Week 7

The weather is glorious now that fall is here, and I’m no longer a humid mess every time I step outside. It’s not quite cool enough yet for long sleeves (in my opinion), but the Chinese people must have ice in their blood because they always dress so warmly. They’re wearing sweaters and jackets already and I’m in a t-shirt and shorts still, so they must think I’m crazy. “Ben meiguoren” – silly American.

It’s been an exciting teaching week! This week I discussed traveling and countries with my students, and then I gave them an assignment to create their own island country with their English family. They had to decide on a country name, location, economic system and currency, kinds of food eaten, the language spoken, holidays, and other things like that. I also bought big paper and markers for them to draw maps of their countries and then they had to present their island to the class.

It turned out really great! Every class would gasp excitedly when I pulled out papers and markers – Chinese people have this funny way of saying “wow” that makes me laugh. Some groups drew fun island shapes like stars or pumpkins, and others drew realistic looking islands. They were very creative. One group said “Our island has no language, we only communicate with eye contact!” Another group had an island full of pigs and dragons that they talked to.

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I cherish every chance encounter with a new Chinese friend almost every day. It delights me to no end to step outside my apartment and not know who I might meet that day, who the big guy upstairs will tap on the shoulder and encourage to approach me, or me them.

Let’s talk about my new friend Davy for a minute.

On my way home Monday night, I hear this voice in the darkness say hello and it makes me jump. The voice says, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry I don’t mean to scare you. Are you a new foreign teacher?” Yes… “Did you go to Harding University?” Yes? How did you know?!

So having a strange Chinese person ask me about Harding out of the blue was a little odd. But he told me he was friends with Ricky, another teacher from Harding who taught at USC a couple years ago. We talked a little longer about Harding and about teaching here in China, and he asked if I wanted to meet up the next day and get tea or coffee to talk some more, I said sure.

The next day he messages me and tells me he will be picking me up at 7pm… and I was like “In a car?” I thought we were walking around? Oh well. Sunny came by at 5pm to fix my stove, and then 7pm rolled around and no word from Davy.

Finally at 7:40 he calls and tells me he’s outside. I go down to meet him, and he says hello and hands me a bag. “I got you a gift!” he says. “It’s chocolate!”

Then he introduces me to his driver. Like, he got a driver to drive us around for the evening. What??

Then he pulls a giant bouquet of flowers from the car and I guess I’m going on a date right now.

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So I play it cool, because I am nothing but cool, and we talk a little as the driver takes us to the new part of Hengyang that was recently built. He said he was born in the year of the tiger, and I know my youngest sister is also a tiger year so I’m like, “Wait you’re 17?” and he’s like “Haha no I’m 29.” (It’s hard to tell how old Chinese people are sometimes! They all look very youthful.) He tells me about his job – he went to med school and works in a hospital now.

His driver parks the car and we we walk around a park, and he tells me his driver is also his friend and they went to high school together. His friend walks with us, which is nice. He used to be a policeman, and now he works for the government directing anti drug programs.

We watch the old ladies dancing in the park and followed the dance moves they do (it is really hard!) and then we sat at a table and the three of us talked for awhile. Davy kept giving his friend a hard time about a nurse Davy tried to set him up with at the hospital, which led to a conversation about dating and relationships, and I think I cleared the air a little bit about not wanting to date right now.

They dropped me back off at apartment after a few hours, thus ending my first Chinese “date”. (Davy then called me 15 minutes afterwards, inviting me to a Chinese wedding with him next weekend)

When I wasn’t going on dates with strange Chinese guys this week, I also played volleyball and went to dinner with my volleyball friends, went to Nanhu Park with my friend Leo, and ate Pizza Hut with the American gang.

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I met my volleyball friends a few weeks ago when I saw them playing and joined a game. Only a few people speak very good English, but they have all been so friendly and inviting to me! We went to dinner Thursday and Friday night after playing volleyball for an hour and they gave me a Chinese name – Lan Rui Ci, which is a kind of blue beautiful flower. My friend Johnny picked blue because all of the volleyball friends are from the Chinese island of Hainan, and the sea is blue.

My friend Leo invited me to a party his engineering class was having on Saturday at Nan Hu park, and Lauren and I went together. It was so much fun! We biked around the beautiful lake for awhile and then played silly games with his friends.

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Since we hadn’t been to Pizza Hut in awhile, we felt we were due for some American food

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It’s slowly been hitting me just how long 10 months is, and I’ve been thinking about the family and friends I miss back home. I love being here in China. I feel so fulfilled and blessed being here, and I just wish I could share this whole experience in more ways than just words and pictures. Thanks for keeping up with my wacky adventures here! Keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we encounter new people and spend more time with students and friends!