I guess it should be “Xiao Mi Tries To Write” as that is my new Chinese name. What do you think? It means “small piece of rice.” One of my colleague’s, K, is now “Xiao Li” which means “little beauty.” I can only wish–my names when I travel abroad never mean stuff like that… (Case in point: my cousin’s Thai name meant “falling star.” Mine meant “pomegranate.” I’m trying not to read too much into the fact that my names are always associated with food. At least it’s small piece of rice and not “eats lots of rice and you can tell?”…right?
I don’t think it’s been SO long since I last posted but it feels like weeks since so much has been going on.
First off, that firewall I mentioned here in China is really putting a crimp in things, especially on this blog. Thanks to that and the nature of my work here, I have to be very. careful. what I post on here. Therefore, if you would like to hear more of my personal impressions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to my email update list!
For the rest of you, here goes. 🙂
Since I last wrote, I’ve moved cities twice, attended a conference put on by German educators, moved into a dorm with seven other girls, most of them who don’t speak my language, learned that your skills with chopsticks can come and go with surprising abandon, and started my work with children in communities affected by the latest earthquake here in the Sichuan province.
(Sorry for my lack of links…I’ll update these when I get home…with pictures, as well!)
I’ll share more about my impressions of the conference at another time…it was kind of a long week, and due to translation issues (i.e. straight from German to Chinese with no English included…) it was at times rather long-winded, but I did get to take to very helpful workshops, art therapy and movement therapy.
Now, I’m in Lushan, which is a county in the Sichuan province. I’m 90% sure we are in Lushan city, but I know the county is correct :).
While the most recent earthquake here in April was not nearly as devastating as the one in 2008, it did damage many homes and cause around 200 deaths and 1500 injuries. I’m not even sure the number of homeless it caused, but there are many, many tent communities in the city. We are currently just working at one, but this may change (that is the mantra for this trip: “this may change”). In addition, our work primarily consists of playing with kids so far, but that WILL change, next week. Then, all of the kids in the area will be on summer break, and we’ll be able to start our English camp.
While the language barrier remains massive (my brain cannot even PROCESS Chinese into anything but fast, gurgly, occasionally lyrical, occasionally guttural noises) it has provided some hilarity. We’re having fun teaching our roommates English (and they’re teaching us Chinese…) and so far, their favorite word is “watermelon.” It’s become a “Marco-Polo” thing, with them chanting “watermelon” and us chanting “she-kwa” (Chinese for watermelon) back. It’s always funny trying to teach our translator a new word, or when she busts out Google translate. The words always pop out really proper–she was attempting to tell my colleague her nose was red and the only option was “it looks inflammatory.”
Due to the earthquake, the Chinese government shut down all travel in the area, so we are the only foreigners for miles. However, I’m not sure this has been a travel hot spot in the past, because we get so many stares and cat calls and horn-honks (and no, I don’t think my beauty and grace is attracting all of this–just my fragile pale skin and my weak blue eyes and my red/brown hair). We’ve been in many pictures–both with our permission and without. The Chinese are not shy–they will blatantly snap a picture of you like I do of cute animals (and sometimes cute kids). My favorite was a woman sitting in front of us pretending to do a selfie, then sneaking us into the photo…at least that’s kind of polite, and better than the guy who just sticks his phone in my face!
Well, I unfortunately got a wee drop of killer Sichuan oil on my shirt, so I’m off to use my handy dandy Tide To-Go stick (thanks, Mom!). That stuff is killer in spice, and in ability to stain! I’m not sure my mouth (or this white shirt) will ever be the same. The oil also tends to deteriorate any chopstick skills I may possess because it’s, well, oily. Mind you, my skills are hardly anything to write home about (although who’s kidding, I totally did) but now I’m dropping things all over the table, in other bowls and on other people’s plates. Can you believe I still don’t know how to say sorry in Chinese, and instead respond with my number one word: thank you??
Can I just say again how HUGE China is? There are so many provinces and the food and culture is so different in each one! That doesn’t even COVER the amount of people here…It’s making my head hurt, a little, so I’m really saying goodbye now. 🙂
Now that we have semi-reliable internet, I’ll be able to update you more, so don’t forget about me!