The road is very bumpy the car shakes and the red Chinese knot is hanging down from the rear-view mirror waving from side to side. All the windows were open so the traffic noise and the humid air were streaming in through the windows. That didn’t bother the driver at all and he was talking in his cell phone – it felt like he could drive the car in his sleep. He was wearing a white-beige shirt with a red pack of cigarettes in the front-pocket. While he was driving through the aggressive traffic so elegantly I noticed his 2 cm long pinky fingernail. However, I was too tired to ask about his finger. All the signs we passed by along the way were in Chinese characters, but suddenly the driver looked back at me, holding his phone away from his ear, with a big friendly smile and pointed at a sign “Yangshuo”, the first sign in English. Big round limestone mountains pointed up from the horizon and I didn’t register the humidity or the traffic noise anymore. Now we were driving between the most beautiful mountains surrounded by lime green rice fields. The sky was orange from the light of the sunset which created a mist in the horizon and as far as my eye could see I could see the mountains and behind them the top of other mountains looking almost like shadows from the mountains in front. The Chinese farmers were working wearing those characteristic rice hats like stuff I’ve seen on Discovery Channel at home in Denmark. It all looked like a colourful painting – I had arrived in Yangshuo.
During my three months volunteering at the Omeida Chinese Academy marketing department, I gained a lot of work experience, explored the beautiful nature in Yangshuo with the teachers and the students and beside that I also decided to try studying Chinese at Omeida Chinese Academy. After studying many years in Denmark I finally decided to come to China and study Chinese alongside my volunteer work at Omeida. During this time, I also had to write three assignments for my studies back in Denmark so I didn`t have too much time to study Chinese. Therefore I studied a short time (one week course) and yet I learnt a lot about the Chinese language and culture.
The first thing I was introduced to was the four tones in the Chinese language and the pinyin which gave me a much better understanding of the language but I also got the impression, that it`s a very complicated language which doesn’t have the same logic that I was use to from the European languages that I know of. Therefore, the small and intensive courses were a great advantage for me and I had just one class mate, both of us at the same level.
My teacher was very professional and she had also incorporated some Western teaching methods. The teaching was very dialogical which motivated me to be focused during the lessons. In the lessons there was a nice variation between the basic grammar, learning pinyin and some characters, short conversations and using pictures and other resources to have conversations, which made the language more understandable and easier for me to relate to. While having conversations about the meaning of some Chinese words or characters, we also learnt a lot about the Chinese culture because there was often a history behind the characters and words.
My homework was often to practise some Chinese sentences with Chinese friends or with local people in Yangshuo, which for me was very useful and a good, practical way to learn how to use Chinese in the daily life situations outside of a class room context.
Beside the work and study here I really made some good friends at Omeida and I will miss this place. I will definitely come back one day.
Stine Noerkjaer Nielsen, Denmark