Hello World!

I have been reading through the blogs I have written thus far, and I have so many spelling/grammatical errors! I am embarrassed. I have been trying to fix them, but I suppose the damage has already been done and anyone who was planning to read them has already done so. Oh the problems that come from typing too quickly and not feeling like proof reading.

Last week we had our first Chinese caligraphy lesson. It was very neat. I think one of the best parts was that our teacher (who we think is famous, he passed out these pamphlets with his picture and name on it. His name is 李永辉, or Liyonghui) taught us the history of Chinese characters - in Chinese - and I could understand what he was saying (or at least I think I could).

I knew that at the beginning of their written language all of their characters were abstract pictures of the words - a horse looked like an abstract drawing of a horse, a bird, a bird etc. What I thought was interesting was the process of how the characters changed.

In the beginning, everyone drew very long characters vertically. They thought this was beautiful. Over time, they changed to thinking characters were more beautiful long horizontally. Of course, when you are changing a character from vertically long to horizontally long, they had to make variations for what the character looked like, hence the first drift from the characters looking (in an abstract way) like a distinct animal to a less detailed and even more abstract version.

There may have been another step before modern characters, but now what they use for characters is very symmetrical. They (ideally) can each be put in a box and folded in half from top or bottom and touch either end of the character. This might seem boring to you, but with the amount of time I spend writing characters every week (on average 10 hours), it seemed fascinating. Or maybe it was just being able to understand the gist of what he was talking about that was so awesome. Either way I found it interesting.

We also had a lecture last week on Acupuncture and Moxibustion and other ancient Chinese medicine. I thought it was pretty interesting, and I volunteered for anything that they were showing us how to do as far as home remedies (just ways of massaging certain parts of your body for headaches and other types of aches). Apparently acupuncture is all the way from the stone age, or as early as 1046BC. There was a time that they used ivory cases to hold the acupuncture needles. All I can think of when I hear that is all the diseases that probably were passed by using the same needles.

We spent a lot of time talking about things like meridians in your body that connect to other parts of your body, and that was really cool because I am already familiar with that concept. But to be honest, there are a couple parts of Chinese ancient medicine I am not convinced has any merit. For one, stabbing people with hot needles, and two, blood letting. I had never heard of moxibustion before, but I'm not so sure about it, either.

So I figured out why half the time when people talk to me in Chinese I can't understand a word they are saying. I have known that in China all of the characters make sense to every group of Chinese people and that there are different dialects of how to say the characters all over China, but I have always understood that Mandarin is the most widely spoken - which is what I'm learning. I found out yesterday that Mandarin is the official language of China, and that everyone is taught how to speak it, however they still speak in their own dialects! So even though it's the most commonly understood language so people will usually understand me, they aren't going to speak to me in Mandarin if they have their own dialect. Liaocheng has their own dialect, and that's why (especially when I talk to locals) I have no idea what they are saying. I wish they would understand that we are foreigners and any Chinese we know is Mandarin and try to speak to us in Mandarin.

There is this one restaurant in town that we all really love. It is our favorite. I have been there 6 times since I've been here. On Friday when I went, the owner gave us free of charge a fruit salad plate! The best part about it though, was they wrote in English letters "good" on the plate. I have a picture I will post soon. It was so funny! We laughed that we probably seem so slow to them with our Chinese that they probably think we are stupid which is why they felt the need to write "good" on the plate. When he brought it, we asked him how we could order it again. He responded very, very slowly and right next to my ear so we could understand him 水果(fruit)SALA. We burst out into laughter because we felt so silly. It is too easy.

They love that we are there because we are foreigners and I suppose it is a great honor that we like their restaurant so much. They sit us next to the window right next to the air conditioning unit. People walk by and stare and people come in and the kids watch us. We get SO much attention.

I bought two children's books I had as a kid in Chinese! I bought "Guess How Much I Love You" and "The Hungry Little Caterpillar". The best part is I can mostly read them. I don't really know what I will do with them when I get back to the United States. It's not like I am going to be fluent enough in Chinese to ever really teach kids someday how to read a book in Chinese, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Besides, I keep telling myself that reading books is how you learn to talk correctly.

I did some shopping Friday night. It was fun. I bought a couple of really cute things for dirt cheap. As I've said before, the Chinese people are really fashionable. They have adorable outfits that are very, very nice, but they could not be comfortable. The cool thing I have noticed is even though the clothes they have are very nice, they wear the same things day after day after day. So they look adorable, but I'm pretty sure they only have 2-3 outfits. How convenient would that be? However, my room mate told me that for whatever reason Chinese people do not sweat in their armpits, so I guess they don't get dirty as fast. But I'm not 100% sure if that is true.

While we were shopping, my room mate Kate wanted to go to this wedding dress shop and there was this beautiful dress with a long train for 500yuan, which is about $83. Kate wanted to buy it and take it home for whenever she gets married, but she didn't. Good grief though, to be able to spend that little on a beautiful wedding dress is pretty impressive. It almost would be worth it.

Today we went to this cool buffet where you literally cook your own meat. They have a hot plate in front of you and in the buffet you pick the raw meat you want and go back to your table to cook it. It was very interesting. Also interesting is the fact that I saw a small child pee on the floor of the restaurant with his fathers help. I still can't get over how okay they are with children doing that.

One quick note on the Chinese people that I have noticed, and then I will be done. The Chinese people have a very high moral principle. Theft is very rare, cheating in school is very rare so they don't have to take precautions to prevent it, lying isn't common, and they are an extremely nonviolent people. I am amazed by how GOOD the people are to each other and to everyone around them. They are so kind all the time and generally good. Even the children are well behaved and good children. They are clearly loved and happy and allowed to play. The Chinese really know something about how to live happy lives and to raise children.

Here is the kicker though that just warps my mind. They have no religion. In America we claim to be a nation "under God" and yet we hurt each other constantly and we spend so much time lying and stealing and cheating. America is so unsafe compared to China. This interests me and I'd really like to do more thinking on the subject.