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The Busy and the Beautiful

Starting this Yak, I’m not quite sure how to begin; there’s so much to say. We’ve now been with our Jixiang host families a full week, and that puts us a third of the way through this trip. I’m thrilled to be able to start with the answer that I imagine my parents back home are most hoping to hear: yes, my Mandarin language skills are blooming (happy birthday Dad, shengri kuaile, by the way.) It’s a funny process because everyday when we learn in class, we’re able to straight away use our new words in conversation with our homestay families. Playing basketball and cards with my little homestay brother, and at the dinner with my homestay grandparents, I’m at work trying to communicate. My most improved area is conversational grammar, as I’ve been now been so exposed to hearing the language, I’m learning to put my new vocabulary together correctly into phrases. Sometimes my little brother’s parents come home from where they work in a distant city, and they love practicing their English on me, while helping me with my Chinese.

Recently, our days are filled with meeting and planning for our upcoming X-Phase. The course manual wasn’t kidding; we students actually have to research, plan, and book the entire trip, from food, to transportation to lodging ­­– adulthood, I’ll be ready for you! We also organize day trips using our Chinese: yesterday, Charlotte and Emilie took us to a local school, where we exchanged our educational customs with those of the students, through games and crafts. Today I’ve planned a visit to an Environmental NGO, and we’ll be learning about how horse poop and other forms of organic waste can become power!

Speaking of horses, there’s many of them roaming around the lake that Joey mentioned. I’ve taken many of my favorite photos at this place. I’ve attached a shot I captured of horses competing for alpha dominance – very exciting! Trips to the lake often extend until darkness, and we walk home, arms around our new friends and huddled under umbrellas. Some slight troubles haven’t deterred our group. I’m astonished to realize how quickly I’ve come to know my Dragon companions as some of my favorite people I’ve ever met.

We haven’t had any news access, so here’s wishing that all back home are safe and happy. I can’t wait to share more stories upon return.