Archive | July, 2011

Ink Blot # Whatever: A Day in the Life

8 Jul

Most of what I write is too short and choppy! So here is my effort to write with more details and facts. As a starting point, let me recount a day in the life.

Most of the following sentences will probably include the word “I.” I hope this log doesn’t sound self-indulgent, although it probably is.

I wake up between 6AM and 7AM everyday, without a clock.[1] For breakfast, I have bread or a piece of date cake[2], and date yogurt.[3] After a quick shower, I leave for school, hair still wet, sometimes with my roommate, and sometimes by myself. Occasionally I will commit something to short-term memory during my walk.

The walk takes about a half hour.

The first 5-10 minutes: I cross Zhongguangcun East Road and Chengfu Boulevard. I used to hate this because of the crazy traffic, but I’ve gotten used to it. If it’s raining, I hail a cab around here.

The next 20 minutes: I enter Tsinghua from its South Gate. The area near the West Gate is the most beautiful part of campus, the East Gate is closest to the school’s most renowned program buildings. The South Gate leads to a dusty street with some cars and many bicyclists, and nothing here attracts the eye.

The building that houses the language program also houses the History department. Near the doorway is a Shang Dynasty bronze receptacle replica. I like looking at it not because of any interest in the object per se, but because the cleaning ladies store their mops inside of it.

There is no elevator, and my classes are mainly on the 7th floor.

My first class is Classical Chinese, which requires the most preparation of my classes. Many idiomatic phrases in Chinese were originally penned in short Classical Chinese stories, which form the basis of our lessons.[4] My second class is Broadcast Chinese, which trains students to become accustomed to radio broadcasts. I like this class because of its usefulness and the classroom environment, in which I get to say many stupid things and laugh a lot. My third and fourth classes are reading courses, and my teachers fine-tune my expression. A lot of the time, words feel like marbles in my mouth, but I get by.[5]

I have a break between 11AM and 1PM. This is when I check my email for about a half hour since I don’t have an Internet connection at home. After I leave the computer lab, I head for the cafeteria. I eat green beans, some other vegetable, and rice almost everyday. There is little variation because I am a little picky about meat, and many of the other dishes in the canteen are too oily.

At some point in this 2 hour break, I do work. There are other classmates working in the language center’s library, of whom at least one is asleep (sometimes, me included). After my last class, I do my best to finish the rest of my homework. It wasn’t always like this; I used to drag it on till late evening. Then I realized that was no fun.

From evening on, I eat dinner and find something to do. Two nights ago, it was eating hot pot with my Berkeley friends. Last night, it was watching student films in 798 with my roommate.

My weekends feel a lot like an extended weekday evening, but different in some ways. The main difference is church on Sunday, and a cafe visit on Friday/Saturday.[6]

I have visited different churches here with my friend, including the Haidian Protestant Church (a local Three-Self church) and the Beijing International Christian Fellowship. To get a seat at Haidian Protestant Church, you must come early; it is packed every service. Early birds sing hymns, and the music conductor goes over new songs. Last time I went, we sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (or 亲爱主,牵我手) six times. I admit, I ran out of steam around the 4th time. Also, it’s sort of funny: the music feels really traditional — old hymns, sonorous lead voice, simple piano accompaniment. But the church in the past couple of years bought an electric drum pad, and it sounds so out of place when we sing.

Anyway, I can’t explain it, but I feel encouraged when I visit this church.

Last Sunday and the Sunday before, I visited the Beijing International Christian Fellowship. Last week was particularly stirring as I listened to the elder’s message from Acts.

1 The reason I ditch clocks is because I used to wake up a couple of times during the night. Seeing the time — 4:30 AM, 5:45 AM, whatever — anchored the unpleasant experience to a specific point, and the surprise I got from seeing the time made it harder to fall back asleep. Not having a clock normally works out, but today was perilous because I woke up at 7:17AM.

2 It sort of tastes like banana bread, but it has dates. I get it from a stand, and the cake is so popular that a line will still form outside when it’s raining.

3 I love date treats.

4 What about English idioms? If only we could read “The Story of the ‘Wet Blanket,'” “How ‘Flash in the Pan’ Came to Be,” and “The Day it ‘Rained Cats and Dogs.'”

5 Maybe I don’t describe people much in public written records. If someone knew me in writing alone, he/she might find my world to be sparsely populated. This is not true! We know the written word hardly does people justice; a storehouse of volumes can never capture someone’s essence. Words cannot fully encapsulate places or events, either. But at least places and events don’t have feelings.

6 I am in a cafe right now. I just realized I didn’t bring enough money to pay for my tea; how embarrassing.