Breaking cultural stereotypes while making friends in exotic places. My recent trip to Beijing has opened my eyes as an American and as I now focus on finishing my degree in Educational Consulting, I hope to share my experiences and knowledge with others so they too can make a difference in the lives of others and their community.
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
Day Two: Arriving at My New Home Part Two
Being accepted the second I entered my new home was unexpected but appreciated. The warm welcome warmed my heart. Unpacking my belongings turned into an introduction session where I helped put my new room together. Dora, my host sister, helped me unpack and explained that my room was a traditional Chinese bedroom with a balcony looking out into the beauty of Beijing. Even with the constant noise from car horns, I found my surroundings to be beautiful, noise and all.
My new bedroom.
My host mom, Verade or Vera, and Dora brought me to their local supermarket to eat a late lunch. I tried some of the spiciest food I’ve ever tasted and a sweet but strange combination of pineapple and white rice. I quickly found out that my level of tolerance for spicy food was going to be tested with my stay in China. Regardless, I was able to wash down all the spicy food with a freshly squeezed Kiwi and Lychee drink.
Returning home was a challenge when the air temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and no wind to circulate through the narrow streets. Walking into the apartment was a blessing as the air slowly dispersed from several open windows and cooled my moist skin, something Dora would always comment on. I was apparently always slightly sweaty but cool to the touch. I guess having Raynaud’s Phenomenon (low blood circulation) was coming in handy. Dora would use me as a cooling machine for most of my stay as her skin felt unusually hot to the touch.
My view from my room balcony.
Napping was the next thing on Vera’s and my agenda. Resting was a very important part of the day but trying to sleep with a 5-year-old was impossible. Taking a nap to a 5-year-old is basically saying, “roll around in bed for about an hour and make loud, fake snoring sounds until your head hurts.” I didn’t get a nap, but I was able to spend some quality time with my new sister.
Before I started the next thing on Vera’s list, I listened to Dora play a few songs on the violin. Dora told me that she picked the violin because she thought it was the hardest instrument to play and she wished to be challenged. I was impressed. Considering Dora only started learning the instrument three months before I arrived, she had a pretty good handle on how to play.
The balcony in my room.
Every Wednesday Dora had her painting class at 6 pm. I was invited to stay with Dora and see what an art class in an International Art School was like. Without showing an example, the young teacher would explain to her students what she wanted them to draw. For this lesson, Dora was tasked with drawing her mother in the most beautiful dress. Whenever a student would struggle, the teacher would explain in words and sometimes in simple sketches how to draw parts of the body. Again, I was impressed with Dora’s skill level. After drawing, Dora and the other students were tasked with painting their picture and adding glitter and as much bling as possible. And Dora went all out with the glitter. (I still have the shirt I wore this day with glitter stuck on it. I’ve washed the shirt seven times!)
Individuality is a high priority in the art school Dora attends. Unlike in American public schools, art classes aren’t dominated by entire class drawing or painting the same exact picture with the same exact colors. Dora liked using every color as she told me her palette needed to be fresh and something new. (She’s such a smart girl and creative.) Even though I didn’t understand anyone in the art school, I was welcomed with a warm smile from staff, Dora’s teacher, and the parents of the other students.
Dora’s father, Evan, picked us up around 7:30 pm as I noticed that the air was slightly less hazy. All day the air quality was getting better and made it easier for me to breathe. Supper, or what my host family and virtually every other American call dinner, consisted of a sizeable amount of fried rice, multiple slightly cooked vegetables, and pork. With my small stature, I knew I was never going to be able to finish the meal and had to explain that I eat like a bird. The rest of my time for my meals were different as my host family made sure to give me the less food. I sometimes even ate less than Dora.
Getting ready for bed was a process I learned to love. Watching American TV shows with my host family and chatting about life till the earliest parts of the morning became my routine. Going to bed at 1 or 2 am was normal. Waking up at 7 am was not. Yet, this routine became a norm for me as I made sure I was awake before Dora went off to school.
This concluded my second day in Beijing, China. I knew my adventure had only started as the coming days would be pushed me past my comfort zone.