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my first week of Chinese language lessons is over – and it is amazing how much we have learned after only 5 days of classes. Mind you, these were 5 full days of intense Chinese lessons starting at 9:00 AM and ending at 4:30 PM or so each day (and this does not include the several hours of homework we must complete each evening). Also, considering the class consists of only six students, each of us gets a good deal of one-to-one interaction with our professors throughout each day. We have two professors, one who teaches mornings and one afternoons, and in my opinion they are excellent teachers – both native Chinese speakers, very knowledgeable of the language, and perhaps most importantly, extremely patient with novices of the Chinese language. I have been extremely busy but also extremely happy – I have been enjoying learning and practicing Chinese and hope that great things will come of the time I put into it.

at the moment we are in Tennessee visiting Yvonne’s brother Robert. Okay so today we went to Dollywood, because Robert, who is a meteorologist for a local station, managed to score some free tickets. I was quite dreading going to Dollywood as images of dancing Dolly Parton lookalikes made me fear. But fortunately Dollywood is not, as I had thought beforehand, a large shrine to Dolly Parton – in fact it is an amusement park that she bought some years ago and has simply added to over the years. I only saw three or four images of Dolly Parton throughout the day and they weren’t too disconcerting. On the contrary, we rode two very good roller coasters (one wooden and new, another one steel that had three loops) as well as various other rides, and generally had a good time. Callum really enjoyed the carousel, though at first he didn’t know quite what to make of it. Also, being Canadian, being surrounded at all times by people native to the mountains of Tennessee was an experience to say the least. I think I even experienced mild culture shock. I felt more out of place at Dollywood than I did in most of Europe.

15. May, 2004

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