Since arriving in Xi’an I’ve craved more and more fruit. You see it everywhere, walking to class, down the street, and even to friend’s houses. Every so often I will go out and indulge on a large quantity of fruit. Most often I will buy a bunch of bananas, or some oranges and keep them in the room. But one thing you can get anywhere is 菠萝(bo luo). 菠萝 is pineapple and you can either get 1/5 of a pineapple on a stick, or a whole pineapple depending on where you go. Since I had an urge to indulge one day, I bought a whole precut pineapple. Knowing how messy it would be I ended up eating it in the bathroom over the sink. Strange as that may be, it was both successful and delicious. Best part about pineapples here is you can buy them for less than $2.00.
Hamburgers you find in China are far from what you can find in America. I’ve had various different kinds and more often than not been dissatisfied with the experience. But the other day I was invited to go out to eat with some friends at an American restaurant called Grandma’s Kitchen. The first thing I notice about this place is that the servers speak english to you. It was very strange walking ten minutes from my dorm to find a place where english is spoken. After a look at their menu I knew this place was legit. They not only had burgers that seemed like what you’d find in a real burger restaurant, but they also had mexican. I was tempted by both, but ended up going with the Montana BBQ burger, and it didn’t disappoint. The burger came with pickles,onions, lettuce, tomato,cheese,and fries. It was as genuine as a burger as i’ll ever find in China, and it was delicious. The BBQ sauce they put on it tasted like something you’d find in an American burger place. I devoured this burger with the biggest smile on my face. It’s good to have a taste of America whenever I’m feeling homesick!
Recently, i’ve discovered that the school cafeteria has very delicious food. I add money to my student card, then use the student card as a quick payment method. The cafeteria has a wide variety of dishes ranging from, rice, soup, dumplings, vegetables, and pastries. It’s only the tip of the iceberg with what i’ve tried at that cafeteria, but one dish I found that I was shocked to see what 小笼包（xiao long bao). When I was in Shanghai, I took chinese courses. Our textbook had a chapter that talked about 小笼包. It went into great detail around the history and making of these dumplings. So I decided to try a few, and they did not disappoint. One thing I’ve noticed while I’ve been here, is that the cafeteria food is actually much better quality than food you get from actual restaurants on the street, and much more cost efficient too.
12 小笼包 = 4 元 or about $.85
Over the past two weeks, after talking with my girlfriend and my roommate about my current situation I had an epiphany. I was getting a little distraught about how the progress of my Chinese was going. I felt like it was going slower than others around me, and I wondered why. But then I was told, it’s because of all the self studying I was doing. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the balance that I needed, both studying from the textbooks as well as speaking to the people around me. For the first two months I was here, it was all studying and no speaking. The reason for this is I found it “easier” which was the biggest hurdle I needed to get over to begin really improving my Chinese. So, thanks to Esthefany and Mike, I was able to really see what I needed to start doing, talking with other Chinese people. I thought why not talk to the Chinese people I see everyday, the front desk ladies. Ever since that moment I’ve been talking with them often and my Chinese is progressing very quickly. So much so, that I will hold conversations that are beyond the “how’s the weather today?” and “how are you today?”. I began talking about everyday topics and issues. The best part of this, is I am getting corrected often. I can ask them, “did I just say that right?”, and they will be able to correct me.
Two days ago I was at the front desk talking with one of the girls at the front desk and an old man walks over. He had his suitcase and backpack on looking exhausted around 2 pm. Normally, I don’t take notice to the guests who come along, but I could tell this guy didn’t know how to say what he wanted to say in Chinese. Since the front desk ladies speak next to no English, this could have been a problem. I look over at him and ask him, Can I help you with anything? He was grateful, I was able to check him in and get his internet set up within his room. I realize that my Chinese is getting to the point where I can help others. I told him that I understand what its like to not know how to say what you want say.
That event got me thinking, that my Chinese is actually progressing and it makes all the hard work worth it when you can see you really have progressed. When I was in Shanghai, I had to ask others to help me how to say things, even simple things, but now it looks like I’ve finally reached a new level with my speaking.