My cross cultural textbook that I was required to read before I went to France in 2006 made the profound statement somewhere around page 58 that "Expectations are premature disappointments." Yeah, that might sound a little pessimistic, but think about it. How many times have you expected something from someone and had them let you down? Or had a picture in your head about how an event or place would be, and then experienced something completely different? I don't think of that phrase as pessimistic, I think of it as realistic. A nicer way to put it I guess would be to say "Expect the unexpected."
When traveling or doing something where you are put into a position far outside your comfort zone, it is better to have overall goals rather than expectations. Like, I don't expect to learn Chinese over the next four weeks, but my goal is to be able to write my Chinese name with ease (and not need to look at an image of the characters) and to know at least 30 characters and 10 phrases. So far I already "know" a handful, the real test is being able to retain it all.
The image above is my Chinese name. The first character is my surname, "Ma", which is a common surname in China and most similar to my American family name. The two other characters are "Li Kou" pronounced "Lee Koh" which semi sounds like my real name (which was the point, kind of). Li means beauty and Kou means red and also young lady. I really wanted something with the word red in it, and I think this name sounds really pretty when you say it out loud. My super awesome Chinese friend came up with it (and 10 other options) for me. He's a filmmaker and just got accepted into USC's film school, hopefully one day he becomes famous and gives me a job writing screenplays for his Oscar winning movies. They'll be all about cupcakes and pomeranians and other fabulous things.