Saturday, July 10, 2010

Catching up in Chengdu


So sorry that I haven’t written on my blog since coming to China. I have been having some technical challenges along the way. First my blog could not be accessed, then my computer broke. My host dad was able to get it fixed though which is wonderful. It turned out that a chip inside was fried and needed to be replaced, and the battery that I got before I came was too big and causing problems.

But all is good now, and I will try to catch everyone up on what has been happening since my arrival in China over a week ago. I first arrived in Chengdu and went to Jianzhong Hotel with the rest of the 89 trainees. We had sessions together every day (on health, safety, logistical things, etc.) and small group language sessions. I bunked with a woman named Beth (the same one from the Washington D.C hotel) and it was great. Our personalities are similar, so we have gotten closer since coming. We are both at the same training site, too. But I will get back to that topic.

During our time at the hotel the trainees had the opportunity to get to know each other and the city. Chengdu is a busy city with lots of cars, people, shops, and pollution. It is a city with population 1.4 million. We have been learning how to order food and shop at fruit and vegetable vendor stands. Our abilities at Chinese are improving rapidly, but we are still far behind being able to communicate effectively with others. I study constantly, always looking at note cards and our textbook. It is a frustrating experience some times to not be able to communicate with my host parents, but also a good learning experience. When I am speaking with my non-English speaking host parents I am able to pick up on more Chinese. My host brother is fluent in English, which is both good and bad. It is good because I have been able to get to know both him and the parents better, but bad because he often translates between the two of us which limits my learning experience.

My host family is a wonderful group of people. I have my own room (which I am pretty sure belonged to my host brother before I came, and they let me have my own bathroom. They all share the bathroom in the parent’s room. Their son is going to be coming to the States the day after I leave their home to finish high school and go to college. He will be living in a small town in Washington State and staying with an American host family until he finishes high school next year. He is 16, likes Japanese animation, movies, the guitar, badminton, and video games. Minus the badminton he will fit in nicely in the States. I know Chris Kehoe would like him.

Oh and Richard would fit in well here because the men where shorts similar to the shorts that he wears.

My host mom is a P.E teacher at the university and focuses on dance (particularly traditional dance). My host father is a reporter.

I will try to upload pictures of my adventures. It has been a slow process of emailing them to my parents, but maybe it will be easier on the blog.

What I have done with my host family:
--Thursday it was the parents’ wedding anniversary. The family, one of the mother’s friends, and I went out to eat to Hot Pot. Hot Pot is a Sichuan specific restaurant. We sit at a table with a bowl in the middle. You pick out what you want and they come and it cooks in front of you and you pick out what you want. Sort of like a fondue place, but different. The food is supposed to be really spicy, but I thought it was about medium heat on the Indian spicy food scale. Oh and I am pretty sure the family and their friend were making fun of my Chinese several times during the night, but not in a mean way, but in a funny way. No hard feelings on my part, I know my Mandarin sounds ridiculous
--Friday night I went out to eat with my host brother and mother to a 5 star hotel for dinner. It was buffet style with mostly Chinese food, but also some western style food. The mom’s best friend ate with us and she was a manager at the hotel, so we ate for free. It was a really nice hotel (by American standards too)
--Saturday morning my host family took me about an hour outside of where we stay to the edge of the city where there is a 100 year old preserved city. Along the way we passed rice fields and poorer sections of China. It was a nice drive. The city was interesting, too. It was one of the major tourist attractions in Chengdu
--my host mom said she would teach me how to cook some Chinese food. I hope she does. Even if she doesn’t teach me much, I might be able to ask some of my students in the future to teach me, too.
--I have since done my laundry twice. This consists of a small washing machine that can wash about 5 or 6 shirts. We wash our undergarments separately by hand because it is considered unclean to wash them with the other clothes. Then we hang the clothes to dry on the balcony.
--I have eaten all sorts of good food. I don’t think I have a favorite yet. The weirdest thing that I have eaten thus far would be pig’s feet and bamboo. The pig’s feet consisted mainly of skin and fat. It was rather chewy. My host brother said it is supposed to be good for the skin. The bamboo was rubbery and had no flavor to it whatsoever.
--my host family does a good job of trying to help me with my Chinese. I remember the words but my speaking and listening skills are so poor. When they use the words I don’t realize the words they are actually using are words that I know, and when I pronounce them they do not understand me and proceed to make me repeat over and over again. It is the intonations that I am having the most difficulty with. Although I was pleased that I understood almost the entire conversation when I went with my host dad and brother to the Market.

For training, the language classes are going very quickly and I have to study the next days lessons the night before in order to keep up. All the trainees in my language class have had Chinese lessons before. Some times I feel very inadequate at Chinese.

I think I forgot to say that I am at Sichuan Normal University Main Campus. It is a nice campus with plenty of flowers and trees. It is also a little less pollution than downtown which is nice for my breathing. It is still a rare occurrence to see the sky or the sun.

A week from Monday we will start model school. Model school is two weeks of teaching oral English to a group of college or high school aged students. We do not know how many or the level they are at. We will teach them M-F for 90 minutes. We are in pairs for teaching (although my group is the one with three). We will plan the lessons together, but implement them alone (alternating between days). We will be independently evaluated by three people for our teaching ability. I think if our teaching is horrendous, we may not be sworn-in as volunteers.

Other than that, not too much. The following is my schedule for the rest of my Peace Corps Training.

July 5 move to training sites, begin homestay (I am at Sichuan Normal University Main campus)

July 19-30: model school

August 5: site announcements (I will find out where I will be for the next two years)

August 9-14: site visits (at this time I will be staying with a different home family at my site)

August 20: host family appreciation night

August 21: language proficiency interview (I must achieve an intermediate-low level) and final training evaluation

August 24: move from host families back to a hotel

August 26: supervisors/counterparts conference with trainees (I don’t know what this is yet)

August 27: swearing-in ceremony (when I will officially be a volunteer)

August 28: depart for sites

Signing off. I hope everyone is doing well in the Sunshine State.


  1. Oh wow you've been super busy. It's amazing how quickly you're learning Chinese manderian. I hope your having a good time. And every one misses you here. -Ben <3

  2. So, so, so great to hear an update! I can't believe you are picking up Chinese so quickly! Don't get too frustrated, you are not going to wake up overnight and know it all :) Also, I can't believe that you ate pigs feet! How interesting ;) That must have been an experience! I love reading your blog and hearing all about your adventures-make the most of your host family experience! Miss you!

  3. Katie!!! Wow, this sounds incredible so far! You've already experienced so much in such a short time...I can only image what the next weeks, months & years will be like! I'm sure you'll do amazing at all the exams and tests and be teaching in your school before you know it! :) Miss you!!