I would like to apologize for not keeping this updated but rest assured that I have intentions of posting retroactively about the many interesting things we’ve done this past week.
Today was more relaxed that most have been so far. In the morning I went with Ray to get laundry done. The way it works here is you can drop off bags of laundry with detergent, they wash stuff at some time you tell them, and you can then pick it up after that. It’s 25 kuai for a card which allows you to do 8 loads.
Language class was really good today. We learned about directions (Stop! Keep going. Left, Right) and more with food. I now have a tiny notebook in which I’m writing useful phrases and characters so I have them handy when I need to say something. Tomorrow we’ll be doing little skits using the Chinese we’ve learned so far. Veronica and I have been reviewing and preparing our skit this evening. Anya and Sarah asked our teacher Liu Nian about how we could keep learning Chinese after tomorrow, which is the last day of language class scheduled by our program and she suggested finding a language buddy/group at a cafe on campus as those are fairly common and they’d be informal and free. That seems like a good idea and I’ll look into it.
For lunch many of us got snacky stuff on the campus of 北大(bei3 da4 = Peking University) as we had to get back to the hotel to get our passport numbers because they were needed to get us our food cards. We’re going to be getting cards that start with 20 RMB and can be loaded with money to be used at campus dining halls/ campus associated restaurants （I think).
In culture class today we talked about marriage, divorce, relationships, and family in China. A main thing I’ve found interesting is the distinction between paternal and maternal sides of the family. Our teacher showed us a list of people who take care of kids when one or both parents move away to work, which is a fairly common occurrence in China. On that list being left “alone” (probably only for older kids) was more common than being left with the parents of a child’s mother. Maternal grandparents tend to not live with their children’s families while paternal grandparents do. The importance of family structure and the traditional heirarchies are clear in the number of words there are in Chinese for different family relations. For example: In English we have one word for cousin, and 1 word for uncle whereas in Chinese there are 10 or more for cousin and at least 3 for uncle. There is a separate word for males and females who are the children of a maternal uncle, a maternal aunt, a paternal aunt, a paternal uncle who is older than your father, and a paternal uncle who is younger than your father.
After culture class Andrew and I went to visit our lab and meet our professor, Zengyi Chang, and the grad student we’ll be working with, Anastasia. They both seemed nice and said they’d train us to do what we will be doing in the lab. It sounds like we’ll be working with C. elegans and trying to figure out what causes the changes in dauer (dormancy frequency) phenotypes that were observed by a post doc in the lab. In short, when you stress out C. elegans they go into a dormancy in which their metabolic rate decreases. The frequency of this dormancy changes with certain mutations. So I still have some trepidation about working in the lab such as learning everything in a timely fashion, but it sounds like my graduate student will be helpful and understanding.
For dinner I went searching with some people and we found out that there’s a sort of courtyard area right across the street from our hotel with tons of restaurants and outdoor tables. It was really nice.
Tomorrow is our last day of language class and culture class and our “last” group dinner and on Thursday we start working in labs. Stay tuned. Science is coming! (and fun stories)