Moving forward

Today is my penultimate day at my Chengdu homestay. CJX has the TV on, and it seems to be some unclear variety program. The hosts, who are definitely old enough to know better, just performed an extremely mediocre lip-sync dance routine of “All for One” from High School Musical 2, spliced with Korean pop megahit “Nobody.” Interestingly, I once saw this latter number performed live by the Wonder Girls, when they opened for the Jonas Brothers. It all comes together.

Last night was one of the more surreal nights in China. A group of us met up downtown to walk around and then have dinner. While looking for a restaurant near Jinli Lu we noticed a little hole-in-the-wall bar that looked like an actual bar, with a handful of laowis, or foreigners, inside. They were Spaniards—businessmen who live in China importing (wine?) and exporting and who knows what. This was their Spanish bar, which they had just sold to a Mongolian woman, and tonight was their last night in the place. They offered us drinks on the house—what a pleasure to taste real beer and real wine (tempranillo) for the first time in months. Our usual beer of choice, Snow, which we usually call Mons because that’s what the title looks like upside-down, has 3.5% alcohol by volume and tastes like a light beer, so. We chatted and drank with the Spaniards for a little while then went off in search of hot pot. How novel and delicious to eat hot pot only with Americans—we got half of the pot non-spicy, and ordered only vegetables and meat, instead of innards.

Heading out, we were distracted by the huge crowd of people gathering on the street around an ambulance. Richy and Leo went in for a closer look and asked what was going on. “They drank too much,” said the crowd. “OK OK, but why is there a guy on the ground in a pool of blood clutching a hankerchief to his midsection?” said the boys. “There was a small knife…” said the crowd. Let’s get the hell out of dodge, said we.

We next ended up in a Tibetan bar called Lhasa, but sketchy negotiations over beer prices sent us out. Back to our old standby—the mall near our university, where we drink 4 or 5 kuai beers in such charming situations as the outdoor bbq patio, the filthy hot pot place, or the parking lot car wash.

On Friday we had host appreciation night, a final banquet with all of our training site and host families. Saturday was the Language Proficiency Interview, an assessment of our Chinese oral abilities. Peace Corps wants us to get at least Intermediate-Low after our eight weeks of language training, which I imagine I did fine with (results still unknown). Tomorrow we wrap up our last day of TEFL training and on Tuesday morning we leave our homestays. We’ll be in some unknown hotel in Chengdu until swearing in on Friday and then heading to our sites for good. I think everyone is feeling a mix of emotions—excited about the party that the hotel stay is going to be and looking forward to get away from the constant oversight of host families, but not wanting to leave our cozy cocoons of our training site friends and having all of our cooking and cleaning taken care of. Not to mention the fact that no one knows what to expect when we actually get to site.

Onward and upward.

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