Life in the Village: China Day 4

January 8th, 2015

Today, we all woke up either because of the bitter cold or because of the crowing roosters and barking dogs. We all ate a hearty breakfast – many included eggs and fried dough. Breakfast was a great time to bond with our homestay family; we could talk about how we slept, our plans for the day, and how good the food was. After breakfast, we all met at Lily’s house (where the chaperones are staying) to debrief and to prepare for our trip to the local elementary school.

While we were walking to the elementary school, it started snowing! It surprised us because just an hour the earlier the skies were clear and blue. At the elementary school, we were welcomed by kids chanting, “Welcome! Welcome!” in Chinese. We were able to begin to bond with each other when we sang a repeat-after-me song in both Chinese and English. Some groups taught the kids some basic English (like colors, animals, actions, and weather), and others played games such as duck-duck goose. The kids liked to do charades – for example, when we taught them how to say “swim” in English, they all pretended to swim on the wood floor. They were a bit uncontrollable; many of them liked crawling on the floor, wrestling with their friends, pretending to shoot people, and banging their hands on the tables. We noticed that, in contrast to American kindergartens and the Shanghai schools, this school lacked resources and teaching staff. Although this was the case, both the kids and us were extremely enthusiastic and happy to be there. Overall, it was a very fun and humbling experience that we could share with the little kids.

We returned to our home stay families for a quick lunch where they welcomed us back with warm, fresh food (most of it is farmed in/near the village). After lunch, we all set out on a hike to Zhi Yun Si Temple. While we were walking, a cute German Shepard dog began to follow us and we named it Spencer (she ended up following us all the way to the temple). During the 2-hour hike, we enjoyed the picturesque scenery – tall, green mountains and a clear blue lake. The temple was breathtaking. It was built into the hillside and there was a perfect view from our path. Inside the temple, a ceremony was going on inside the Buddha Hall. Monks sat from most junior to most senior and they were playing a prayer song with many instruments such as drums, bells, and even some horns. We were all surprised when after the ceremony the young monks came into the courtyard we were sitting in and began to play soccer. The once foreign and different people became much more familiar and relatable to us. We then climbed the steps (there were tons) up the hillside to the part of the temple where the monks’ dorms were. We could see the entire valley and all the mountains in the entirety of LaShi Lake. On the drive back to the village, Spencer (the dog) tried to follow us – he was successful for a couple kilometers, but after a while, she sat down on the side of the road out and looked at us longingly (everyone was very sad).

Upon returning the village, everyone went back to their home stay families for a delicious dinner and some more time to bond with them. Many of us shared pictures of our own families with them and they shared their pictures with us; it allowed us to bond on a level extending beyond language. For those who don’t speak Chinese, and even for those who do, it was hard to communicate because their Mandarin is limited (most of them speak the NaXi language). Many even resorted to communication by charades and drawing pictures. Overall, it has been a wonderful and enlightening experience and we are all very excited for what tomorrow will bring.

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