A Travellerspoint blog

HEY! You're an ABC.

Yep, that's me. An American Born Chinese.

rain 24 °C

Hey again! Happy to elaborate on my host sister this time.

Let's briefly start from Saturday, July 9th:
Dropped off at Xinyu's friend's house with a person I've never met before. We sat in the house, she pointed to the computer, and went to go watch tv. She's about 14 and in the 8th grade, but I completely thought she was 16 because she's taller than me. And her voice is lowish. But anyways, she brought me kfc and I videochatted on her webcam-enabled laptop, and I found out KFC is pretty amazing here. Case in point: milk tea with black jelly for a drink, and DON TAT for dessert! Went out to shop with her later, and her primary school classmate who lives near by also came along. Since girls and guys usually don't hang out here, it was interesting to see them interact because girls usually stick with girls and guys with guys. We went to the large Mega Mart about 20 min away - walking distance - in the rain, and they bought me a huge amount of snacks (shrimp chimps, strange lays beef flavor, pocky sticks, rice crackers (a huge huge pack of like 400) and a bunch of jelly snacks and stuff. Then we went to a small store and they bought me a really cute gift because they said they really enjoyed my company. Their english was good but sometimes our communication hit a roadblock. They were very very nice and I was flattered that they bought a gift for me! When my host parents came to pick me up at around 8 pm, they said that they would never forget this day and we exchanged emails :D My host parents brought me to their friends house, where I watched a Jackie Chan movie and sat in a cloud of constant smoke. The guy next to me smoked about 4 cigarettes in one hour while I was sitting next to him x_x Lung cancer! I was falling asleep and couldn't breathe that well, so the cigarette smoke didn't help much.

Sunday, July 10th: 8 am

We all met at the school for a field trip - we were planning to drive for maybe 30 minutes to go to an amusement park, museum, and a lake, but that turned into a 2 hour bus ride to Wuxi to walk around underground caves. Since it was pouring rain, our plans changed but the trip ended up being somewhat interesting.

We met the South Korean exchange students from Seoul early Saturday morning at school, and there are 8 korean boys and 2 korean girls that are around 17 or so years old. We all hopped onto the bus and drove and drove and drove.. then finally arrived at the underground caves. Water was dripping everywhere, the ground was pretty slippery, and it was pretty chilly! But the colorful lights lit up funny Chinglish signs and it was interesting to learn about the thousands of years old formations that somewhat resemble old Chinese prophecies and dragon heads!
Everyone got onto these flat wooden boats and we paddled through the deep water that gathered underground many years ago and that was definitely the highlight of the day! We all screamed a lot and we were "rocking the boat" haha. Anyways... exiting the cave was insane. There were 800 steps to the exit and then a huge hilly path that never ended. Everyone was sweaty and bought ice cream after we got out of the cave.. but it was very beautiful out and even though it was completely wet, there were beautiful clouds hovering over the green grassy hills we were on and it was picture perfect!

So anyways, we drove back home and got back to Changzhou around 5, then I met my host sister. She was yelling at my host mom and they were fighting and fighting and I was like "what is going on..." then she told me that she failed the exams that they were studying all week [and LIVING at school] for and obviously her mom was upset. Great first impression. She introduced herself later at dinner and it was interesting talking to her. She talks sososo much and her english is pretty good. She calls girls "he/his" and guys "she/her" but that's pretty much the only error I've encountered. Back at home, I jumped into the shower but stayed out of the way after because she was crying a lot and her mom was still screaming. The wrath of an angry Chinese mom is very very scary. Especially when you do poorly on your studies. Eep.

More on Xinyu:
17 years old, very young looking - looks about 15. She tells me a lot of things I don't care to know/don't want to know from a stranger [yet]. Really good teacher, but kind of on me a LOT about every little thing that I haven't been taught yet. Case in point: the way I draw my Chinese characters, the way my accent limits me greatly from pronouncing phrases/words with a legit Chinese accent, my weight, my height, my looks, my background (You're Chinese? Why can't you speak it!? You should speak it better than everyone else here!), my clothes, my eating habits.. list goes on. Definitely not ready for this from a person I just met. She said all my classmates were very beautiful "blonde hair, blue eyes" (don't actually have anyone that fits that description here in Changzhou from America but that's alright) and then she looks at me and kind of implies "well, not you". She's quite cynical really. I'm very very happy to have her correcting my strokes when I draw characters and teaching me vocab and the correct way to pronounce things. But during class, when we only get like 10 seconds to copy down 5 billion Chinese characters, she leans over my shoulder and tells me all these things that make me eventually miss the copying-down part and it's frustrating. But I am happy to basically have a live-in Chinese tutor. I'm very fortunate to get this opportunity but sometimes I want to slow down and get a little space! She's cool though and I'm happy she's not shy at all. She tells me when I'm doing something wrong and when I need to improve, but I have to get used to the part of the culture that dictates that it's perfectly alright to express your criticism of a person's actions.

Last night, she told me that her sleep (in the same bed as me - supposedly against AFS rules? but oh well) was "not very good" so she's sleeping with her mom instead of me. (at least for one night) Haha. That implies there is something wrong with me! And then she told me that she doesn't think I am thin. Yes, I know thank you! She's actually heavier than me so it was interesting hearing this from her. Trying to be a little more patient in my learning and living but it's hard when it comes at you full force.

Real teacher hasn't come yet. We're being told she's coming tomorrow, but for now we're still getting phrases that we don't understand fully yet. We get a few characters to form a sentence and then the general meaning for that sentence but we don't understand basics so we have no idea how to form these on our own. Our class today was hilarious! Joseph, Luke and I had a lot of fun just playing around with the different memorized phrases we got and we all had the giggles [literally] because of that chocolate cake I was given this morning. I had a few baos this morning with some yellow sugary stuff inside that tasted pretty good! Oh and last night, my dinner consisted of beef noodle soup and shaolimbao juicy pork dumplings! [YES! favorite food ever in one meal] YAY. Everyone always gives me dirty looks after realizing that I can't speak Chinese. I know, I'm ashamed. But leave me alone! I never had the chance to learn. Stop stereotyping me :p "pssst. She's an ABC!"

our lesson today:
"dui bu qui, help me get off [the bus]" "help!" "I'm lost"

Looking forward to meeting up with the rest of the AFS kids in Baoding, where we'll attend a volunteer conference this weekend. We're leaving Friday morning at 6 am and driving for 10 HOURS to Baoding, (1 hour away from Beijing) then attending a two day volunteer conference and then driving back for 10 hours. 2 days of travelling really, then we're coming back at 7 am Monday.

Conversation between Lao Shi (teacher) and Miranda:
Miranda: "Do we have to attend school Monday when we come back? Because that's insane!"
Lao Shi: "Yes."
Miranda: "So when we come back from a 10 hour bus ride, we have to attend school right when we get back to Changzhou?!"
Lao Shi: "When you come home, you will meet your host family and shower and get food."
Everyone: O.O
Miranda: "But you just said.."
Miranda: "Yes!"
Lao Shi: "Oh."

Hahahaha that was hilarious. He got so mad it was strange!

Anyways, looking forward to the next week ahead. We also went shopping yesterday during sports time with EVERYONE (all volunteers, teachers, exchange students) to a local mall called Lu Chou and there were tons of vendors selling everything from dresses, shirts, pants, shoes (1st & 2nd floor) to small items, housewares, food, toys (3rd & 4th floor). A lot of people bought [fluffy] pillows and bigger towels because their host family gives them small flat pillows and hand towels to use. (hand towels for their whole body...) It was a lot of fun trying to use our new vocabulary (shopping unit! yay!) and interesting to see everyones heads turn while red-haired girls and "aliens/foreigners" pass. We'll visit again soon!

Got really homesick the other day because I had a really bad stomachache, the weather was terrible, and I didn't really feel like memorizing more phrases I didn't understand. And I missed my dog a lot. ): Didn't help when Joseph mentioned he saw a box labelled "Fido" in the supermarket. O.O Let's not question that...
Got over it when I started talking to people and we went out for an excursion at the mall.

Playing "Hey Baby, I Love You" and Ninja is also a lot of fun, especially with strangers you don't really know.
Our favorite student store is closing up because all the students are finally done with their term and on summer vacation.
Tissue packs and handy dandy toilet paper dispensers are REALLY REALLY helpful
Everythings so cheap - buying a bunch of snacks can total up to one US dollar.
Xinyu: "Washing your clothes by hands = very good for arms. Muscles." Very true. I'm washing my clothes every night and it takes a lot of strength to squeeze out every drop of water and scrub every inch of material. Washboards! Yay.
Luke Bradshaw says hi! He's a Southern belle.

Zai Jian!

Posted by cuhloe 21:26 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Photos from around Changzhou

Check them out :)

overcast 33 °C


Posted by cuhloe 22:38 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Embracing my inner Chinese.

Ping pong, calligraphy, and green tea ice cream oreos included.

overcast 35 °C

Today, we had a full day of classes at Changzhou No. 1 Middle School, including a 4 hour Chinese lesson from 8 am, a 3 hour calligraphy lesson, a sports time [which happily included refreshing ice cream, ping pong matches, and green tea ice cream oreos], and a shopping excursion that took the place of computer lab time. I'm happy to elaborate on the green tea ice cream oreos - everyone believed they were mint oreos even though I kept saying they were green tea.... and the ping pong matches were amazingly entertaining. There's about 8-10 ping pong tables in the courtyard, with professional paddles and billions of balls. Of course we're going to be playing ping pong in China. Don't worry, I'll come back a ping pong pro at this rate... pics to follow!

We convinced our teachers to let us out during computer time to shop around Changzhou for various items. A few people bought cameras because they forgot them, and many of us bought baby books to teach us basic Mandarin vocab words. Everythings so cheap and a bunch of snacks total up to be less than a US dollar usually.
Our Mandarin lesson is a little tough at the moment because we're just given key phrases to memorize - our real Mandarin teacher is coming in next week after the exams are over. She's teaching at the moment, so we have a substitute teacher in her place. Although we're having a lot of fun (musical chairs, joseph's INTENSE thriller dance, cha cha slide, cupid shuffle... did I mention this is inside the classroom?), it's not intensely productive but I'm hoping that'll improve next week.

Nobody really knows what boba is here but they do know what bubble tea is. I think one of the volunteers said they'll bring us to a really good boba shop later on but for now I had to settle with the milk tea & red beans floating around combo .. strange. Did I mention the school has an amazing student store / mini grocery mart with allll of these interesting-flavored snacks? PICTURES BELOW!
3 hour calligraphy was insane. Everyone fell asleep at the end but I find it kind of relaxing and fun.. Fernando commented on my character-writing skills earlier in the day and said "Your inner Chinese is coming out when you write these characters!" x_x

Anyways... had to take a taxi home because my host mom (who I confirmed is my host mom!) was still working.
Truly a hard task to flag down a taxi ... will work on that in New York. I had to close my eyes a lot because the taxi drivers are nuts. Literally.

Here's some tips for driving in China, if you haven't gotten the point yet:
1) Driving is a free for all activity. You're on the road, you have to fend for yourself.
2) There are no such things as lanes. What are these lines in the middle of the road? I have no idea. Because I'm driving on both sides. And why not just drive on top of the lines too! Two lanes = three cars (one left, one middle on top of the dividing line, and one on the right). Oh I forgot to mention the CARS COMING STRAIGHT AT YOU AS WELL. On the same side.
3) Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way. Don't even think about it.
4) Honking is normal. You will not get glared at/shot. If an elderly person & their baby grandson happen to be walking in the lane in front of you, you may honk because they're in your way and you must get them to move before you hit them!
5) Seatbelts are completely unnecessary inventions.

Watched a student play at her school then went to ajisen ramen! She pointed to KFC or Ajisen and of COURSE I would choose the ramen...who wants KFC when you can get noodles :) hehe she asks all the waitresses/waiters we encounter if they can speak English because she doesn't know how else to communicate to me. Then they always give me a really funny look and they start chatting in rapid Chinese "mei guoren" .. hmm my pinyin sucks. So I pointed to a kimchi beef noodle and she gasped and pointed to the Chinese words of "kimchi" and was like what?! but then I nodded and she was like well okay...
Well at least I think that's what she said considering we do a lot of charades all the time. Haha
Warm milk will take a little getting used to. And tea... I've been trying my best. Really.

Bug bite count: 12+4 = 16 ): where's my bug repellent ...
I will upload all my photos to the photo album when I get the time to do so. Pics from around Changzhou!
PS. You should try having full conversations using Google translator sometime! It's tough.

Changzhou AFS students, teachers & volunteers

Changzhou AFS students, teachers & volunteers

What would China be without ping pong?

What would China be without ping pong?

Classroom time!

Classroom time!

Green Tea Ice Cream Oreos (i warned them...)

Green Tea Ice Cream Oreos (i warned them...)

Posted by cuhloe 07:25 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

Day 2: School begins!

overcast 35 °C

Ni hao!

We finally went to school today at Changzhou No.1 Middle School :) Driving through these streets are definitely insane - if we're driving on one side of the road, everyone else is also driving on that side.. but coming the opposite way. What? Definitely never driving in China. Finally got to the school and met up with the other 13 AFsers :] We were handed a cell phone and told it was loaded with 200 RMB but that it's unlimited in the Jiangsu province. So I guess all of us AFS kids will be calling each other and talking! :D International and outside the province is obviously more expensive but we'll see.

We began with a welcome orientation, tour around the school, and received these Changzhou badges/pins. Cool! Then we had lunch, in a small private room excluded from the rest of the kids attending the middle school. Venturing off to the restroom during lunch was no small feat. Miranda and JulieAnn [from Vermont and Philadelphia, respectively] went to the ... "toilets" and they tried to say that they were with me because everyone was staring at us :] Every person turned and stared because obviously Caucasian people and people of different races aren't exactly the norm! The restrooms had doors up to our hips and squatty holes with no toilet paper. My favorite. :D
We're going to be heading back to the classroom soon to have a culture class. Sports tomorrow!

Im sweating like crazy ): It's very unbearable, and even though I'm used to the hot weather, I guess it's a mixture of humidty and clothing choice. We would be wearing bikinis and micro mini shorts if we were in Cali :D Last night, they encouraged me to take another shower even though my hair was still wet from the first one. I talked to the older sister on the phone, and she apologized for her absence [because of the exams]. I think I will give them the presents when she comes back? Also: host dad m.i.a. He never came back from work ? :\ We had egg fried rice this morning and warm milk in cartons. Interesting...
Had a rough night. Sleeping on this wooden woven pad on top of the rock hard bed and my back hurts.. but maybe it'll get stronger! Haha. I don't know. Maybe we're supposed to take it off when we sleep? But then I felt underneath the wooden pad thing and it's equally hard so I'm confused about that. Still confused as to who my parents are... names are also questionable. 14 year old speaks very softly but she's my only connection to the family. She refers to the only other person in the house as her aunt so I'm not sure if she's my host mom or not... someone clarify! Anyways. Going to play omgpop on the computers..

Wait no thats not right

Posted by cuhloe 21:34 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (4)

Day 1 continued

the real china

overcast 32 °C

so i eventually connected all the dots and figured out that this isn't actually my host family - my real 16 year old sister is studying for the HUGE final exams that are taking place this entire week so i'm not actually going to see her until maybe next week? and at the moment i'm staying with her aunt and uncle and her little sister. wait - what? she has a sister? china...one-child policy... yeah, i'm still confused too. but supposedly i'm staying with her little sister until she's done. since they don't speak english, i'm going to have to bear with the google translating until shes done with exams.

so we're already had a banquet style lunch and for dinner we had dumplings and fermicelli soup noodles. :D yay! we had to walk a long way past the park to the restaurant and even though it was very sticky and humid, it was really nice to be able to just walk down the street for dinner with a whole bunch of people milling around.

what i noticed tonight:
- women wear chunky wedges and dresses while they're riding on their scooters. women don't drive cars
- older guys tend to not wear shirts
- people are happy and relaxed even though its really hot ... :D
- theres no such thing as a sidewalk, right of way - street manners i guess. i'm pretty sure i knew that already but i was more aware of it walking to dinner tonight when everyone just drives on the opposite sides of the street and parks face to face. surprised i havent seen any car accidents yet.. but then i guess everyones already used to driving like that!
- we took a walk after dinner and travelled through a kind of foresty thing near the condos. the waters murky and they have color-changing light decorations all along the large pond.. pictures later.
- schools tomorrow morning at 8 but i have to get up at 6:15 ): they'll be driving me for the next few days but when my 16 year old sister is done with exams then we'll be taking the bus i think

update tomorrow! zai jian [:

Posted by cuhloe 05:53 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (2)

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