Hi, I'm Megan and I suck at writing at blog posts. I really should just make that part of my disclaimer.
Anyways, either blogger or my proxy isn't working that well, so I am writing this via email. Yay for working around the system! This blog will cover the Spring Festival holiday/ IST and upcoming plans.
Spring Festival: Pretty uneventful. Like I said before, I missed out on travelling, and that sucked, like really really sucked. Being one of two people on campus was not my idea of a fun time. But I have some pretty awesome friends and family- so thank you for the long Skype sessions, thus keeping me sane and fairly positive. You may ask: why didn't you work with your community, building ties and all that lovely Peace Corps goodiness? Well, the fact that there was no one here. Literally not a single person. The three bodega/noodle shop/ nai cha shops in the vicinity are here because they are supported by the student population. They close when the students are gone. But I learned my lesson, and will hopefully be on a beach somewhere next winter or maybe with some student's at their house. But never again will I sit around this giant campus by myself. Or for whatever reason I am stuck here, I will not watch all 3 paranormal activities in one sitting.
As soon as I left Chongqing, it got a lot better. Even the immense Spring Festival crowds at the train station were a welcome alternative to the empty campus I had fled from. I spent about 3 days with my host family in Chengdu, which was amazing. They are so wonderful and welcoming, and hysterical (although I don't think that's their aim). The first day we spent the afternoon and evening with Baba's family enjoying a massive typical New Year's dinner. It was great, I got shoved to the kid's table, which I am perfectly happy with since my language level is equal to that of about a 6 year old.
Every time I have a big family dinner with them I always meet someone who just blows my mind. This time was no different, Baba's sister in-law works for Intel, she travels regularly to the States to work on a collaborative science fair project. Here was an incredibly well educated woman, who was not only a world traveler, but eloquent and open to discussing the current issues plaguing China and America. Before it was a business man who regularly traveled between the US and the new economic centers of China for work; he and I spent several hours discussing the trading futures between China and America and the importance of the development of cities like Chongqing. These are the people that I know will influence my thoughts and work if I continue down the policy/ strategic studies path.
The next day Bao Ma, Abao and myself went to Huang Long Xi- Yellow Dragon Creek. This was explained to me as such: "It is a very old village on a small river. You must smell something very old before you can start the New Year". Perfectly valid reasoning. Actually it was this awesome old town, where we wandered around the streets, found an ancient tea house and chilled on the deck drinking tea, and Abao kicked my ass for a good 2 hours during different kid's games. Who knew Chinese rock, paper scissors could be so hard?
Then, my Bao Ma showed off her true dodginess. The center of the town was blocked off for the New Year's festivities, and you had to buy tickets to get in. Tickets were a bit pricey, but bear in mind, my host family is loaded. Like just came back from a vacation to Macau and Hong Kong where they stayed at the Venetian, then HK Disneyland resort. Rather than buy the tickets, she said a few swift words to the tea house laoban. We were suddenly following a guy through an alley, inside a kitchen, then through a back room where we paid him 20 kuai and stepped out the back door into the center of town. We spent another hour or so walking around and taking pictures, then headed back.That evening we went to the Sichuan opera with Bao Ma's parents (who I adore, they are my Chinese grandparents).
The next day early in the morning we piled into the car and drove up to Emei Shan (mountain). Bao Ma had hurt her ankle so it was just Baba, Abao and myself hiking up the mountain. Let me paint a word picture for you: Baba smokes a pack a day, and Abao pitches a fit after she has to walk for more than 10 minutes or if anyone walks ahead of her.. and it was drizzling and freezing cold. And we were supposed to hike up the mountain for like 5 hours. I was not super excited by this prospect, but then having nature surrounding me made me giddy. Turns out yet again that hiking in the host family's mind is not hiking in my mind. We took a bus up for like 30 minutes, then went on a slightly sloped path up to the monkey center. And it. was. gorgeous. Seriously not even Abao's whinging about her feet or whatever could detract from how beautiful it was up there. I've posted pictures on Facebook, but they really can't illustrate how beautiful and quiet it was. In a country of a couple billion, quietness and trees are a rarity. I am definitely going to make my way back there this fall.
That evening we went to this restaurant which had a very special famous dish. What was that dish? Eels. Well, I think they were eels, they were about the size of an earthworm, but I'm going to just say they were eels. Baba and I also drank the local "field grass" wine, which was actually really tasty and reminded me of something I had in Switzerland. After dinner was the best part, the hotel we stayed at was reknowned for its hot springs. And good god, were they awesome. My family was wonderful and like,' hey you are being stared at enough, let's find a pool with not so many people in it.' It was a nice reprieve from the usual pointing and staring. By the way if any future 18s are (still) reading this post, when you are pointed at, and some one makes the brilliant observation that you are laowai or waiguoren (foreigner) I've found pointing back and saying zhongguoren (Chinese) back usually gets some chuckles, and sometimes even sparks a conversation.
Monday morning we drove to Leshan and checked out the massive Buddha there, he was a biggun. Apparently the biggest in the world.. or maybe Asia, I can't remember at the moment.
Ok, so IST: so much training. I was pretty stressed going, because I was part of the planning committee, essentially we designed the IST conference from the wants/ expectations given from the feedback forms and the guidelines the PC China put out for us. We represented the training manager if anyone had issues or concerns, or complaints. I was not looking forward to the complaints. But typical PC shocker, IST went off really well. People respected the hotel (ie no giant parties in our rooms), and came to sessions. And the sessions went really really well, almost all of them were a great collaboration between China 16s and 17s sharing ideas, going over issues and coming up with new teaching strategies. I led a session on teaching speaking, and co-led a session on teaching low/ multi level classes with a 16 Katie (who is a wonderful teacher by the sounds of it and a great resource). Both sessions went really well, so this week I need to work getting up the information we collected on Skydrive.
Sessions were great, language was interesting but probably the greatest part of IST was catching up with friends, and making some new ones. During pre-service training you are rarely with the whole group. IST- you are together. All the time. It.is.awesome. We went out, danced, ate Western food and just relished in the fact that we could talk about our semesters without completely running out of phone credit.
Post IST- Rachael (a fellow SU ren, current Gansu ren) came back to CQ with me, we chilled here for a few days, explored Chongqing, hung out with Angel and then she headed off to Wulong to visit our fellow SUren Molly.
I spent the past two weeks cleaning the house, restocking the fridge, doing lots of laundry, preparing my classroom, writing my syllabus for this semester and doing lesson planning. I've also been working on RELO grants for my cooking club, finishing up VRF reports, and working on a grad school application. I know it's early, but I've talked with the school and they are cool with me applying early and just holding my acceptance till 2013 (which will be a nice relief for me for the next year and a half).
Coming up: going to Wal-Mart and buying balls. Oh so many bouncy balls. My little students are all ADD (and the majority of morning classes are almost all male) so I am going to teach them how to play dodgeball, and we are going to have a dodgeball tournament. That's peace corps second goal (teaching the host country about America) right there; teaching my students how to pelt each other with balls.
Oh and exciting news; since I didn't travel during the winter holidays I have lots of leave days to use up. So, I AM COMING HOME! Where is home? La mia citta di cuore- ROMA! I will be back in Rome from July 31- August 30. Fun fact: host family will be joining me from August 3rd-9th (I told you they are loaded). Mum and I will hopefully be heading up to Hallstatt for a bit to do some hiking and relaxing. Even better, my Dad and brother might join us! So, that is my super happy exciting news!