Two notable things happened on March 14th.
1) Prior to this date, all the CET students (there’s a total of 29 of us in the Beijing China Program!) participated in a Chinese speech exam. The exam focused on the pronunciation and fluency of each student’s spoken Chinese. For those of you who don’t know, accents and pronunciation of words are EXTREMELY important when speaking Chinese. If you pronounce one character wrongly, you could be saying a whole different word. After the exam, seven students were chosen to participate in a final round to see which student’s pronunciation and speed was the best. Despite my “southern Chinese” accent, I was chosen as one of the seven students to participate in the pronunciation contest! So on Friday, we all had to read tongue twisters and sentences in front of all the CET students and teachers. All the teachers served as judges.
In the end, unfortunately I did not win the contest. But I was extremely happy that I was chosen to participate. Sometimes, it gets very frustrating when I speak Chinese in Beijing. I grew up listening to Taiwanese people speak Chinese; Taiwan is considered “the south,” so I naturally have a “southern Chinese accent.” However, after coming to Beijing, I realized that the northern Chinese have their own different accent. I’m learning Chinese in the north, so we’re taught to speak in the northern accent. I think having a Taiwanese accent is something special, and something that i’d like to keep, but I also think it doesn’t hurt to learn the Beijing accent. So I’m very happy that got chosen to be in this contest… and I even got a cool Chinese fan as a prize!
2) The second part of March 14th was that it was a holiday! I’m not talking about Pi day. This date is also my birthday!
After our pronunciation contest, at around 4:30pm, a bunch of my friends and I went to go eat “linner” (lunch + dinner) to celebrate. We went to this delicious hotpot buffet restaurant. Chinese people love eating hotpot, especially in the winter. Basically, there’s a boiling pot of soup on a hot plate and a bunch of raw ingredients on the side, and you place the raw ingredients into the hot pot. You wait for the food to cook, and then you eat it. I think it’s great to eat hotpot with a big group of people, because it’s an interactive food experience. At this buffet place, everything is 10x better because everyone gets their own pot, the food is unlimited, and everything tastes SO GOOD!
So I also learned traditional Chinese customs during birthdays. Most people eat cake on their birthday, but Chinese people like to eat noodles on their birthday. Noodles translated into Chinese is “mian,” and when you eat noodles on your birthday, it means that you will live a longer life. My friends told the hotpot buffet employees that it was my birthday, so they gave me a big bowl of “long-life noodles.”
It’s also customary for the birthday person to treat his or her closest friends. I think this is interesting, because usually in western culture, everyone will pitch in some money to pay for the person who is celebrating his or her birthday. (Because i’m American and we went out with a huge group of people… I had to skip out on this Chinese birthday custom).
I’ve really made some great friends here in China. After we all stuffed our stomachs with as much food as we could handle, we headed back to our campus, where I was surprised with cake and lots of presents. I’m sad that I wasn’t able to celebrate with my close friends from back home, but I’m very appreciative of all the new friends I’ve made and how well they’ve been treating me. You think that in 5 short months you wouldn’t be able to make such wonderful friends, but I know that I want to keep in touch with these friends even when we all return to the states.
金羽庭 (Jin YuTing)