I had a fantastic birthday! Oh my god, it was such a good time. Thanks so much to all of my amazing NSLI friends for making the day unforgettable and so special! It’s hitting me just how much I’ll miss everyone on the program come next week.
The day started early when I woke up to use the water in my house before it was cut off at 8… but I went back to sleep soon after. I woke up and had a tiny breakfast later- tiny because we would soon go out to lunch to celebrate. My host family said I could invite a friend so I invited Frankie (would have liked to take more but Frankster was the most convenient). We drove by to pick her and my sister’s friend up and then headed off to the Millionaire Fashion Restaurant for lunch. (Chinese restaurant names… oh China.) It was hotpot but we also had a delicious cake that my host family got for me! I posted a picture below. It said shengri kuaile, or happy birthday, which was really sweet. Also, all Chinese cakes apparently come with crowns so I was treated to a fantastic red birthday crown. Tai hao le.
After lunch, we all headed to school for the Closing Ceremony! We were joined by all of my classmates and their host families. It turned out to be a great ceremony despite our lack of preparedness for most of the songs- we ended up just bringing lyrics onstage and it was fine. Eric and Lauren hosted, which was funny- Eric did hand motions for all of the tones, what a guy- but apparently unintelligible to the Chinese. Helas, I thought they were brave. Our performances included a san yu ban (sp?), reciting poetry, and much singing. I sang Yi Shang Yi Shang Liang Jing Jing- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star- with Marissa, Ceresa, and Frankie; Mo Li Hua with all of the ladies; and Da Zhong Guo with everyone. It was fun and everyone loved our little dances. My host mother gave a speech and it was the sweetest thing. She was asked to represent the host families so she got up and talked about her time hosting me. It was so sweet and kind. The mention of tons of details about my time here that she picked up on and considered important was really… I’m overusing the word “sweet”, but thats the best word. Adorable! We also watched a video about our trip- sort of a slideshow- and spoke briefly about our host families. At the end, Eric and Lauren surprised me by calling me up so everyone could sing happy birthday to me! It was so sweet. I was flattered. We all mushed into a giant group hug and then posed for pictures and then YCY started crying and things got weird. I didn’t know she cared for us…! I guess it was nice. Mostly it was odd.
Anyway, after the Ceremony we all headed off to the big KTV celebration! Marissa’s host mom drove her, Dailey, Frankie, and me to Le Gout de Monde to pick up Henri, my adorable hedgehog cake and then we met up with about half of the group at KTV. Once we got there I got locked in the bathroom. It was super embarrassing but I don’t think it was any fault of my own… basically, the lock on the door got stuck and the manager had to come around and forcibly open the door. Happy birthday to me? Fortunately the rest of KTV was a good time. We had popcorn and sodas and cake and fun times.
After KTV, the group headed over to Nuba, a Western-style on top of NewMart for a continuation of the party. A good time was had by all and we had some tasty treats, including Mexican-style food! We walked around downtown afterwards and just enjoyed each others company. The city was lit up and extremely colorful and we were all happy to be spending the evening together. Dailey’s host dad drove me home, where unfortunately there was still no water. My family and I visited Kai’s older brother’s home so we could clean up. His wife and he are this adorable young couple, they’re so nice. We came back home and I did some computer checking before I went to sleep.
Today was spent nicely, too. I woke up late again, which was nice because I slept super late, and then we joined Kai’s brother’s wife and Kai himelf for lunch- again at Nuba. I had spaghetti and a big old chocolate parfait. It was interesting- the spaghetti was a good try but not legitimate at all. Still, it was nice to be out. We’re resting now and then we’re going back out to eat dinner later. Can’t believe its my last real day here!
6 August - HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDREA!!
We showed up to school to discover Hu Laoshi was going to teach both classes! Kevin, as he is otherwise known, has been away for a while because his father is ill, so we were happy to see him back. He’s super sweet and speaks English quite well. He even reminds me of one of my American Chinese friends a bit.
In class, we learned really easy things (about characters and their radicals, etc… quite basic stuff), which was disappointing. I drew pictures to entertain Frankie and Dailey so now I have a small collection of doodles of them on the moon, in a rainforst, owning a restaurant, and so on. Tai hao le.
After lunch we began this week’s culture class, which is cooking! Super fun. We made noodles in groups. Dailey and Joey basically took over for our group but it was fine- we still enjoyed watching and chatting. I had plenty of chances to be involved over the next few days!
After school I came home and relaxed. After dinner my host mother told me that she was disappointed that I hadn’t learned very much Chinese and we talked about how much of a let-down my classes were. She was sympathetic and offered to sit down with me to teach me some more Chinese, but it turned out to be a frustrating experience. She began to teach me things like “My name is…”- basics that I learned maybe a year ago. I thought she knew that I was more advanced as we’ve spoken in Chinese and I’ve shown her my notebook but I guess she didn’t think so… I demonstrated my knowledge of the basics and we moved on, but she then went through my notebook and corrected my characters. I was annoyed because her corrections were large and not in line with the way I like my notebook to be organized; besides, she just grabbed it without asking for any sort of permission from me. I understand that she was trying to be helpful, but the evening was just really frustrating. I was also irked because they started explaining to me how to take the train that I’ll be taking this weekend, reminding me of basic and obvious things like to lock the door if I use the bathroom. I think that sometimes the language barrier can be mistaken for stupidity and I was just really annoyed by the fact that they gave me so little credit. We did end up having a good conversation about college, though, so the evening wasn’t entirely unpleasant. And again, I realize that my family is just trying to be helpful, but… it’s hard to explain how frustrating it can be.
We were split into the advanced and beginner classes again today, which I was initially disappointed about- the beginner teacher, Long Laoshi, has been really great and we got Hu Laoshi again. It turned out to be a good day though: we learned about ma/ne/de/ba (!) and watched some videos about Chinese weddings, which was really fun. Hu Laoshi even read our palms! He said in mine he saw that my life will be decided by my choices. I have a lot of potential paths and I’ll be faced with a lot of big choices. Aiyah.
After lunch today we made jiaozi- dumplings! That was a lot of fun. I wasn’t a pro at the folding but still enjoyed it. We went back to the classroom at the end of the day to practice for the closing ceremony, which is tomorrow (Thursday). I’m singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Chinese with Frankie, Ceresa, and Marissa.
After school, my dad drove Dailey and me to the main entrance of 219 Park, from where we walked to Le Gout de Monde, the bakery I posted a picture of below! There, we ordered my cake for my birthday celebration at KTV tomorrow. It’s no secret since I’ve been telling my friends how much I want one, haha. We’re getting a great hedgehog cake- ahh I can’t wait! So cute!! After we ordered the cake, we wandered around downtown. I bought a few more gifts and basically finished off my RMB. We then joined her host family for dinner at a noodle place. The noodles had a sauce that was.. tingly? Not spicy. It felt like an allergic reaction. Bizarre. We also ate tasty little sandwhiches, though. It was a nice evening!
8 August - The last day of school!
Today was our last day of school- how crazy! (I posted a picture of me with the main building of our giant school below.) We all were in one class to practice for the closing ceremony tomorrow. Long Laoshi also decided that the girls were to sing MoLiHua, a super-famous traditional song. We practiced that and danced to this fantastic ’80s song about “China is our home”. So great.
We bought some snacks after lunch (chocolate, mmm) and then made rolls for our cooking class. SO cute- I’ll have to try it again at home! We finished the day with computer class, our last ever.
I came home and had an amusing experience when I saw my mother across the street. I was initially confused, but she came over and thanked Eric’s host dad for driving us and tried to hand him an envelope of money as a gift. In the Chinese way, he naturally refused; my mother then threw the gift in the car and ran off. Chinese gift-giving is an event.
The rest of the day has been pretty laid-back. I found out that we’ll be cut off from water again tomorrow- happy birthday to me, right?- so I’m going to have to start strategizing about how to plan my day. I also need to practice for the ceremony tomorrow! Hopefully it’ll go well, though I fear it will be chaotic. Oh well. Should be a fun day with KTV/birthday celebrations after.
I’ve had a busy weekend! I was going nonstop until last night, when I realized that my mousepad on my brand new laptop died. Fortunately I was able to visit the bargain malls today and get a 25 kuai (less than 4 USD) mouse. Now I’m able to update as much as I want!
I woke up on Friday morning congested but eager to get out of the house. Plus, I had plans after school! The morning was rainy and grey and I slipped walking down the street to catch my ride, resulting in a skinned knee. Thankfully the ever-prepared Dailey had bandaids and medicine so I cleaned up. It wasn’t too bad of a scrape.
School was nice but it was Guo Laoshi’s last day! We made another type of zhongguo jie (Chinese knot), this time a qingting (dragonfly). I think they’re adorable! We also worked on buying/selling vocabulary, including more clothes measure words, which was useful.
I still felt sick so I had a really small lunch and lounged afterwards with Frankie and Dailey. Our culture class was going to a kindergarten, which was fun! The children were really cute. Some were really interested in us but others weren’t having it. We first played a group game with the kids, then we broke up into small groups to play with them. My group was not interested in what I had to bring to the table and instead went crazy playing with the toy they were given. It was alright though; I kept myself busy by organizing their colored blocks to minimize clean-up time later. (It turned out to be helpful) After, one of the boys tried to communicate with me through actions… I think he was trying to say that the boy next to him was crazy and make me laugh. It was cute. We took a group picture and went back to school.
After school, I went with Dailey and Frankie to an evening of KTV and dinner with Dailey’s host family! First, we waited for about half an hour at Dailey’s host aunt/grandparents house (still not sure whose it was); then, we all drove over to what her father explained was “the nicest restaurant in AnShan”. He wasn’t kidding. I felt way underdressed in my jean shorts! In China, though, dress codes don’t really seem to exist. It’s odd to get used to at first- anything goes for any occasion, basically. You can see ladies climbing QianShan in heels and then out to eat in a nice restaurant and see other diners in workout clothes. Anyway, the restaurant was super swanky and we had a good time just enjoying the decor. This meal fell under the family-lazy-Susan-style, which was nice. I wasn’t a huge fan of the food (lots of seafood) but it was fine. We did have these lovely sticky dessert-type things that I’ve had before- so good!
After dinner, we all (that is, Dailey’s host family, grandparents, cousin/aunt, family friends, and we Americans) went to KTV! This experience was also enjoyable, but less so than our first time at KTV, probably because our company was less fun than a group of American teens. (Good news: My classmates and I are all going back out this week for my birthday!) Still, it was cool to see another KTV and to hear the Chinese sing, too. I was exhausted by the end of it and was happy to go home and get some rest to continue recovering.
I slept in yesterday and it was glorious. It rained all night long and ah, it was so nice! I went out around 11 to meet Dailey and Frankie at YuFoGuan, the Jade Buddha temple we visited with our classmates earlier in the trip. I walked there, as per my host mother’s request/instructions/demand. At first I thought that I had reached the wrong place or just a completely wrong side of the temple, but then Frankie found me (and ran up to me and scared the living daylights out of me, I thought a Chinese person was attacking me) and we went on the hunt for Dailey at the park’s front gate. We witnessed the most incredible flood- the road we were taking to reach the front entrance was entirely flooded and literally impossible to cross, so we had to make like the Chinese and trek up the muddy grassy hill beside it in order to reach a bridge. We found Dailey soon after, which was a relief, and then quickly found the Jade mall area. I bought a good heap of Jade gifts for you meiguoren (Americans) and spent most of the money I had expected to last me until the end of the trip, oops. Consequently, we then visited ICBC, a bank, and then had lunch at Dico’s! Dico’s (pronounced “Disco’s”) is a Chinese McDonald’s in that they’re everywhere (we also ate it at the Beijing train station) but differs in its cuisine. It serves chicken and it’s pretty tasty!
After lunch we visited Tanalong for a day of browsing. I bought a few more small things (including gifts) and we had a nice time exploring. We even met up with Joey and Ceresa for a bit, largely so Joey could repay me the 90 kuai he had borrowed a week ago. They both had just had their nails done and Ceresa’s blue sparkly nails made me wish that the manicure I had done a week ago hadn’t instantly chipped. (Joey got clear polish, for the record. He just needed his nails trimmed.) After the mall, Frankie left to go home and Dailey and I got a delicious blueberry-cream cheese pastry and some tasty cafe drinks. Hot chocolate for me- perfect on my throat! I got a taxi back home and spent the evening on my iPhone since my laptop was rendered unusable. (boo.)
I slept in again this morning, although my host mom had lessons (she’s a Chinese teacher) starting around 7 so the commotion woke me up a bit. She teaches groups of students (always boys, I’ve noticed) at our house, which sometimes results in me having to eat breakfast in my host sister Xinran’s room in the mornings before school. She’s currently having another lesson. I don’t know why but it seems like they’re always at eiter 7 am or in the late evening. Curious.
I Skyped with my [real] family when I woke up and then headed out to breakfast. I was held hostage in the main dining/living room for the next three hours as my mother excitedly made me watch “The Tourist”, an American film, with her. I wasn’t really happy to be stuck there- I hadn’t changed and wasn’t really interested in watching the film, which was dubbed over in Chinese. She also only translated that which I could already understand. For example, “I love you”. And halfway through the movie she informed me that the main character was a spy, which was a major part of the plot that I had figured out within the first five minutes of watching. She also laughed whenever anyone was injured. After the movie ended a group of Chinese people went into commentary about it so I asked if I could go get dressed. I made plans to go get a mouse with Frankie so after lunch we met up and I bought this lovely cheap device. I think we’re going to dinner after the lessons but I’m really never sure what’s going on here.
Less than a week left! Should fly by. Unfortunately I expect YCY (Yang Laoshi) to be reinstated as our teacher, but should that happen I’m going to say that her teaching is too difficult for me (true) and join the beginner class, which has a fantastic teacher. I’ll try to live it up my last week here and have a good time! Still, I must say, I’m excited to go home. One week!