Now that it’s over, staging seems like a distant memory. Some highlights: a quick flight to Chicago with no delays. Checking in and meeting people almost immediately. Going for lunch and realizing how much all of us have in common, yet we are all very different people. Registering and becoming a Trainee. Insane amounts of information in a very short period of time. Last American meal for the next two years: deep dish pizza and beer.
PST- for those not in the know Pre-Service Training:
Waking up at 6, out of the hotel by 6:45. Nearly having a heart attack when watching the weight of my checked in bags- just ½ of a pound under the weight limit (thank god they don’t check your carry on weight, my backpack was close to 40 pounds). Watching as our group took over the airport lounge. A very very very long flight punctuated by uncomfortable cat naps. Arrival in Beijing, everything was fine until it wasn’t. And then it was again. Our flight to Chengdu leaving several volunteers back in Beijing (due to uncontrollable circumstances- they ultimately made it to the hotel only a couple of hours behind us). Being greeted by massive smiles. Piling onto buses. Chengdu is massive, and has a LOT of lights.
Wake up and jump straight in. We started at 9 and went to about 3:30, with an individual meeting at 4:45. There was a lot of information, both about PC goals, culture, our coming months, and then medical. A lot of medical information, with what will become my world the next few years: the medical handbook/ med kit.
We then started Mandarin training. There was no hey let’s take our time. There is a reason why they expect us to go from beginner to intermediate low within two months. To put that into context, my ESL students who had class 5 days a week, 4 hours a day usually took a year to a year and a half to reach that point. So day one, I was able to greet someone, give my Chinese name- Mei Ting, introduce someone else, count money, identify the types of money and count 1-100.
The highlight was definitely the dinner. A few current volunteers offered to take us to a restaurant and help us out, and thank god they did! We ended up getting way too much food, but all of it was absolutely delicious. And only cost 6 bucks each. Although we were told that normally you spend from 0.50-1.00 for a meal at site.
The morning was a mix of administrative meetings and TEFL sessions. I learned that throughout my training, I will complete a series of self-evaluations coupled with evaluations by my site manager, language and cultural facilitator, TEFL instructors, and the training manager. The TEFL session was pretty awesome, learned a great cocktail activity- this is an activity that you have as a first lesson, which allows your students to get to know each other, you to get to know the students, and assess the students skills. I will definitely be using it in some of my classes.
We then met up with our language instructors and went to lunch. I will say this food in Chengdu is awesome. But insane. We had these chili noodles that pretty damn hot and then the teacher informed us that this was only a little spicy. Now I enjoy spicy food, but there is a point where a girl has to say “No I would not like to breathe fire thank you very much”. There were also these skewers that were soaking in a broth/ chili mix. Now some of these skewers were immediately identifiable and consumed, i.e. lotus root, bok choy, mushrooms. Others were identifiable, but not consumed, i.e. intestines, chicken foot. A fellow trainee was actually ballsy enough to eat a chicken foot. The rest of us decided it would take a while before we got to the stage. But we did get to learn that when eating a chicken foot, you spit out the bones and nail on the plates provided. Another note- you don’t eat your food off the plate, rather from the bowl. At lunch we all learned to ask how much is it, and were required to ask the manager, and then pay the correct amount.
After lunch, language classes started with a vengeance. We are now learning purchasing phrases, for example: How much is this one? How much is that one? I don’t want that. Can you make it cheaper? How about __ kuai?
Basically we are learning the indispensable skill of bartering in Mandarin. You cannot really integrate into the Chinese culture without learning how to barter.
The view from the hotel in Chengdu: