The time has come to shelve the bon bons, find some real pants and join the world of schedules and deadlines once again. Five months of summer vacation have come and gone, some days filled with cultural enlightenment, many with fabulous new books via e-book library lending, a few with Kardashian-following and one with laser-guided retina searing. Living on a self-made schedule is over now, though. The grindstone has resurfaced and, as prophesied by En Vouge, it is “back to life, back to reality” I go.
I joined the ranks of the Crystal City Oakwood shuttle riders Monday morning, reusable pink coffee mug in hand , headed to FSI to commence Chinese language training. (FSI is the Foreign Service Institute. It is basically a small college campus where the State Department trains its personnel, much of it devoted to language studies. As an EFM, eligible family member, ie: spouse, I also qualify to receive free language training through the department.)
After being issued an official badge, it was time to venture into the maze of corridors that make up the institute. Passing by the legless, but fur-tailed coyotes randomly stuck into the grass throughout the grounds, (these are apparently meant to deter geese from making the pleasant park-like surroundings their home, but more than once I’ve seen the geese contentedly lazing near these not-so-ferocious lawn ornaments) I arrived for day one.
I’ve only been in class for a week now, but here are a few of my first observations:
- Five hours is a long time to spend in a small classroom together. The wall seems to come about four and a half hours in, after which point brains turn to mush and language becomes nonsensical blabber.
- Textbooks are heavy! We were given three books the first day, and since have added two more to the stack. The only time I’ve consistently carried more weight in books than this is when I was taking my Shakespeare class at BYU and hauled the Complete Works across campus every day for an entire summer term.
- Homework is no fun! I should know this, having been a teacher for over a decade and always having a stack of papers in my bag that need graded or lessons to prepare, but there is just something about having actual *homework* that is super stressful. I don’t get home from class until 6PM each night, at which point the last thing I want to do is pull out the books and get right to work, but as the exact opposite of a night-owl, my productivity ends pretty early in the evening.
- I need a unique lunch sack. This first week, I’ve packed my Smucker’s Uncrustable peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich, cup of apple sauce and dinosaur-shaped fruit snacks in a regular paper sack. Once crammed into the refrigerator with the lunches from everyone else studying an East Asian/Pacific language, my sack is totally indistinguishable from all of the other crumpled bags also shoved unceremoniously into that box of cool goodness.
- Chinese is hard. Enough said.
With just six months until our departure date, down goes the Nook, out come the dress slacks and away with Mandarin we go!! 加油!