I had the most random dream the other night. I dreamed I was back in the US and I was registering for an adult soccer league. This is random because I never played soccer except one season when I was like five. But what’s more random was I went to pay for the season and for some reason all I had was Chinese money. Then I was like oh shit, I’m not in China anymore. How did I get to the States? Then I woke up and was reassured because here I am, still in China. I have the most random dreams.

They installed TV’s in our room. I like to have them on to hear try to improve my listening. They mostly have serial dramas either period or present day, talent shows and a lot of infomercials. One of the strangest infomercials was for this box that you put your shoes in and it steam cleans them. I can only imagine how rank that must smell after a few times of cleaning. The other thing I noticed is that they advertise a lot for hospitals. They have loads of different kinds of hospitals, women’s hospitals, men’s hospitals they even had a urology hospital advertised. But every other advertisement is for a hospital of some kind.

This past Tuesday was officially the hundredth anniversary of Henan University. Classes were cancelled for the day and we went to a big gala at the New Campus. The new campus is actually a little far from the Old Campus where we study. We were in this big courtyard with giant screen TV’s and a stage. There were dancers and singers and really state of the art computer generated videos on the big screen. There were masters of ceremonies and they even had a series of short musical plays that took place at different periods of history. I couldn’t understand very much of what was being said, they spoke so fast and my listening skills aren’t what they should be. But the highlight of the whole production for me was a song that was sung and danced to about how much they love school. They love their teachers and their books and they love school. That would never fly in the States with our often love hate relationship with learning and our general complacency about school. I thought it was kind of cool. They really care about school. They study far longer than most American students, and I studied pretty hard myself in the States, and they’re really happy to be in university. The other thing is most of them enroll in college right out of high school and finish in four years. They don’t take over a decade to finish like me.

My classmates are literally from around the world. Including the four from Ohio there are only six Americans studying here. The rest of the students are from other countries, mostly Asia but also Africa and the Middle East. There are a bunch of Students from Kyrgyzstan. It’s a small country that was in the former Soviet Union that borders China to the Northwest. Their culture is Muslim, they speak their own language and Russian and they look Asian or slightly Asian.  There are also students from South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Mongolia, Russia, different parts of Africa and the Middle East. But most of them don’t speak much English so we have to communicate with them in Chinese. I really appreciate how international our school is.  We are in the mostly monoculture of China and it can be refreshing.

My classes aren’t too difficult for the most part. Most of my classes use vocabulary I’m familiar with and if they don’t it’s easy to learn the vocab words for the week. But I am very behind on my character writing. I can read and speak just fine but there are many characters I can recognize I just can’t write. So I plan on spending a lot of my free time writing the characters. It’s what I’m here for after all. I find that for the first time since I started at Akron last fall I’m towards the bottom of my class. Most of the class is far better than me in Chinese. I’m used to being the best in every subject. I believe God has allowed this to happen because he wants to humble me. It’s good for me not to be the best all the time. It just means I have to work that much harder. I’m understanding what’s going on in class and I’m learning all the vocab, so even though I’m towards the bottom, I’m keeping up. But my reading class is especially hard. There are loads of characters I need to learn.  I have to look up almost every other character. It takes me a couple of hours to read a couple of paragraphs. But I’m not alone in this; everyone else is having problems with the reading text. It’s just that much harder. I don’t know why they have such a huge disparity between the Chinese levels of the texts but that’s just the way they arranged the class. It’s good because it means the other students won’t get bored.

I have the next week off for National Day 国庆日 and Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋双节. National Day is the celebration of the beginning of Communist China the PRC. I wish I could travel but because it’s a holiday I would have already had to have my tickets. I suppose I could go later in the week but I’m saving my money for my six week break in January. Then I’ll probably hit up the usual spots, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an and visit some old friends who live in other provinces.  But this week I’m going to explore Kaifeng and try to go to Zhengzhou the nearest big city. I say nearest big city because Kaifeng has 3 million people and in China it’s considered a small town. It’s considered the boonies. But I want to go to a night club, not to drink (I don’t really drink that much) but to experience the night life China has to offer. I also want to go to Karaoke sometime.

Ting Ting’s mom went back to the States, back to North Dakota the other day. She still keeps in touch with me online and wants me to watch after her. She is really protective of her daughter and Ting Ting hasn’t been that independent in the past. But I really think she can take care of herself. After all, she’s 27 years old. But I’m still going to watch out for her. That’s part of being in a love relationship and I promised her mom I would. Things are going well with Ting Ting. I’m amazed at her patience. I spend most of my time studying and she seems content to keep herself occupied and entertain herself. And she really helps me when I’m stuck on a particularly hard part of my reading or when I run across vocab I don’t know. This week I really want to spend more time with her and go out on a few official dates. I still haven’t thought of what would be a romantic thing to do but I’m content just to spend time with her. She has a luminous smile and laughs at the most random moments. It is a pleasure just being with her.