*Frightened Noises*Posted by Matthew Honig on 5/23/2019
Money. The all-important, all-encompassing concept that drives people to kill, steal, threaten, or worse--grind nine to five in a dead end job they hate. It’s a thing and it’s important. And YIKES! I am bad at just the general concept of it. In America, my relationship with the almighty dollar is a pretty sweet deal. Due to my lack of consistent, predictable, reliable income (with the exception of whenever I get a set of odd jobs and/or a snowstorm), I don’t have to worry about food, drink, and clothes. My parents pay for most of the everyday things. I’m usually on the hook for non-essentials, or fancy things like comic books, video games, and a new computer. I am one hundred percent down with this deal. Another benefit of being at home is that, if I’m ever in a pinch, say I’m going into Boston with friends, I can get a loan.
A problem then arises when you go to a different continent, with a wad of cash that my teenage self is supposed to budget for four months. I can barely make my Halloween candy last past October! I remember looking at it, and it being some abstract concept, not easy to grasp as a whole. No way I did anything right when it came to the temptations of my environment.
And all self restraint was thrown out the window when I saw those shiny chopsticks! Who cares if they’re 200 yuan? They’re shiny! I bought those shiny chopsticks and have used them for every meal I've eaten in the Zhao household ever since. But it’s not the expensive chopsticks that got me; it’s the little things. Food and drink, everyday mumbles you don’t even think about. If I stop by the convenience store, why not pick up a bag of chips and an herbal tea? Oreos? Why not, they’re just ten yuan! And that's how I fool myself. Because when you add up ten 10 yuan purchases, what do you get? 100 yuan! Keep on going, what do you get? Too much money! That’s more than I bargained-or budgeted for!
The biggest kicker, and this is no secret, is bubble tea. One cup is 16 yuan. That’s like nothing! Less than three USD! But every day? That adds up. You know what 16 times 7 is? It’s 112, that's every week! 112 yuan on tea. I’ve learned I am a small, weak-willed baby boy who can in no way handle financial tribulations. But as this trip has progressed, I have transformed into a mid-sized, slightly below average-willed, baby man of financial renown! Keeping track of my purchases has helped me think twice about what I buy. And honestly, it’s pretty fun saving money. I’ve taken to picking up coins and the like I see on the street, even the one jiao coins which are worth next to nothing, and I’ve accumulated quite a bit of cash this way. I’ve really started to appreciate what items cost, and how my choices affect my bottom line. I hope my progress here ends up with improved financial independence and stability back in the U.S. of A, so maybe there can be a day where I need not beg mommy for a loan.
Famous for a DayPosted by Andre Meza on 5/23/2019
In April, the Bounders all took a trip to the Chongli branch school in Hebei, and it was quite the experience. As soon as we arrived, I noticed that Chongli had fewer people and more wide open spaces. Dongyin said it reminded her of Newton, and I agree. After being in Beijing for four months, Chongli seemed peaceful.
We also saw immediately saw that this school was so much bigger than Jingshan. The first students we saw were huddled around one another. They looked shy, and we wondered if they were our new host siblings, or just stray kids seeing foreigners for the first time. It turns out it was both.
We got closer, and the Chongli students came closer to us, while the Chongli teachers figured out what was going on for the next few days. Eventually we were assigned our new host siblings, and I got to meet Li. She reminded me of my currently host sibling in Beijing, as they both share the surname, a nice little reminder of my host family. I asked Li how her English was, and she said it wasn’t very good. I was curious to see what she meant, so I spoke a little English, but she couldn't understand me. Li tried hard to speak and practice her English, but I could tell that the language level of the Chongli students was pretty low compared to the students in Beijing. Google Translate still had my back if I needed it, though. I met up with the Bounders afterward and we talked about our new host siblings. We were mostly excited and happy for this new experience. It was like a fresh start.
The Bounders all went to the field in back of the school. It was huge! The field was the same size as the track field we have at Newton North, not the cage we’ve been using at Jingshan. We saw some boys playing soccer and we were all hyped to go play, as the Americans always beat our competitors at Jingshan. But these guys actually looked like they played soccer for a living. They had cleats, soccer jerseys, black shorts, gloves--and they all had the same haircut! It looked like a cult, and I was intimidated to play, as we would've embarrassed ourselves. Ben, Austin, Read and Ethan were all getting hyped up to play, though. Ethan kept saying "Nah, we ain’t losing today, not today!" I was getting amped up, feeling the mood. But Mengran, our Chinese guide, said we didn't have enough time to play soccer, and that quickly killed my mood to play soccer. She said we could play tomorrow. I was looking forward to that.
As we were heading out of the field, we saw a bunch of students opening a window, waving and screaming “Hello!” to us in English. It's like we were some sort of celebrity to them! Everyone wanted to say hi. Once we waved at them and said “Hi” back, they all went crazy. It really did feel like we were special, but maybe a little too special.
We spent the rest of our day at our new host siblings’ houses. That part was really nice, but also felt weird. I kind of missed my host family’s apartment in Beijing, even though it was only a few days away, and reminders of Eve kept popping into my head. Li tried speaking English, and couldn't exactly say what she was trying to get out, so pointing really helped. I told her she could speak Chinese if she had troubles. From then on we spoke mostly in Chinese. We talked about life, our families, and the air pollution in Beijing.
Li introduced me to my room, and the first thing I noticed was the giant window facing the living room. It was huge, and didn’t have a curtain and or any way of getting privacy. So when I needed to change into my other clothes, I had to go behind the door so no one would see me. It felt clunky, but hey, it worked out! It was a nice big room with a giant fuzzy teddy bear for sleeping. It was like a dream bed-- so cozy and warm. I passed out instantly for a nap.
We ate some bananas and apples while we watched “Guardians of the Tomb,” which was in English but had quite a bit of Chinese dialogue. There were also tons of spiders in this movie. We also saw another one called “Inception,” with Leonardo DiCaprio, and it was really cool and trippy.
During “Inception,” my host mom brought out this pink bowl of hot water and placed it on the floor in front of me. She said I should put my feet in it to clean off. I was hesitant at first, but I took off my socks and put my feet in. It was very warm, relaxing, and pleasant. After about five minutes, the water cooled off, and she took the bowl to the bathroom. After that, I went to bed, since I was very tired and wanted to see updates from other Bounders. (Fun fact: Ethan got destroyed in Chinese chess by his new host sibling.Three times.)
The Chongli teachers seemed happy to have us, and the class applauded when we walked in. After a few periods Ms Dragsbaek came into our classroom. She saw us and said "Oh great, we have some of my students here. You know what that means." Oh yes, I do. Read and I got up and introduced ourselves in English and did presentations in English. First Ms. Dragsbaek did her presentation about herself and then Read and I talked a bit about our lives in Newton. The English level of the students was pretty low, though, to the point where Mengran had to translate everything we were saying. It was a pretty shy class, and not much interaction, but they all liked skiing.
Later that night performed our dance again. It was around sunset when we headed to the auditorium to watch the chorus competition. All the students waved their flags and screamed when they saw us. We felt like such special guests. Every group sang the Chinese nation anthem and a song of their choice. The speakers were much too loud, and we were in the front row, so our ears hurt a bit. Ben had earplugs for himself, but just one earplug, so he was half deaf afterwards. During the singing, they also played videos showing China’s military strength. One of the scenes showed Chinese vs. the Japanese in World War II. The strangest part was the background music they played. The music was upbeat and jolly, but the video showed troops battling one another and a sniper shooting heads off of enemy troops. Imagine watching the movie “Fury” but instead the music is like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” It was like that – a weird mix. Enjoyable nonetheless!
Finally it was our turn to perform. We were number 16, so it was a long wait, and oh boy, were we ready! First Read, Austin and Matthew sang their song, “Country Road.” They sounded pretty smooth. Then all eight of us took the stage. The music started, and I’m not even joking-- when we did our very first dance move, the audience just lost it! They were screaming, applauding, and cheering! When we did our jump, they just went crazy! We could tell the Chongli students really loved it, because later that night they asked for an encore and all of our WeChats.
That concert was a really fun experience. I felt really confident and happy about myself, and I think Bounders felt the same way. As a souvenir, the school gave each of us a small “Lucky Pig.” We loved them. Dongyin figured out that if you press the nose inward, it makes the pigs look human, which made us all laugh really hard. Even after we came back to Beijing, everyone complimented our dancing, and I hope this experience inspires the current Bounders (or even future Bounders) to consider doing dancing as a hobby. Chongli was really fun, and I will never forget our fans.
Reflections on Italy and ChinaPosted by Maddie Antonellis on 5/23/2019
The closest parallel to my time in China was when I left the country alone for the first time without my parents. I went to Italy on a school trip in 7th grade. In Italy, I was away from home for only 2 weeks, which is a lot shorter than 4 months. I was also with one of my best friends and people I had known for a long time, so I had more of a support system to rely on, whereas in China I wasn’t as close with my fellow Bounders.
One similarity between these two trips is the feelings I had beforehand. When I went to Italy, I was nervous about how I would do on my my own, and if I would enjoy it or not. I had my best friend and great chaperones, but I was still nervous about a lot of things. Would I get along with the other kids on the trip? I knew some of them, but others I’d never met before. Would we get along? I wanted to make new friends on this trip. What if I got lost? What if I couldn’t communicate? There were so many things running through my mind. It was the same with China. When I found out I had gotten into the exchange, I was so excited, but also really nervous. Would I get along with the people on the trip? Would I get along with my host family and host family? Would my Chinese be good enough to communicate? There was so much running through my head, more than when I was in Italy.
The other similarity between the two trips was how they turned out. In Italy, I had the time of my life. I became closer with my best friend, and made another friend who has become one of my closest since. I also became close with so many of the other people on the trip, through inside jokes and shared experiences that I will treasure for a lifetime. Everything also turned out great when it came to getting my way around Florence and Rome. I never got lost, and was able to communicate with shopkeepers and people on the street. China was the same. I ended becoming pretty good friends with my fellow Bounders, and became extremely close with my host family in China. Some of the best memories with my classmates was the dance we performed in Chong Li together, and exploring the rice terraces in Guilin. I was also able to communicate with people about directions and ordering food. When we ate hot pot in Chengdu, there was no English on the menus, so Read and I had to help order. We were able to communicate to the waiter, and be understood. When my parents came to China, I was also able to translate for them. No matter how hard it was, I was able to muddle through it.
What I learned is that no experience is ever as intimidating as you imagine it, and it will always turn out fine in the end. You may not know anybody at first, you may be scared, but it is always so fulfilling. By challenging yourself, you can become more confident and be less nervous. Travelling abroad is always a great experience, and you will learn so much from it. If you have the opportunity, take it.
Chengdu and Xi'anPosted by Dongyin Carter on 5/23/2019
Chengdu was the second major trip all the Bounders took together, and this time, the teachers’ husbands got to join us. I was really looking forward to having a break from the same routine of school, morning exercise, shadowing, learning, and constantly arguing with the other Bounders about who’s more right about various subjects, such as whether water is the same as ice.
Our first day of Chengdu was really interesting. When we got to the hotel, the first thing I noticed was that the owners were panda fanatics. There were panda decorations all over the place. The hall outside our room was covered with green carpet to look like grass, and huge plastic panda figures in different poses. Every time we passed by, those pandas were just there, watching us.
I noticed that was a common theme in Chengdu. Anywhere you go, there will surely be panda merchandise, like headbands with panda ears, stuffed animals, cups, and T shirts. There were so many places to buy clothes. Sadly, I didn't go, because we were busy all day with sightseeing and I would basically pass out from exhaustion when we got back to the hotel. Also, it was really warm compared to Beijing’s weather, and I didn't really want to go out in all that humidity and sweat.
For our vacation week, the Bounders took turns planning the sightseeing. The first day in Chengdu we saw the pandas. The pandas were all so cute! One got stuck in the trees, and the workers had to help him/her down. We had a tour guide who showed us around and taught us many facts about pandas such as: “if a panda has twins, the mother will abandon one of them because she doesn't have enough milk to support them both.” I was really looking forward to holding a panda. However, they stopped letting people hold the pandas recently, because a few tourists coughed on the pandas and they caught the flu.
Maddie and I organized the day trip to Qingcheng mountain. It was deathly hot that day, so I wasn't really looking forward to climbing the mountain at first. We climbed for a few hours, and all the Bounders except Maddie got separated from the teachers, who made it to the top. We had lunch at one of the stalls there and met back up with the teachers. But after they left, some of us didn't want to go to the summit, so we started to head back down. I felt like we were forgetting something, and halfway down I realized Matthew wasn't with us because he went to use the bathroom and didn't tell us. It turned out to be ok; he caught up after we texted him where we were.
We also went to see the Terracotta Warriors. The tour guide told us they were found by village people who didn't tell the government because they thought it wasn't that important. However, this army was built by the Qin dynasty for the emperor's resting place. Some of the warriors have not been dug up yet, because they want to develop a special technology that will preserve the paint on the statues. Many people believe there are many more scattered around Xi’an, because the tomb of the emperor is in a separate place from the warriors. It was really cool to see the variety of different types of warriors. There were lower class soldiers, higher class soldiers, and horses. The tour guide explained that we could distinguish the higher class from the lower class by the headpiece they were wearing.
Our last day trip was to the ancient city wall that surrounds Xi’an. I was surprised that the teachers allowed us to ride bikes on the wall. Some parts were a little bumpy, but I really enjoyed the ride. We accidentally got separated from the teachers’ husbands because we didn't think we needed to wait for them. We biked around the whole wall in an hour or so.
In Xi’an, there was also a Muslim street that had so much street food. I got squid on a stick, biangbiang noodles and a bunch of other noodles. There was also a noodle place right next to our hotel, and the owner was so nice. We went there almost every day. In Chengdu, I also had a lot of noodles and all the food was really inexpensive: around 21 yuan, which is roughly three US dollars. Every day, the Bounders would go around the city just exploring and finding restaurants. Sometimes we would get back as late as 10:00 and fall asleep at one or two in the morning. While in Beijing, I’m supposed to be home at 9:00 and go to sleep at 10:00 on week days and 11:00 on weekends. I’m really going to miss the freedom of not having a curfew.
Familiarity in an Unfamiliar PlacePosted by Ethan Ou on 5/23/2019
Becoming a student at Jingshan reminds me of a very similar experience I had when I was seven. In the middle of 2nd grade, I moved from Brookline to Newton, which meant I had to start a new school where I knew absolutely no one. So during the beginning of my time in Jingshan, although everything was new, I couldn’t help but feel l had been there before: I had that same feeling, like there was no one you knew who could help you out or comfort you. Luckily, similar to my previous new school experience, that feeling didn’t last for very long. Just as when I first moved to Newton, people noticed that we were new students and were very nice and welcoming, and I quickly made some new friends. I also had to stand up in front of the class and introduce myself, because the class teachers expected that in our first shadow classes. I’m feeling really at home in Jingshan and it has become my norm, just as Newton was back in America. I’m very comfortable here, and have made many friends, from playing soccer during PE class, to socializing at English corner, to hanging out outside of school. I know these friendships will outlast the exchange.
Unlike my previous experience, there is a language barrier, so it was a little more challenging to communicate with some of the students and get to know them. But I think the Bounders, myself included, overcame that challenge pretty quickly by just talking a little more to the students and finding common interests with them such as sports, music, and video games. I am pretty lucky that I don’t have too much schoolwork and I can focus more on making more friends and practicing some Chinese, while helping the students with their English. Unlike Newton, I haven’t had to focus on making a lot of friends on top of keeping up with all my schoolwork. Another difference from Newton is that there are way more people to meet at Jingshan. Instead of one or two classes of about 20 to 25 kids, I have a whole grade with 5 classes and about 40 kids in each. In addition to that, there are also people in other grades who want to talk to me and other Bounders during English Corner or other times.
Since I don’t usually do too well with big crowds or people, public speaking and being super social with unfamiliar people, I thought it would be difficult to adjust to life at Jingshan. But actually it was a lot easier than when I first moved to Newton, because I am more social than before. Also, many more people approached me, added me and talked to me on Wechat. My first new school experience has helped me a lot during my time at Jingshan.
The Best PartPosted by Austin Cheng on 5/23/2019
During my stay in China, I’ve noticed that I enjoy people’s company very much. I’ve made great friends on this program, both within the Bounder group, and with my classmates in the Jingshan school. I’ve had a great time in China, and no small part of that is due to the friends I’ve made, as they have been one of my favorite parts of the exchange.
While I sometimes feel like I just want to sleep or read instead of going out, I’ve found that when I actually get started, I enjoy it a lot, and so I’ve been trying to push past the inertia so I can have new experiences and make new friends in China. One such example was a school-sponsored activity where we went outside the city to make pottery. While at first many of my classmates were reluctant to go there, we had a fun time together. I’ve found myself to be far more extroverted than I previously thought, as spending time with people has energized me and given me many great experiences. During our trips outside Beijing, many of my favorite parts was interacting with the other Bounders. Whether it was field trips to temples or museums, we have had fantastic times. One especially memorable trip was to Dongyue, a Daoist temple. It was a very interesting place, with different dioramas representing tortures and rewards for behaviors. There were thieves with their stomachs slit open and other gruesome statues of that sort, and descriptions underneath gave explanations for the different crimes or sins they committed, and why the punishment fit the crime. Some of the people who were gluttonous, for example, were stuffed with food until their abdomen exploded. It was fascinating to see a Daoist interpretation of hell and the ways they oriented the departments and chose appropriate punishments for each, as opposed to Christian beliefs.
In Jingshan school, my favorite part by far is beng with the students. Whether it was playing basketball or soccer in P.E., walking around the malls on Wangfujin, playing ping pong, or even just talking in between classes, they were overwhelmingly friendly. They were always welcoming, often encouraging us to try eating or doing something with them, and starting conversations, either to practice their own English, or gauge our level of Chinese. The kids that I have gotten to know are especially friendly and affable, and I’ve become good friends with them over the past few months.
While I have loved many things about China, such as the food and scenery, my favorite parts have been the friends I’ve made. I’ve made connections that will hopefully continue well after I’ve returned to America, maybe for my whole life. I have had great times with them, and they have helped me with my Chinese, as well as helping me adjust to Beijing and the school, showing me places and activities in Beijing that I never would have found on my own. Before I came to China, I knew I enjoyed people’s company, but while I’ve been in China I’ve learned just how much I like being around people, and how it’s worth it to take time and effort to do things with them. On the many outings I’ve had with my Chinese friends, I’ve had some of my best times, just talking and walking around. Many activities could otherwise have been boring, but I still had a great time because of the company I was in. I hope to remain in contact with them, and after we return to Newton and this exchange ends, I will miss my new friends very much.
Scale and Perspective in an Ancient CountryPosted by Read Runge on 5/23/2019
China is old, really old. It's one of the oldest civilizations out there, and the only one of those initial few river valley civilizations whose culture has remained intact. However, in a few ways the China of today is quite new, which makes it not immediately obvious how ancient everything is. China has very recently returned to its position as a world superpower, and there is massive economic development, sometimes obscuring the magnitude of its history. It fascinates me, the amount of history behind every little place, every street, even cities. Walking home with my host sibling down Gui (ghost) Street, famous for its Spicy Crayfish dish, Wang Yu explained to me the origin of its name: that in dynasties past, it was the street through which bodies were taken out of the east gate to be buried. Today, there is no hint of this history, but it is still well known, and even though at one point the government changed the name to a different gui (a type of container to hold wine), its ancient name–older than the United States of America, and possibly older than European knowledge of the Americas–is remembered.
Halfway across the country is the city of Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius and his methodology that was taken up by the Han dynasty 150 years before the death of Caesar. However, Confucius himself was born in 551 BC, before even the Roman Republic was established. His has been the founding ideology of most Chinese dynasties, and the writings and ideas from 2,500 years ago still resonate today. This is exemplified by the sheer quantity of students who visit the first Confucian temple, formerly a part of his estate, every single day. I went with my parents a few weeks back, and it was astounding. Parts of the place were more densely packed with matching uniforms than a Beijing subway at rush hour. Some groups paid respects en masse in front of the main building of the temple, the one housing his ancestor tablet, reciting in unison. This is a tradition older than pretty much anything Western civilization has ever produced, and it is universally known and practiced by a huge amount of people in China.
On that same trip, we had also gone to see the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang, formerly the Zhou, then later the northern Wei dynasty capital, now a small city whose income comes primarily from tourism. The Grottoes are hundreds, perhaps thousands of small rooms and caves carved into a cliff face on a river, with statues and carvings of multitudes of buddhas. They are the second oldest Buddhist grottoes in the world, and carving began around the year 500. After some time exploring, I remember walking past a Song dynasty carving, because it was “not very old,” and I wanted to see some older ones. That's when I realized just how positively ancient everything there was. For a Song Dynasty carving to be “new” to the point of boring modernity, despite being close to 1000 years old, really drove this point home for me. Writing this, I further realized that these caves aren't all that old in terms of China’s overall history. The very earliest of them were built almost a millennium after the life of Confucius, and he lived farther from the first written history in China than we in modern times live from the Crusades. This, more than almost anything else I have experienced in China, has been by far the most captivating facet of the culture here. All of America's history, from the very beginning with Plimoth Plantation, is one tenth the length of China's recorded history, and for only about that length of time has China not been one of the most powerful countries in the world.
My JourneyPosted by Ben Tanowitz on 5/23/2019
I have discovered some small things about myself since I came to China. During my first week at Jingshan, we watched a TED talk in Ms. Li’s English class about learning a new language. The speaker’s point was that when you’re speaking a new language, you shouldn’t worry about grammar or vocabulary, but just focus on getting your ideas across to the listener. In a lot of cases, I am the one who just speaks without thought for Chinese grammar. My grammar is horrible, though while I’ve been in China, I think my grammar has gotten a little bit better. Being a person who can talk fluently without regard for grammar surprises me, because normally I don’t talk. I never raise my hand in class, and don’t like speaking in front of people I don’t know. You would think that I would be the kind of person who would like to have perfect grammar before I speak, for fear of saying something wrong. But I do speak without regard for grammar when trying to get my point across, and I also am like that when I speak English.
Another thing that I already knew about myself (but living in Beijing has made me more certain) is the fact that I like living in a city. I’m not a rural kid, and have expressed such in locations for my college search. Living in a city these past months has allowed me to access many conveniences I don’t have in a suburban city like Newton, even though Newton is urban compared to other suburbs. In Newton I can still walk and bike almost everywhere from my house; however, for the most part, I must walk a mile to get anywhere. In Beijing, I walk out of my house and there are stores all around me, which means I don’t have to walk far to get anywhere I want to go. Let’s say I wanted to go farther away from my house. in Newton I would have to drive, otherwise it would take too long. In Beijing, I walk out of my house and the subway is right there, making it very convenient to go anywhere. This easy access to movement has made me realize that living in a city is way different from living in a suburb, and confirmed that city life is one thing that I am looking for.
One more discovery about myself is that I will try new foods. I kept saying that before I came, but I didn’t believe that I would be able to follow through on that goal. However, I have been able to try many new foods, such as silkworm chrysalis. For me, this is new because I have never really had a ”fake it until you become it” moment, as former Harvard professor Amy Cuddy puts it. This showed me that I am capable of becoming something that I previously didn’t think I could be.
A Self DiscoveryPosted by Andre Meza on 5/8/2019
Throughout this entire Exchange program, I have learned a lot about myself--a lot of good and interesting features I never realized. One of my biggest discoveries was the language portion of Chinese, which I was able to pick up relatively quickly. When I first arrived in Beijing, my host parents didn’t speak any English. My host sibling, Eve, can speak a good amount, but she was gone for the first week of my arrival, so I was forced to speak Chinese in order to communicate. It was really fun, and I put what I learned in school to the test!
Unfortunately, I also came across so many obstacles. When my host mom speaks Chinese, she has a heavy Beijing accent. Apparently a lot of the words in Chinese end in this “r” sound. For example, if people were to say “play,” you would say wan. With a Beijing accent, though, it would be pronounced wuar. I was not taught much about the Beijing accent and which words were affected by it, so when she spoke, it sounded like a whole different language. I could barely figure out what she was trying to get at, and we resorted to a whole lot of pointing for communication.
Jeanie and her friend Berlin were able to come along with me to help with translation problem, which was fun. I spoke a little Chinese, and as more time passed I started to understand what they are trying to say and how the grammar worked. It was very tiring, because it was a foreign language I was not used to. I noticed how my brain started to think in Chinese and how my English was slowly fading. It was cool, because I started making phrases in my head using words I already knew. I was becoming one with them. We went out to restaurants and talked about life in a mix of Chinese and English. We talked a whole lot about people at Newton North, why I wanted to learn Chinese, and why I wanted to come to China. It was really fun.
After the restaurants we always went to my new host house. It was big and warm, and Jeanie, Berlin and pai mama (my host mom) were there. We watched a show about how a couple got back together, and it was very dramatic. I didn’t have time to watch the whole show, so I went into my room, got my stuff organized, sorted out some clothing, and inspected my room. After some time, Jeanie and Berlin had to go home.
I didn't want them to leave, because they were my way of talking to my host mom. I felt like everything was going to change from here on. I was nervous and scared. All my Chinese learning came down to this moment, but it didn’t feel like I had practiced long enough. Five months of Chinese, and already going out to speak to native speakers? Oh boy.
I went to talk to Pai mama about how I needed to take a shower but I didn't know how to say this in Chinese. I then told her I needed to “put water on my body in the bathroom” (Wo xu yao shui zai wo de shen ti). It was the only way I knew to express that I needed a shower. I also hand- signaled that the water would go all over my body. She laughed a little bit, and then told me how to say it in Chinese. It was a memorable moment, and I from now will never forget how to say I need to take a shower. After my shower, I proceeded to bed, and said goodnight.
The next morning my pai mama and I went went to the kitchen table and we started to have some tea time. She prepared some green tea for me and jasmine tea for herself and we sat at the table and just talked. The words came to me so fluently and I was able to communicate with ease using words I knew. I didn't know I was capable of that. We talked for about an hour, a little chit-chat about myself, some of the Bounders and what I wanted to do with my Chinese. I learned so much, and my grammar improved so much in just a simple conversation. I was told I was able to pick up languages quickly, but I didn't really believe it until I was able speak to my host mom relatively quickly and tell her things that I haven’t even learned in school, using just words I previously knew. As more time passed, my Chinese has improved significantly just by listening to people talk and talking to them. I started to forget English and other languages I previously knew. I adapted really easily to the environment, and the language piece was key to what I needed to fully adapt.
I never really knew I was super adaptable to my surroundings, and China has really showed that I have changed a whole lot, in order to fit in. First was the personality, then the language piece, and now a lot of people think I'm a native Chinese speaker and come to me speaking Chinese! Usually I can help them around, but it usually catches me off guard and I have to ask to repeat. But with each person, I learn a new phrase or few words that I can use in my daily life. The language comes to me with such ease that it makes me feel confident and happy. Without this feeling of being able to adapt and pick up things so quickly, I probably wouldn't be able to thrive in China as much as I already am. I love it here. I want to learn more and more languages, and expand my communication skills.
Asian Stereotypes: True or False?Posted by Ethan Ou on 5/8/2019
I have been attending Jingshan for almost four months now, and many things have surprised me about the lives of the students. It is a common stereotype in America that Asian kids in general are all very smart and study all the time. It is also thought that the lives of these kids are centered on school and nothing else: no sports, no friends, no hobbies, and no fun. But in my time at Jingshan so far, I’ve noticed that although this stereotype is true to an extent, it really doesn't apply to many of the students. Although it is true that students on average spend more time on schoolwork, and their families put more emphasis on studying, a lot of students actually have very full lives that don't just revolve around schoolwork and studying.
Every weekend I go out with my host family, and it is not uncommon to see other Jingshan students at the mall or at restaurants just hanging out together. Also, many kids participate in sports and other extracurricular activities such as singing, dancing, playing instruments, art, and acting. Many kids take part in these activities, but this also means they are overbooked and they will not have much free time. I think balancing your hobbies and studies is especially difficult in China, because of the greater emphasis on school, but it doesn't stop many students from doing activities other than homework.
Another stereotype that I have heard in America was that Asian people are antisocial and don’t like social interaction with others at all. This stereotype probably stems from the stereotype that Asian people are too focused on studying, therefore leading to a lack of social skills. This stereotype was immediately debunked as soon as I started school at Jingshan. Kids would come up to me and try to practice English and they would try to add my Wechat and message me. They introduced themselves to me, and they were very social and friendly. This revealed that these students’ social skills were actually very good.
In class, I noticed that the students are comfortable with each other and they love to talk. One thing I did not expect, but thought was really funny, is that the boys in my class like to sit on each other's laps, almost like a stack of chairs. They also like to hang out after class and talk with the Bounders. I have made some good friends here, because they came up to me and introduced themselves or they added me on Wechat and talked to me there.
Many people in America think Chinese people are antisocial and only focus on studying and schoolwork, but in reality that is not the case. They are very social, and students actually have very busy lives trying to manage their hobbies and school life and balance them to allow time for both. Even more importantly, Jingshan students have many friends and love to hang out between classes and be social with other people.