Back in August when we took the train from Chengdu to Lanzhou, a teacher from another college, Ms. Mi, told us that she was getting married in a month. The waiban reps and I were all excited for her, and she casually mentioned we were invited to her wedding in Tianshui. Now, a lot of times I will hear people say things like “I’d love for you to come!”, “We’d be happy to have you!” “You’re a great fit for the team!” for dinner or parties or work but most of the time they hope I don’t actually follow up with them, probably because they hate my guts, but are too faux-polite to tell me this. Chinese people are not like that though, at least not here in Gansu, and last week I received a weChat message from Ms. Mi formally inviting me to her big day!!
Peace Corps warned us early on that volunteers tend to get really lonely and depressed if they don’t integrate well into the communities they live in. It can be rough being the only blond hair- blue eyed (or black american, etc) individual in a smaller city in China, and the language barrier will prevent you from making friends that you can truly communicate with, beyond expressing what you want to eat for dinner and fulfilling other lower tier items on maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
the great news is, i look like everyone else here, and more or less speak like them too (albeit with a heavy new jersey- taiwanese accent!) that’ll knock out the lowest green and purple layers in the pyramid. still, i was initially nervous i couldn’t find a fun crowd to hang with- are there cool kids in Lanzhou?
Oral English: I teach oral English to three sophomore classes a week, twice a week (so a total of 6 sessions a week, roughly 30 students per class, 90 individuals in total) 5 sessions are taught in a computer lab (great for powerpoints), and 1 is in a traditional classroom. Each class has a distinct personality; Class 3 is chatty and welcoming, and there are a lot of eager personalities in the class willing to answer questions and laugh off mistakes. Class 2 is deathly quiet and drains all my optimism within the first five minutes of stepping into the classroom; NO ONE SPEAKS. Class 1 falls somewhere between the two. Almost every session there’s some hilarious misunderstanding or mistranslation of sorts.
from 8/21 – 8/27
I’ve now graduated from Peace Corps Trainee, to Peace Corps Volunteer! This past week was a busy one- I moved out of my host family’s apartment, but not before witnessing China’s female volleyball team win gold in Rio against Serbia (lots of screaming and celebrations in the house, which delayed my packing, so all my clothing was shoved into random pockets of empty space in my suitcases)
We had a cheerful goodbye and I was dropped off at one of the swankier hotels in Chengdu for a final, exhausting four days of training. We sat through a parade of sessions on security, how to use a water distiller, further language training, various policies regarding travel and leave, and other related courses.
(originally from Aug 13th)
My host family took me on an overnight trip to a town in Sichuan with more ethnic minorities, many similar to the Zhang (Tibetan) cultures. We passed a beautiful man-made lake, held back by a recently built dam.