21 February, 2012

Moving In

Editor's note: Here's my first attempt to backlog blogs I wrote before I had access to a VPN. This blog was written 9 July, 2011, four days after moving in with my host family. 

After four days, they joked the honeymoon was over. They weren’t kidding… All right, that is a tad melodramatic, but Tuesday was a dramatic day: we met and moved in with our host families.

Part of the Peace Corps training here in China is living with a family to help facilitate learning and understanding of culture, as well as language learning. After four long days living out of a hotel, we were split into groups and sent to four different universities, where we will be continuing training for the next ten weeks.

Information dump aside, meeting our host families has been something we have been building up to for days. They gave little information about our families and lots of suggestions on how to cope, communicate and make the most of our stay. Anticipation was high as we herded ourselves into a room with signs bearing the names of our hosts, meeting smiling Chinese faces holding signs bearing our names.

Meet Li Yanxi
With coupling anxiety comparable to the nerdy kid at the middle school dance (I remember it like it was yesterday), I found a young boy holding a sign with my name. We exchanged nervous “ni hao”s and I say hello. He giggles shyly and replies “hello”. Within a minute or two, communicating between his limited English and my negligible Chinese, I learn his name is Li Yanxi and he is twelve years old.

In an instant, I am following him back outside, only to meet his father, locate my bags and jam into a car. Riding shotgun, the driver bombards me with what I assume are questions, but it just sounded like Chinese. Li Yanxi tries to translate, telling me the man wants to know where I am from. When I say “United States”, he continues with the Chinese; the only word I recognise—because he says it four times—is “Obama”. He rolls up the windows, cranks the air conditioning, laughs at me for attempting to fasten my safety belt and offers me a cigarette, all while speeding away. Most importantly,  “…Baby One More Time” was belting through the radio to soundtrack all of this happened.

The afternoon was a blur of nervous sighs and embarrassed laughter as we tried to communicate—searching through our respective Chinese/English dictionaries and pointing to words and symbols on Peace Corps-provided phrase lists. My host father was trying to be as accommodating as possible, and for that, I am grateful. My host mother had not been home at that point. (I learned later that she was working overtime at the Sichuan Normal University Library, preparing for a national inspection.)

After a tremendously delicious dinner, the evening was spent walking around where they live. It rained in the afternoon, so it was a most agreeable temperature outside. They showed me how to get to the university where I would need to be in the morning. I like the idea of recording my walk to school one morning, like one of my dear friends did on his vlog. Or, I did until I tried it. I learned I am incapable of walking or holding a camera level. Every recording I made was too bumpy, with more visual jostling than Cloverfield. 

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