Hello to everyone I love. Here are some updates.
A typical class day begins at 9am and lasts until noon with breaks in between. Chinese language classes are tiny–mine, which is 4th year Chinese, only has 4 students one of whom is my fellow Wesleyanite. Despite the difficulty of the material, it’s a lot of fun since our language level is advanced enough to discuss more complex and interesting topics, our professor is energetic and makes the funniest faces when he talks.
My daily schedule seems to revolve a lot around food, which is wonderful =). Yesterday I ran into a few friends while taking a walk through what the locals call “Foreigner’s Alley”. We took a rickety old bus with two other guys to another part of town for one of the best and cheapest buffets I’ve ever had–dumplings, noodles, veggies, Yunnanese sweet bean pancakes–for 15 yuan (less than $2). The Thai graduate student, Kevin, is a great guy and has been in Kunming for 5 years (!) so he knows all the cool little corners. Today all the Duke in China students went out with our teachers for lunch at a local restaurant. Our history teacher is an old white-haired American who’s been all around China and Taiwan since the 1960s. You can probably tell by the fact that he ordered a few rounds of beer for everybody at the table what kind of an energetic teacher-type he is. It was a fantastic time.
I’ve been taking lots of long walks after classes, and am continually struck by how crowded all the streets are at any time of day. The city is just packed to the gills with people. Crossing wide intersections can be nerve-wracking since vehicles don’t really yield to pedestrians, but I’ve discovered that going with the crowd is generally the safest bet. My Chinese is improving rapidly since the program’s language pledge went into effect. We can only speak Chinese on weekdays, English permitted on weekends. The stilted conversations that my fellow int’l students and I have in Chinese are ridiculous to listen to, but I think we’re all having a pretty good time with it.
Anyway, till next time I can get my butt to a computer, all the love from Kunming.