By Anna Rempe
July 26, 2015
After a week in homestay, I have become accustomed to my family’s routine. When I joined this program, I assumed that I would only have one sibling, but I soon discovered that I had been lucky enough to join a family that had two adorable (evidence below) girls! The eldest has a lot of patience with my inability to understand her a good portion of the time. My host parents have been unbelievably kind. I am sure feeding a vegetarian has not been the most convenient for them, but they have excelled at preparing dishes.
At first, awkward lulls in conversation occurred frequently: I did not know what to say or what to ask – even if I could use English. However, conversation has become less awkward, excluding the times when I cannot understand what they say, and we have had many interesting discussions. They told me of their interest in moving to California and asked many questions about America and American schools. Although I certainly spoke in choppy sentences with horrendous grammar, they understood my meaning. This has forced me to think of creative ways to explain what I do not understand which has undoubtedly improved my Charade skills. On the way to school, I often ask my dad how to say something I see. After saying the Chinese word, he asks me how to say it in English. Together we have improved our vocabulary.
While I frequently talked to my parents and older sister, the younger sister took a while to warm up to me. Although she frequently talked with her sister, she rarely spoke directly to me. However, one day while beginning my homework in my bedroom, my youngest sister peeked around the corner into my room. She hesitated outside, until I told her to come sit on my bed. She seemed upset, but would not explain why. I asked her if she wanted to hear some of the Chinese story I had to read for homework. After a while, she still seemed upset, so I asked her if she wished to draw. A few stars in she returned to her cheerful self and proceeded to introduce me to her many stuffed animals – one featured in the picture above. Later, she showed me a card she had received for her birthday. I think we bonded over our ability to read the characters for happy birthday, and inability to read the rest of the card.
Although I learned in the most uncomfortable way the meaning of 蚊子 wen2 zi (mosquito), I truly wish I could stay in this home longer.
Homestay is an important component of the UD NSLIY Summer Institute. The two-week homestay (July 20-August 6) helps students experience the everyday life of ordinary Chinese people on first-hand basis. Located within a 10-20 minutes distance from Xiamen University, the host families were carefully selected and screened. The cross-cultural experience features, among others, “at-home Chinese tutoring”, interactive cultural activities, “cultural chats”, “a bite of Chinese food culture”, “meeting with people in the neighborhood”, etc. “It’s indeed an excellent activity,” student Samara Schuman was quoted as saying.
Lion Dance is a traditional folk dance in Chinese culture. Often performed on holidays, it adds festivity and joyfulness to cultural events. In partnership with Lion Dance Club of Xiamen University, on July 24 UD NSLIY organized a special workshop for the students to learn how to dance. Curious yet enthusiastic about this important aspect of Chinese folk performing arts, all the students fully engaged in the one-hour workshop, learning how to jump gracefully and keep a rhythmic movement. Difficult though Lion Dance is, our students proved to be quick learners and were able to perform some basic dance patterns, winning applaud from the audience.
After two and a half weeks of residing only a five minute walk from the picturesque seaside, today we were able to visit one of Xiamen’s renowned beaches. After a morning of testing in our Intermediate 2 class and the Chinese culture/history class in the afternoon, we headed out on a bus for a short drive to one of the best local beaches. Students were able to enjoy the view, walk along the shore, and joyfully play games such as volleyball and soccer. There were tons of people scattered all over the beach and it was nice to see everyone enjoying their day in the water despite the overcast weather. We everyone truly had a lot of fun on the beach! Even once it began to rain and we had to leave, we were able to enjoy local shops and restaurants across the street from Xiamen University as we had our last night out as a group before moving in with our home stay families tomorrow. After dinner, we came back to the dorms to pack all our things and prepare to meet and move in with our host families tomorrow afternoon. Everyone is very excited to spend the next two weeks immersed in Chinese culture with their new families and practice their Chinese and we all look forward to the new experience.
Wu Laoshi was teaching us in Intermediate 2 Mandarin Class.
Students playing soccer on the beach
I got it!
I am a Kungfu Master!
To help the UD NSLI-Y students understand Chinese culture in its complexity and diversity, on July 12 we organized a cultural excursion to the city of Quanzhou, the starting point of the ancient maritime Silk Road. Located about one hour away from Xiamen, the ancient town of Quanzhou, whose history dates back to the Song (960-1279) and Yuan dynasties (1271-1368), is where the renowned ancient maritime Silk Road started. In the early days, because of all the trade that was taking place in this region, many different cultures (Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam) were meshed together and contributed to the cultural diversity of the area. Students visited the famous Maritime Museum and were impressed by its rich collection of artifacts of different cultures. “This was especially interesting to me,” Anna Williams said, “as even though America houses so many people of so many different backgrounds, I would rarely be able to find this fascinating mingling of religions.”
UD NSLI-Y visiting the renowned Maritime Museum in Quanzhou
the Maritime Museum in Quanzhou
“Doing community service feels great.”
On July 14 UD NSLI-Y students helped the Xiamen University campus organize its student bike parking: picking up the bicycles that had fallen over everywhere. Since it is commonplace for Chinese college students to travel to and from class on bicycles and since there are so many bicycles, which park extremely close together, they often get knocked over like a trail of dominos knocking each other over one by one. The fallen bicycles have caused a lot of inconvenience to passengers on campus. Anthony Abinanti was quoted as saying “Doing community service feels great. Since we have been the foreigners who have bombarded the Xiamen campus with our bright blue shirts, it is nice to show the locals how great of a group of students we are.”
Caroline and Stefan were picking up the fallen bikes on campus.
Samara, Isaac, and Adrien were picking up the fallen bikes on campus.
“Doing community service feels great.”