Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"It's only a flesh wound"

So I'm a relatively "safe" person; I've never broken any bones, had my first surgery when I was 17 and usually luck out in terms of being healthy. (Except for that one time I woke up at 3 in the morning with a huge purple swollen eye and had to go to the hospital to discover I'm allergic to soy.)

So wouldn't it figure that the one time I actually need to go to a hospital, I happen to be in China?

I was playing gaelic football last night at Olympic Square; they meet once a week so I had been looking forward to it all day. We start warming up with the ball, and someone kicks it to my left. I chase after it, only the turf goes into a depression where the seats are at the edge of the field. I completely trip over that depression and hear a crack and had to grab a taxi home after being there all of like 15 minutes. (Not to mention paying a 10 kuai field fee.)

So when I woke up it wasn't any better so I called up my director, who took me to the Zhongshan Hospital of Dalian University. They have this really nice foreigner wing and examined me the minute I walked through the door, which is better than the US hospitals.

They took me to get an x-ray in this really outdated-looking room where the machine kept making a weird whirring noise and the positioning posters on the wall were black and white and looked like they were produced in the 80s.

So 20 minutes later the x-rays were developed and even though my ankle was ridiculously swollen, they said there was no break and just prescribed a boatload of drugs.

Overall, the bill came came to 6 yuan for the consultation -that's like 86 cents, kids-, 16 for the "western medicine" (ibuprofen that I already have a stockpile of in my room), 110 for the x-ray, 16 for them to put this black paste and gauze on my ankle, and....126 for "Chinese medicine."

Which turns out to be four boxes of this anti-inflammatory pill I'm supposed to take three times a day, three pills each time, and some weird gauzy things. 18 USD for that? Ridiculous. At least I have money; the Chinese hospital system is pay-as-you-go so if you don't have money, you're SOL. So much for communism.

Anyway, so now I'm on crutches... and I live on the fifth floor of my building, which is on a HILL, which has only squatting toilets, and has showers only in the basement.

But the weather's really getting nicer! :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Life in Dalian

So after two weeks of classes, I should probably update. [I swear I meant to last week...but time just gets away from me somehow]

Overall I am happy here. I was a little sad at first because Dalian is nothing like Shanghai (everything closes at either dusk or 9!), but I have accepted that and am doing well.

Classes for most people are from 8:30-10 and 10:20-11:50. Tuesdays I only have one class at 10:20 so I can sleep in. Unless I want to shower of course, because the showers only run hot water from 6:30-8:30 in the morning. They are also in the basement, which means that I have to walk down five flights of stairs every morning I take a shower. I also take calligraphy and er hu electives in the afternoon, and a Modern China and a Chinese Foreign Policy class with my program director.

After classes everyone gathers outside the dorm for lunch; that combined with the set class schedule makes it very remniscent of high school. Dawai (that's its nickname) is located on a hill and so all the shops up and down the hill cater for the college students. Every day we can choose from Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, street vendor barbecue, bubble tea, sweet rolls, etc.

The campus itself is the "old campus" since "new" Dawai is actually about a 45 minute bus ride away and is the one offering all the different classes and majors and where 90% of students are attending Dawai. Old Dawai is just one big building; most of it is dorm rooms and then at the other end of the building are the classrooms; there are five floors of them with about seven classrooms on each floor.

The dorms are not as bad as my first impression led me to believe. We have central heating (or had, I think it gets cut off today) and lockable closets for our valuables (apparently the ayis like to roam around people's room sometimes). I bought a new pillow, pillowcase, bedsheet, and comforter, so now that my OCD is put to rest, I sleep like a baby every night. My roommate is Korean; she speaks little Chinese or English but she is incredibly nice and polite. She also likes to blare gangsta rap from the States when she's not studying. When the warmer weather arrives any day now; I'm also going to stock up on Raid because I saw my first bug last night in the sink while I was brushing my teeth. I also have to pay for my internet- a 20 hour internet card costs 25 yuan (a little over 3.50 USD) and I'm already on my fourth one in less than two weeks.

From what I've been told some of the students that are here are only here because they can't get into college back home, so learning Chinese is their chance at having a marketable skill. Most of the Russians here are terribly stereotypical and makes me believe that about them. The biggest population here is Koreans since we are 200 km from the North Korean border; whereas in Shanghai all signs are in English or Chinese, in Dalian all signs are in Chinese and Korean, then Japanese, then English, and sometimes even Russian. It's a very international location. There's also a great number of Italians here, mostly from Venice. I don't know why.

So the culture shock I had really wasn't so much towards Chinese culture, but more internationalism in general. Sure, I had to get used to the northern China "rrrrrrrr" accent, and the way they say "v" instead of "w" (as in, do you go to Davai?), but I'd never really known any Koreans or Russians or Italians before I came here. Many people here know at least two or three languages; my friend's roommate is ethnically Korean but was born and raised in Russia and therefore knows Korean, Russian, Japanese, and English. Personally, I'm picking up bits of Korean and Italian; Beatrice down the hall is teaching me conversational Italian and I love it.

What does bother me about this city (again, besides the accent) is the blatant racism; my Caucasian friends have jobs paying 150 yuan/hour (over 20 USD) tutoring Korean kids, but their parents won't take me because I look asian. Almost every single person I encounter assumes (doesn't even ask, just assumes) I'm Korean, and then when I tell them I'm from China, they either refuse to believe me or ask why I look like them and yet am learning Chinese. I even had a Korean guy ask me what part of Southeast Asia I was from once.

I was once showing my friend how to work the laundry machine, and the cleaning lady in there told me my English was very good. I told her, "Well I am an American" and she does a double take and just stares and me and goes, "Really? But you don't like him!" and points to my friend and I go, "What, him? He's not even American. He's Australian."

I did manage to find a job though, teaching five year olds at an elementary school English. They are not terribly bright, have no attention span whatsoever, and I think they just repeat words but have no idea what they actually mean, but they are so darn cute I couldn't bring myself to quit. Which I was about to do on Thursday because it's a 45 minute commute one way, and the going pay rate from the Chinese is only 100 yuan/hour...but it's a job, and it's an experience (I mean, it's legit, so I can totally put it on a resume). I also may have a tutoring job as's hard to find jobs because I always get, "Why do you look like us? Were you raised in the States? Do you go to school there?"
I had to put the character "Mei" (from "Mei Guo", which means America in Chinese) after my name on my business cards just so people know I'm an American.

I have made a great group of friends here though; three of them are from my study abroad program, two are from Juniata and the other girl of the group is from Winthrop, in South Carolina. I'm also friends with Italians and Australians and Koreans...though not so much the Koreans...yet. I have also really developed a fondness for Korean food, it's pretty fantastic (but not kimchee). Anyway I am in the middle of preparations for spending another semester here abroad because I really don't feel a semester is enough for me to grasp the language, plus I don't want to leave the internationalism of it all. Because Etown says I have to withdraw to do so though, I am actually researching schools back in Shanghai.... Either way, I probably won't be back to the States until the very end of this year.
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