Home sweet home

At last, training is officially over. It feels odd to even type that sentence. On Tuesday we moved out of Chengdu homestay and into a posh hotel downtown, where we underwent final meetings with titles like “Bridge to Service.” We were told that due to “incidents” last year, we were not to drink in our hotel rooms or at the talent show (yes, that happened) or etc. But let’s just say—regardless, they were loving the Peace Corps at the Wowo convenience store around the corner from the hotel.

On Thursday I met my new counterpart teacher, whom we’ll call Mr. Y. He is a relatively new teacher himself, and has never held this job, which calls for him to be my information provider, mentor, and go-between with the English department. And on Friday we officially Became Peace Corps Volunteers (as opposed to Trainees) with the Super Official Swearing In. We first assembled privately, just the PCVs and staff, for a reading of the oath, which is apparently the same one used by the armed forces and is a little…non-applicable and awkward. Next was a ceremony attended by such luminaries as the Embassy’s Charge d’Affairs (the Ambassador was otherwise engaged) and the head of the US representative to the Shanghai World Expo, which included a couple of lengthy speeches, a slideshow set to Vitamin C (thanks, Sky), and a charming satire song by one of the other training sites.

Next was a whirlwind of goodbyes and schlepping. Everyone was given, at the minimum, a big water purifier wrapped in the plastic tarp-like bags that are ubiquitous around Asian transit, and some also received air purifiers (mine was already at site) and dehumidifiers for mold. I think that part of the reason PC required that one staff member from each school attend Swearing In is so that they can help us lug all our crap—and for this I was grateful. But although PC had booked all of our train tickets, including at least a dozen of us on the 3:10pm fast train to Chongqing, we were on our own to get to the train station in taxis. And taxis, on a busy Friday afternoon in downtown Chengdu, are not so easy to come by. I was lucky—Mr. Y found a taxi that got us comfortably to the train station with enough time to grab a cup of tea and let Mr. Y’s girlfriend play a few rounds of Zuma (a computer game I was addicted to a couple years ago). Some had to run for the train, dragging crap behind them.

At last we all arrived safely on the train, and it only took another 15 minutes once the train started moving to secure everyone’s accoutrements, more or less, in overhead compartments and aisles and corners. Finally, we were back in Chongqing and then back in Beibei in my new apartment.

I had only had like ten minutes in my apartment when I was here a couple weeks ago, so I hadn’t gotten a very good look. The good: the previous Peace Corps tenants (one girl lived here from 2008-2010, and another girl from 2006-2008) left a fair amount of stuff I’ll enjoy, like books and DVDs (there are well over 100, I estimate) and excess toiletries. The bad: the place is generally dirty, like dirt and dust on all surfaces. Other immediate problems: leaky washing machine, unworking gas and hot water heater, leading to unworking stove and no hot water. Serving in conditions of hardship indeed. Fortunately I have a great resource and advocate in the person of my former Chongqing host, LL, and the housekeeper-creature is seeing to the problems. She showed up this morning, told me someone would come to fix them this afternoon, and at 8pm tonight, when I was embarrassingly in PJs, she returned with handyman, other unidentified woman, and toddler. They will be back some unclear time tomorrow to finish.

There’s been some confusion over my classes: it took Mr. Y until last night to track down my schedule definitively, which was making me a little nervous since I was under the impression that I would be starting classes on Monday (as in, tomorrow). Fortunately, I recently learned, this is not the case! Foreign teachers, for unclear reasons, get the first week of classes off. So assuming this is true (I’m meeting with Mr. Y and my counterpart, David, tomorrow to go over this), I have the next week to do little but explore, plan, and become intimate with my newfound DVD collection. I’m also dying to alphabetize the bookcase…

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