Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Manila, II

Manila is dangerous, according my elders who must therefore always be correct. (It depends on who you ask, but generally...) Kidnappings, robberies (yeah, even with the fences of glory), carjackings... they're not just things you hear about on the news - they're things that have happened (multiple times) to family and friends within my lifetime, and not just because we're having a string of bad luck. Looking like a Chinese or someone from overseas (or worse: a Chinese from overseas) is, according to my parents, a "mug me! I have lots of money!" beacon - never mind that the entirety of my current finances would barely buy groceries for two weeks. That having been said, OH MY GOD I WANT TO WALK AROUND OUTSIDE.

Traffic... is fun. Manila has the highest population density of any city in the world. Sure, most of that population can't afford cars, but it's bad enough that they used to (maybe they still do?) set a restriction for which days cars could drive on the street (license plates beginning with certain letters could drive on some days, license plates with other letters could drive on the other days). The result? Everyone who could afford it bought another car with the alternate-letter plate. Traffic doubled.

Matt: Eating every three hours sounds fantastic, and it is for the first few weeks. But after a while of lunches and banquets and lunches, you start looking at your plate and the lazy susan full of food that people are still heaping onto it and see endless parades of fish, noodle, and unidentifiable meat dishes in your future... it's not quite as fun any more.

Christie: My fingers are crossed that I'll be able to get around it with scribefire, but not being able to see my blog from China would be a fantastic way to force myself to switch to a custom Wordpress (I was flummoxed previously by Google's move to the "new Blogger," which broke the import API, but they've fixed that now).

Mark: Your room is huge! Boy, the firstborn son thing has perks... I can't wait for you and the other cousins to arrive, though, because it's way too quiet here.

Erin: "Mabuting kapalaran sa iyo," I think... but I don't actually speak Tagalog. Yet.

Today's update is much less exciting. The sobering discovery that the wireless is only on when my grandma's computer is on (and it's in her room, and she turns it off when she sleeps, and...) has made my plans to work during the Filipino night (Boston day) a little more difficult.

However, my throat hurts; I had my first Chinese lesson today, and my vocal cords are not used to the sounds of the language (oh, I've made them before. Just not for several continuous hours). After 4 years of Olin-style learning, it's vexing to have to go back to drill & kill worksheets, canned vocab lists, and handwriting practice - I feel like a computer being programmed - but that's the predominant style of education here, and I want to get a taste of it before starting to suggest my own ideas...

Also, to my vexation, the sounds for j, q, z, s, sh, ch, zh, and x (probably a few more I've forgotten) sound absolutely identical. I really can't tell whether they're aspirated or you're curling your tongue to the back of your throat or not. It's not a question of having "American ears" - the k/t/p/s/sh/ch/c/x/h/...etc sounds are invisible to me in English. Consonants are high-frequency, and I just can't hear them, period. But at least in English I can use context to figure out the words. Not so in Chinese (yet). It poses a slight problem, because the key to successful language learning is constant comprehensible input, and my hearing automatically makes the "comprehensible" part a little harder. I am therefore trying to learn how to read. Fast.

Finally, jet lag sucks. That is all.

3 comments:

Christie said...

Jet lag coming the other way (ie back to the States) is waaay worse! :D

I'm confused about how learning how to read helps learning how to speak: characters don't sound like anything, they just...are...so is trying to learn how to read to learn how Chinese grammar is structured? Also, characters are difficult...especially if you learned traditional and can't make much sense of the simplified that is used in China.. :D Good luck!

Mel said...

Learning how to read doesn't help me learn how to speak, but given that I can process written English an order of magnitude or so faster than spoken English, I reckoned it would probably make sense for me to do the same in Chinese.

And yeah... the simplified vs traditional characters thing is cool, but also annoying when you're trying to learn. And dictionaries. Chinese dictionaries are painful to use. Augh.

Erin said...

Hmmm...that's funny....all of the instructions on this page are in French now....I wonder how that happened. ANYway...

I've got a textbook that was pretty good about describing how to make the consonant sounds in mandarin (tongu position, etc.)- what's your e-mail these days? I can transcribe it for you, if you want.