Beijing #2

Halfway through my third week living in Beijing, I finally feel like I am beginning to acclimate.  The cultural shock and immediate novelty of my surroundings has given way to a deeper interaction.  For instance, ordering breakfast on the way to class from the small cafe, a once daunting task, has become routine.  Speaking the Chinese language has also become more natural.  Why practicing at school, I was limited to just an hour of class time, so it was easy to forget about speaking for the next 23 hours.  Here, I am constantly thinking in terms of the language.  In conversations, I find myself responding more and more readily.  Third year Chinese is helping me quickly learn how to voice opinions in Chinese, which has led to more stimulating conversation outside of the classroom.  While I am still not “comfortable”, I have embraced my surroundings and the challenge they present. 

Two weekends ago, we visited the Forbidden Palace.  On one of the hottest days in Beijing so far, my classmates and I made our way through a seemingly endless array of ornate buildings and beautiful gardens.  The architecture was truly spectacular.  I enjoyed learning about the history and culture that surrounded the palace.  Perhaps even more interesting was observing the sense of pride Chinese felt in visiting the Palace.  It really provided a view into the historical relevance of the place.  It was truly humbling to be part of their experience looking at the Emperor’s throne room, and hiking up the hill to see the giant golden Buddha statue. 

I believe that my ability to speak Chinese is progressing at a rate at which I did expect when planning to spend my summer in Beijing.  Although I am in intensive classes for much of my time here, I believe my true progress is made outside of the classroom.  Last weekend, I took a cab home from a restaurant I had visited, and found myself holding a conversation about the European Soccer Championships.  While I had never actually read in a book how to criticize the German National soccer team, I was quickly able to learn, and maintain the conversation.  While I no doubt stumbled and made a fool of myself at some points, the driver would just laugh and correct me.  Experiences like these account for much of my learning in Beijing, and are definitely the most fun I have learning the language. 

I am very excited for the next four and a half weeks in for of me.  This week our class is planning to travel to Xi’an.  It will be great to be able to see another city outside of Beijing, and I cannot wait for the opportunities it affords me. 

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