Day One – Friday, June 23
Today was jam-packed. Once again, I was up incredibly early…
I guess there is no way to avoid jetlag. We ate breakfast at the hotel on Beijing Normal University’s (BNUZ) campus and then headed over to a conference room to start our in-country orientation. Honestly, I can’t believe how many orientations nsliy is able to fit into so few days. SiHong greeted us once again – she is one of the nicest people I have ever met!
Our orientation began with SiHong explaining a daily school schedule and giving us a package of important materials for the summer. Inside this package was a reloadable bus card, casino chips for BNUZ’s cafeteria, peppermint essential oil (which is supposed to cure anything and everything), a notebook, a pen, and most importantly, a fan. Wow, don’t even get me started on how hot it is here; I literally broke a sweat in on the 3-minute walk from our hotel to the cafeteria. Also during orientation, we acted out more scenarios we may run into with out host families and brainstormed solutions. The most relevant scenario was that there is a strong language barrier and you cannot communicate with your family – our solutions were to use body language and a translator app. Lastly for the morning session, we took a campus tour of BNUZ on their “E-Carts” (large golf carts).
Onto lunch we go! BNUZ is an incredibly large and beautiful campus (Zhuhai was voted China’s most livable city). All of our classrooms and the cafeteria and main store are conveniently located next to each other. We walked over to the cafeteria, which easily trumps even the best of American cafeterias. You pay for all meals with casino chips; each chips color corresponds to a different number of yuan (comparable unit to the dollar, 1 US dollar = ~6.8 yuan). I ordered a milk bubble tea, which was better than almost all teas I have had in the US, for 5 yuan. That is about 80 cents, compared to $4.50 in the US! For lunch, my friend XueYing and I split a bowl of wonton soup with extra black vinegar… all for just 8 yuan, 4 each! In all, my lunch came to about $1.50 for a surplus of food that was so much better than any US cafeteria. (@ArchmereStudents this is so much better/cheaper than sage)
We were all sweating by the time lunch ended (because of the hot food, packed cafeteria, and generally hot weather). Walking into the supermarket across the street, we were thrilled to find a blasting air conditioner and just stand in front of it!! Most of us didn’t buy anything and just went back to orientation after we had chilled out (literally). Back at orientation, we prepared for our opening ceremony (very popular in China) by learning the chorus to DuiBuQi as a group.
Our opening ceremony was held in the same building as our Chinese classrooms. During this, all the teachers introduced themselves and introduced the language-learning portion of nsliy. We then sang our chorus to DuiBuQi, thoroughly embarrassing ourselves before our oral tests had even begun! Each nsliy student is paired up with a language partner, who is a college student majoring in Chinese as a Second Language (CSL). These language partners put on a performance to showcase many facets of Chinese culture. They played traditional instruments, danced to traditional folk songs, demonstrated Chinese yoyos, and performed kung fu. To say the least, the Chinese performance was far superior to ours.
After the performances, we all waited anxiously because our oral placement test was about to begin. One by one, each nsliy student was called back in front of the head teachers for a brief chat in Chinese. Some of the questions I got (in Chinese) were “are you Chinese,” “do you speak Chinese with your nainai,” and “how long have you been studying Chinese?” Next, they had me write a sentence, which was very hard for me because at my school we don’t need to memorize characters. My sentence was 昨天我买了面包. I could write all of it but mian bao… I felt good after the test, especially knowing that it was just for a placement and nothing more.
Now for the most exciting part of the day, host families! After our test, we walked back to our hotel to find all of our host families gathered waiting for us. I was so nervous/excited to meet my family, especially since I hadn’t been in contact with them before. A nice lady walked up to me and asked if I was Tully, and when I said yes she said she was my host mom and gave me a huge bouquet of flowers! Her name is Kathy, and her husband Mike was parking the car. It is actually really funny that I am their host child because I have the same last name as they do, Liu (刘). After taking many pictures and speaking to SiHong and Isabel, I was free to go home with them. On the drive home I was just with Kathy because Mike had his own car. She speaks a little English, but we were able to chat about simple things like what I like to do and eat in Chinese. Mike is practically conversational in English, which helps at home because if I didn’t get something in Chinese he would translate it for me and then I would try to respond in Chinese. We got to their apartment complex and took the elevator all the way up to the 17th floor, which is where they live. Their apartment is small (all are in China) but feels spacious. They put my luggage in my room, which is decorated in Minnie Mouse sheets and baby pink drapes. When I came back out, my host sister Linda was sitting at the table! She is 12 years old and super cute! I spoke a little Chinese with her, but she is very shy and quiet. Almost immediately after getting to their house, Kathy had dinner ready on the table! We enjoyed a feast of all sorts of Chinese cuisine: chicken, pork, eggs, bok choy, noodles, and of course, white rice. Everything was incredible – so far I don’t think I have tried anything I haven’t liked. After dinner, my family and I went on a walk to a supermarket to buy me a towel, flip-flops, and food for all of us. This was the largest supermarket I have ever seen, there were even slanted elevators for the carts to go up to the next level! After leaving the market, Linda went off to badminton practice and I walked around the famous sports complex in Zhuhai with my parents. Something that surprised me was the number of women doing coordinated dances for exercise outside of the track – there must have been at least 300 women actively participating when we were there! We walked around the track watched the dances for a bit, but I was so tired that we headed back home early (8pm). Once home, I just got ready for bed, said goodnight to my new family, and fell fast asleep.
I am so lucky to have such an amazing host family. Not only are they kind people who have opened their home to me, but they are also fun and really easy to talk to (besides the language barrier). I cannot wait to spend more time with them this weekend and for the next 6 weeks!