Joy is picking strawberries in a field on a sunny day and eating Chinese food at a fancy restaurant with new friends (and liking all the Chinese food you order). Joy is bicycling at the park with students and eating pizza with Chinese and American friends.

Joy comes in so many forms here in China, in some surprising and beautiful ways.

I’ve been meaning to sit and write for awhile but have been a little unmotivated to do so, and also I’ve been a little busy doing other things. But here’s a little life update from China.

Ruby and the English Association invited us to go strawberry picking with them a few weeks ago on Easter. It was a beautiful day and a short bus ride away to the countryside. You would go to each strawberry owner and examine a sample of their strawberry crop, and then ask to pick strawberries in their area. I’ve never done this before, and it was fun to try it out. We ate dumplings afterwards and then went to my apartment to play games. We played spoons with them and they loved it! (we play with chopsticks instead of spoons though.)

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Since the weather has been getting nicer, I wanted to go to Nanhu Park to ride bikes and asked my student Emily to go with me. She brought along two friends, one who spoke a little English. The other one, a quiet boy, didn’t talk to us at the park at all and silently followed us everywhere we went. It was slightly awkward and really funny at the same time.

I’ve been going to Young’s Chinese Circle every Wednesday still, a great time to practice some Chinese and talk to some sweet Chinese girls and other foreigners.

Lauren had her foreign students over for a party and it was SO funny how different they are than Chinese students. And we laughed as we learned we have to socialize differently with them than the Chinese students.

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Let’s review a Chinese party vs. Foreign student party:

Chinese students: They all arrive together with their class. Sometimes they will bring Chinese snacks with them. At least one person in the group owns a selfie stick, and at least half the girls will spend half the party taking pictures of each other. They ask us to be in 50+ pictures with them. We know the right topics of conversations to ask them and all the right jokes to make them laugh and they think we are hot nuts. It’s pretty easy to be cool to our Chinese students. They leave the party together as a class.

Foreign Students: Arrive whenever and leave whenever they want, not together. Us standing awkwardly to the side trying to figure out what’s cool to say. Only one girl is taking selfies. Awkwardly pulling out my selfie stick. (Like I may have mentioned before, we’ve forgotten how to talk to non-Chinese people. It’s difficult.)

BUT. It was still a blast and I’m so thankful that Lauren is sharing her foreign students with us! It’s fun to see them around campus and chat with them around town. Many of them are from Ghana and Nigeria and Rwanda, so they have some cool stories and enjoy playing UNO and listening to top 40 music too.

This week I had an English corner and a culture lecture at the new campus. There were a lot of students who came to my English corner, most of them from a class I taught last semester but not this semester. It was really awesome to catch up with them all and meet some new people as well. The students have been very busy with all kinds of activities the last few weeks, so I wasn’t surprised that not as many could come to my culture lecture the next night. I almost prefer less people though, because it feels less formal and gets more students talking during the question time at the end.

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Also in the last few weeks:

Brittany’s 23rd birthday

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I bought a guitar! I took lessons when I was younger and decided I’d like to pick it up again because a lot of my students play. One of Lauren’s students from last semester took me to her guitar teacher and helped me get one and I’m working on a Chinese song to play for my students!

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Judging another speech contest. It was the second round of the English Association’s contest. The theme is: 1+1=2. It was cool because 4 of my freshman students made it to this round and one got first place and another got second place!

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Jane, Amy, Me, Doris, Jenny
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From Building 1 on a sunny day this weekend

It’s still amazing to me how far we have come in 7 months (nearly 8 now). Adapting to life in China, adjusting to the oddities of Hengyang. There are still lots of culture shock moments and days you want to hibernate away from the strangeness of it all, but overall I love this little city and the people.

I have found so much joy and peace here. I’m so thankful for the people who have helped us and loved on us here and all the doors that have been opened. If you could keeps some things in your Thoughts for us:

  • One of our friends here found out she has a brain tumor. Please keep her (and her family) in your thoughts
  • Many students are preparing for the TEM4 this weekend, a national English test they need to pass.
  • Making the most of our 2.5 months left here. Building more relationships and spending time with more people.

See ya in 10 WEEKS America.

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love ya,

Rach