Saturday I went shopping in the morning with Vivi again. I think it will likely be a regular thing, unless one of us is busy or out-of-town. This time, however, we stopped at her bank to see about something that I wasn’t quite sure about. It seems that in China employers will give employees a certain amount of money to help them save for a house. When Vivi explained it to me it seemed similar to how employers in the States will provide health insurance to their employees. Houses in China are so expensive to own. Of course the prices range from city to city, but in general the average person in China will not likely own a home due to the high cost.
After the bank we got some lunch. Vivi had wanted me to try this special food in Jiangyou called feipan. I said sure. Well it probably would have been fine except that she decided to look up the translation for what I was about to eat…pig’s large intestine. So obviously it weirded me out to be eating the large intestine of an animal, but I ate it anyways. It was a bit rubbery with an okay taste, but not a good aftertaste. Everything else we ate was fine. Next Vivi wanted to look at clothes. I think I have mentioned that the supermarkets in China are multi-leveled with usually the bottom level devoted to food, and the next levels with clothes, electronics, and house wares. We had a look around. She tried on some clothes, so I tried on something, too. I was more curious to see what my size was in China. The sales attendant guessed my size for the dress. It was cute, but way too short for my comfort level. Chinese women like to wear short skirts and dresses (almost like they are dressing themselves up how you might dress a doll). Anyways, they determined my size based on my height and not my waist which was interesting. So the dress was a little big in the waist area, but I suppose it fit my height. So I know enough Chinese to know when someone is talking about me, and also I have enough intuition to know in languages I don’t know. I found out later that the sales attendants were asking Vivi about me. Apparently they didn’t think I was American, but thought I came from this specific region in China where the women have bigger eyes, higher noses, and are a bit taller. I realized that I have the perfect look for a foreigner going into China. At first glance or with a quick look the Chinese do not think I am a foreigner because I have the dark hair, similar skin (minus the freckles) and similar body frame. But if they look again or go up to talk with me they can tell by my face that I am not Chinese and will not likely try talking to me in Chinese. Therefore, it is nice. I am not stared at going down the street like many of my fellow volunteers are, especially those that are really tall, blond haired, or African American. I am also not expected to know Chinese like the Asian American volunteers (which is difficult for those Asian Americans that are not of Chinese descent or do not speak Chinese at all).
Later in the afternoon I went to hang out with Janice and Mark. We just chatted and played Scrabble. They are such a nice couple. They always have lots of advice and information for me that is priceless. I should really take a notebook when I go over and take notes on what they have to say. They said that most of the information they give me was told to them from other volunteers in their organization, and I replied that we are all just keeping the cycle going because I will in turn tell the next Peace Corps Volunteer that comes to Jiangyou. Mark replied that we foreigners have to stick together. Though we laughed at this, it is very true in many ways. Well I left their house a bit loaded up. When they found out I didn’t have any glasses, they searched through boxes and found me some, then gave me some measuring spoons they weren’t using, and then gave me some banana bread Janice had baked. So nice.
Sunday morning I went to the hometown of Li Bai (the poet) with a new teacher in the school named Media. She had been in 2002 and wanted to see the difference since the earthquake. The touristy attraction of Li Bai’s hometown was destroyed by the earthquake, and they were in the process of rebuilding (making the ticket price half-price). It was a nice trip. There wasn’t much to see because they really had just started rebuilding, but I got to know this teacher a lot better and, boy, does she love to talk. I would put it at 90-10 talking time, which was fine with me. A lot of times I don’t know what to say. The only thing that made me laugh at first, and as the day progressed just started to annoy me was how she had to point out and describe EVERYTHING to me, and not just once. She would point to something and tell me what it was, like bamboo (several times). I had to watch myself to not give a sarcastic response when she would point to a picture of a cloud and tell me that it was a cloud. Really? A cloud? No kidding.
When we left the hometown, we went back to downtown Jiangyou and had some lunch. I think we were both famished because we devoured the lunch. And then she was so sweet; she paid for both of us. I did the Chinese thing and tried to fight her over the bill, but she persisted. I told her that I would pay for her next time. Then she got the receipt and won 5 yuan. At some restaurants you get the bill and it has a scratch off section on the bottom and you might be able to win some money back. I must really bring some luck to Jiangyou because Kerry won every time we were out to eat during my site visit and Media said that this was the first time she had ever won. When we finished eating we went for a walk in Li Bai park downtown (the one Eliam had taken me to during site visit). Normally I am the one with the worst sense of direction, but good thing I know a little bit more about Jiangyou than Media or we might still be wandering around downtown Jiangyou. She had us wandering around until I finally took over and got us to the park, and then again to the correct bus stop. What was really strange was that she wouldn’t ask for directions. We took an unofficial taxi to the hometown of Li Bai because Media didn’t know the bus route, and then on the way back we were walking to try and find one and she wouldn’t just ask. I finally told her she ought to ask, and I almost asked for her, although I wouldn’t have been able to understand a word they told me in response (I just know how to ask in Chinese. The answer is the difficult part). Anyways, so while we were wandering around we walked by this military camp and I was thinking “oh boy, where are you taking me? I don’t want to be detained or something or come across something they don’t want foreigners to see.” So I tried to look as Chinese as possible. Good thing I was wearing this shirt that everyone says is very Chinese looking. I also tried to make myself shorter. I bet I blended in well.
In the end I got back at about 4 in the afternoon, so a very long day. Next week the freshmen start, and I will be very busy! Wish me luck, but I guess I bring my own luck here in Jiangyou.