Alright friends, here’s the deal. Because the ostensible subject of this post isn’t necessarily that interesting — I’m going to write about my dorm and my classes, and it’s going to be pretty long — if you read it you get to look at a small sample of the outstanding Engrish (poor attempts to translate Chinese into English) that I’ve encountered so far. For instance, you might enjoy reading the fire safety sign on my door as much as I did when I first moved in. This photo is incredible for at least five reasons. Can you spot them all?

My Location Place.

Anyway, purely for the sake of good record keeping, I live in this room at the end of this hall. And yes, that’s literally just a picture of a hallway, not hidden awesome Engrish. We live in a building that is indistinguishable from any building around it — on the first day, Dan and I had to go all the way to our room’s equivalent in a nearby building before we realized we were in the wrong place — in the Northeast part of the campus (清华大学东北门口 is sufficient to get you here by taxi if you’re ever in the neighborhood). We go to class for four and a half hours a day in a building nearby that is home to not only classrooms, but also a bank, supermarket, a small electronics store, and all sorts of other random crap. It’s called the C building (or C-store, if you’re feeling nostalgic for NU) for obvious reasons.

Our Chinese class, running from nine to noon, is nothing short of absurdity. In I think seven or eight days of actual class, we have already covered almost a full quarter worth of material. Our teacher, Gaoning 老师, is a very sweet, well-meaning lunatic. I mean, she kinda has to be a little crazy to cram four and a half chapters of material down our throats so quickly via nothing but note cards, powerpoints (the chinese word for these, incidentally, is “pee pee tee,” or .ppt, the file extension) and charades. She refuses to speak a word of English, so to explain new vocabulary words or even grammatical concepts she just acts everything out in a bizarre pantomime. Doing this for every new word and structure takes her some time, of course, so she compensates by speeding way, way up for these sorts of explanations. She also has this really fun exercise where she finds whoever is paying the least attention at that particular second and then either has them make up new sentences or waves index cards frantically in their face, which they then have to read aloud as quickly as possible. Rinse and repeat dozens of times in a row, then add some frantic puppet-show style mock-conversations, and you’ve got a pretty good picture of how we roll in Chinese 3. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty awesome. I have way more fun with it than I thought I would after our first day.

Oh shit! This picture is on the left! Madness!

While it isn't necessarily conventional Engrish, the gay car still brightens up my ride to class

Our history class is just a slightly older, significantly more Asian version of Ryan Cooper telling us stories for an hour and a half. If you don’t know Ryan, and most of you don’t, that’s kinda unfortunate but there’s not much I can do. He’s sorta like a sarcastic teddy bear, though. Of note is the video camera in the back of our classroom that Victor (the teacher) often makes passing reference to, immediately before he spits out the relevant, obviously-fabricated party line for us. He then explains the actual situation — remember, we’re learning the history of Chinese communism — and the contrast between the two has yet to be anything short of hysterical. It probably wouldn’t be quite so funny if I was an actual Chinese citizen and actually had to live in the same country as this Party, but hey.

My roommate asked about the Falun Gong the other day, and Victor just started laughing really nervously. He mumbled something about how he really shouldn’t be talking about that in China, then looked straight at the camera and says “The Falun Gong are an evil cult that has been completely expunged from this country.” A little later, he decided to gamble on the camera not actually being watched, and began to actually tell us, albeit quietly and quickly, about who these guys are. This type of Jeckyll and Honorable Chairman Hyde style back-and-forth storytelling is actually really engaging. Too bad the class ends in like ten days.

That’s all for now. I have a field trip coming up in history to some military museum pretty soon, so I’ll either be talking about that or the fourth of July in China next.

For making it all the way down here, you guys get a special bonus Engrish. This one’s actually been independently spotted by two of the Shepherd brothers, three years apart. My photography skills, however, evidently exceed his.

« »