And this is only day two? Ah, I've lost track of the space-time continuum.
09.09.2010 - 10.09.2010 32 °F
Picking up from the previous post on 9/9/2010
I DID make it to my room...eventually.
I was a little sad to get off the plane (I've never said THAT before) because, as I mentioned before, Air China is oddly comfortable to sit and sleep in. The blankets were even nice :O We were even fed twice. I love how they don't announce when they're coming around with food But it was a pleasant surprise. The first one I got was a beef/rice combo with a bread roll, tuna fish salad type unit, small mango cake, and some apple juice, yum. The second round I chose the seafood/noodle (I almost never get seafood dishes from 'public places', by the by. It's a matter of I don't make it habit to blindly trust others to thoroughly cook seafood, and if it's one thing I hate more than a sore throat is the feeling of nausea). They had scallops and that made me happy :D I didn't eat the one shrimp, though. But besides that, they had a bread roll, small salad, fruit, and more apple juice :D I don't know why I'm telling you the menu. Mayhaps because I remember a time when domestic flights used to feed us. Mmmm....I remember the brownie type thing and GOOD bread. OH WELL. Budget cuts and all.
I had also brought my own food (a habit from frequent sojourns with my mother): an organic granola bar, one and a half organic pop tarts (seeing a pattern yet?), and a PB&J sandwich, because you have to old school it no matter where you go. :D
Any noodles, we flew into Beijing round about 5:20am (on time) and I shamelessly followed the people on the plane to baggage claim. I did check signs on occasion to make sure they/I was going in the right direction. I retrieved my luggage pretty quickly (what's this? traveling is becoming more efficient? NOOOOO! But yes.)
Thank goodness Beijing International paints obnoxiously large arrows on the floor every few feet of their airport. I followed one out to the ominous basement for taxi services. I found one pretty quick; they were all parked there and waiting like vehicular predators, and we headed out to Tsinghua.
The guy kept asking me this one question and I hadn't gotten used to such a thick Beijing accent yet, so it kept sounding like he was asking something about Germans.
Yeah, he was asking which gate to be dropped off at since Tsinghua has about 4 or 5 different entrances. I gave him a printed out slip that said the Northeastern gate (东北门）after I finally deciphered what he was asking.
The car ride was pretty pleasant. He asked me what nationality I was (I'm happy at whatever I can decipher from a native speaker because my linguistic hearing is so poor...something I will work on...).
He drove like a bat out of hell, and it was early in the morning (by this time around 6:15-ish am) so we more or less had the roads to ourselves. Well, as far as that goes in the traffic of Beijing. I found a Chinese IKEA, haha. But mostly I was pin pointing landmarks because that gives me peace of mind. I spotted the Bird's Nest and all o' that.
We had to stop momentarily for a passenger train to cross the tracks. I THINK that is was there that I saw a whole bunch of street vendors selling food.
Street vendors have the BEST food, for serial.
In retrospect, I can't remember if we saw that a little after we turn onto campus or more far down. Either way, I want to find it again.
The cab driver gets me to my destination, the check-in building, I pay him (only 100 yuan, which isn't that bad coming from an airport cab) and make my way into what will be my home for the next four months.
A lot of hell happened after this
I sign in and pay for the dorm without any trouble. I go up and meet my roommate, Helen. She seems really nice and arrived the day before. I regret that I didn't get a chance to sit down and really talk with her (ask her her major, why she was here, etc...). But she's Chinese so I will shamelessly hit her up for Chinese lessons ;D Her parents were coming soon and she was going home with them for the weekend.
I had NO idea when the placement test was, since it was sometime THAT DAY, so I scrambled to the building that had the offices. My name wasn't on the test role since I hadn't registered yet (as in, paid my tuition) so I had to get all of that out of the way. I went back and forth among buildings SO many times, I was hungry, exhausted...ugh. But I wanted all of that crap out of the way.
I was able to pay my tuition, but made a gross miscalculation as to how much currency exchange agencies take out when they make the transaction. Miscalculations of those sorts are VERY rare for me, but they happen. Long story short, I desperately needed a wire transfer, but I couldn't call my bank until they opened (another several hours).
The office woman told me I could still go down to the C building and ask to take the test today (they have make up tests the next day as well).
I was able to take the 10:30am one.
Brief aside, I didn't have a Chinese name, and I hate the one my Chinese 1001 professor gave me. Nothing against her, it's just that the name is some celebrity in China and I always receive a giggle or knowing smile. So, I at one time asked my mother for the characters in my middle name, but my middle name is Cantonese. I told this to the office woman who *rather eagerly* asked if I wanted her to give me a Chinese name. I told her that my middle name was in Cantonese so she tried to find a Mandarin counterpart. She came up with 田芬 tian fen with no counterpart to my third middle name which happens to be my mother's family name. GO FIGURE.
Any way, the placement test had two parts to it: a listening and character portion.
Long story short, I think everyone may test for beginner, haha. I mean, for real.
I listening part was annoying because the cassette player was cranked up and had that echo-quality to it. That, and my hearing sucks. Lots of guessing went on. The character portion was mildly less intimidating, but I hadn't seen the vast majority of those characters in my life. And I took Chinese 2002 at Georgia Tech. Leave it to the Harvard of China to knock you down a peg, eh?
If they put me in some beginner class, I 'll see how I do (this is Tsinghua, afterall) and if I'm making straight 100s and seem bored, I'll petition to be moved up a notch.
Anyway, BRUTAL placement test, and I wasn't the only one that thought so given the exasperated sighs and mumbles I heard around the room.
After that, I returned to the dorms to set up my internet. The first thing I did was call my dad and talked with him for a few minutes. My call on Skype got dropped (the warning sign of a very frustrating night ahead) so I reconnected and called him back.
I meant to go out after that (get a meal card, find a supermarket cause I loves me some fruit...) but I fell asleep. I honestly just wanted to take a breather. A very well deserved breather.
And woke up when it was getting dark. I hardly know my way around campus as is, so I wasn't about to get lost at night.
Next, I called my bank and had my call dropped a good four times IN THE MIDDLE OF WIRING MONEY. I was swearing SO much each time my call dropped. But, one of the women understood since I was in China and all. We were able to finish it up and I made sure to tell her to make my first name my first plus middle names since that how it appears on my passport. I'm HOPING, if not PRAYING that when I find a way down to a Western Union bank, I can get the money without a hitch.
The rest of my night when okay. I munched on this and that and tried to figure out the stupid internet and why it was kicking me off so often.
I had a pretty good night's rest and here I am at 7:52am (woke up a little after 6:30am). I feel a lot better and have a few days to explore the campus and Beijing. Class starts on Tuesday :O