Meet the (host) parents
EDITOR'S NOTE: Throughout the summer, ASU students studying abroad will be writing back to the states about their overseas adventures. Fostering international student experiences is just one part of ASU's commitment to making a global impact.
June 19 – Things are finally falling into more of a routine for me here in Beijing. I've become accustomed to taking the busy subway to class and navigating the campus and the streets of the surrounding neighborhood. I am usually able to stutter through Chinese conversation with my host family at dinner and I take a walk through the apartment complex with my host mom every night.
I've gotten used to the older generation in the house muttering about how I am not fat enough and urging me to eat more. I am stuffing myself at every meal and genuinely enjoying the Chinese dishes (I have even eaten chicken feet and pig's feet at a couple meals! Good for your skin, they tell me every time), but the grandmother and the older aunt still consistently bump dishes against my elbows and chant, "Eat! Eat! Taste this!" I had been told to expect this but it is entertaining to actually see it in action and to see how many times I can say "Thank you, but I'm full" before the younger generation intervenes and tells them to stop bothering me. I even had my grandmother chase me down the sidewalk after I left for school one morning, yelling and swinging a bag of grapes over her head for me to take with me.
I also had one of my first bad experiences in China so far when my older host brother, his girlfriend and I all got sick off of a bad watermelon. It was interesting to experience some of their remedies. "You must sweat!" My host mother cried as she covered me in blankets, turned off the air conditioning and opened the window to the 95-degree Beijing heat, for example.
Today, my classmates and I visited Yonghe Gong, a beautiful Tibetan Lama Temple in Northern Beijing, and a Confucian Temple in the same area. Both were an interesting atmosphere of modern-meets-traditional, with tourists wandering about snapping photos at the same time monks burned incense and performed their individual worship.
Now off to catch a movie with my older host brother and his girlfriend. We'll see how I do without subtitles!
June 27 – Another week has flown by! Class has been exhausting and stressful but we still always find time to explore some of Beijing and spend time with our host families so I am really enjoying myself. This week my older host brother and his girlfriend took me out to dinner with a few of their coworkers and although I was nervous going into it, it was a lot of fun. We discussed everything from the Great Wall to ice fishing to Chinese pop stars to little cultural differences I'd noticed (how they don't like drinking cold beverages, for example, or use their car horns way too often!). I struggled through some of the conversation and a lot of "Chinglish" came into play but it was rewarding to make it through the night without my little electronic dictionary.
Yesterday we left the city for an excursion to a scenic area called 十渡 (pronounced Shi Du) about three hours outside of Beijing. The area was beautiful but I was surprised that the air quality outside of the city was still so poor – the grayish brownish haze made it difficult to even make out the outlines of some of the mountains. Air pollution is becoming more and more of a problem in China. Nevertheless, we had a fun day hiking around and paddling little bamboo rafts up the Juma River, a nice change of scenery!
Danica Harvey, an international letters and cultures major with an emphases in Chinese and economics, is a student in the Chinese Language Flagship Program and will be a junior this fall. She is studying abroad in China this summer.