The Peace Corps has bestowed a lot on us as we continue to check off the boxes of our preservice training. They have given us envelopes of money (gangster status), a medical kit, no less than 10 manuals, a chinese name (mine: Deng Wentao), friends (other like minded individuals crazy enough to put their lives on hold to live in another country for two years) and most recently a new family.
The hotel resembled a busy ant colony the day we left to meet our host families. In our rooms, we gathered our many bags, hauling them down the halls, packing elevators, rolling them down stairs, to our respective staging areas. There we waited in anticipation. Some chatted, others remained in silence, while others played musical instruments. One of our esteemed colleagues even sacrificed precious luggage space for a set of bag pipes. None of us knowing more about our host family than what peace corps staff decided to put down on paper for us. Some volunteers received an extensive description of their host families. "The host family has a cat, a pool, both host parents speak fluent english, the host family has hosted 3 other volunteers" etc. Mine was abbreviated. Dad, 52 secondary school, mandarin teacher. Mom, 42 retired factory worker. Brother, 16 just finished high school and is on the way to university. There's not a whole lot to be gleaned from these descriptions, so I didn't bother to try.
Our host families were waiting for us when our group arrived at Chengdu University. A very nice middle aged couple was there to greet me and take me home, which was just a few blocks or 10 minute walk from the university where I will be attending the remainder of my Peace Corps Training.
The exterior of the apartment building, looked older, as any building might appear that has smog-laden wind blowing up against it daily. The neighborhood was noisy, mostly from construction of an underground conduit on the adjacent lot. The elevator bounced as though suspended from a rubber band as each of us boarded. On the 9th floor the cool-blue hallway lightbulbs flickered or hung dead in their sockets as dad led the way to our apartment door.
Walking through the doorway was a reminder to read the damn book first. Inside the noise faded. A silence filled the well kept and, although floral, quite tastefully decorated apartment. More modern and well equipped than any I have inhabited over the course of my adult life. Mom rushed over to the China cabinet (an idiom turned literal) and pulled out a glass Garfield tea cup. This was to be my teacup for the remainder of my stay. I was home.
Baba (father) and Mama (you get it), don't speak any english. I just so happened to speak less than very little mandarin, so the last couple days have been interesting. We get along well enough using translation apps on our phones. It'll have to do until my younger brother (who apparently speaks great english) returns from school. The next and most critical part of my integration here now with my host family and later at my school will be learning mandarin. It's too bad I can't just be given the language ability as well.