Andrew Retallick ’​​​​​14

First off, new Chin-glish phrase is… 狗的猫宁 (Pinyin: gou de mao ning). This phrase means “good morning.”

This past week has been filled with many new experiences. The most notable were the culinary experiences. This past weekend was Chinese mid-autumn festival. Of course I tried real Chinese Yue Bing (moon cakes).  For those that don’t know, moon cakes are round (or in some cases rectangular) Chinese pastries filled with either red bean or lotus seed paste. They are traditionally eaten during Chinese mid-autumn festival.  It’s probably just me, but I didn’t like them that much. Oh well…

My mooncake (thanks to my roommate Yuan Quan)

On a brighter side, I found a number of restaurants in Beijing that serve very good American food. I found a moderately expensive, but VERY good hamburger restaurant; a Belgian restaurant that serves waffles, and a number of cheap dumpling shops.

The best discovery was a pizza restaurant in Sanlitun (a fun neighborhood in Central Eastern Beijing) called “Gung Ho Pizza.” I was able to get a very tasty margarita pizza for less than 9 US dollars.  Needless to say I will be going back there… maybe tomorrow.

My new favorite pizza in Beijing!!

But (I saved the best for last) I also tried something I never thought I would have the courage to try… I ate a live scorpion. Yup… live… it was crawling in my mouth. In a side street in Wangfujing (a popular area near Tiananmen square), a street vendor was selling scorpions on a stick. A few of my friends and I tried them. I don’t think I’ll eat scorpions again any time soon, but I’m glad I can cross “Eat a scorpion” off my Chinese bucket list.

Their stingers were all removed, but they are still alive in this photo

Aside from food, this past week my classmates and I traveled a little outside Beijing to do some hiking. We were all a little surprised because what CET advertised as a hike, turned out to be close to scaling the side of a mountain. It was a rough climb up, but we all made it to the top and it was nice to get out of the city for a day.

Rough climb...

Mantis! Met this guy on the hike up the mountain

On the way down, we picked up a lot of trash that had been thrown on the mountain paths. The environmentalist in me was very excited to clean up those trails.

The trash we collected

On a small academic note, classes have been the same. A little difficult (being completely in Chinese) and very busy. However, today I noticed a considerable improvement in my Chinese language skills. Without any help or significant effort, I was able to direct a cab around an area of Beijing, explain a problem with my cell phone to China Unicom (my Chinese cell phone provider), pay my monthly cell phone fees, find out which restaurants in a nearby mall accept American credit cards, and describe a number of differences between Chinese and western classical music to my roommate… all in Chinese. Thanks CET!

Well that’s all for now. Next week we will be visiting the great wall (YEAH!) and the following weekend we’ll be seeing Peking Opera.

Another Chin-glish phrase my roommate taught me… 哈喽 Ha Lou (pronounced Hah-lo). It’s another way of saying “Hello. (I may make these Chin-glish words, a theme in my blog)

The other HC students at BIE. (from left to right) Jack, Mara, Me (Andrew)

We have been busy! First, on the academic side, CET gave us two more classes, in addition to our three morning classes. Now, twice a week, we have 1 on 1 classes with our Chinese teachers. And also, twice a week, we have 1 on 2 classes with a teacher and another student. All these extra classes are focused on helping us speak Mandarin with the correct tones, which, I am realizing, is a lot more important than I originally believed.

**Side note for those studying Chinese now and are planning to go to China- really practice speaking with correct tones! People will, in many cases, not be able to understand you if you do not speak using the correct tones**

In addition to academic classes, CET also started offering us extra curricular classes. All these classes meet once a week for 1-2 hours and are all taught on BIE’s campus. The classes offered include; Chinese martial arts, yoga, traditional Chinese painting, and mahjong classes. I signed up for Chinese martial arts and yoga. I’m particularly excited about the idea of learning Chinese martial arts in China!

Outside of class, we visited the Summer Palace in northern Beijing, which was amazing! Yuan quan came on this trip and helped me take a lot of pictures…

Yuan Quan and I at the Summer Palace

Map of the Summer Palace. This place is Huge! Even with about 4 hours, we didn't get to see all of it.

The main building of the Summer Palace (aka The Tower of the Fragrance of the Buddha) is behind me

The crusader at the top of the Summer Palace

In addition, last Friday we saw a Chinese acrobatic show. It was unbelievable what these acrobats were capable of doing.

This girl is standing on one foot, doing a split and balancing on top of a guy's head.

They fit 8 motorcyclists in that cage... at the same time

I think they managed to get 13 people on this one bike at the same time... while one person was still riding it

**On another side note… I would like to point out some things about China, that were a bit of a shock to me when I first arrived and I’m still getting used to. I’ll undoubtedly add things to this as time goes on, but these two are the first that come to mind now…

Traffic- Traffic in Beijing is… different (to put it lightly). It was a big shock to me at first to see cars drive in the shoulder lane on highways, and drive on sidewalks (I’ve even seen a gate that is meant to lead cars onto the sidewalk). This sounds bad and a little dangerous, but as long as you follow your own crosswalk lights and look before you cross the street, there’s really not that much of a problem.

See, told ya. Cars park and drive on sidewalks in many parts of Beijing

Food- Most of the food in the area around BIE is Chinese cuisine. There are a number of great, cheap Sichuan and dumpling restaurants within a block of campus. In addition there are a number of street vendors (I’m not yet brave enough to try them), which sell a lot of grilled meat, vegetables, and stinky tofu (they’re not kidding when they call it “stinky” tofu). Finally, there are at least 3 supermarkets with both Chinese and Western food within moderate walking distance. However, if, like me, some days you really crave pizza, burgers or coffee, there is also a McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and a Starbucks about 20 minutes away from campus (by walking). I’m still searching for slightly better pizza and burgers.

A cool McDonalds in the Hou Hai area of Beijing. (a few subway stops from BIE)

Finally, I  want to post this video. The song is called “北京欢迎你” or “Beijing Welcomes You.” It was written for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but I hear this song sung many times at Karaoke places (there are a good number of those in Beijing). I really love this song and it always makes me think, “Wow! I picked a cool language to study.”

Before I post anything else I would like to point this out… Bai Bai (拜拜) pronounced “bye bye” is the best way to casually say goodbye in China, according to my roomate.

Wow! I let time get away from me, I was planning on bloging as soon as I arrived in China, but this jetlag thing has been harder to shake off than I imagined. Anyway, here now, safe and sound, settled into my room at the Beijing Institute of Education. So much to say, so little room to say it. I’ll show and tell you as much as I can about my adventures thus far…

I arrived in Beijing on Monday August 27th. Stayed in a local hotel for two days, moved into the Beijing Institute of Education on August 29th and I have been here ever since. The college itself is built right into the city with small shops on either side of the main entrance. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what the campus itself is like.

The front entrance to BIE. This is the main building on campus and the only one you can see from the street.

The front gate.

The west building. This is where our dorms are.

The east building. This is where we have our classes.

Typical classroom at CET. Small, usually has either 8 or 4 students.

Side note on academics… CET’s program consists of classes from 8:25 am-11:30 am, every day Monday through Thursday.  (I hear we get more classes come next week) The classes consist of one large class for the first hour with a class size of about 8 students and one teacher. Then afterwards we have 2 hours of drill classes with a class size of 4 students and one teacher. Every night we also have homework to help us review the day’s lesson and prepare us for the next day. In general it takes about 2-3 hours to finish. On Friday, we have our weekly test, which lasts from 8:40-11:30.

In addition, there is also a full-time Chinese language pledge (which began on Monday September 3rd), which I’m proud to say is upheld by students both in and outside class (or so I’ve seen). This means all courses are taught in Mandarin Chinese, and students only speak Mandarin Chinese. Don’t let that sound too intimidating. The professors will not use English, but they do understand how hard and frustrating learning a foreign language can be for students, so they are usually willing to repeat or try to clarify themselves if the class is moving too fast for students. Also, this is just a verbal pledge, we are allowed write down words in English and show them to professors if we cannot explain ourselves using Chinese.

My dorm room at CET. My stuff on the right, Yuan Quan (my roomate)'s stuff on the left

Side note… my roommate is from China and his name is Yuan Quan. He’s a medical student studying traditional Chinese medicine (herbs, acupuncture, massage, etc.) at a hospital in Beijing, which I think is awesome!! In addition he’s a really nice guy, and like me, loves music and running. He’s even planning on running the Beijing marathon soon. I will not be joining in on that (running 26.2 miles, breathing in Beijing’s air is not something I’d be too excited about). But what is also really great about him is how much he knows about, and wants to teach me about Chinese culture.

Yuan Quan and me in our room

The basketball court. This is right behind the main building and we can check out balls and other equipment from the CET office

The cafeteria. (I'll try to get a better picture later). Still getting used to real Chinese food. If I'm having a rough day and don't like what they're serving, I can always get yogurt or make myself a PB&J sandwich in here.

The crusader. Got him from the bookstore just before I left. Needed something that was REALLY Holy Cross-ish to bring with me. You'll be seeing him in other pictures later.

Typical bathroom at BIE. There are two different bathrooms on each floor: a shower bathroom and a toilet bathroom. Shower bathrooms have 3 showers with reliable hot water. Toilet bathrooms have 3 western toilets and 1 Chinese toilet. Oh word to the wise... the toilets do not have their own toilet paper, you need to bring your own.

So… yeah that’s what we CET students see everyday. Hope I’ve given you a good glimpse of the campus. Gotta get back to studying (big Friday test tomorrow).

Hello Everyone! (大家好! ) Welcome to my study abroad blog! Here I will do my best to let you know what life is like for your everyday college student in China. First off, a little about me…

  • My name is Andrew Retallick aka 戴安竹 (Dai An Zhu) and I am from West Hartford, CT.
  • For my Junior year I will be spending the year in China. In my first semester I will be studying and living at the Beijing Institute of Education (BIE). I will spend a January Term in Beijing as well and after I will spend my second semester at Donghua University in Shanghai.
  • I love languages! Not only Mandarin Chinese, which is my major, but also Russian, which I started taking at the start of my sophomore year.
  • I love music, especially a cappella music. I am one of the co-chairs of the Holy Cross Sons of Pitches (one of Holy Cross’s five a cappella groups).
  • I love really any form of physical activity. I love running, biking, going to the gym, dancing and playing nearly any sport that you can name.
  • To build off of dancing, I joined the ballroom dance team at Holy Cross at the start of my freshman year and it was really one of, if not the best decision I made since coming to Holy Cross. I plan on finding some way to keep dancing in China.
  • I love warm beverages i.e. coffee, tea, hot chocolate, etc. I’ve already checked and there’s a Starbucks within walking distance of BIE.
  • It is a life long goal of mine to open up a chain of traditional Italian pizza restaurants in China.
  • I am SOOOOO Flippin Excited for China!

As I worry about packing a year’s worth of clothing into one suitcase and missing my friends and family, I think to myself, why am I going to China? So to help me remember and so you understand me a little better, I’ll try explain.
Andrew, why do you want to study in China? Terrific question! First of all, I have taken Chinese Language (Mandarin) since high school and I have loved every one of my Chinese classes. At this point, I have learned enough to have most conversations in Mandarin, but there’s still a lot more I can learn. My primary goal in going to China is to become fluent in the language.

In addition to becoming fluent in Mandarin, I hope to get a good understanding of Chinese culture and customs. Last summer I had the amazing opportunity to intern at a law firm in Washington D.C. While I worked there, I asked one of the firms’ policy advisors about what he believed was most important in doing business with international clients. Surprisingly, he replied that it was not knowing the language, but having a solid understanding of foreign cultures and customs that was most important. I believe that only by studying and living in China, will I be able to really understand Chinese ways of life.

So… yeah I think I’ve left you all with enough about me to start out with. (Sorry it’s a little long). Back to packing! Oh yes, before I forget, I want to encourage anyone reading this blog to comment or ask me questions you may have about China. If there is something you are curious about, I will do my best to find out about it. Anything from “Do Shaolin temples really exist and are they as cool as those in the movies?” to “Please try fried scorpion and tell me what it tastes like.”

My Room (it doesn't always look like this) How can I make this all fit in one suitcase? Hmm...

<< Back to Blogs

Andrew Retallick '14

| More
Former Blogger