好久不见! (Long time, no see!)
Fun fact: Did you know that the phrase “long time, no see” is actually borrowed from Chinese? It translates directly, too, which is pretty cool.
But I’m not here to give you a phraseology lesson. In fact, first, I should apologize for my prolonged absence (again!). This semester has been super-busy, but also very rewarding. Here’s an overview of what we’ve been up to and what we’re planning for the summer.
1. In March, we took a weekend trip with the English Department to Hailuogou, a glacier park just west of Ya’an in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze. Once we left the Sichuan Basin and got over to the other side of the mountain range, the whole landscape completely changed. The sky was as blue as any Texas sky I’ve seen (an awesome break from the dreary cloud and pollution-covered skies over here), and it was a lot more dry than it is in rainy Ya’an, which suited my West Texas weather preferences perfectly. We didn’t get a good look at the glacier since it was still covered with snow, but the scenery throughout our hike was so beautiful. We stayed at a resort built around a natural hot springs, which was a great way to relax (though I was pretty skittish about hanging out in my swimsuit with a bunch of teachers I don’t know too well)! We also had a great view of Mt. Gongga, which, at an impressive 7,590 meters, is the highest mountain in Sichuan. It was very cool. The best part: it was free! And there was no way we could have afforded that on our volunteer stipend. So yeah, basically, our school rocks.
2. I participated in the Chongqing International Marathon on St. Patrick’s Day. Okay, I didn’t run the marathon. Or even the half marathon. But it’s still a good story. This is the story of how I ran my first 9K race.
So, background info., I signed up for the 5K. I haven’t been really keeping up with my running too much, so I wasn’t sure if I could run more than that. Fast forward to the day of the race.
I don’t know if you know this, but there are a lot of people in China. Okay, you knew that. But until you experience it firsthand, that knowledge alone does not do itself justice. Why do I go on this tangent, you ask? Well, because the enormous population here affects absolutely every aspect of people’s lives, yet I constantly forget the challenges that come with living with an immense number of people. Case in point: it took us the better part of half an hour to even find a taxi whose driver would agree to braving going to the park where the race was held. Thus, we were cutting it pretty close on time when we got to the park in the first place. At the park, we discovered that there were 30,000 runners in the race, plus all the spectators. It was nuts. And then I had to go to the bathroom. (Hey, I get nervous before a race!) After handing off my bag with my race number in it to a friend, I braved the single worst bathroom experience I’ve had thus far (which is really saying something, believe me), and after 20 minutes of being pushed by throngs of people inexplicably crammed into a tiny bathroom, I emerged victoriously to find… that my friends had left me. Awesome. Long story short, I couldn’t find my friend with my bag, but I magically found some other volunteers at the starting line. They were running the 9K, and since I didn’t have my number anyway, I wasn’t going to have an official time, so I just went ahead and ran the 9K. In 56:38. Like a boss. Maybe next year I’ll try the half marathon. We’ll see.
3. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve been really busy this semester! Much of our spare time was spent coaching a debate team to compete in a couple of English debating competitions, one just outside of Chengdu and the other in Xi’an. To be honest, we had no idea what we were doing, which made things pretty difficult. I never got into debate in high school because I’m just not that good at expressing my opinions. (Though as it turns out, that would have been the perfect way to hone those skills. But hindsight is 20/20.) Despite their lack of quality coaching, though, our students really made me proud. It was truly inspiring to see them learn this completely foreign idea so quickly. And in other free trip news, I was lucky enough to travel with our top two debaters to Xi’an for the Western Regional competition. Xi’an is a super-cool (though super-polluted) city. We didn’t have much time for sightseeing, but we managed to see the Terra Cotta Warriors and the ancient city wall. There’s so much cool stuff to see there, though. I want to go back sometime when I don’t have to spend all day judging debate competitions. Overall, it was an awesome experience. I’m going to try and get a debate club started next year. The students I’ve talked to seem into it, and it’s a fantastic way to learn English and a different way of thinking. I hope that goes as well as I want it to.
4. As another secondary project, Josh and I have been working on getting an English resource center started at our school. We’re working with a great team of students and they’re making the space look pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Thanks to a grant from Peace Corps’ Regional Language Office, we’ve bought a bunch of interesting books to fill the room with. Our grand idea is to make the place a hang out for people who want to speak English and check out authentic books and games. Shameless plug: If you have some books, movies, magazines, audiobooks, games, anything really, that you’d like to contribute to such a worthy cause, we’d be thrilled to have it! Unfortunately, it’s heinously expensive to send anything over here, but if you really feel like donating to a good cause, then 1) you are awesome, and 2) e-mail me for our mailing address (email@example.com).
5. Next week is our last week of classes. After we submit our grades, we’ll escape Ya’an for five whole weeks! Our adventure will start in Qinghe, a small minority village outside of Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou province. Then we’ll spend the rest of the week visiting friends in Guizhou. I’m so excited for that. I hear Guizhou is really pretty, and we haven’t seen any of our friends there yet. After that, we’ll head to Guilin, Guangxi province, for two weeks of language school. I’ve really been slacking on my Chinese learning, but I’m hoping this will help rekindle my desire to improve my Chinese. And finally, right after language school, we’ll return to Sichuan (I’m not sure what city yet) for our Summer Project with Peace Corps doing teacher training. After all that, we’ll surely be even more broke than we are now, so we’ll stay home until school starts on September 3rd. I’ll also be studying for the GRE, so we’ll still be keeping pretty busy. Yay!
6. For those of you still with me after my rambling 1200+ words, here are some pictures of what we’ve been up to lately!