Sunday, February 03, 2008


The new month brings a new challenge. Originally we had decided on Focus February to encourage us as we studied Chinese (the boys and I at the language school and Jessica as she saunters about S.E. Asia). Having spent the last three weeks intensively studying Chinese, I haven't started this month out too well. I finished my last class yesterday morning and haven't picked up my Chinese book since. It's only been a day, though, and I have every intention of refocusing on my studies as February (and the subsequent months) move right along.

We also decided that upon reuniting in Shiyan we would transition from Focus February to Festive February where every day we would celebrate whatever holiday is listed for that day. I've decided, however, to do my best to spend all of February with a spirit of festivity. So far it's going well. February 1st was Bubble Gum Day so we went to the foreign import store, bought some Twisted Tornado Bubbalicious gum and had a few bubble blowing contests. February 2nd was Groundhog Day so we downloaded the movie and watched it last night. Today is a little more difficult. We can't watch the Super Bowl which is the main event for this day, but we did pay tribute to the Four Chaplains who lost their lives heroically during WWII. Tomorrow is "Dump Your Significant Jerk Day", but that one's lost on me. Somehow, I'm going to have to celebrate Liberace Day!

So Jolly January was pretty difficult. I'd say I failed being jolly more times than I even caught myself. The highlights of my failures would probably be on January 1st when I mentioned a negative thing about one of our English Department folks. It's sad to fail on the first day. The other would be when I talked poorly of David Arquette's acting abilities. It's hard knowing the reason I'm not able to eat sweets is because of a slip up regarding someone such as him. But it was an interesting challenge, one I hope to continue daily.


I finished 20 days of classes yesterday morning. We covered 10 lessons, and I supposedly should know upwards of 700 characters. We skipped the first book so I don't know as much as I'm supposed to (or maybe I do?), but I have definitely learned a lot. William said in the beginning that the main thing he hopes to take away from these three weeks is the knowledge of how to study Chinese. I feel like I've been given quite a boost in my Chinese learning. I still can't speak the language worth anything (although, my tones are improving), but I've learned to read a little and to write a little, and that's given me a lot of momentum. I bought the next two books in the series we've been using, and I'm excited to get started with book three.


Wednesday morning three of our friends from Wuhan (Carole, Rachel, and Dennis) arrived in Kunming. They were supposed to arrive a day earlier, but because of the horrific snowstorm that's been ravaging central and southern China, they were detained by a day (they spent 12 hours in the freezing Wuhan train station waiting for their train to arrive and then were delayed en-route to Kunming by another 12 hours). We met them for lunch on Wednesday and took them to Salvador's (our favorite Kunming restaurant) Wednesday evening. It's been such a blessing having them around. I think we were all beginning to drag a bit from our daily study routine and having such friendly faces to visit with every evening certainly helped me through the rest of the week.

They left today to tour a couple famous places in this province (Yunnan). They had planned to leave earlier, but Rachel got really sick and was in no condition to travel. We aren't glad that Rachel was so sick, but it was most definitely great to have them stick around an extra day or two. Carole, whose idea Festive February was, has been helping me celebrate each day, and I'm going to miss having her and her enthusiasm around.


Today was my first day free of class, but it was actually quite busy. This morning our school took us on a field trip to the Golden Temple Park. It's near the International Horticultural Exhibition which is really well known for all the different kinds of plants it has, but it's expensive to visit. The park we went to had several Chinese artifacts, pagodas, temples, greenhouses and Chinese people singing in chorus. It was an enjoyable way to spend the morning, and the mild hike up to the temple was good for our bodies which have atrophied greatly in the last three weeks. Kunming has some beautiful flowers, and the weather has been outstandingly pleasant. I don't think I'm mentally or physically prepared to return to the bleak and cold reality of Shiyan.

Hmm, return. Brian and I bought plane tickets to Wuhan. We leave Wednesday and hope to catch a bus to Shiyan Thursday (which is the Chinese New Year). I had hopes this year of celebrating the Spring Festival with a Chinese family, but the wintry weather made it rather undesirable at best (and impossible at worst) to get to where I needed to be in time to do this. Instead, Brian and I will be arriving in Shiyan on Spring Festival Day where we will have to scrounge our cupboards for food since all the restaurants and stores will be closed. I'm really looking forward to being home, though.

Well, the boys still have one more class tomorrow morning. I finished early so that my teacher could return to her hometown for Spring Festival. I have big plans tomorrow morning of going to Salvador's, getting some good coffee, and relaxing with a book for a few hours. After all, it's "Solo Diner's Eat Out Week"!

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