Well, Kirstie and I have officially been in Chengdu, China for about four weeks now. When we first got here, we were very excited for our experience of a lifetime. This is definitely a great experience, but there have been some challenges. The first week we got here, we visited both Love and Longzhou Community, each of the primary and middle schools that we teach at Wednesday through Friday, and we of course visited the YMCA/YWCA.
When we first arrived at the Y, we met a bunch of different people, which was very overwhelming. We were afraid that we wouldn’t remember all of their names. The staff at the Y had a welcome party for us to help with this, and we all introduced ourselves to each other. After introducing ourselves, we played a game that helped us learn everyone’s name. The game we played was fun, but I got really embarrassed during it. For the game, we had to hit the table with both hands twice, then clap our hands once and then snap our right fingers. After the first time of doing this, we would say A; then we would do the hand thing again and after we snapped we would have to say someone’s name. You would do this one by one and if your name was said, then you would have to do it and say another person’s name and so on. This was very fun until you messed up at some point because we had a punishment. The punishment was to turn around and write your name with your butt. I messed up a couple of times and the very first time I did, I was so embarrassed and my face turned so red!
After playing this game and talking with the staff, I feel like we are all more of a family. I know that they’ll always be there for us when we need them. The Y staff is very helpful and and kind. It’s nice to have them by our side, especially at the beginning when we need them the most. Kirstie and I have laughed so much hanging out with them; it makes our time here way more enjoyable. At points when things start to become overwhelming, it’s nice to just hang out at the Y and talk and have a good time.
Our schedule is pretty busy. I’ll only go through a few of our days, so that you can get the idea. We go to Love Community every Saturday morning, where we teach two different age groups (5-7 and 8-10 year olds) separately and then we participate in a community service activity. The little kids really enjoy playing games and being active. This helps them pay more attention and get more from our lessons. For our community service activity at Love Community, children come and do some sort of craft such as painting masks and making airplanes. Kirstie and I help out when we need to.
Every Sunday morning we go to Longzhou Community, where we teach a group of elderly people. We mainly teach them sentences and how to say certain English words. The elderly people really appreciate our teaching them English and they all get very excited when they learn how to say a new word or sentence, which of course makes us feel fantastic. We also teach very young children at Longzhou. Lately we’ve been showing them PowerPoint presentations and are trying to find games that keep them active but also help them get information out of each lesson.
Mondays we have a free day, which is really nice after such a long week because we can focus on making lesson plans as well as our other homework for our online classes. We also try to go to Pizza Hut for a little taste of home.
On Tuesday mornings, we teach the staff at the Y a lesson. Then we have a long break before going back to the Y for English Corner that evening. The past few times we’ve taught the students about American food, Halloween, and music. It’s fun to ask them different questions and hear their answers. We choose a topic, show them a PowerPoint Presentation, then sit down and talk. Kirstie and I ask a question and we have everyone answer that same question. Last week we asked them all what their favorite song was and who’s their favorite artist. This got really fun because some of them would sing parts of their favorite song or a song they knew. I also ended up singing and it was awesome. I’ve never felt more comfortable singing in front of so many people.
The Chinese culture has been difficult to get used to, but I’m getting there. The language barrier is a challenge. I have to say, if Kirstie and I hadn’t come here together, I have no idea where either one of us would be. At the beginning, we both missed home so much and missed our families and our boyfriends. The time change here makes things really weird when we try to talk to our family and friends, but we have learned to get used to it. With the daylight savings time change, the US is currently 13 hours behind us.
On one of our days off we went to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, which was awesome. We saw red pandas which I had never heard of before but they were very cute. Then we saw some bigger (you could call them giant) pandas. They were so cute, but most of them were sleeping, and every now and then one of them would roll over. The best, though, was seeing the baby pandas!
Overall, it’s been a pretty interesting experience so far. Can’t wait to see what comes next!