Written by Marlon Gonzalez (Kalamazoo College), Student Correspondent CET Chinese Studies & Internship in Beijing, Fall 2015
严业平 (Yeping Yang) has been one of the best resources I have had during my three months here in Beijing. He’s currently a graduate student so there are days in which we see very little of one another. We both roll out of bed around the same time, and go to sleep rather late, however we definitely make the most of the other days where we are joking around, playing music, or talking about our backgrounds. He is totally caught off guard when I speak Spanish with my family over Skype, and I am caught off guard by the channels he flips through during primetime television. My favorite was staying up until midnight watching a game show in which a police officer identified a woman in a group of 30 people by the trail they left after they stepped in paint. Every day Beijing manages to surprise me in one way or another, and Yeping has definitely been able to not only give me context for some of it, he has also lead me straight into it so that I can learn more about the city!
The very first week that I was here and looking to purchase a phone Yeping and I walked around trying to see if my American phone could support a Chinese SIM card. Unfortunately, the answer was no. However, we did try all three major companies and had to hop on a bus to get to the third company. Personally, this was a little nerve-wracking because I could not decipher Chinese bus stops. For the entire time I was his shadow. I was one step behind as we went to four mobile stores total. Now, after three months, I know my way around this city well enough to walk stride in stride with him!
Sometime in November the two of us went to the Beijing Zoo together. After making a few wrong turns we eventually found the place. Although I was not much into the zoo itself (part of the experience too), Yeping made my day. He was flexible, energetic, and we took our fair share of images as well! As we passed animals I practiced learning their Chinese name. If you know anything about the language you know that sometimes the names can be quite literal from an English perspective. For example, the name for a giraffe in Chinese roughly translates to “long neck deer”, which makes absolute sense if you think about it.
One of my favorite ways to spend time with Yeping is doing little in our room. I cannot stress how much Chinese history/culture/slang I have learned from him. There was one night where we stayed up until 1:00 sharing our opinions on China’s 70 year anniversary of defeating Japan. I feel that a large reason for which we connect so well is because we both think critically of the world around us. Whether or not our ideas agree, we can have an honest conversation because we are curious of the other’s thoughts. Two months after that conversation Yeping comes late from work and greets me with a commemorative coin celebrating China’s triumph over Japan.
I was glad to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my CET group. I was particularly excited to share some American culture with Yeping (who was celebrating his second Thanksgiving). His eyes lit up when he started eating, and we obviously had to feed one another! Apart from the food, I was happy to see him watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the rest of us because that is something my brother and I did often for the holidays.