Our New Home

By Ann Williams

July 22, 2015

“我不知道,我听不懂,请再说一遍,” (I don’t know, I don’t understand, can you please repeat?) is what I feel I am saying over and over again! However, lots of laughter, lots of hand gestures, and lots of patience from both me and my incredible host family are helping break through the language barrier. This barrier is actually considerably easy to ignore, if you can avoid stressing out about getting your meaning across and instead focus on the great times you are having together, whether you’re playing cards, making dumplings, or giving gifts, as NSLI-Y students have done the past two days with their host families. Yesterday our Chinese parents welcomed us with open arms and today has been no different as they continue to bend over backwards to make sure we’re comfortable.

Even though we part in the afternoon, NSLI-Y students come together again each day in the morning starting with class and ending with tutoring. This week, we are learning paper cutting, calligraphy, and the popular Little Apple dance that stormed Chinese media not too long ago. These activities are not only incredibly fun but also add more depth to our intense learning of everything about Chinese culture. NSLI-Y students definitely feel, now more than ever, as if they are definitely a part of China while they stay with their host families.

In the second day of this new lifestyle, while many things are new and different, on more than one occasion I was struck with a strange familiarity of my own home in America. When my host mom brought out bokchoy as a dish of my delicious welcome feast yesterday, I discovered she had prepared it exactly as my own mother does—sautéed with garlic. After we ate, we sat in the living room and talked together—about my hometown, my family, and about how hard my host dad’s dialect is to understand. Even though I was struggling to understand half of what what was being said, I felt a strange comfort in being together and laughing and joking, just as I would in my own home. The language barrier did not block any of the welcome that my new family was giving me. I continue to be excited every day for a chance to practice what I’m learning and observe and discover even more about China, a place I am so unfamiliar with but strangely, feels like home.

David and Andy proudly show their paper cutting works-in-progress

Caroline and her host sister smile happily

Henry watches intently as his family helps him make tea.