好久不見! (Long time no see!) Impressive, right?… NOT. I “learned” it in class last week, but alas, my abyssal memory and the fact I haven’t been revising enough means I haven’t learned it off by heart.
Anyway, it has been a long time since I’ve updated. To be honest, I have just been so snowed under since I started school last week. It’s been so intense- although it’s only 3 hours a day, those three hours are packed with so many new words, new characters, grammar points and revision that my brain is fried. Then homework and revision after class, which is around a couple of hours at least (depending on how “good” I’m being). Mixed in with some socialising, I am dead by the end of the day. So I simply haven’t had any time to write this blog, which makes me a sad dumpling.
Tomorrow marks my one month in Taipei! I can’t believe it! It feels I’ve already been living here quite a bit longer, but paradoxically it also feels like I have only just arrived. There is so much stuff to write about- basically, a whole month of stuff, but given how busy I am, I guess it makes sense to update on how things are now and then work backwards. Bear with me! I appreciate your patience! ^^
Fortunately, I actually wrote about my first day on that day! I wanted to have a record of how I felt at the time, rather than what I’ll have to do now with all the other days that have passed and write them from the future (that sounds so sci-fi).
Below is my entry from Monday 2nd March:
Today I had my first day of school! Finally, the day arrived and I couldn’t have been more excited… or tired! I was quite nervous so I didn’t have that good of a sleep last night. And, I had a weird “nightmare” where I was out at dinner with my housemates and I threw a steak on my housemate Quyen’s spaghetti. She was really annoyed, justifiably, because without provocation I ruined her plate of food and the atmosphere of the dinner. I really don’t know what it means. Probably my body saying, “See, this is why you’re iron deficient. You just relinquish your meat. Or maybe it’s some indication of a cultural crisis in which I am worried about giving up my connection to Australia (aptly represented by juicy steak) by coming here to Taiwan. Any psychological analysis will be most welcome.
My nervousness was unfounded because I had a wonderful day! My teacher (who I will have for the next 3 months that make the first trimester) is so lovely! Ok, I do tend to jump the gun a bit with people and immediately warm to them only to be occasionally disappointed, but I have a feeling she is going to be a wonderful teacher! She is super positive, giving us praise and telling us that she is impressed with our quick learning. She even told us she already loves us! But, like any good teacher she points out our errors in a constructive way, and makes us feel at ease to take chances and make mistakes.
Today we jumped right in and learned all the pronunciations of the sounds, spelling basics and the 5 different tones: Flat, Up, Down-Up, Down and Flat. It’s sometimes hard to hear the differences between the tones, especially when the same letter combination is said in succession in different tones, but I think with practice it will definitely get easier!
We first practiced all the sounds, and then played a game where the teacher says a sound and in competition with another students we had to be the first to hit the letter combination on the board. Ahhhh, I lost every time! (I know those who are aware of my competitiveness will laugh at this!). Then we learned some key phrases- hello, how are you, good bye, thanks, you’re welcome. The most fun was learning how to ask someone what their name is and where they are from. Ohhhh, I’m really not confident I have my pronunciation right and am probably asking for narcotics instead, but, I guess it is the first day!
My fellow classmates seem really nice! It was a good atmosphere, and sometimes we all cracked up which was fun! Everyone seems to be trying really hard which is very motivating. There are six of us altogether- two Koreans, an American, New Zealander, and a Turkish person. And me, starring as the female Paul Hogan. It’s a cool mix of nationalities. 6 in a class is actually the maximum number of students allowed which is a major draw card for my program. I think any more people and it would be difficult to receive more individualised attention and to even hear yourself as we practice what I would imagine a zombie apocalypse sounds like with everyone muffling “eghhhhhugh” and “murrrrhhhrrr”.
My fellow students all seem to have done some basic practice with the pronunciations, so some were quite good! Considering my 0 minutes, I felt a bit wide-eyed at the whole experience. It was actually a conscious choice not to engage in any prior study. I feel that personally, I will do best if I start off from scratch and not have to correct any mistakes I’ve picked up from self-studying. Especially as a tonal language, if you aren’t vigilant with your pronunciation you will do such things as the infamous mixup of the word “mother” and “horse”.
After class I went to lunch with two of my classmates who are really lovely. I got to find a bit about them- it’s so fun hearing everyone’s motivations for studying. It seems that the motivation to study Mandarin for most people I’ve spoken to mainly career related, but is also driven by their desire to reside in what is perceived to be a highly livable city.
I’m excited for tomorrow! I have been a good student so far and have practiced my sounds and watched a couple of You Tube videos. I really hope I get used to the 8:20 am starts! It takes around 45 minutes to get there from my place, so today I woke at 6:45. It’s a 5 minute walk to the station, a couple of stops before a change over to another line which included breathlessly trying to survive two flights of stairs, and then from the last station I rode a bike to the school.
Alright, about to go to dinner now! I know I should probably take it easy because I am really exhausted, but, you can’t teach a old dog new tricks! (Hopefully you can teach it Mandarin).
See you later!
P.S. My head honestly hurts.