I’ve been in China now for a little over a week, and it’s already going great! The journey to China began with a 14 hour flight to Tokyo-Narita with a 2 hour layover, then another 3 hour flight from Japan to Shanghai. After that we took a 3 hour bus ride to Changzhou. It was an exhausting travel day, but the flights were actually not bad. We had personal entertainment systems in front of every seat, so I watched 4 movies and the time went by quickly. Plus I enjoyed the Tokyo airport and had time to buy some some souvenirs there!
For the next two days, we had an AFS-China orientation at the Legend Holiday Hotel in Changzhou with a bunch of AFS kids from all over the world (Dominican Republic, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, France, Germany, and more!) who are studying abroad in China this year too.
It was such a blast and I loved getting to know all the people! We all clicked very well and instantly became friends! Some of them are actually in Changzhou this year too, so we plan on seeing each other all the time. We are a little AFS family! Some highlights of orientation were: dancing hilariously to a Chinese song called “小苹果” (xiao pingguo), visiting Tianning Temple (an enormous Buddhist temple), and just hanging out with everyone!
My host family picked me up from the hotel, and welcomed me with a huge bouquet of flowers and a big “Welcome to China” sign!
That night, we ate hotpot (you have a boiling pot of soup that you put raw meats and vegetables in to cook – so yummy), and they took me to a music show called “Rock Around the Clock” at Changzhou Grand Theater. The show turned out to be all about 50’s music in America! My host brother is 16 and like to play computer games and watch movies. My host parents are both very nice, but they are both really busy working most of the time. Since my family doesn’t speak much English, I’ve been practicing my Chinese a lot in order to communicate, and I’m actually building up some confidence already!
The next day, we went to school where Li Laoshi (our Chinese teacher) gave us a tour and explained the rules of the school, such as no makeup, jewelry, or nailpolish, and no dating, to name a few. She also told us that Changzhou Senior High School is the best high school in Changzhou! As far as language skills go, I scored Novice High on my pre-program OPI, and I’m hoping to at least pass HSK 5 and score in the Advanced level on my post-program OPI. Li Laoshi told us that many students in the past have achieved such levels of Chinese proficiency, so I have high hopes! Our school is beautiful and very large, and I’m excited for classes to start soon!
With Li Laoshi, we toured Changzhou’s comb factory / museum. Changzhou is famous for it’s combs, and I was definately impressed by how much effort and speciality goes into making combs. This week, I also enjoyed going to the movies with my host brother and mom. I was surprised at the kind of snacks the theater offered: Apple flavored Icees, ice cream, & kettle corn. We also went to eat some “小吃” which are basically snack-sized street foods. I had some delicious octopus tentacles on a stick, which to my surprise and perhaps delight, were not half bad. The most fun thing so far though was going to KTV (karaoke) with all my AFS friends here in Changzhou. We sang for 4 hours, & then went to eat Italian food for dinner, although the Italians with us declared the food to be a terrible attempt at authentic Italian cuisine. Their case may have been made by the banana’s that appeared on one of our friend’s pizza. But all in all, we had a great night with lots of fun and laughter.