Ni hao from China!

Ni hao from China!

Coming to you live (and early) from Beijing, I’m abroad once more and feeling great! (So far.)

A lot has happened in the past week, but I won’t bore you with the orientation details. Let me just tell you about some of the surprises I’ve been having, and will continue to have, in this chapter of the adventure.

First off, in Rome I had a taste of what it’s like to live in a country where you don’t speak the language. But I picked up Italian pretty fast, signs were usually in Italian and English, and people usually spoke both languages. Even in Greece, where the alphabet was different, everyone spoke English and I didn’t have a lot of absolutely free time to jump into the culture and living anyway.

Here, I feel like a baby. Here’s a photo from my first ever trip to China with my aunt. Pretty much how I felt this first week. I think I’m pretty lucky, however, to have at least some of the culture ingrained in me and to know at least a basic grasp of the language. The other Ricci scholars and my new friends here mostly came in with no knowledge of the language or the culture. They’re really starting from nothing! Every day and every interaction though, I’m gaining more confidence. I haven’t yet eaten alone or gone downtown by myself, but I have no rush to. I want to get to know the people around here first! Meals are, in my opinion, the best way to get to know people. All my rusty chinese is getting polished, and fast.


But sometimes not knowing the language or the culture can lead to fun surprises! I have to tell you this story: my friends Mark, Jacob, Jenna and I were out for dinner at a restaurant none of us had been before. Mark wanted to try some Chinese beer, so I taught him the word for it – pijiu, since he already knew how to order something. He said it alright, I thought, but the waitress pointed to the menu, gesturing to the whole drink list. So Mark, not knowing how to read, assumed she meant all the drinks were beers and he should just pick one. Five minutes later, the waitress came back with a can labeled ‘herbal tea’, and gave him a straw for it.

The food here is so good. Of course, that’s not a surprise, but I’m always surprised by how cheap it is for the quality! You can eat a good meal for about 20 kuai, or just about 3 US dollars. We have a meal card for the canteen on campus, but it only has about 400 kuai loaded on to it (you can add more when you need), and you can spend it on the on-campus convenience store, so I’ve already spent about 100 kuai, which is about 20 dollars, on snacks and school supplies and other little impulse buys. I can’t help it! Everything is so cheap here! My friends and I went out for famous chinese hotpot, and our total came to 115 kuai each, which is only about 18 dollars, but we were shocked already. We will hate returning to the expensive USA, I can tell already!

I love China, I really do. The living is less loud than in flashy, fancy Rome, and it’s been really strange to see my friends from university back home who have started in Rome this semester, but I can tell how different I am because of Rome. I’m so glad I’m here!

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