Monday, November 26, 2007


Belated happy Thanksgiving. I'm sure you had a wonderful time with your family - I wish I could have. Thanksgiving away from home just isn't the same. Not to say I didn't have a nice holiday (if you can call it that since I did have class in the morning), but there's something strange about not being home for Thanksgiving. I went out to Pete's Tex Mex, a restaurant in the south of the city, with a group of ten other foreign teachers from my school and had their Thanksgiving special: apple cider, pumpkin soup, Waldorf salad, turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes with gravy, stuffing sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, broccoli, and, of course, pumpkin pie for dessert. It was really good for a restaurant Thanksgiving, but like I said, just not quite right. In any case, I had a good time and enjoyed the non-Chinese nature of the food.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today I went to Luodai, an "ancient" city about an hour southwest of Chengdu. Although I'm sure there was a city there more than a thousand years ago, nothing remains of it today, so I got to walk around a modern recreation of the town, not nearly as impressive as the ruins would be. It's a common attraction for Chinese tourists or people like me looking to get out of Chengdu for the weekend and therefore has a sort of Disneyland feel to it. The most popular thing to do is dress up in traditional Chinese clothes and have your photo taken, which needless to say I didn't do. Otherwise, you can shop in the souvenir stores that line the crowded streets or sample the many snack foods that Sichuan is famous for.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Chinese classes

This week I finally started taking Chinese classes. Since March I've been saying that I want to learn to read Chinese but haven't really done anything about it until just recently. A month or two ago I began paying attention to the characters in the world around me, noticing the patterns and trying to guess the meanings based on the little bit that I knew. I've also been sending text messages to my Chinese friends in Chinese with the help of the predictive text input. Being more attentive to the characters has made me realize how much I want to learn to read and how difficult it will be, but also how knowing a few characters can go a long way.

I wasn't all that interested in taking classes because I knew that I could learn just as well if not better on my own with a dictionary and a few textbooks. Unfortunately, I've known that for a long time and didn't have the dedication to keep up with it. That's why I'm taking classes now—to have someone looking over my shoulder, obliging me to study. They are private classes at the largest private Chinese language school in Chengdu, Chinese Corner. The textbook we're using is boring as far as grammar and vocabulary go since my spoken Chinese is quite conversational, but there are still many characters I don't know in the sample texts, so I guess it's about the right place to begin learning to read. I'm not sure how much I like the teacher's methods, but he seems pretty flexible and open to suggestions, and the second class went much better than the first, so at least we're moving in the right direction. I'll keep going for the next couple of weeks and then reevaluate the effectiveness—hopefully by then I'll be over the hump and able to study on my own.