The first week in October offers a brief reprieve from the every day hustle and bustle to life in the city. The 国庆节 (guóqíng jiè), which follows National Day on October 1st, is a weeklong holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Everyone here gets a week off work and school in honor the anniversary, and so I was looking forward to a week full of exciting outings now that I had the chance to travel.
My holiday began with an excursion with my host family. Without any idea what was in store for the day, (while I continue to make great strides in learning Chinese, some things are still just lost in translation – so I generally just peruse through the every day here with a sense of humor that gets me by), I accompanied my host family off early in the morning. We ended up going to a National Park of sorts, where my host sister met up with two of her classmates. Together with the three of them and their mothers, the lot of us started roving through the wilderness, hiking up the mountainside through the trees and scrambling over rocks.
The people were out in droves in honor of National Week, so everywhere you went it was very crowded. Even so, we had an absolutely marvelous time. My host sister (her chosen English name is Cindy) and her friends and I chatted all throughout the day. At first, Cindy’s friends were very shy to practice their English (despite constant encouragement from their mothers). However, after some prodding and poking with the right questions, and eagerly showing them that butchering a language is nothing to be embarrassed about through my own use of Chinese, they were excited to have a go with their English and wouldn’t stop talking!
I find that these are some of my favorite moments in living with a host family. My constant exposure to Chinese has improved my 口语 (kǒuyǔ – my speaking ability) and yet, at the same time, it has given me a glimpse into every day life for people in China. It’s an absolutely extraordinary experience, and while it has its challenges, I find it ultimately extremely rewarding.
(“Climbing the mountain” with my host sister and her friends)