…I’m sitting on my bed writing this, quite contented with the fact that I didn’t have to put any effort into getting dinner and that I only had to pay about 5 USD for a chicken sandwich, French fries, and a drink.
This past weekend, the students all moved in with their host families, which made me super jealous and nostalgic. I miss my NSLI-Y host family so much! It’s just not fair! But one of the other chaperons here (they’re all Chinese except me) is only about 3 years older than I am, so we’ve decided that she is now my own personal “homestay sister”. It was also a little weird at first not having all the students eat breakfast and dinner with us or live in the dorms with us anymore. There was this kind of empty feeling knowing that the rooms around mine would soon be filled with strangers, that I would no longer hear singing and guitar playing coming from next door, that nobody would be knocking on my door at 9pm asking about the next day’s schedule or something of the sort. But it’s not like I never see them anymore; I still help run e-portfolio sessions (where the students discuss cultural differences, ask questions, etc… but please don’t ask me why it’s called “e-portfolio” because nobody actually knows haha) in the mornings, and I hang around in the afternoons for their cultural classes and tutoring sessions, as well as to see them all off around 5 when their host parents come to pick them up.
Also, because the students no longer live on campus, I got to have a little extra free time this weekend while they were hanging out with their new Chinese families. On Friday night, the first night the students were gone, my “homestay sister” and I went out to eat at a nearby Korean restaurant. EVERYTHING WAS SO SPICY WHY IS KOREAN FOOD SO SPICY. They even managed to make the non-spicy food spicy by putting small slices of pepper on top of the potato pancakes. -_- But then we went to Coco and I got a mango 冰沙 (basically a slushie), so everything was fine! On Saturday, the students came back for their normal class schedule, but of course went home at 5:00, so a few of us teachers/chaperons went out shopping after dinner. We went to Zhongshan Road (中山路), where there are malls, department stores, restaurants, and a pedestrian street (a big road with lots of stores where no cars are allowed). I didn’t buy anything, but I found lots of interesting Chinglish shirts! For example, this one, which I actually very much agree with:
On Sunday, the students had the whole day with their host families, which meant I had the day off. The teacher I’m rooming with (Yang Laoshi) and I both got to sleep in, which was great, and then we went and had some noodles together for brunch. We then took a more-than-two-hour bus ride out to the Xiang’an District (which is actually not that far, but the public bus is extra slow because it has to make so many stops…) Luckily it was only 2 kuai, or about 30 American cents. Yang Laoshi got off a little before I did, since she is moving back to China after teaching in the US for three years, and she is currently looking for an apartment. Meanwhile, I went on to the end of the bus route: Xiamen University’s Xiang’an Campus (翔安校区), where I will be studying for a year starting in September. Xiang’an is pretty far out from the city center, with not many people, very few big shady trees, and little to do – It will for sure be an excellent place to focus on studying, lol. Even so, I really liked the campus! It’s huge and very pretty, and it’s also only a few years old, so the facilities are really nice. As I walked and looked at all the buildings, it seemed to me that most of the departments that are based on that campus are science-related, such as oceanography and various types of engineering. So I’m still not too sure about why they decided to move the Overseas Education department, which is all the Chinese classes for foreigners, out there instead of leaving it on the main campus (where I am now) with the humanities-based departments. The locals I talk to don’t get it either – Whenever I mention to someone that I’ll be going to Xiang’an to study in September, but that I’m a Chinese major, they usually exclaim something to the effect of, “But the Chinese department is on THIS campus!” But it’s not like there’s a rule that says humanities majors and “hard sciences” majors can’t be friends, so I’m sure everything will be great!
I returned to the main campus in time for dinner, after which my “homestay sister” and I went to the beach. The beach is SO CLOSE to us. Like, a five minute walk to the university gate, cross the street, and you’re there. That particular beach is called Baicheng (白城), which, like everything in China, is super crowded, so we took a VERY PACKED bus to a marginally less crowded (even though it was already dark) beach called Yefengzhai (椰风寨). We stood with our feet in the water, relocating every so often as the tide went out (and as little kids ran by splashing water everywhere), just talking for a long time. It was too dark to take any pictures, so instead, please enjoy this photo I took of the main island from Gulangyu Islet, a famous island that we went to last week but it was unfortunately too late in the evening for us to really do much of anything:
Finally, before I go get ready for bed, I guess it’s interesting to mention that I’ve become the group’s default interpreter. Guest speakers don’t speak English? I’m there. Culture interest group volunteers don’t speak English? I’m also there. Museum tour guides don’t speak English? I’m there, too. Some days are better than others, but fortunately I always have help, usually from my “homestay sister”. The presentations that included a lot of obscure jargon, such as the one about the guqin (a traditional Chinese stringed instrument) and traditional Chinese painting, were REALLY difficult; the Chinese educational system went all right (a lot of it was pre-translated by a volunteer, so that helped); and Chinese chess was pretty smooth. Today we went to the university’s Museum of Anthropology, where two of the students from the advanced class and I worked together to translate the guides’ explanations for the group. Sometimes I feel like I’m not doing a very good job, but the students tell me they enjoy my translations, so I guess it’s going ok.