We have been in China for just over a month now, and in Ningbo studying for just under. So what's been going on?
After spending a few days wandering around Shanghai, we spent 3 hours on a bus to reach Ningbo where we are now studying Mandarin at Ningbo University. Since we have been here we haven't been up to all that much! You could say we have taken to being lazy students again quite easily, but I don't think we ever really stopped being lazy, we just graduated.
Registration was fun, we just had to hand over large wads of cash to various people to pay for our accommodation, tuition fees, course books etc. China is a big fan of cash only. ¥100 is their largest note though but £1 is roughly ¥9 so you can get through a lot of notes. We are in Class A, which is the beginner's class (there are classes A-F), and our timetable isn't too stressful. We are doing 3 subjects – Speaking, Listening and Comprehensive, and have 2 classes a day except Friday's when we only have 1.
Our first week was pretty easy as several of our classes were cancelled so that helped ease us back in to studying again (sort of).
Unfortunately by the end of the first week of classes Darryl got sick with food poisoning, or a stomach bug, so was completely out of action for a week before dragging himself back to class in fear of missing too much of the early parts of the course. He's more or less better now though, but even people on our course have commented on his weight loss.
Our class is quite large – around 47 people, half are Indonesians, the rest all come from all over the world; America, Japan, France, Somalia, Turkey, Dubai, Japan, Mexico, Iceland, Russia, Pakistan, Vietnam, Philippines, India, South Korea, Italy and Germany. Quite a few have studied Chinese before so know far too much for it to be fair that they are still only in Class A! A bit worrying that that also means that they aren't good enough for Class B yet! Overall, studying Chinese is hard – characters are fiddly and hard to remember and tones are just unfair.
The food situation has been an interesting one. As we are restricted to the university campus and the surrounding markets (most of the time) combined with our overall lack of ability to speak or read Chinese characters (because no one speaks English or has a menu in English), food choices have been limited. We have mainly had to stick to places where pointing at food items gets us fed. There is one restaurant that has their menu in English, but that's who Darryl thinks poisoned him. Market food seems to be in favour at the moment – fried noodles with vegetables, potsticker dumplings and this weird fried egg pancake thing. It is a lot of the same food all the time. On the bright side we went exploring the city centre a bit more last weekend and found some Western food (besides McDonalds, KFC and Pizza Hut), so that was exciting (we opted for Greek).
In other news, we've been tweaking the website a bit here and there which you may or may not have noticed. The major change is the addition of photos! So far there's a Food Gallery (because, let's face it, that's mostly what I take photos of), but there will also be some more added soon.