This is a post I wrote after my first week in China. 09/07/2012

I have been in China for one week now and I have already faced my first bout of homesickness. It came on real quick and lasted for a few hours. I was walking with Ting Ting hand in hand through the campus and all around me there were people speaking Chinese. I could understand just enough to make it frustrating. And suddenly I wanted to be in my parent’s house eating pizza watching some American program on TV. To walk the streets of Akron to my house on West South street and have everyone around me speaking a language I can fully comprehend. To eat steak or barbeque with my roommates while drinking American beer.

So I after I said goodnight to Ting Ting I put on my headphones and listened to the Smiths, just like I do when I’m depressed at home. Morrisey’s ridiculous lyrics can always bring a smile to my face. (Let me get my hands on your mammary glands and my head in you conjugal bed. See even typing that now makes me giggle a little)  The other thing I did was I started practicing my Chinese characters. Suddenly as easily as the depression started it stopped and ironically I slayed my homesickness with the repetition of writing Chinese characters in my character workbook from last semester.

I went to the doctor a few days ago and got the Chinese version of my medications. This might be part of the reason I was feeling blue. It will take my body at least a few days to get used to this medication. Luckily school doesn’t start until next Wednesday. On that day I will take a test that will determine which Chinese class I’m in. This is why I’m practicing my characters. I want to be put in a class that isn’t too easy. With my illness part of what gets me in trouble is idle time. When my mind is occupied in things like studying I am less likely to have an episode or have depression.  I know for certain I am in the right place and this is where I’m supposed to be. I’m supposed to study Chinese at Henan University and I’m supposed to be dating Ting Ting. She demands a lot of time from me so I hope things can still go smoothly once I’ve started classes. I’m going to have to study every day so I can keep up with the coursework.  I was first in my class in Chinese back in the States. I want to do even better here. I have one year of school studying nothing but Chinese. And I have chances to practice it everyday. Everyday I find an opportunity to speak Chinese. Many people I run into don’t speak English so the only way I can communicate with them is in Chinese.

When I was staying in the hotel before I moved into the dorms I was walking by the lounge when I man stopped me and said, ‘hello’. I went into the room and had an hour long conversation about a variety of things ranging from what I’m studying, to my girlfriend to American presidents. They thought that Lincoln was the first President. Which is better than my knowledge of Chinese leaders, I know who the current Premier is (Hu Jintao) but I couldn’t tell you who was in office before him. We drank Oolong tea and smoked Chinese cigarettes. There were times when I didn’t understand a word they were saying but I fought through it and enjoyed myself thoroughly. 

On Sunday I went to my first day of church with Ting Ting and her mom. It was a Chinese church through and through. It lasted 3 hours and there was lots of singing repeating the same songs over and over again. I followed along in the book as they sang and I picked out words that I knew. Also, since it was my first time ever there, they made me stand up and speak to the congregation. I told them who I was, where I was from and that I’m studying at Henan University. I did this all in Chinese and they seemed to understand me.

I keep getting words mixed up. If word normally has two characters sometimes I only say the first character and not the second one or the second one and not the first. This can cause some misunderstandings.  I went to a stand to get some Chinese milk tea. It’s 台湾奶茶。Or Taiwan Nai Cha. The word for cow’s milk is 牛奶or niu nai. I asked for 台湾牛茶。Or Taiwanese Niu Cha. I should’ve asked for 台湾奶茶。Taiwan nai cha. Niu means cow or beef. Nai means milk. I asked for Taiwan beef tea. I asked for it three times before I realized my mistake. They looked at me blankly and couldn’t understand what I was saying until I corrected my mistake. It was pretty embarrassing.

I met some of the teachers at the school today. They introduced themselves in Chinese and told me if I had any concerns or problems I should not hesitate to come to them and get the help I need. I got the head teachers cell and he told me to call him if I need any help. Everyone has been so friendly and warm and easy going. People in China are far friendlier than people in the States. I’m sorry, but it’s just a fact. In China people bend over backwards to make sure that you are okay, that you’re enjoying yourself and that you have what you need. The cab driver on the way from Zhengzhou to Kaifeng gave me his last cigarette and insisted that I have it despite my protests otherwise. Ting Ting’s painting teacher gave me a painting for free and then treated me to lunch. She asked me a couple of times when Ting Ting wasn’t around, if I was going to marry her or if I’m preparing to. I just said huo xu, maybe. I do want to marry someday soon and I do love her, but I know we have to get to know each other better. And we have ten months to do that and maybe even longer if she comes to the States.

Speaking of which, I got to know a little more about her mother. Never underestimate the power of a Chinese mother. The service people at the dorm don’t speak any English. And they were telling me and her that she wouldn’t be allowed in my room. She would have to wait outside in the lobby. Not even during normal hours. The rules explicitly said no visitors allowed in the dorm rooms. Ting Ting’s mom talked with them on the phone for a half an hour. They still said no. Finally she came down to the dorms in person and talked with them for another half hour or so. Finally they were persuaded to let her visit me in my dorm room. Never underestimate the power of a Chinese mother.

Oh yeah, I shaved my beard. I haven’ t shaved it off in 3 or 4 years and I did it because of the girl. And because I thought it was time for a change. But mostly for the girl.