Ni hao! Most of you probably know by now that I’m in Kunming studying Chinese. I apologize for the mass message, but I wanted to share my experience thus far with friends and this is the best way to do it beyond the photos and 140 character updates on Twitter and Facebook :]. Hope you enjoy it and I look forward to hearing from you!
Learning Chinese was a goal I left on the back burner for ages. My fascination with Asia started almost 8 years ago and shows no signs of diminishing. After a bit of research and discussion, I was able to find a private tutor and home stay in Kunming for 8 weeks that fits my needs. Here I can study 1/2 the day and work the other 1/2 while being immersed in the language and culture. I feel very thankful that my co-founders gave me the time and space to pursue this and lucky that I found an experience that’s the right fit for me. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible!
Kunming is the capital of the Yunnan province in southwest China. It’s nickname is the Spring City because of it’s great weather. We’ve had sun and blue skies every day since my arrival! My first trip to Yunnan was almost a year ago and I really liked the vibe of this city. There are many tree-lined streets, public parks, and cute cafes. Yunnan is very diverse and has fantastic food and even coffee! Kunming is close to lots of great hiking and historic sites. Luckily, it’s also a hub for learning Chinese and there are many teachers and programs here.
These first 2+ weeks have been fantastic! My teacher and family are from Shenyang, which is north of Beijing. They live in Kunming and have a grape farm west of the city. Lily teaches me 4 hours a day during the week while her 5-year-old son goes to school. Her husband manages the farm. I really lucked out because not only is she a fabulous teacher, but a great cook and a blossoming coffee lover! My lessons are a combination of grammar, pronunciation, comprehension and vocabulary and seem to be very effective. Outside of class I speak and listen to as much Chinese as I can, build up my vocabulary using flashcards, and write emails in pinyin to practice grammar. I’m not learning characters at the moment, but I’d like to incorporate it at some point in the future. The positive feedback and encouragement I’ve received from Chinese speaking friends has been wonderful.
The next 6 weeks are going to be busy! This weekend I’m off to Chengdu to see the pandas, hike Qingchengshan, and eat some spicy Sichuan food. The following weekend I’m going to Sapa, which is a beautiful village in the mountains of northern Vietnam. I would stick to China, but I have to leave the country because of tourist visa restrictions.
In April I’m meeting up with some friends in Lijiang to hike and visit the small villages of Shaxi and Weishan in western Yunnan. Later in April I’ll join my teacher and her family for a week on the farm, which I’m really looking forward to! I’m hoping that all of these experiences will give me the opportunity to practice and improve my language skills.
Here’s a taste of Kunming for those of you that are interested.