28.07.2010 93 °F
Yesterday afternoon we were let out of classes early. A few people went shopping, but Julie Ann, Mikaela, and I went over to Tian Ning Temple, which is just a few blocks away from the school but we hadn't visited yet. It's a beautiful temple, and it's huge. So we took our camaras and went on a little excursion. When we arrived, however, we realized that we had to pay to get in. We were too cheap to actually want to pay the price of admission (even though we had our wallets and it's China, so everything is inexpensive), so we wandered around it, passively looking for side doors in the surrounding walls, but actively looking for good places to take pictures of the temple over the walls. What we ended up finding was a park that we (or at least I) didn't know about. It is just on the other side of the temple. It's really pretty, and it had a lot of really picturesque spots that we took advantage of. The other thing we took advantage of was the fact that if you stood on the benches near the fence, you could get some pretty cool pictures of Tian Ning. We continued on around the park and found a bridge, which, in some places, provides an excellent place to stand to take pictures with Tian Ning. We had a lot of fun. While we were goofing off on the bridge and taking clever, artsy pictures, a woman approached me with her little girl (who must have been three or four) and had me take a picture with them. Mikaela took one on her own camara, too. It was really funny. At first the mom wanted me to hold the girl, but she wasn't having any of that, so she held her and stood next to me. I truly think I understand how movie stars feel now.
After we got through the park, we headed over to Starbucks, where Mikaela and I were meeting the others so that we could go out to dinner and go do karaoke (Julie Ann and one of our two Christinas didn't come because they were doing things with their families). On our way over, we walked past a bank, which had a glass box in front of it. The glass box had doors and inside of it was a guard standing at attention. Julie Ann saw it first and elbowed me and pointed, and Mikaela and I stared. In an attempt to stay subtle, we continued walking and held in our laughter until we were out of sight. As soon as we were, though, Mikaela said, "In emergency, break glass!" We couldn't resist it anymore, and we agreed that we needed pictures. So we went back and realized that he had left the box. We were upset, so we waited for a little while, pretending to take pictures of the surrounding buildings. Just as we were about to leave, he returned to his original position, and we got the pictures. As we walked away, Julie Ann said, "Wait half a block, then we can high-five." It was quite the adventure. I realized during this excursion that I wasn't used to being a tourist here. I've gotten very used to being a local, albeit a white local. It was really weird to be taking pictures of things and acting like a tourist. But it was a lot of fun, and quite worth the wonderful pictures that we got.
When we arrived at Starbucks, Julie Ann took her leave and the rest of us went out to dinner and then to KTV, which is a karaoke chain throughout China that a lot of people go to. High school students on the rare occasion that they have time, college students, and, of course, visitors. It was a lot of fun, but there isn't a whole lot to tell. We sang songs. When I got home, which was at just after nine, Cynthia was still up and we had another one of our interesting conversations, this time about our favorite subjects and what makes a good teacher so good. It's so fun to chat with her. She has a lot of good insights. I wish my Chinese was better, because I feel like she could tell me so much more if she could speak in her native language. Although, I'm sure that that's true of a lot of people and their second language. I'll have to find out what we're going to do this weekend, since I have all of Saturday with my host family.
Our Chinese classes haven't improved too much. I'm spending more of my own time on memorizing the words that get thrown at me during class, but as Paul pointed out, we aren't learning grammar. "I know what the word means, I can say the word, I can write the word, but that doesn't do me any good if I don't know how to use the word," was his way of putting it. I really hope that I can enroll in a Chinese class when I get home. I think I've learned enough to have a bit of a leg up, and this experience, while most beneficial in other ways, can certainly have linguistic benefits for me if I can supplement it shortly after I get home. I'll have to see how that works out. With any luck, I'll manage to make the most out of it. I'd like to think I'm pretty good at that.