Why in the world is "Waka Waka" our theme song?
20.07.2010 93 °F
A quick note on the title of this blog: that is a legitimate saying here. They use that instead of "Oh my God." I really couldn't make that up. We all think it's hilarious. As for the second part, it probably happened because we were told that we had to learn the dance from the "Waka Waka" video for the English camp (we still don't know the reasoning behind that). Anyways, the song stuck, and we tend to start singing it at random intervals throughout the day.
On to actual topics. We are no longer working at the English camp (due to a change in teaching schedules that we really know nothing about), but I must admit that I'm a little bit glad. This camp is really intense, and it makes us a bit nervous. Even our Chinese volunteers think it's weird. There are posters all over the school (even in bathroom stalls) with various motivational sayings, some of which are a bit over-the-top, and there are a bunch of enormous banners with pictures of the English teacher who runs the camp (apparently he's a very famous Chinese man) and quotes from him. One of them is about conquering English to make China stronger (one boy in our group thought it said that they should conquer the English). There are a lot, all of which are a little bit odd. We're not sure if it's just a cultural difference or if it really is over-the-top, but the fact that our volunteers are surprised tells me that it may be the latter. What makes me the most nervous is the military presence at the camp. There are honestly Chinese military personnel in full uniform escorting groups of students. It's a little bit weird. But the students are really nice. Most of us have had our hands shaken and pictures taken and been told that it's an honor to meet Americans.
Yesterday's cultural lesson was about Peking Opera. I have to admit that I don't like it very much, but it was still an interesting class. It started out with Joseph playing a waltz on the piano and Ben teaching a few of us how to waltz. It was fun. About an hour in, class was interrupted by Fernando pointing out the cicada that was sitting on one of the desks. Those bugs are everywhere here. You can hear them all around in the trees, but of course they quiet down when you walk too close. We've seen a bunch of their shells, but this was the first live one we saw. I'm terrified of bugs, so I ran to the opposite corner (even though it wasn't close to me). Joseph got me down to the front of the room, but then someone put the thing on his head (they had been posing with it for pictures) so I ran and hid in the corner next to the piano, where Ben was playing. So once I was trapped, they brought the dumb bug over and put it on the piano. I almost cried, I was so freaked out. I don't blame the bug, though. It was probably at least as upset as I was. Anyways, eventually someone put it outside and we continued with the lesson. I hate bugs.
If you recall, last week I wrote about an exam that Cynthia and a boy neither of us had met before gave me. Well, he picked me up from school yesterday and took me back to the restaurant, where my host family and his parents all met for dinner. This time I didn't really get an exam, but I did get some weird questions. For example, they wanted to know how I kept fit. I answered honestly that I didn't really. Then they wanted to know how I was so skinny, and how other people could be as skinny as I am. They asked if it was because I lived in America. Ironically, when I told Joseph about this conversation, he told me that his family had asked him why Americans were so fat. The best part was that they had gone to KFC for dinner. I had to spend five minutes finding "metabolism" in a dictionary to help me expalain why I'm so small. I'm not sure that it made a lot of sense. They said that they were very happy that I've been eating more. I hadn't realized that they were worried. After dinner, when we got home, my family gave me "dessert," which I expected to be cookies or a cake from the bakery (it's called "Happyness" in English, and it's wonderful, I highly recommend it for anyone who stops by China, I think it's a chain). I was wrong. It was soup, but the soup was sweet, at least, the broth was. There was a lot of sugar in it. It also had green beans and garlic, which had the texture of roasted garlic but was the most bitter thing I've ever eaten. I didn't like it much. Apparently it's Chinese traditional medicine that is supposed to help your skin, and a lot of Chinese families eat it as a summer dessert. I was surprised. Cynthia wanted to know about American desserts, and was surprised that I didn't consider soup a dessert. I told her about a lot of things that she recognized. I couldn't translate or explain marshamallows, though. I tried, and then told her that she had to taste them to understand. She laughed.
This morning's language class started out with working from our book (or rather, running through it). Class hasn't improved much, even though we have a teacher. The volunteers were so much better. The teacher doesn't really speak English and isn't quite clear on the fact that we don't speak Chinese. It's kind of painful. Then our head teacher came in and showed us a news story that they had of us. I think I've mentioned that we're celebrities here. It started out with a bit about our Chinese knot-tying class and then moved to interviews with Ben and Mikaela and their host families at their homes. It was pretty cool, and very funny for us to watch. After that we had a break, and then we watched Mulan. As I said, the class isn't great. But it's fun. I've started to look at this trip more as a cultural exchange than a linguistic one. I've accepted that I won't learn a lot of the language, but that there are a lot of other things that I can get out of it.
Zai jian for now!