Day 18: I Am Where I Am

You become part of where you are.

I woke up this morning in a… not-so-happy mood.

Well, it didn’t start that way actually.

You know that sleep state when you’re half asleep, yet half awake? That’s where I was. I half-dreamed about waking up in my bed in America to see my friends and family on a bright, summer day. I swear I could smell the morning air (much easier to breathe than the air here), see the little birds perched outside my window, and hear the creaking floorboards throughout my house meaning my parents were tiptoeing downstairs.

But then my eyes shot open, and I was terrified. I had no idea where I was, what room I was in, where- Oh, right, I’m in China. No family, no friends.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love it here. I took a timelapse video of my walk to school to remember China when I return home. My Mandarin skills have been improving rapidly. I love my new friends and the family that has accepted me here. I just had to remember all of these wonderful things after feeling ripped away from my family back home.

What really bothered me, though, was the summer that I’m missing at home. Yes, I know, it wouldn’t have been nearly as exciting and this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I can still miss predictability, can’t I?

And I know that the second I’m away from Xi’an, I’m going to miss it. I’m really going to miss it.

I don’t know if I’ll ever come back.

Of course, I would LOVE to travel back and forth to China (that would be an absolute dream), but I don’t know if I’ll ever have that chance again.

I know I will return home, and I know I will see my family again, but I don’t know what the future holds in regards to China.

I’m trying. I’m really trying to soak everything in, but I know it will never be enough. I can’t take China home with me (although, I’m certainly going to try… Might break the 50lb luggage limit).

Anyway, I won’t completely spill out my emotions on here because 1. I don’t want to worry anyone (I’m fine, mom) and 2. I need to talk about my day before I end the post!

I can’t actually remember anything I was going to write about… Dangit.

Oh well, I’ll just talk about the language.

I flip constantly. One second I’m like “hey, this is so easy! I’m really getting the hang of this!” and the next second I’m like “oh my god what have I done this is a mess I’m a mess no one understands me I don’t even remember how to speak English why did I do this to myself-” You get the point.

Let’s focus on the latter for a second, ’cause it’s more interesting.

So, when I come across a sentence that I don’t understand (these usually pop up in my grandmother’s lectures about eating food), I realize that I know every word she is saying. Every word. Simple vocabulary. But I have no idea what she’s talking about.

For instance, if you were to say “what is in your hand?” The Mandarin equivalent would be “ni shou li shi shenme? (你手里是什么?)”

Now, every word is very easy to understand. Ni is “you”. Shou is “hand”. Li is “inside”. Shi is “is”. Shenme is “what”.

But now, you have a sentence that literally translates to “you hand inside is what?”.



Now, the number one rule of any language is to never translate anything literally. Every language is different. Never try to do this.

But, this is a case when if you don’t know the proper grammar, you could be very confused.

This sentence, for all I knew, could have meant “what is your hand inside?” or “what is the inside of your hand?” of “inside you is a hand?”

Okay, honestly, I wouldn’t think it meant some of those phrases I listed above, but it’s just an example.

You need the subject (in this case, “your hand”), followed by a preposition (“inside”), the verb (“is”) followed by the question word (“what”). Every question is formed like the answer (inside your hand is what? –> Inside my hand is my key).

Also, if you thought that you only need to distinguish between the 4 tones, you’re wrong.

It’s not just the tones. The tones help describe the patterns in locals’ speech. Speech dictates the tones, not the other way around.

Every word has it’s own…special  way of saying it.

In jiejie, for example, which means older sister, the two repeated syllables have different tones, while also have a tone in common. Your voice moves in the same pattern for each syllable, but one is higher than the other… It’s difficult to explain through text.

BUT! I’m picking up on a lotI was able to ask my grandmother how her husband was doing, and inquire if she liked to walk after dinner like her son. I also learned more ways to refuse food!

Anyway, I could go on forever with stories, like how I had to buy some toiletries from a Cantonese store today and they charged me 40 extra qian, and then handed me a “revitalizing eye mask treatment” for free… Or how the family dog finally likes me, and gives me high fives, and is force fed all sorts of random food by my grandmother… Or how I’ve watched every episode of the Musketeers again while eating grapes and Chinese dates to pass time after school…

Yes, I could talk about those, but I need to sleep (plus, it’s more fun to build up suspense… sorry, mom).

OH! Yuan Yuan named me “anqi 安琪” which means “angel”.

Zai jian!



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