A Travellerspoint blog

Onward to Tsinghua (清华)

And this is only day two? Ah, I've lost track of the space-time continuum.

sunny 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

Posted by CelLung 16:54 Archived in China Tagged day test two proficiency Comments (0)

Ah, Day One

Yeah, it didn't begin so well....


Current date: 9/8/2010
Current Time: Watch says 9:08am, Computer says 12:09pm

I believe I have another five hours on the plane (currently on China Air, which has an oddly comfortable amount of leg space in their seating).

I’ve done the most plane hopping today than I’ve ever done in my previous twenty and three years. First, my dad and I left the house around 1pm-ish (I really did go around to all the rooms in the house and give them one last, longing gaze, and plopped down on my bed one more time) before leaving. Before that, I’d gone to the credit union (little buggers only let you withdraw $2500 at a time. Thank goodness for Western Union wire transfers, hey?).

We were on the road to Columbia Airport (S. Carolina) and we got there with enough time to spare. My dad and I sat together for a little over half an hour, methinks, with sparse conversation. He and I were never really all that talkative (gasp! I’m a woman who knows when to shut up. Whodathunkit?). Naw, I take after my dad in the ‘I’m a listener rather than a talker’ and when you have two listeners together, haha…
But the conversation we did have was mainly about my safety: “Solis, keep your eye on your money. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t wander off.” The usual parenting worries.

Anyway, this was the first time I’ve ever come remotely close to crying at an airport. Granted, I don’t go joyriding to airports in my spare time, but I’ve had my share of flying in my years (frequent sojourns to San Francisco, and now to East Asia…gotta get them sky miles…). Anyway, I knew if I started crying I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I kept blinking back tears and sat there without too many words.

3:30pm rolled around and I told my dad I had to go. I’d forgotten JUST how small that airport is, so I could have stayed a bit longer, but I didn’t want to take any more chances. We hugged, exchanged I love yous, and I told my dad I was already counting down the days (which I honestly was). Per my return in January, Heaven and Earth would shatter before I left the country any time soon.

I had a little over an hour to spare, so I called Diana and Elton respectively.

Brief aside, we’re currently flying over the edge of Siberia.

After I got off the phone, I eagerly (mouth nearly foaming in excitement) started reading Stephen King’s ‘Under the Dome’. I happened upon it in Borders before I left, and let me tell you, when the King of Horror (Hitchcock being the Lord) pops out a 1000 page novel, you better believe it’s worth the read. Ex: It, The Stand, even Desperation, even though it had 800 pages, methinks. We’ll round up. Than man can take the most mundane activity and scare the hell out of you. Gotta love him for that.

Own a Saint Bernard? And then evil comes.
Buy a used car? And then evil comes.
Run over a gypsy? And then evil comes.
Talk on a cell phone? And then evil comes.
Stay in a hotel? And then evil comes.
Go to the supermarket? And then evil comes.

Kudos if you know all the titles I’m referring to. The hotel one can be one of two choices.

Baack to the main point. From Columbia I flew to Chicago (O’Hare). I hate that airport. I hate any airport that isn’t ONE BUILDING. It’s all divided and ish and you have to take a shuttle bus to the C Terminal. Annoying. And Chicago really is a windy city :P Anywho, that flight took about two hours, then I waited about an hour or so (reading Under the Dome to pass my time) for the flight out to LAX. The Chicago flight was a stupid amount of freezing. I’d totally forgotten to bring my jacket before I left home so I figured I’d buy one at the airport. I was waiting for LA, even though my allegiance is with Northern California, I was cold enough to go to an “I ‘heart’ LA” store. I mean, when I got off the plane, I could barely walk normally because I was shaking so bad. I half-stumbled once on my own feet and had to clench my jaw to keep my teeth from chattering. Maybe my grandmothers were right. I DO need some fat on my bones. Insulation and all that. Anyway, while on the Chicago plane, I idly thought “I bet jackets in LA are going to be $29.99.”

They were. Eerily specific, I am. I’m also cheap and went without it.

Funny story. I read on Yahoo the top ten best and worst airports in the country. Guess who was up there on the top worst? LAX!
It honestly wasn’t that bad, except I hated its design more than Chicago’s because the damn airport is cleaved in half and in my case, I had to take a shuttle bus. I had to recheck my luggage when I got to LA so it would follow me to Beijing (very helpful) and so I had to take my luggage to Terminal 2, which required a short bus ride because the AIRPORT IS IN TWO SECTIONS. Hey, in my shoes, you would have been annoyed as well. I rag on Hartsfield, but at least all the terminals are connected.

Anynoodle, I find what I need to find, I recheck my luggage (I shamelessly followed a couple who was also looking for Air China, haha). I got to my gate fairly early and took a sit down. There was a Chinese girl next to me and we struck up small conversation. She was returning to Beijing to see her parents (she’d been in the States studying). I told her I was going to Tsinghua and she told me about the prestige that it was as an institute and how out of every 10,000 Chinese students who apply (don’t’ know if that’s an exaggeration or not) only one gets accepted. I asked her if she knew about Harvard (which she did) and told her it was pretty much the same way (11% acceptance rate).

I then asked her what school she wanted to go to for her Masters Degree (she’s an accounting major, Asians and their math, haha. I’m half Asian, I can make that joke). Get this: She says UCLA or USC (University of Southern California, not South Carolina) are her top two choices. But wait, there’s more. And I quote, “If my GPA isn’t high enough, I’ll try out for CalTech.”


Let me repeat that.

“If my GPA isn’t high enough, I’ll try out for CalTech.”

I wish if my GPA weren’t high enough I could try our for the a university with a TOP TEN RANKING IN THE WORLD.

Instead, I’m trying out for top 30s-ish? Whatever University of Michigan and UC Santa Barbara are.

ANYWAY, we board the plane, which is my first double-decker plane ride.

I managed to sleep on and off, but it’s better than nothing. Air China is so spacious! And the head rests aren’t poorly designed and so you can actually find a comfortable position to sleep in. Who knew?

So here I am, currently somewhere over Siberia, just a few hours left. I’ll be arriving in Beijing 5:20am. I have a placement test…I have no idea when. China likes to be vague about important matters. I just hope it’s AFTER I get there. I hope it’s quick. I think I’m going to take a taxi and pray there’s no major traffic. I’d take a subway if I wasn’t so pressed for time. All day I wanted nothing more than to curl up under some covers and sleep D: I emailed the people ahead of time and told them I was coming in on the 9th, which is the beginning of late registration.

I’m in an A/B room which means, most importantly, I get my own room! But it’s kind of apartment style where my roommate and I get our own rooms but share a bathroom. I hope registration goes smoothly (things in China tend to NOT go smoothly, even when you plan everything out…). And I hope I seem at least halfway competent on my placement test. I’ve already exchanged my money, so that’s one thing out of the way.

Friday is a day of nothing, which means sleeping, exploring, and loading up on food items. It’d help if we had a mini fridge…don’t’ know if we do or not. Saturday is orientation, then school starts on Tuesday, which gives us a change to wind down and adjust. Six days after that, we have a three day holiday.


I really hope to become much more fluent Chinese during my stay here. I’m sure Tsinghua will do more than an adequate job of running me through to flex my linguistic muscle. And the academic masochist in my says: “Bring it on.”

I think one of these days I really will break down and buy a bootleg Nintendo Dsi.

Ugh, I just remembered…hot water is in certain increments of the day D: I love my hot water showers at random times of the day. I will have to adjust. Some hot water is better than no hot water.

Right now, I just want to get to my room. That’s goal #1 for now.

Posted by CelLung 13:14 Archived in China Tagged day one Comments (0)

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