To Teach and Be Taught - A 30-Day Immersion Into Sichuanese Culture - My Family Travels
Teaching and Learning Together

When we first arrived in the village, our group set individual goals that we hoped to achieve over the span of the trip. I, being my modest self, vowed that I would both find a cure for allergies (since I’m deathly allergic to peanuts) and master the Chinese language within the first day. Surprising as it may sound, finding a cure for allergies after having taken only one year each of biology and chemistry is a rather difficult task to accomplish. Even more disappointing was the fact that I – with no prior Chinese language experience – was unable to fluently speak and understand Chinese, a language that is notorious for being easy to learn. Despite my failure to accomplish my goals, each member of my homestay family has made my life intriguing.

Host brother: My homestay brother is around 10-years old, and while we have a language barrier, we have been able to bond over playing cards. He was, apparently, secretly obsessed with me, as I discovered when I woke up the first few mornings to his smiling face staring through my window. I have closed my blinds ever since.

Host mothers: I essentially have two host mothers; one who has cancer, but always has a smiling face and loves to say my name (she pronounces my name as peeEEEEeeter), and the other who finds it hilarious that I “eat less than a baby girl” (that is a direct, translated quote).

Host fathers: I also essentially have two host fathers; one who isn’t usually around because he is working, and the other whose face is comparable to the scariest of street fighters, but who absolutely adores watching Chinese soap operas and fashion shows. I would make fun of him for it, but he wouldn’t understand, and his serious face would scare Jigsaw from the Saw series to death.

Host grandmother: This woman is clearly the mother of my “second father”; the horror stories about Chinese “Tiger Moms” are child’s play when compared to my host grandmother. This, in turn, has made for a series of terrifying experiences that run the gamut from her mauling my stomach during dinner to “try to fit more food into my girly stomach,” to her complaining that I look too tired in the mornings (which happens when you wake up a 17 year old boy at six in the morning), to her forcing me to wear one of my mother’s bras because she apparently thought they were mine.

All joking aside and as foreign as this experience has been to me so far, there has not been a moment that I would change because it is always important to try new things, even if it means enduring a barrage of insults about my skimpy diet. In the span of a week, my students and my homestay family have taught me more about cultural awareness than I would learn at my home in the span of a year.

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