Saturday, August 21, 2010

this and that

So what have I been up to since the last time that I wrote? Well, and this is kind of random, I taught my host brother and mother the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. How? We were having breakfast last Sunday morning and we had toast on the table. I saw that there was a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly and I thought, hmm…I wonder if they have ever put the two together like we have in America. Of course I asked, and they hadn’t! So I informed my host brother that they were missing out on a delicious lunchtime delicacy in America. He followed me as I prepared my own, and no surprise here…he loved it! A few days later I saw my host mom making herself a PB&J. Crazy. They taught me how to make dumplings, and in return I left them the knowledge of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

One afternoon a few of us had some beers and talked about politics. It was great. I love getting into and listening to deep conversations. Sometimes the conversation was over my head, but I enjoyed listening and learning from those that knew a lot about the topic. We mainly discussed the failures of the American political system and our views on how to improve it. I just want to mention that probably 95% of Peace Corps volunteers anywhere have socialist ideologies, and thus that is where our conversation leaned heavily. I should say that often in the afternoons when we have some time we like to have a beer and talk about things. It is really nice and relaxing. Last week sometime though I opted out of the beer and went for the ice cream instead, which appealed to some others who also went and got some ice cream. Ice cream in China is a little different than ice cream in the US. It tends to be sweetened with different flavors, like corn, red beans, dates, green beans, etc. All are good, though, just different. I enjoyed the vanilla ice cream, and red bean variety.

On Friday of this week we had our host family appreciation night. It was really fun. It was set up like a banquet in a restaurant. The tables had both American and Chinese flags on them and everyone looked spiffy in their new Chinese clothes that we had made. So a digression. A few weeks ago we had Chinese outfits made. We went to a tailor shop with our teachers, picked a design and some fabric, and got measured. Two weeks later we returned, tried them on, paid and left. It was an interesting experience that I might try again. Most of the girls’ clothes were too big, like in the sense that we couldn’t even find each others’ waists under the fabric, and the clothes had to be fixed. But look at the pictures from the event and you can see the beautiful clothes. I just got a jacket because I can wear it back in the states. I don’t think I would wear a traditional Chinese dress in the states, I think I would be too uncomfortable. It wasn’t expensive either. It was 180 yuan. And the conversion is 6.8 yuan to the dollar, so you math people can figure out how much I paid exactly in US dollars for a personally made outfit. Also my host mom started to teach me a dance that we could perform together at the banquet, but we never had enough time to practice. It was pretty amazing I’m not going to lie. Basically it mimicked the movements of the crane. Anyways my host brother ended up playing his clarinet and harmonica at the banquet. He started to think about not doing it and I told him he didn’t have to, but then my site manager introduced that he would, and so he had to. He did an excellent job though. He is quite talented. We also had Jill, a volunteer, sing Chinese and English songs. All of our host families got excited when she sang in Chinese. Fred emceed. Lindsey gave a speech in Chinese and English. Stephen and Sky put together a slide show of all of our pictures, which I will put online once I get it from Stephen. And wonderful Caroline made sure everything was good. They gave certificates to all of our host families and a flower. I gave my host mom some flowers I bought earlier in the day and I wrote out the character thank you. She really liked it.

Saturday I took my language proficiency interview. It was an oral test, obviously because I cannot read or write in Chinese, with an unknown tester. The test was to last 15 minutes, with a 5 minute warm-up conversation, 5 minute role play, and a 5 minute wrap-up. My test ended up lasting 25 minutes. The key with this test is to make sure to ask questions back to the interviewer. At one point I realized that I hadn’t done this and almost panicked, but then was able to ask some questions back. My role play was “imagine that you bought a gift for your mom for her birthday and then you found out your sister had bought the same gift. Go to the store and negotiate a return of the gift and give the shopkeeper a good reason for you returning it.” Well I blanked on any good ideas for a gift, and ended up trying to return flowers which makes things more difficult than it needs to be. It ended up being okay, but I don’t think I showed my full potential in vocabulary knowledge. I asked the tester at the end how she thought I did and she said I need work on my vocabulary. Well that seems obvious to me since I have only been studying the language for a month and a half, but that’s okay. I think my structure was okay, and I hope my pronunciation was okay as well. I will find out where I place before I swear in. they have to review the tape that I was recorded on to get a specific placement. I need to place at intermediate low. If we don’t place at intermediate low it is not a big deal it just means that you are required to have a tutor, but I want to have tutor anyways so no worries. I have no doubt that I achieved intermediate low though. I am just curious now to see where I do place. My goal, which is not too lofty I don’t think, is to achieve an advanced middle level by the time I leave China. It is not impossible, I just need to be sure to put the time into studying and communicating once I get to my site.

Other than testing on Saturday, it was also my host brother’s going away party. The party was all day at a tea house and it was for the family of my host brother. I went in the morning, then his cousin took me to school, and then my host brother and mom picked me back up after to go back. I think the fact that he is leaving in a week is starting to hit the family and my host brother. I can tell that he is getting nervous, though he doesn’t really say anything. I try to give him some advice and encouragement. I know he will do fine, but there is going to be a bit of an adjustment. Luckily he does have a cousin that lives in the same area. I plan to keep in contact with him while he is away, and would like for him to visit the Sunshine State when I return in two years. I think all of you would really like him.

I really should write on my blog daily since it is obvious that I am forgetting some things that have happened. Everything seems to happen really fast here. I cannot believe that I have been in China for almost two months and that Tuesday I am moving out of my home stay and into a hotel, swearing in and moving to Jiangyou on Friday. One good thing about moving to Jiangyou is that I can finally start to get settled after living out of a suitcase for two months.

Oh I remember something that I didn’t mention. Sometime last week I had delicious food at a Muslim restaurant with Katie, Richy and Amy. It was like our mouths were in a different country altogether. I ate rice with cumin lamb. It was amazing. Richy had the same thing and Katie had noodles with cumin lamb. I don’t remember what Amy had. The people were really nice too. The owner could speak a little English and his Mandarin was really easy to understand, probably because it was his second language. It seems that it is much easier to understand people when their second language is Mandarin versus it being their first. For example, I was on my way to the flower market with Katie, Richy and Sky for a language field trip and we needed to ask directions. We asked this man, but it turned out he was just visiting Chengdu as well and thus didn’t know his way around. But we got into a conversation with him and found out that he was from Shanghai (where they don’t speak Mandarin). We decided that was why we could understand him, because he spoke like us.

Oh and another thing about eating at the Muslim restaurant, there was the cutest kitten sitting in the restaurant and it came over to say hello to us at one point and we all freaked out. Why? Because the Peace Corps has scarred us for life here in China to be scared of all animals and most people. Almost every week they have bombarded us with information about rabies and people stealing from us. It’s really a wonder we haven’t gone completely crazy. Literally all of us are scared to be anywhere near a dog or cat. So thumbs up Peace Corps medical office on achieving your goal of making us scared of domestic animals in China. So when this cute innocent kitten came over to say hello to us and beg for food, we all pulled our legs up and yelled rabies! Kind of funny. We all laughed about it later.

There have been some bad rain storms here in Sichuan that caused a lot of flooding and some bridges to collapse. One train that was heading to Jiangyou was on a bridge that collapsed and one car ended up in the river. No one was hurt because the car slid slowly into the river and everyone was able to get out safely. Oh and don’t worry, I am not taking the train to Jiangyou next week. My waiban and counterpart teacher are picking me up in a van with all of my belongings.

Well that is all for now that I can think of. If I remember more I will write up on it later. But be sure to check out my pictures at I try to add more every time I get new ones.

Love and miss everyone!


  1. Glad to hear you are having fun and making friends with other PCVs! The ice cream flavors sound delicious! I would have been very nervous too on my language proficiency test-don't be too hard on yourself it has only been a month and a half! So proud of you!

  2. Yay for the photos! I just checked almost all of them out - it's so cool to have the visuals for your trip as well as your blog! :) Good luck moving to Jiangyou soon!! :)