It has been little while since I last updated. After my Harbin pictures refused to upload, I decided to wait until I had some stable Internet. And then I waited a little more just for good measure (read: I am lazy).
These past few weeks have mostly been devoted to figuring out classes, settling down, and talking with more people about how to figure out my classes. While I am successfully enrolled in my language classes, it turns out that due to changes in the Department of Chinese Language and Culture (where I should be teaching English), there will not be an English class for me to teach this semester. We are still figuring out all the repercussions of this (as in the nature of my work for the department, or if I will do any work at all), but it certainly means I get to spend extra time and effort on my Chinese classes.
My classes are all Chinese language classes divided into several categories. There’s Listening, Reading and Writing, Conversation, and Newspapers. All of my professors seem very knowledgeable and very kind. It seems like it will turn out to be a great semester for learning Chinese. Though there was for a time a guy from the States in our class (who asked all the professors to call him by his nickname, Black Dragon), he seems to have left, leaving me the only person from west of Slovakia. And apart from the Slovakian girl, the rest are all Korean or Japanese. The class is so Confucian. I had forgotten that while this program is for international students, it is not by any means a program geared for westerners. When the professor walks in and says hello, everybody responds in unison: Laoshi hao. When the professor calls roll, everybody sits up straight when their name is called, raises their hand, and says, “Dao.” At the end of every class, the Korean students especially will thank the professor for today’s lesson. While I’ve never been a particularly sloppy class go-er, and none of these are requirements, nor are they difficult to replicate, it’s certainly a reminder of where I am and who my classmates are.
Another “hobby” that has kept me from writing these blogs is my newfound love for Chinese television. There are two shows in particular that I find to be especially enthralling. The first has the English title Splendid Days. It is a drama that puts all other dramas to shame for not having a high enough drama/minute ratio. I will give away the pilot here. If you feel like you’re up to watching the show: SPOILERS. In the first 2 minutes a woman in her mid-20s or so is betrayed by her secretly horrible best friend and boyfriend, as they dump her for each other. While she is sobbing by the river banks (the show takes place in Shanghai), the ex-best friend looks at her and says something similar to: “You have no job, no husband, and now no face as you sob. You’d be better off dead.” The dumped woman is so distraught that she walks to the nearest bridge and jumps off into the water below in an attempt to kill herself. Some people who can swim of course rescue her, and an old lady tells her that she is pregnant. As it turns out, she is pregnant and so is her ex-best friend—both with the same father! They give birth in the same hospital on the same day!! The dumped woman is distraught and set to give her child up for adoption so it won’t have to face life growing up as a bastard with a single mother. But instead she at the last minute decides to switch the two babies (both girls) so that her daughter will have a great life with her wealthy parents and non-bastard status. She then in turn keeps her ex-bfs’ baby girl in order to make sure that her real daughter has a better life than the child she stole. The rest of the show follows the two girls as they grow up and all the drama that follows them around. The dumped woman/baby snatcher is of course terrible to her snatched daughter until at some point she realizes what she’s doing (I forgot the catalyst) around age 10, and becomes an okay mom. The rest gets even more complex (if you can imagine), and I won’t spoil it for you because it is excellent.
The second show, while not lacking in drama, is certainly a step up in quality of story line and actor performance. Its English title is Little Daddy, and don’t let the first episode fool you—it is not a comedy. It’s another case of downright wretched parenting, but thankfully around episode 5 or so (right when you think you can’t watch this poor child grow up with these terrible people anymore), the father has a breakdown and decides to be a real father. It has one of my favorite actors in it: Wen Zhang (although I just baidu’d his name and there are plastic surgery claims!!? The article title is: 文章整容了吗！？！？妈妈密呀！整容整容整容！！！Which roughly translates to: Wen Zhang got plastic surgery?!?! Mamamiya (←pinyin version of Mama mia)! Plastic Surgery Plastic Surgery Plastic Surgery!! ! I believe I’m reading a Chinese Perez Hilton. Oh, it looks like the article is from 2012. And while before and after pictures do make a convincing argument for a nose job, as one commenter posted: (roughly translated) “there is this thing called Photoshop…” Lol oh man.) The relationships and characters are complex and not unordinary. There is of course comedic relief in some of the less than developed stereotyped characters, but I personally think it’s well done. There is also some very flagrant homophobia. But they are some strong female characters (who ride motorcycles and aren’t worried about being left-over! But also are caring and not secretly weak inside! Okay, it’s actually only one character, but she’s a great character.), and some that are there solely for comedic relief or a point to start added drama. While easily the show’s least developed character, the best stereotype character is a “second-generation wealthy” girl (fu’erdai). She squeals, acts like a child, repeats “taoyan” incessantly, pouts, and the set for her bedroom is stuffed with an impressive amount of hello-kitty merchandise. The actress who plays this character seems to get this kind of role quite a bit, as I’ve seen her playing essentially the same person in different productions. She has the perfect voice for whining.
I have yet to find a way for you Americans to watch these shows if you were interested, as I can’t find a way to get the show to you. Amazon doesn’t sell it, but TaoBao does. But I don’t believe there is an edition with English subtitles yet. Therefore, I recommend you all learn Chinese and start pinching pennies to get the complete box set of DVDs sent to you across the Pacific.