Day Seventeen – Sunday, July 9
Today I felt like I really bonded more with my family. We did a bunch of activities together and I really appreciated how they accommodated my wants to hang out with other friends with our schedule of exploring the city!
This morning my sister and I were planning on going to one of her friend’s birthday parties. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled about this because whenever I go places with her and her friends, she (understandably) wants to talk and play with them. Her friends include me, but no one talks to me. I think that they feel like their English isn’t good enough to converse with me and don’t really understand that I can speak Chinese, even though I am speaking (bad) Chinese to them! But after waiting at the meet-up spot for a while, Linda called her friend’s mom and she said that the party wasn’t today! I felt bad for Linda, but she wasn’t too upset and as a family, we decided to all do something else.
Almost right after we got home, the whole family was headed off to Yuan Ming Xin Yuan (圆明新园) – a large park surrounding the water park that we went to last weekend. This park is filled with traditional looking buildings and many courtyards. Additionally, it has tons of ponds with hundreds of large (and fat) koi fish that visitors can feed. We took a leisurely stroll around the grounds of the park (basically went in a huge circular loop) and stopped for pictures about every 2 minutes. I really enjoyed the fact that there was so much green space mixed in with the city; it felt like as soon as we entered the park gate we were magically transported out of the huge city and into a tranquil forestland. Near one of the koi ponds, my sister tried for about 10 minutes to “catch” one of the koi! She would wiggle her fingers around the koi (which were very used to humans) and then try and grab one! While she was never very successful, I personally found this to be hilarious. Also in the park, I tried a cool Chinese snack that I’ve seen a lot of kids eating. It was basically thick simple syrup that is “drawn” onto a metal slate to create a beautiful piece of sugar art. When the cook takes the sugar art off of the metal, you have a beautifully crafted lollipop with many fine lines! My sister had hers drawn like a panda, and I had mine like a koi fish! While it just tasted like a sugary lollipop (no real flavor), the appearance was stunning!
After spending about 2 hours in the park, my family went to get beef noodle soup for lunch a tiny, hole in the wall restaurant. These noodles are my sister’s favorite, and I can clearly see why! My parents ordered ma la beef noodles, which are very spicy but delicious! While we were waiting for our food to come, my sister was quizzing me on items on the menu. To all of our surprise, I could read about 60% of the menu! Most of the words were simple ones that I learned in the US – like the types of meat and the cooking styles – but some were vague or abstract words that I don’t think I’ve ever officially learned. This was incredibly encouraging to me because it showed me that even if I don’t feel like I’m learning that much Chinese in school, I am definitely picking up a lot just by being here.
Later that afternoon, my parents dropped me and Linda off at the Zhuhai Opera House (which was voted one of the most beautiful buildings in the world!) It is shaped like two clam shells, and lights up at night in a vibrant color show. We went inside and immediately saw some American singer dressed like Adele singing for a live mini-concert. It was actually pretty funny, since I knew most of the American songs and could tell she wasn’t an amazing singer, but the general Chinese population thought she was beyond amazing. Linda and I had tickets to see the movie “The Bodyguard” in the theater at 2. It wasn’t until almost 3 that anything started up, and then we saw a bunch of small acts performed by local groups and the American singer. I think this was the first day the Opera House was showing the film so they were trying to hype it up. It didn’t really work, as Linda and I were both trying not to just fall asleep in the chairs! Once the movie started, neither of us were too into it (me because I just didn’t like the movie and Linda because it was in English/definitely not appropriate for a 12 year old). So we left like 30 minutes in and just caught a cab home.
Finally for me (today was literally packed!) I went over to Zack’s house for his birthday dinner. He invited 5 of us over to his house for a casual dinner and birthday cake. When I got to his house, I was stunned by how incredibly large it is. His parents own the building he lives in, and they live in the penthouse suite that has two floors and all the rooms were similar in size to rooms in a standard American house. His kitchen was what I was most shocked by – it is just about the size of an average American kitchen but compared to my tiny, sliding door kitchen that barely fits the stove, sink, and fridge, it was fit for a king! Zack’s mom, Connie, cooked a very large and special meal for Zack – she even happened to cook crab, which is a birthday tradition for Zack. Since he’s from Maryland (known for Maryland blue crab), Zack gave us all a lesson on how to crack and eat full crabs! In all, we had a great time hanging out and Zack said it was definitely a birthday he wouldn’t forget!
Wow, today was full of so many activities! I really love how my host family is showing me around Zhuhai because I find it hard to explore the city on my own during the week. I hope this upcoming week is just as full of fun things to do!