As I turn over in my bed, I notice that dawn has arrived. The one side I've been lying on is mildy soar from the boxspring of a mattress cushioned only by a very soft, but thin wannabe feathered bed pad. This is covered by a loose sheet (serving as the fitted sheet) and finally I am covered by an impressively warm comforter which has teddy bears floating with balloons. I quickly squirm back under my floating bears as the morning arrives with a chill. My travel alarm clock goes off soon enough. It's 7:00. I get up first to take me shower.
By 7:30-7:45 I'm dressed and walking to our provided breakfast in a private room of the cafeteria. It takes about 5 min to get there. Every morning they serve warm milk, which after the first morning I have decided to pass up. Then we have some sort of "bread" which is really just the whitest of white breads and some sort of fruity goo in the middle. Every time I give the bread a second chance I'm sorry I did. The other bready option is a fried dough stick which you're supposed to dip in your soy milk, but I dip it in the jelly they serve. It's fruit punch flavored, however, combined with the fried dough stick it reminds me just enough of toast and jelly. Sometimes they serve pork filled dumplings (my favorite). They also usually serve a good noodle soup and either fried eggs or hard boiled eggs. Breakfast has come to have a whole new meaning.
From breakfast I run quickly to class which starts at 8:00. In the picture of the academic building just picture me having class on the top floor (the 8th floor). The first two days I didn't know there was an elevator. That was unexpectedly tiering.
From 8:00-9:45 we have Chinese speaking class. My class consists of Jen and me. The focused learning and teaching is really helpful. Then the Taiji (Tai Chi) master comes and we practice for half an hour. We've learned the 24 motion exercise which takes about 6 minutes to complete and in its slow motions and holding low positions gives all of us a work out. We've also learned a whole set of self-defense moves. I've gotten pretty good, so watch out. Then we go back to Chinese class for the grammar section with another teacher from 10:15-12:00.
As we walk back to the dorm we usually stop and get something at the street market. I sometimes get dumplings or bao zi's which are fluffly dumplings with a choice of meat, veggies, bean paste, or sesame/sugar inside. Sometimes I get corn and a selection of skewered meat. Today I tried some peanut buttery, sweet burrito-like creation in a rice "tortilla" and a fried dough stick inside for crunch. It was really good, but I probably won't get it that often. Not the most nourishing.
Then we have between 12:00 and 2:00 of free time. Sometimes I go out for lunch. Sometimes I have an errand to run, some paper or pens that I need. Sometimes I do homework, or sometimes I just take the down time as down time and read, sleep, or play guitar (I've started learning on my roommates. The calluses are still building, but such is life).
By 2:00 or sometimes 2:30 we go for our "lecture" which has taken the form as an actual academic lecture on a topic (history, religion, environment, social issues). Sometimes we watch a movie (documentary or an occasion feature film). We've had speakers come in and talk to us who have experience in the field or have experiences to share. Last week an 86 year old man came in full of so much youth and joy. He was Chinese and had been a Chinese translator for Americans when China entered World War II. He said he was glad to be able to spend his afternoon with young Americans because it reminded him of his American soldier friends. During the Cultural Revolution he was put into jail for mentioning to the courts that China would be wise to take advantage of technology. He was in jail for 19 years, separated from his wife and 3 children. He was 33-52 years old during that time. He was finally released with many others when Deng Xiao Ping released those jailed by the Cultural Revolution. We asked if he had any resentment once he was out. He replied, "Why waste any of my precious life once I got it back." He taught English in Chinese schools until he retired.
Also, sometimes we take the lecture period to go out on an "educational excursion" in which we get to visit a temple or a park or a market.
We are finally done with the planned part of the day by 4:30 (usually, sometimes later). I get back to my room and chill out for a second. By 5:30 people are starting to ask around who's going where for dinner. So far I've had Chinese food and one meal of Indian food. There's also a western cafe called "Salvador's" where I had a quesadilla for lunch one day.
SIT's (my group's organization) one-room personal library opens by 7:30 where I can have good light for studying as well as internet access. It closes by 9:30. Homework usually lasts until midnight or sometimes 1:00. I happily fall asleep in my bed, hard as it may be. Dawn comes soon enough.