Study study study, play play play!
12.09.2011 - 01.10.2011
Sorry its been so long since I made an entry all you avid keeper uppers (all 1.2 of you!).
The first month here has been pretty good. I have got back into the swing of study after a few weeks and began learning database stuff (which at the moment is going slowly as I concentrate more on Chinese) and Chinese.
My Chinese learning is split up as follows. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I have a 10am class with my teacher who lives on the other side of the city. Its a bit of a ride over there but nothing too serious and I quite like (sick I know for anyone that has tried it) hooning through asian cities on my bike dodging here and there! My teacher practices verbal Chinese with me, which I am pretty poor at still and need a LOT more practice. We also have started on writing the characters which is really hard to remember! They characters are sometimes pictographs (highly stylised) but appear to mostly relate to nothing in particular. Each character represents a sound like "xing" (said sing with a slight shing sound) and can mean a word by itself (like 法 means France) or stuck with another one make a word (like 高兴 which means happy). The structure of the language is something we also look at as its quite different. For example, I would say "I feel happy today!" but in Chinese it comes out "I today very happy!" (Wo jin tian hen gao xing! or 我今天很高兴）. So its a bit tricky! The good thing is I can start to recognise shit on signs and understand! The BAD thing is its really hard in that there are often many different characters for exactly the same sound! So xing (兴) with down tone (imagine its at the end of a sentence) has at least two different characters (the other one I know now is "性", my girlfriend tells me it has maybe 15 or 20!) depending on the stuff around it! Enough to drive you mad? Yes.
With the spoken its a bit tricky too. Everywhere I go I hear the local dialect - which, while close to standard Chinese, is rather different in accent and lots of completely different words! So when I go to the market I am like "huh?" even though I know how to say I want to buy stuff and all the numbers etc. Its a bit tricky!
The easier part of my study at the moment is the database stuff. I am doing the first bit of my SQL Server certification and most of it is review but with a lot of Best Practice stuff which I didn't really know before. My friend Wayne is actually doing exactly the same thing and his good advice to me was "Get out of bad habits before they become ingrained" which is completely true of course. There is a bit of new stuff to keep me interested though, particularly some functions which I previously thought "It would be really good if you could do this!" which Microsoft has built into its products. Sweet!
On the love front, Chen Min and I are going really well, hanging out with each other a lot and getting to know each other more and more. She is really easy to live with and we don't get into many (if any) arguments! Although the cultural difference show through really fast, she wants to know where I am all the time and is fine telling me things like "I didn't make shit today!". Ha haa, awesome! I actually really like this part of Asian culture, nothings hidden and it makes you really close to your partner.
I dropped into a cycle shop the second week I was here and met up with a guy who ran the place. It ended up there was a race coming up and he was keen for more foreign entrants. I thought it was a good chance to meet the local bikers so signed up. The race was the next Wednesday and I had done no training for it but thought I would be OK. Little did I know that some of the other competitors included a former Asian champion and the Chinese MTB champion from 2 years ago. Oh... OK, MTB royalty! The race was supposed to be a bike up a hill (about a 300m vertical ascent) followed by a 1 km run. It was organised by the owner of a couple of bike shops here and done in conjunction with Nike China - with the head of Nike in China attending.
The race itself ended up being about 20 minutes up the hill with no run at the end due to the lateness of the organisers/sponsors! Anyway, I came in 2nd out of 3 in the international category (about 20 seconds behind a Norwegian guy who was on a road bike, damn!) and for my troubles received a pair of top of the line Nike running shorts and jacket! Considering my entry was free... I wasn't complaining! The gear is excellent for running and cycling, the jacket is wind stopper in the right spots and even has thumb loops. Unfortunately the pants are synthetic and anything synthetic I run in gets really smelly really fast. All in all a good day out though! We were even shouted for a free dinner afterwards where all the Chinese etiquette about who sits where and talks to who and serves who etc etc is observed (stuff like the head guys sit together furtherest from the door... too much to list!).
A couple of weeks after this it was a big Chinese 1 week holiday where we went to Lijiang - the subject of the next entry!