A Chinese Weekend, Without Even Leaving My Room

Since last week was so busy, I didn’t get much time to practice my conversational Chinese. However, I still kept up with practicing vocab and using the app I mentioned before that helps me with writing. I have to say I’ve had more fun learning Chinese then I have with any other language. I think people are crazy who say (including myself, cause I said it too) that they won’t learn Chinese because of the characters. Learning the characters has become my favorite part and actually really helped me to remember the vocabulary. This app I’ve been using starts with the most used characters and starts with the foundations of each. As I’ve now learned a little over 50 characters, I can look at some Chinese writing and figure out the meaning, even though I don’t know how to say it. That’s totally the opposite of Lao, where I could read a complex sign and know exactly how to pronounce it, but not the meaning. It’s so interesting how completely different approaches languages have. I don’t know where this is coming from or why my interest has developed so late, but the more I explore language learning, the more I love the process. Like I said before, it’s like learning history, culture, and communication all at once. It also makes me really think in way I take for granted about my own culture and language.

Recently, I learned that Yuan, which I used to call the Yen, is the word for currency. It’s pronounced by saying “you” and then the name “Ann”, looking like this “youAnn”. Definitely not pronounced Yen. Technically it’s not actually pronounced the way I said either, but it’s close. The a sound is something more between and a and an e. It also just means currency, so you could be talking about dollars, Euros, or chicken heads; or whatever it is that they actual use as money in China. The currency, or dollar/Euro equivalent, in China is called the Renminbi. So the full name for the currency in China is the Yuan Renminbi, which literally translates to “dollar man the people market”… Wait, how is this easy again? I’ll get to that part, calm down. Most people in China just call it Yuan for short. The cool part of the word and the part that makes it EASY… is that the smaller characters represent son and the number two. That refers to the cultural importance of having men in the family, which as we all know already. So, I can use the common fact about China that we all know, my ability to count up to two (the character for two is a sideways roman numeral II), and decipher the character for the currency.

On top of the Chinese learning I’ve been looking into a bit of a plan to support my travel plans throughout China. I joined a network, kind of similar to couch surfing, where people can volunteer for food and accommodation in return. The only problem with that is that many of the jobs are teaching English. That’s one thing I’ve realized was an obstacle to becoming totally fluent in Lao. I was around too much English and after my bubble of Lao at the office, I would return to only English things. I want to try learning Chinese a different way, where I’m mostly around Chinese all day and maybe a little bit of English to communicate to people back home or for the important stuff, in my daily life, I can’t understand in Chinese yet. Somehow I don’t see that after my teaching English, we will go back to mostly Chinese. Some of the places to stay are on a farm, so that would probably be more down my alley. I’m also considering joining another really popular community called “WWOOF”ing, which is the same type of exchange, but only on organic farms. That sounds way more what I’m looking for. It also has a much bigger network in more of the rural areas of China, which is another plus. My goal is to stay away from the cities for a few reasons. First, I don’t breathe in all that terrible pollution and then find out my first child is a cyclops. Wait, that sounds pretty cool actually, okay take that off the list. FIRST, I want to stay away from the modern, western influence, skewed society that I believe it has. Especially since one of my main goals is to learn about Qi Gong and other healing/spiritual practices. The other big reason is because I want to really see the landscape and get to travel to every major part of China to get a good feel of the place. Lastly, would be just to avoid the high costs of living in the cities.

I’ve also looked into where to go for my visa and it looks like I’ll be visiting Mongolia, Hong Kong, and Macau a lot because there are visa exemptions for a USA passport. There’s also a place way up in the mountains north of Nepal that looks interesting. For the first bit in China I want to bounce from area to area and really get a good grasp of the different areas.

One thing I came across that was really disappointing is the list of banned websites inside of China. I can deal with most of them, except for wordpress. Before I leave, I have to figure out how I will still upload blogs. I’ll do some research into blogs that are allowed to be accessed in China.

My next steps wit learning Mandarin is to use that online language exchange platform to have small conversations everyday. The whole thing going around town sounds like a good idea, but is a big failure in practice. It’s partly because most of them can speak English quite well or assume I’m a tourist and don’t make me feel welcome to just chat. Using the language exchange thing will also allow me to practice wherever I am and keep talking to new people so I can practice the basic introductions that I will most likely be saying a lot when I go to new areas.

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