China has a certain smell. Sometimes it reminds me of plastic, and sometimes it smells like pork buns (包子) as you walk down the street. It’s always changing, but you can always tell you’re in China by the smell of it. I enjoy it.
Also, side note: as I write this, there’s a dude staring at me on the subway. Exposed! Most people can tell that I’m a foreigner, and some tell me that I look Cantonese, which is pretty spot on.
I apologize for not having updated this blog in the past few days – it’s been crazy busy. But I guess I’ll give you a three day update!
Pulling into Shanghai Pudong Airport was one of the most exciting things ever. The sky wasn’t too clear, but this was the first time that many of us were in China, which was lots of fun. After leaving the plane, we headed to a bus which drove us for five hours to finally arrive in Nanjing. I fell asleep on the bus because of jet lag, but when I woke up, I was instantly taken aback by this large and beautiful botanical sculpture of two peacocks in Gulou’s (a main district of Nanjing) city center.
We stayed in a hotel that night since it was too late to do anything, around 7pm, and the next day we had orientation and finally got to meet our host families. At in-country orientation, we took a verbal placement test, and I got placed with the “beginners” of the group, which included people in the novice high to intermediate low range.
Meeting my host family afterwards was definitely an interesting experience – we were lined up and made to introduce ourselves on stage and then were claimed by our host families in the audience. It kinda felt like a dating game show of some sort, but hey, I’m not complaining because my host family is absolutely wonderful. They have a beautiful home in the district of QiXia (栖霞区) and live with a grandmother and grandfather. My host brother Eden is fluent in English because he goes to UToronto and studies economics, and my host dad works as an air pollution and climate change scientist at Nanjing University. He often comes to the US for work and has really strong opinions about climate change (which I tend to strongly agree with, so I don’t mind)! My host mother is a manager of an English school, so she too has a decent base in English.
Ah, now cultural immersion – how I’ve missed having to use a different language all of the time. The last time I was in this situation was when I spent two weeks in Europe for my cousin’s wedding and had to rely on either Cantonese or French to get me by. I chose Canto, and that was nice because I learned a lot. But in the past three days that I’ve been in China, I feel that I’ve learned more Mandarin than I ever learned Cantonese in Europe. Makes sense.
What makes me more excited is the food here – it’s pretty greasy and a little bit heavy but SO GOOD. It’s the kind of food that fills your heart before filling your stomach. My host grandmother does the cooking in the house, and she is so so so so good at it.
Anyway, I’m on the way to school now and my subway stop is coming up next, so catch y’all tomorrow!