Another Update

We’re back again with part 2 of what I’ve been up to this semester! Sometimes it feels like the days and weeks here are very monotonous, wake up, go to class, have lunch, study in a coffee shop, go swimming and repeat. Because of this, I’ve been putting off doing another update post for a while but what that means is that I now actually have quite a lot to fill you in on!

First up, way back in the middle of November, both 初三 classes went on a class trip to Dalian Modern History Museum (大连现代博物馆). It covers the last 100 years of Dalian’s history and I’m sure would have been very interesting if I could have understood a bit more! The main reason for the trip is that we then had to write a composition about the trip that will contribute to our final grade.

That same week my classmates and I went out for dinner together which was a great chance to hang out and get to know each other better outside of the classroom. We took over the private side room of a restaurant and got a great spread of dishes and drinks.

In November, the entire Chinese language programme took part in the Chinese Speech Competition (汉语演讲比赛). Three or four people from each class volunteered (or were volunteered) to take part, fortunately I was not one of the (un)lucky ones. We all went to support those from our class that did take part and it was a really interesting opportunity to see the speaking fluency of the top level students. Something to aim for!

Throughout this semester I have been taking a calligraphy class as an elective and this finished at the start of December. We finished off the class by making our own 福 (fu, good fortune) plaques. These are popular things to hang on front doors to bring luck to your home. These are often turned upside down at Chinese New Year (春节) as a sort of play on words. 福到了 (fu dao le) means ‘fortune has arrived’ but you can change ‘到’ for ‘倒’, the latter meaning ‘to turn upside down’. In the photo you can see a few of the different styles that the one character can be written in.

As well as these electives, we were also given the opportunities to take part in some cultural seminars. I chose to take part in Chinese Knotting. The most recognisable is the red one on the left of the photo below but we were very quickly told that that was too advanced for us and we would be making 玉米 (yumi, corn), seen on the left of the photo below. Even that, deemed the easiest option was pretty complicated and took a while to get the hang of but I eventually did. It reminded me a lot of the Scoobies that I spent many years of my childhood making. Glad to see those skills being useful at last!

I’ve continued to attend the language salons. Some have been better than others in terms of the activities – the calligraphy one was great, I got to stretch my newly acquired calligraphy skills – but the more people I’ve met and become friends with, the more I enjoy it. The host Arya, who has become one of my closest friends here, even asked me if I’ll co-host with her next semester!

Even though it has been freezing for months, with temperatures often hovering around 0* and even getting down to -10*, we hadn’t had any snow. Until we got it all at once! I say that, but we have had a few sprinklings though none that stuck around. In this case, we had a huge dump of snow a few days before Christmas, on the exact same day that my classmates and I had our Christmas gift exchange!

After we finished class, most of my classmates and I went to a Korean barbecue restaurant. Lucky for us there were enough Koreans in attendance to man the grill for the less experienced among us. It was my first time eating Korean barbecue and it will definitely not be the last. We did a sort of not-so-Secret Santa, we had all bought presents in advance and took it in turns pulling a name from a bowl to receive a gift from and so on. Thank you to Stasia for the delicious Russian chocolate!

Obviously we’ve just come out the other side of the festive period. I won’t talk to much more about Christmas because I’ve already written a whole blog post about it, taking you through my whole day.

New Year obviously follows swiftly on Christmas’ heels. I’ve had a lot of people ask me if China actually celebrates this New Year, as Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival (春节), is the larger celebration. It follows the lunar calendar so the date changes but this year it falls on the 25th of January. The solar new year is acknowledged and celebrated but definitely not to the extent that it is at home. I was in class on the 31st but had the day off on the 1st so the festivities could be big!

Last but not least, at the start of this week and on the eve of our exams my classmates and I went out for dinner again, this time with some of our teachers. We went to a self service hot pot place and had a great last meal together, as some people are going home as soon as Saturday.

And there we have it! Apparently the past two months have actually been much busier than I thought! With one more exam tomorrow and then just a few more days left in Dalian before I head off travelling I’m definitely looking forward to the next few months!

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