Meeting Our Host Families in China

by Emily ’17

We arrived at our host school last night at around 5:30 p.m. after a five hour bus ride from Hangzhou. Needless to say, we were all experiencing a spectrum of emotions: excitement; nervousness; and many of us were very tired from all of our sightseeing in Shanghai and Hangzhou. But nonetheless, the whole group was eager to finally meet our correspondents and their families. After a short discussion between the host families and Lan (one of the things mentioned in the discussion was Savio’s peanut allergy, so now many of the host families refer to him simply as, “peanut head,”) we left with our families.

My host family took me straight to dinner, where we sat down in a private room for a meal with my host parents friends, their two daughters and nephew (my host sister Olivia’s best friend who lives in Singapore). This meal, like many of the other meals I’ve had in China, was delicious but very large, because meals here last much longer than back at home, so you do not notice how much you are really eating. But the food was very delicious, and after dinner my sister and I promptly went home.

The next morning we met up with her friend I had met the night before, and one of his friends, to go shopping in an outdoor mall that used to be an ancient city, so the exterior was enclosed by a stone wall and moat. The morning/afternoon was very interesting because I got the opportunity to learn about what it means to be a Chinese teenager. For example, I was informed that many of the girls at my high school love kpop and lots of the boys play video games in their free time.  It was interesting for me to hear about small details like this, and the others asked me questions like, what is your favorite NBA team, and how long are your breaks from school.

After lunch, both boys left and my sister and I met up with her parents so she could go home to finish her homework (we have school all weekend because they had off because of the gaokao [college entrance exam – editor] this week. This situation was just what I feared when coming to China, because both of my host parents do not speak English and I do not speak Chinese. Regardless, I spent the rest of my day touring the older part of the city with my host parents and essentially playing charades to understand each other. They ended up taking me to my host father’s sister’s house for tea and I spoke with my host cousin about politics for about three hours. Since his English was limited, and my Chinese skills are non-existent, we ended up using translator apps as our primary mode of communication. That being said, his English improved exponentially in our three hours together.

It is currently around 6:00 p.m., so I still have a few more hours with my host family before I need to go to sleep for school tomorrow (which is from 7:00 a.m. to 9:20 p.m.). I can’t wait to see what else China has in store.

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