and moved on to the writing section to write a funny story about a snake. Later in the day we were shepherded, along with every other foreign student on campus, to the ID office. We stood in line for nearly 2 hours to have them take one picture and mark down our ID number. Today we went to get the results of our placement test- I was placed in the second of the "pre intermediate" levels for grammar/writing and the first intermediate level for speaking. Tommorrow I go back and find out whether pre-intermediate is a beginner level and therefore I have to take a listening course, or whether it is considered intermediate and I get to take an elective. The whole process has been confusing and frustrating. I can't wait until classes start on Monday and I actually start to figure things out, although I am worried that I put myself in too easy of a level. But that's just me, worrying as usual.

There have been several bright spots this week too. On Sunday night our program director took all fifteen of us out to eat in a private room at a fancy restaurant. She told us all the details of our program, gifted us with spending money, bus/subway cards and antibacterial soap and mask from Dickinson to guard against the swine flu. I swear, Dickinson is just as paranoid about swine flu as the Chinese government (who pointed laser thermometers at our foreheads as we entered the registration building and gifted us with thermometers when we bought our books). But anyway, the wonderfully tasty 15 dish dinner was on Dickinson's dime, including Chinese beer and shots of baijiu- the local favorite liquor which has an alcohol content comparable to nail polish remover. Take that, DPS! We also found out we have many more dinners and excursions like this to look forward to with our Chinese culture class.

On Tuesday we went to the Beijing Zoo to see the pandas. Totally worth it. They were adorable. I will try to post pictures soon- I got several good ones. Then we moved on to see the other animals, including the elephants, giraffes and the squirrels. Yes, squirrels. They really do keep them in zoos. Along with rabbits. Funny, isn't it? Throughout our trip, however, I felt that people were taking as many pictures of our group of waiguos (foreigners) as of the animals. But all in all, it was fun. Even better, on the way back to the Subway station we found a street vendor selling cheap English language novels, a few of which I immediately bought several. I was in desperate need of reading material! The only difference is that some of the print on the pages is slightly askew, but I can live with that for 2 dollars a book.

On Saturday or Sunday we plan on going to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. I also want to visit the Summer Palace- I can see it from my window, after all. There are also plans in the works for a Dickinson group trip to a KTV karaoke bar, which should be interesting.

Last but not least, I miss everyone from home terribly. If you haven't already, please add me on skype- I'm the only Sarah Hutson listed in Beijing China, I'm relatively sure!

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