Blog of a Peace Corps Trainee. Hello, my name is Kasey and I am in China for 27 months as an English Education Volunteer with the Peace Corps. You can read my blog to know more about me, the Peace Corps, or China. Feel free to ask me any questions you have. Enjoy! The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps.

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Pond and temple near my new apartment. The kids love feeding the fish.

Site Placement

On Thursday I found out where I’m going to be living for the next two years, and the location is……Chengdu. I’ve got to admit that I was not super thrilled to be staying in Chengdu because I wanted a new experience, but I’m sure I will come to love my site. On Monday I am going to visit the university I’ll be teaching at (Chengdu Normal University) and I get to stay there for 4 days before returning to my host family’s apartment. I actually have to take a 1 and 1/2 hour bus ride to my university, so even though I’m staying in Chengdu I will be living in a different part of the city. I finish my training on August 28th, when I’m sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Then the next day I leave to go live at my site for the next two years. I’m sure the next couple of weeks will go by very quickly. 

The PCVs who will live in Chengdu with me

Earthquakes

Over the past week, I’ve felt two earthquakes in my room. Nothing bad happened where I live during the earthquakes, but another province was hit by it pretty bad. All I felt was my chair moving and my room swaying a little bit. Apparently earthquakes are pretty common here. I’ve only felt one earthquake ever before coming to China, so to have two in one week is pretty crazy.

Typical Day as a PC Trainee

I’ve been putting a lot of pictures of food on here, so I decided to post about a normal day for me in China. Here is what I did yesterday, which is similar to most of my days here.

7am: wake up and eat breakfast (normally toast because my host family loves bread), get ready for the day

7:40am: Leave apartment and walk to school

8:10am: Arrive at school

8:30am-10:30am: Language Training

10:30am-12pm: TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) training on Grammar and Vocabulary

12-1:30pm: Lunch (I had an eggplant dish with rice)

1:30pm-2:30pm: Model School Prep time (at model school I teach about 22 high school students English for 2 weeks)

2:30-4:10pm: Teach Model School students (I’ve taught about money, slang, family, following directions…)

4:10pm: Walk home from school (or sometimes take the bus if it’s really hot)

5pm: Arrive at home

5-7pm: Complete language homework and create lesson plans

7-8pm: Eat dinner with my host family (I had spicy chicken, and more eggplant and rice)

8-9:30pm: shower and relax

9:30pm: Go to sleep

Then repeat almost everything the next day. Sometimes instead of having TEFL training, I just have language training from 8:30am-12pm.

Making Jiǎozi (dumplings) with my host family. The older couple are my host-grandparents and the younger woman is my host-mom. My host-grandparents do not speak English, so we communicate with a lot of hand motions and my broken Chinese.

Host Family

I moved in with my host family one week ago. I will live with them for the next 6-7 weeks. They are really nice and fun to hang out with. My host dad, Tony, is 33 and my host mom, Emily, is 32 years old. So, they are more like older siblings or cousins than parents. They also speak almost perfect English and they tell me to just call them by their English names. Their apartment is spacious and comfortable. Emily likes scary movies, so we’ve been bonding over that. Both Tony and Emily have been helping me to practice my Chinese. I can hold a basic conversation and order food now. There have been a few struggles. In class I’ve said I want condoms instead of I want peaches. Both words are spelled taozi, but are pronounced differently (Táozi  vs Tàozi). Also, my class keeps saying Please kiss me instead of Please let me ask. Language class has been pretty funny.

I’ve had more interesting food in the week I’ve been with my host family than I have ever had in my life. I had squid tentacles and Beijing Duck a couple days ago.

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I had chicken feet one night. It was actually pretty good, but it was a lot of work to eat for so little meat and skin. There are a bunch of bones in it.

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My family took me out to hot pot. The big bowl with the red sauce is really spicy and the small bowl inside of it was not spicy, so I was able to eat without dying from spiciness. You stick the foods in the sauce to cook and then eat them. I had intestines, quail eggs, duck’s blood, cow stomach, and throat. The throat and intestines were a little too chewy for me, but everything else was pretty good.

Food & Pandas

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Steamed buns are amazing and super cheap! I can eat 2 for 3 Yuan (.50 cents in America).

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My half eaten bean steamed bun

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My breakfast yesterday

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The city that I’m in: Chengdu

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We went to the panda base. Apparently all the pandas in the world are own by China.

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Baby pandas playing together

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Trying to wrestle in a tree

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Red pandas

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And lastly, my first squat toilet. Its fancy because it flushes.

My first hot pot. It was really spicy, but pretty good. It was a different spicy than I’m used to in America. You pick whatever vegetables and meat you want  and stick it in the boiling oils and spices. The vegetables were way better than the meat. We had broccoli, cauliflower, some type of beef, chicken, lettuce, bean sprouts, some type of fish, noodles, cucumbers, and other foods in it.

My first hot pot. It was really spicy, but pretty good. It was a different spicy than I’m used to in America. You pick whatever vegetables and meat you want  and stick it in the boiling oils and spices. The vegetables were way better than the meat. We had broccoli, cauliflower, some type of beef, chicken, lettuce, bean sprouts, some type of fish, noodles, cucumbers, and other foods in it.

The first photo is a fruit I ate in Thailand. It tastes kind of like a pear and was really good. The second photo was my lunch yesterday. It was rice, broth, onions, and pork. It was pretty good as well. The bowl across from mine was really spicy noodles and pork. There seems to be a lot of pork in China. I’ll have to put some pictures of my favorite food (dumplings) thus far up here soon…

China

On Thursday I arrived to my staging in LA around 6:30pm, so I missed most of staging (which was from 2-7 pm). I left for China Friday morning from LAX. I had an 11 hour flight to Tokyo from LA, then a 6 hour flight to Bangkok. The 11 flight was very long and we were fed 2 meals and snacks on the plane. We slept in a hotel in Bangkok for about five hours and then left Bangkok for a 3 hour flight to Chengdu, China. I arrived in China on Sunday afternoon, and so it took about 38 hours from the time I arrived at the LAX airport to the time I landed in China. It was definitely a long trip. 

I haven’t quite adjusted to the time difference yet; China is 12 hours ahead of US Eastern Time. The next 10 weeks I will be doing my pre-service training (PST), which involves language training, teaching English as a foreign language training, and safety and health training. I’m in a pretty nice hotel in Chengdu until July 4th, when I move in with my host family. I will live with my host family for about 8 weeks.

So far China has been interesting. Chengdu is a huge city with millions of people. The food has been pretty good, and I am starting to get the hang of chopsticks. It is difficult to order food because I barely know any Chinese. Peace Corps gave us a menu that explains what words to use for Chinese food, and so far I have just shown the restaurants my menu and pointed to something on it that sounds good. It’s been working, but it will be so much easier when I can speak Chinese. The food here is pretty spicy for the most part, and half the time I don’t know what I’m eating. My favorite food so far is dumplings, which are awesome and cheap. I had three large dumplings for dinner tonight for 4.5 Yuan, which is less than $1.

Airport problems

So today has been a little more complicated than I anticipated. I arrived at the Richmond airport only to find out my flight to Chicago (and then to LA) had been cancelled. They were like you can just fly out tomorrow and I was like you don’t understand, I’m leaving for China tomorrow. They gave me a new flight going to Texas and then LA, but my flight had maintenance issues. Instead of leaving at 10:30 like it was supposed to, it ended up leaving at 12:30. Now I’m in the Houston airport and I am supposed to arrive in LA at 5. My staging started at 2, so I’m missing most of it. Better late than never though. Hopefully since today was so awful at the airport it means that the flight to China will go really well since I used up all my bad luck.

Bags are packed and I’m heading to the airport at 6am

Bags are packed and I’m heading to the airport at 6am

Hallelujah

So, after two days of anxious waiting, I finally got the email I was waiting for. I am still going to China!! I leave in 6 days (Thursday, June 19th). It was such a relief to get that email. Unfortunately, 7 people from my group are no longer going to China with us. I hope that they get placements in countries that they will love and that they have the opportunity to visit China some day.

Panic Now?

So I got a distressing email this morning. Apparently China has decided that it doesn’t want any more than 83 invitees to come to China. The problem is that my group has 90 people. The Peace Corps is asking 7 people to volunteer to give up their spots. If 7 people do not volunteer, then the Peace Corps will choose 7 people to leave the program based on their skill level and experience. If we volunteer or are selected then we will be selected for a different country and our departure may be delayed 2-4 months. Did I mention that I only have 8 days before I’m supposed to leave for China?!?! Everyone in my group will be informed of their status no later than Friday June 13th, so I only have to wait impatiently for two days.

I really hope that there are 7 people who do not really want to go to China and they volunteer to give up their spots. I want to go to China so badly, and I am not going to volunteer to give up my spot. I hope I’m not chosen to leave the program. I also hope that no one in my group gets an awful email on Friday saying that they will not be going to China. I always said that I was willing to go anywhere with the Peace Corps, but I thought that when I got my invitation to China it was a permanent placement. Most of us have already quit jobs, moved out of apartments, and sold our cars. To be told that we may not go to China 8 days before we leave is a little devastating. I am just going to keep on believing that I am going to China. I keep thinking of the Hunger Games quote “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Friday can’t come soon enough…

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Going Away Party & Packing

I had my going away party last night (thanks mom and dad!). It was fun and many of my friends and family were able to come. We had Chinese food (which I’m sure tastes different in America than China), cake, games, and a dragon piñata. I’m glad I was able to see everyone before I leave and I received some very useful gifts that I can take with me. I have 11 days until I leave and I need to finish packing and saying my goodbyes. I’m allowed to bring 2 checked bags, with a combined total weight of 100 pounds, and one carry-on bag. It’s definitely hard packing everything that I want to bring for the next two years, and I’m sure I’ll have to sacrifice a few items. Luckily, I have a few more days to decide which items I’ll take and which I’ll leave.

Cake, cookies, and fortune cookies at the party

The packing process so far…