Same Katy, different country
It has been almost 2 days since I have gotten back to Kunming and it has been absolutely wonderful. Although I miss the fresh air, the cafes, and the people of Dali, the familiarity of Kunming just fills me with happiness. I have tried my best to do some laundry, work on my ISP, and catch up on sleep, but a lot of my time has been spent doing some much needed catch up with my friends here in Kunming. I was the first one to arrive back from my ISP. More and more people are starting to trickle in, and it is starting to feel like I never left. I cannot believe that we have less than 2 weeks left in the program. I can clearly remember the first day here - sleep deprived, cranky, and nervous. It’s such a shift to feel so comfortable now, to have solidified my friendships with the people in the group.
The stress of completing my ISP paper is definitely kicking in, but I need to remember the precious time I have left in Kunming and to take advantage of the little time I have here.
3 weeks that is. 3 weeks since I’ve started this ISP period. And, of course, I had to celebrate by going to Sweet Tooth and eating a delicious slice of dark chocolate cheesecake. So what if it keeps me up half the night because it has so much chocolate and I’ll be super cranky in the morning because I’ll get woken up at an ungodly hour because one of my 11 hostel mates has to go use to toilet?
That’s right, I’m staying at a hostel dorm room that fits 12 people. I was originally staying at a hostel right outside the city walls, but after the 5th day of having no water (which meant no showers and having to brush my teeth with bottled water everyday) I decided that it was time to switch hostels. I found one that was just inside the city walls. Although I do have to pay an extra 5 yuan than my previous hostel and I have to share a dorm room with 11 other people, the location is much better (i.e. I don’t have to cross a highway every time I want to get to my hostel, therefore decreasing my chances of getting hit by a car while in Dali) and having running water is pretty spectacular. The water shuts off from time to time because of the bad drought Dali is going through at the moment, but it only lasts a couple of hours rather than the couples of DAYS like at my other hostel.
(My current hostel - top bunk, anyone?)
Besides having this stress of trying to find another hostel with running water, my last week has been busy. Since the last time I updated, I have conducted many interviews with shopkeepers, street vendors, and custom officers. It still amazes me that people are willing to spend their precious time answering my questions. In fact, just 2 hours ago, I was talking with a local antique shop owner for 1.5 hours, even though I had no intention of buying any antiques; he wanted to talk with me just because I was interested.
This past weekend I also taught at the English school again. I taught one class on Friday night, one class on Saturday morning, and two classes on Sunday afternoon. The kids ages ranged from 8-14 years old. In each class, they were allowed to ask me questions about America before the lesson started. the 8 year olds asked questions like “What is the weather like?” But the 14 year olds asked questions like “Do you have a boyfriend?” The younger kids did not speak as great English as the older ones, so I spent a lot of time speaking incredibly slow and doing a lot of acting (side note: I am EXCELLENT at charades now). Unlike last time where the teacher stayed in the class with me, this past weekend they left me completely alone, which meant no translator for the kids and no help for me. In the beginning I was completely nervous and totally not confident in myself, but over the course of the weekend my teaching got better and better. It warmed my heart when one of the English teachers told me that the kids had said to her that they wanted me to come back and teach again.
(A group of boys from one of my classes. The one in front was particularly sassy.)
Yesterday another one of the English teachers invited me to Dali University so that she could show me around her campus. Her campus is absolutely beautiful. Depending where you stand, the backdrop of Dali University’s campus is either the mountains or the lake, both of which are famous for their insane beauty. We ate at her cafeteria, and then she and her friend took me to the art building, the gymnasium, and her campus lake. It was strange to be on a college campus again; it made me really miss not only my college, but also my Kunming campus. It was nice to be surrounded by college kids again. It’s kind of upsetting that she and I became friends with only 4 days left of my ISP.
(My friend and me at Dali University)
Although I am SO excited to return back to Kunming this Saturday, I can’t help but be a little sad. Even though I was basically alone for most of it, I really did make some great connections with people here. Today I had to say goodbye to one of my translators, who was also one of the English teachers. It wasn’t until it was time to say goodbye when I realized that I was going to miss her a lot. Tomorrow I will have to say goodbye to my Dali University friend. And then on Friday I will have to say goodbye to my adviser, the one who has had my back this entire time. I’m even at that point where I’m starting to recognize the Dali locals: the waiters at my favorite breakfast place, that guy who first eats at the vegetarian buffet and then goes to play his guitar down the street, the European woman who owns one of the bakeries in town. And they’re even starting to recognize me; yesterday the girl at the bubble tea place just took one look at me and already knew my drink order. You have no idea how excited I was when that happened. I was also slightly embarrassed, but mostly pretty thrilled. I’m starting to think in “last’s.” “This is my last time taking the #4 bus to the English school.” “This is my last time being with my translator.” “This is the last time eating cake at Sweet Tooth.”
(The magical Sweet Tooth)
I cannot believe that my time in Dali is almost over. Tomorrow I’m planning to do some shopping and then hanging out with my Dali University friend. Friday I will be attempting to outline my ISP paper and having dinner with my adviser. And then Saturday morning I will be going back to Kunming, where my one week essay writing period starts. This ISP paper has to be 25-40 pages long, which is absolutely terrifying, but I am ready to get started on it.
Once my paper is done and we have our ISP presentations, everyone and I will have less than 1 week together to do some last minute group bonding and traveling. On June 3, when the program ends, I know that there will be tears. SO MANY TEARS.
But I’m trying not to think about that now. Hopefully there will be plenty of tumblr updates until then. Look for one when I return back to Kunming!
…it has been 2 weeks since I’ve started my ISP, and I haven’t gone insane (yet)!
To commemorate my 2 week anniversary here, I thought it was appropriate to celebrate it at the same place I celebrated my one week anniversary here - at Sweet Tooth.
So at the moment, I’m eating a delicious banana chocolate muffin (with whipped cream on the side, of course) as I’m writing this post. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s strange how I’m starting to plan my trip back to Kunming (T-minus 10 days!) when only 2 weeks ago I was dreading how long I was going to be here. The first week seemed to go on forever because I wasn’t doing much, except eating, walking around, and having way too many self-reflections. But the last week has been packed with work. I’ve had several interviews with curators, archaeologists, tourism bureau officials, shopkeepers, and street vendors. I am still surprised that so many (important) people are willing to talk to me when I’m just this awkward Chinese-American college student who can barely speak any Mandarin. This weekend I’ll be continuing my (sad attempt of) a job as an English teacher. Then next week, my last week here, I’ll be going to a shopping market outside of Dali Old Town, packing in some last minute interviews, doing a little touristy sight-seeing (since I haven’t really had time or motivation to do that yet), and some necessary souvenir shopping. I already have my eyes on this beautiful pair of handmade earrings that I saw on my first day in Dali. Even though it’s 80 kuai. And I probably won’t be able to bargain it down. Which makes me sad.
I’ll try to update frequently during these last 10 days, but if not, I guarantee a post next Wednesday at Sweet Tooth yet again~
I admit, I was lying to you when I said that I was COMPLETELY alone in Dali. In fact, I don’t know what I would be doing if it weren’t for my translator. He comes with me and helps me translate when I go talk to local shopkeepers and museum curators. If he can’t come with me, he sends over one of his teachers from his English school. Because he’s been helping me so much, I offered to help out at his school, so today I hopped on the public bus to New Dali and spent the morning teaching four 10-year old kids English. Today I became their new teacher, “laoshi.”
Now, when I say “teaching,” what I really mean is “introducing myself, talking about American holidays, and then standing there awkwardly.” The students were really confused by me. They said that I didn’t look American, I looked just like them, yet I was American and spoke English fluently. Although I tried to explain my family history, which I’ve been getting used to explaining at this point, they still seemed pretty confused. But once they got past that initial confusion, they were really excited and wanted to forgo English lessons and teach me Chinese instead. But, of course, they had to go through their 1.5 hour class first.
It was really interesting to see how these young Chinese students are learning English. It’s based upon textbook alone, although their teacher (who is 21 and a third year university student like me) is trying to improve their speaking skills as well as their reading and writing skills. The words from the chapter for this class were words like “Portuguese,” “Australian,” and “language.” And although they are quite young, their English is definitely better than my Chinese.
I wrote my telephone number and email address on the board so that the teacher, who wants to show me around her campus sometime this week, could contact me. But this ended up in a frenzy of telephone and email exchanges between these adorable 10-year olds and me. I won’t be surprised if I receive a random text message from one of them within these next few days.
So even though I feel lonely from time to time during my stay in Dali, it’s comforting to know that I have these lovely people to return to on the weekends ^_^
…many things about myself, recently.
It has officially been one week since I’ve been dropped off in Dali to do this independent study project. And it marks one week of being (basically) completely alone. Being alone forcefully makes you self-reflect. This is what I have learned about myself:
- Although I love alone time, I don’t love being alone. Let me explain. It has taken me, literally a week, to adjust being here. I have actually been in shock the last 7 days. I didn’t know what to do with myself; I could do anything I wanted to do, but being severely indecisive kinda sucks when you’re on your own. But honestly, I think I needed that adjustment period. It allowed me to get used to doing things on my own, to eat by myself, to wander around aimlessly. Now I know the fastest way to get to my hostel, where I can put more money on my phone, and where I can eat all the vegetarian food I want for only 5 kuai. And I was able to do this all on my own. (Except for the vegetarian food part. I would probably still be eating at expensive cafes every night if it weren’t for my adviser)
- I am better at directions than I thought I was. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m directionally challenged. But I’ve managed to not get too lost this past week…though it helps that Old Town, the part of Dali where I’m doing my research, is kind of confined within the city walls. Like, there are LITERALLY stone walls that surround most of Old Town.
- I don’t know what this says about my personality, but it takes an immense amount of pressure for me to finally be productive. I like to think of myself as a good student, but I don’t have much self-motivation. I didn’t know until this afternoon that I will be interviewing a curator at one of the local museums tomorrow - so it wasn’t until today that I began to really think about my project and to prepare for the interview. Although it took me a week to finally be productive, it feels damn good to get some work done.
- I really, really love Sweet Tooth, one of the local bakeries in town. I have been here 5 times in the last week. And I may be there right now. Writing this. Eating green tea cheesecake.
Self-reflection isn’t all cake and rainbows though (although there has been a lot of cake). I’ve had to fight through a lot of self-doubt and anxiety. But now that this period of self-absorption is done with, I can move on with this project! And hopefully the next time I update, I will have actually gotten a lot of things done.