Margaret: 出轨了 – Chūguǐle – derailed

September 25, 2011

Yes, sadly Marg is quite derailed.  I’m beginning to realize that studying and working hard isn’t going to cut it with my classes.  There’s a huge gap in my education between what I learned at Minnesota and what I’m supposed to be learning here.  I can’t magically make up for the language foundation that I never had.  Taking this level of hanyu would be comparable to reading the Sorcerer’s Stone and then skipping to the Deathly Hallows.  None of it would any sense, and the reader would endure 759 pages of Avada Kedavra and Lord Voldemort!  I should probably change classes, however I’m not even proficient enough at the language to tell me my teacher my concerns.  I’ve been unmotivated and somewhat apathetic this week, simply going through the motions.  Let’s hope I can give tomorrow a renewed Margy try.

On the bright side, as soon as Friday hits, I get to temporarily forget about all of it in favor of food, dancing, glitz, and glam.  On Friday night, a few friends and I rented a paddle boat on Houhai.  The boys did all the work!

And now for the newest biggest news since I’ve been here: On Friday I bought train tickets to travel to the North Korean border for next week over a week-long holiday with two guys I met.  I promise there’s no need to jump on a plane and come kidnap me.  One is Keen, a thirty-something MBA student in Tiffany’s program.  He was born and raised in Chinatown in New York City before going to school at Cornell and then moving to Japan.  He’s really interesting because he was on the ground when the planes hit the World Trade Center and when this latest earthquake hit Tohoku.  Just hoping we don’t get arrested on the border!  His buddy is a tall, white excitable and eccentric Australian named Ben who’s in the language program with me, although he’s in nearly the highest level.  He and I packed into a tiny room to buy train tickets from the campus travel agency on Friday.  Everyone was frantic, pushing and shoving to trying to buy tickets at the last minute when most were sold out.  We arrived at the front, and out of this Aussie’s mouth came the fastest Chinese I’ve ever heard a foreigner speak.  The room fell dead silent.  I turned around as if I was on stage to see thirty Chinese people staring at us with big silly grins on their faces.  I burst out laughing, which only added to the spectacle.

On Friday after class we’ll take the Beijing-Tianjin intercity railway, peaking at 217 miles per hour, to Tianjin, or what I like to call Beijing’s brother on the ocean.  The trip is only about thirty minutes.  We’ll spend the night there, getting up on Saturday to take a train (soft sleepers!) to the city of Shenyang.  The trip one-way is $46 USD.  Shenyang is the largest city in northeast China with just over eight million people.  It was used by the Manchus in the 17th century as their capital and is now a major commercial hub with Japan, Korea, and Russia.  Traditional cuisine includes…wait for it…sauerkraut!  We’ll then head to Dandong, presumably by bus or train, which literally lies on the border between China and North Korea.  The main attractions here are the end of the Great Wall and the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge (lol) over the Yalu River.  Tourists can rent boats to get closer look at the border where the North Korean city of Sinŭiju lies.  North Koreans gather on the edge of the river, waving at foreigners.  We also hope to get to Heaven Lake, a volcanic crater lake within a mountain range, half located in North Korea and half in China.  In North Korean legend, Kim Jong-il was born near this lake.  Dalian, presumably our last destination, is a seaport famed for its beaches, although northeast China is not at all balmy at this time of year.  Ben has advised me to bring a multitude of “jumpers.”

I’m really excited to travel with them, and I think they really know how to do this kind of thing.  I may never have another chance in my life to travel to such a crazy place with two people I just met.  I’m starting to feel like a hippie.  We’re hoping that our destination is a bit off the beaten path as most students are headed to Shanghai, Hong Kong, Xi’an, and Inner Mongolia for this Golden Week.  I’m sure I will have a plethora of crazy shenanigans to blog about whenever I return.

After a meeting with my language partner Q, a successful erhu lesson, and the purchasing of a new phone (squat toilets, skinny jeans, and a few drinks make for a deadly combination), I am hoping to be slightly less chuguile going into this week.  In any case, I only need to make it to Friday, and then the big adventure begins!  Gotta go email a professor of Marxism who wants to improve his English.  Zaijian!

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