Thursday was the big day: Site Announcement Day. I thought I was going to vomit going through the motions of heading to Sichuan University on the bus and then sitting through an hour of talk about staying healthy while traveling. My Rubik’s cube and I were getting pretty hot and heavy since I felt like I needed to do something with my nervous energy during said health talk (btw, with this loose new cube I have, I have a new record of 2 mins 30 seconds, and am generally averaging about 3:20, + or – 40 seconds).
So anyway, on to the announcement. They explained that the first priority in making site announcements was our being a good fit for a specific university post. So after first filling very special jobs or placing people who had certain medical requirements (eg, asthma making a polluted city a no-go), and then shuffling people around according to need, they might consider individual preferences that were expressed. I really hadn’t gotten the opportunity to express much personal preference in my interview, other than wishing to be placed somewhere with a sitemate and ideally, multiple other PCVs around.
Then envelopes were distributed: one color for each province that PC goes to (Sichuan, Chongqing, Gansu, and Guizhou). At some point only green ones were left, so I knew I was going to Chongqing (which I will abbreviate as CQ hereafter). Indeed, I am. Southwest University in a place called Beibei, small town of 500,000 people about 30k from CQ city center.
CQ is a municipality (like a province, but not) of 30 million people–making it arguably the most populated urban area in the world. But for all intents and purposes, it’s not. CQ city has perhaps 10 million people (plus or minus a few million), and there are many smaller towns and cities throughout the municipality. Nor is the municipality particularly small: one of my friends is something like 5 hours away from the city. It’s also one of the most polluted cities in China and, thus, the world, and we’re all issued air filters for our bedrooms. Chongqing is also one of China’s “three furnaces”–temps above 100 degrees F in summer, with super-high humidity, are routine. It doesn’t generally snow, but the winters are still chilly and damp.
But in general, I’m pleased, and realize how lucky I am in this placement, in many ways. SWU (as I will henceforth call it) is apparently one of the finer universities in China, and I can expect to primarily teach oral English to English majors who are more advanced than the students many other volunteers might encounter. I have a handful of friends in CQ city center, and a few more scattered, like I am, a little ways outside the city. I do have a sitemate, but that’s a bit of a wildcard since he’s a China 15, meaning that he’s a volunteer who has already been here for a year and who I therefore have not yet met. There should also be plenty of other interesting foreigners around to befriend and the like: apparently my department has something like two dozen foreigners, and I’ve already found a website for what looks like a vibrant expat community. Beibei should also be fairly easily accessible to CQ but far enough outside that I should have less polluted air and more space and greenery and the like. And one of my bffs in CQ center already knows she has a 2-bedroom apartment, whose spare room I have already claimed as my weekend crash pad….
Despite all that, I don’t feel AMAZINGLY EXCITED like some PCVs do right now. Part of that perhaps is in the fact that, although I’ve gotten a lot of information about some things (like exactly how to light the left burner of my stove, compliments of a form filled out by the former PC volunteer who recently vacated the same apartment I’ll live in), there are still so many things unknown. And although I know, objectively, that I have a great potential situation here, it’s easy to be jealous of this or that that some other friends seem to have, or even jealous of just their general high excitement level.
But we’ll see. On Monday I head off on the slow train to Beibei (4 hours, in the evening, and apparently with a sleeper bunk ticket) and I’ll be there for a few days, living with (another) host family, meeting with administrators and whatnot, and general just checking out the scene. Then it’s back to Chengdu on Saturday for a couple more weeks of training. I’m planning to lug a big suitcase on this trip to Beibei to hopefully save myself trouble–although this could backfire if I find I’m not actually able to leave it there securely (either in my vacant apartment-to-be or with the host family I’ll be staying with).
In any case, it’s great to have this one big question answered, and to start thinking more concretely about the shape of the next two years of my life.