Monday, July 2, 2012

Hello, Mai Junhao

All of the bags arrived in Chengdu. All of the bags for seventy-three volunteers arrived on time. All of the bags, with a combined weight of approximately 7,300 lbs. and containing two years worth of stuff for seventy-three people, arrived with us in Chengdu via Tokyo and Bangkok. 

I am always surprised by the efficiency of air travel.

We arrived at Sichuan University (Beiyuan Hotel) in Chengdu on the afternoon of 2 July, disoriented, but ready for orientation. 

It was a blitz of information and activity, but to be brief it consisted of:
safety, health, and security briefings
introduction to Peace Corps in China
speech from a Chinese education minister
speech from head of the Chengdu US Consulate 
medical interview
dress code and appearance briefings (no sarongs, sandals, beards, or tattoos)
getting money (living allowance; we don't get paid)
a banquet with the Peace Corps staff (no baijiu!)
cultural sessions
language study
getting our photos taken
SHOTS (rabies, Japanese encephalitis, hepatitis, meningitis and more!)
homestay orientation
introduction to Teaching English as a Second Language
received medical kits
got our Chinese names
training site announcements
meeting our host families

Here's the full schedule, if you're the detail type:

(Yes, I found coffee in China, and then spilled it on my training schedule.)

Henceforth, my name in China is Mai(4th tone) Jun(1st tone) hao (2nd tone), but my friends call me Jason McFarland. The name means something like "proud ruler." I haven't been able to get a precise answer yet. It's a bit pretentious for my taste, but I like the way it sounds. I think these are the characters:


On Tuesday after we finished getting our photos taken, Kevin M., Katie F., Aaron M., Paul S. and I took a walk to the river near campus (quite a grand river), desperately hot and thirsty. So thirsty and naive, in fact, that we paid 25 yuan each for several bottles of Carlsberg beer. We discovered soon after that the normal price for a bottle of beer is about 7 yuan or less. 
But, damn, it was worth every red Mao. 

On the way back, someone had to pee. I won't mention any names. The signs to the public toilet led nowhere, however, so a restaurant had to suffice.

When we got back to campus we took a little break and gathered again with a few more people to go to hotpot--very famous in Sichaun. Think giant fondue with chopsticks and mysterious pieces of animal. It's actually delectable. Oil, chili, salt to perfection.
Ordering was a fun fiasco. The staff was excited to help us through the ordeal. 

Two KTV (karaoke) bars are near SU. Cheap beer is at the 7-11 down the block. Party. 

There's much more to tell, but, in sum, it was exhausting and exhilarating, lonely and filled with new friends, disorienting while increasing my focus.

We got to know the neighborhood around SU pretty well during these few days, our first days as Trainees.

Here are some of the photos:

Woman meditating near the river

Chinese dryers

Aaron, Preetam, Avi

SU Stadium

Campus greenery

Campus street

Front of the Beiyuan Hotel

Restaurant alley near our hotel

Another favorite restaurant alley outside SU

The neighborhood 7-11. Beers on the 4th of July.

Melissa and Anne having lunch with our language/culture facilitator Zou Peng.
M, A, me, and Marty comprised my first language training group.
Note the miniature chairs. It turns out squatting comes in handy in all sorts of circumstances in China.
I'm more flexible already!

1 comment:

  1. I am beginning to think that the airline industry is cockeyed only in the US. Elsewhere in the world, people have legroom, arrive on time, and have their baggage waiting for them when they deplane.

    My clothes dryer also happens to be solar-powered and looks suspiciously like a rope. If it is sufficiently hot and dry, my clothes is dry in about ten minutes. Ain't Colorado grand?