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Homestays, Shanghai and leaving China
Editor's Note: A group of students from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School spent two weeks traveling through China. This is the final installment of some of the journal entries that the students produced while traveling.
Thursday, April 21, 2011 – Homestay in Jinhua: Words to describe my day: incredible, wonderful, social, screaming girl fans.
I awoke in Jong Zhe Ren’s (my host brother) house at 6:00. We then walked to school to eat breakfast. After breakfast… all hell broke loose.
I was basically fed to a classroom of super-excited teens who all wanted my email, or a hug, or for me to sing Justin Bieber. Oh, and to “take picture with.” Can’t forget that.
The first class of the day was English, where I spent a good 20-plus minutes at the front of the room acting as the coolest show-and-tell object ever to exist. With each “oohing” and “ahhing” and excited scream, my smile just became wider and wider. My jaw actually hurt from smiling so much today. And not a forced smile: a real genuine smile.
I talked about America and myself, answered questions like: “Do you like Justin Bieber?” (which I cleverly responded with “I like Lady Gaga more”… in short, they went nuts) or “How do you like Chinese girls?” (another clever response: “Ta men hen ke ai [they are very cute]) or “Do you speak Chinese?” (response: “Wo bu zhedao” [I don’t know]). The email addresses were rolling in. At this point I must have given out 50 or more autographs. Not gonna lie: the chicks loved me. And I loved the attention.
After which, I sat through a history class where I absorbed nothing. However, I did have my SAT math packet practically solved by the end of class (not by me, all the Chinese boys in my class said “oh that easy!” and proceeded to “help.”)
Next I visited another English class where I repeated my show-and-tell, question-and-answer spiel. Two girls sang to me, I got two gifts, and one girl started crying (go figure). It was cool. I also sang and danced a small amount. I can safely say I have more fans in China then I ever will in the U.S.
After my second English class I played basketball. It was a “national pride” game. Americans versus Chinese… we lost I think (they kept subbing, and we only had five players… but whatever). All boys in China apparently play basketball.
For me, music class followed my sore b-ball defeat. I performed two piano pieces for the class, both of which yielded an astonishing applause. The students then called me to an encore. When I left the piano bench, I found an open seat reserved for me in the midst of an excited sea of girls. All of whom squealed with joy when I sat with them. My mouth was really starting to ache from smiling, but I loved every second of it. The girls pretty much ignored their teacher all class.
Later in the day, Team China met with ten students who all planned to take the SAT and apply to an American University. These students are taking a special class and I assume they were probably top students at school. I split a little milk on the girl next to me (her American name was Jenny), but it was okay.
Next… was “English Corner.” The only way to describe it is … a mob. The whole school wanted to meet us. I signed another fifty plus autographs/email addresses, took at least as many pictures, hugged countless girls, talked about my girlfriends in America, talked guitar and music with guys, received a CD, made countless singing and guitar performances, and must have gone deaf from screaming girls. The thrill I felt was that of a rock star, I felt completely confident to sing and dance and shake hands and knew I was absolutely adored. The amount of times I was called “very handsome” and that my voice was “very beautiful”… oh it was wonderful!
Finally, Jong Zhe Ren dragged me away form the mob and we went to his house for dinner. The house was filled with Chinese relatives and Matt Farnum (its surprising to find a six foot white guy in a Chinese household). I helped to make dumplings and had a wonderful dinner. After which, a group of us and our host siblings went on an adventure through the city.
I slept soundly that night, and it was probably my favorite day of the trip.
Saturday, April 23, 2011 – Shanghai - Last Day in China: The last morning in China. I woke up at 7:00 to a sunny haze flooding through our open window. Our room was a mess; the remnants of our last night in China - spent retelling our favorite memories and snacking on the multitude of Chinese delicacies awarded to us by our host families - were scattered across the floor.
We spent a half hour cleaning tiny brown lychee (a sweet fruit unique to the orient), fruit leather, and questionable meat-filled pastries from under and around the beds. I packed hastily and then headed down to the lobby to meet Kayla, Ruby, and my mom to embark on a Starbucks quest.
The streets of Shanghai resembled the streets of New York City on any given friday morning, save for the Chinese characters on street signs and billboards. After spending an outrageous amount to support our social habit - the chinese clearly don’t import their coffee in bulk - we sat at one of the outside tables and sipped a liquid that held a strong similarity to weak American coffee. The four of us spent the morning reflecting on our experiences in China; we held a certain sadness that accompanies the end of any journey, yet it was mingled with the excitement of going back home.
Upon returning the hotel, I set out almost immediately on another expedition, this time to find the far more authentic Chinese milk tea. Kayla and Emma accompanied me, and the comical quest that ensued was the last of many which we experienced in China.
We had a meager 15 minutes to find a tea shop that sold the very specific kind of milk tea we desired. The tea is appropriately called bubble tea for the small black tapioca balls that sit at the bottom of the cup. After brusquely walking several blocks away from our hotel, we spotted a young woman sipping tea from a plastic cup, through a giant straw that could only have indicated bubble tea.
Emma, taking the lead as she often did, accosted the young woman with an array of hand gestures and limited chinese, trying to elicit the name and location of the shop from which she bought her drink. We used all of the Chinese vocabulary we had acquired, and she used all of the English she knew.
It was an awkward Changlish exchange, but after a few minutes we understood that if we kept walking, we were bound to come across the milk-tea shop. Eventually, we did find the shop. And although our tea was not exactly what we were looking for - and indeed gave us painful stomach aches shortly after - we were elated with our success at communicating.
I realized then that the greatest cultural difference separating Us from the Chinese was language. And in that instant, we were able to overcome the barrier. More than bragging rights and photos of the great wall, I felt as though I had truly gained something in going to China. It was an beautiful conclusion to the trip ...