These past two days have been a blast. I don’t know where to begin. Vicky, Byanka, and I have definitely been spoiled. Every morning for breakfast we’ve enjoyed Zongzi, a steamed rice triangle wrapped in corn leaves with fruit inside it. This delicious treat is especially enjoyed by the kids of the family. After breakfast, we joined the family in a clean up effort and watched some very popular Chinese cartoons. Byanka taught everybody Pianzi or BS. It’s become everybody favourite game. We played countless rounds and laughed a ton. Lunch was delicious. Nana, Grace’s grandmother, prepared delicious noodles for lunch and Byanka and I perfected using chopsticks. The family discussed traditional dance, schooling in the U.S vs. schooling inChina, and our plumpness during dinner. I was asked to join the evening dance celebration and I quickly agreed. I felt very honoured. After lunch, we called Mr. Lamont and checked in. He seemed to be having a great time, visiting mountain caverns by day and playing video games by night. He mentioned that his Mandarin was improving. ModernChinawill surely be a blast next year so everyGrotonstudent reading this should take it.
More card-playing followed and we were all taught the evening dance before dinner. It was definitely more complicated than any dance we had learned previously. Thankfully, all the footwork was the same. When we felt that we had learned the dance sufficiently, we became the dance teachers. We taught those typicalGrotondance moves and some steps from that beloved American dance, Swing. The dancing kept us moving until dinner-time
Finally, the moment of truth came and it was time to perform after dinner. Everything was a blur and I tried my hardest to keep up. Nana was surprised I could keep us at all. I was too. After a half hour, the dance ended and I was covered in sweat. Vicky and Byanka cheered for me from the sidelines and made conversation with the folks who gathered asking “Who’s that weird kid dancing?”.
All that dancing made us tired and we headed back to the house and got ready for bed. We watched Grace’s favourite show, Happy Hour, right before bed and Byanka and I were pleased that we had begun to recognize words. I fell asleep pretty quickly but I was told this morning I was a pretty loud sleep-talker. I was just too excited to completely fall asleep.
Visiting Chengde has been a trip of many firsts. It’s been the first time I visitedAsia, the first time I said anything in Chinese, the first time I played pool and the first time I made dumplings. I’m very grateful to my attentive hosts. Before lunch, my host’s younger brother Shing invited everyone to play pool. Vicky, Byanka and I along the way explored more of the village. The village is small, no more than 200 people and relatively isolated but very close to the mountains. Our pool hall was outdoors and we were protected from the brilliant sun by a makeshift metal roof.
Shing taught us all to play pool. He was a smooth player and really seemed to enjoy it. I went into the game thinking it would be pretty simple, after all, we were playing against a seven year old. But Shing beat us every single time. He beat us quickly and with great skill. We couldn’t convince Grace to play with us and form a super alliance against her brother. Oh well. Family has to stay together.
Arriving home, we played card-games and Try to pronounce this Chinese word correctly. We passed the time enjoying the presence of our host family. Close to dinner, Grace’s grandmother called us in for dumpling making. She was carefully kneading and dividing dough while Grace’s mother cut up leek for the dumpling fillings. We entered the room with reverence. The women were so focused. Breaking the silence with a Ni hao, we entered and watched the dumpling making process. Grace’s mother placed the thin circle of dough in her palm and placed some leek at the center. In a process too quick to describe she scooped it up, pinched the edges, and in a second created a perfect looking dumpling. Dumpling making is a truly a skill. If you don’t make them correctly, they can explode or stick to other dumplings. Our first dumplings looked like lumpy balls with green specks. But after twenty or so failed attempts, Byanka and I perfected the art of dumpling making. Grace’s mother and grandmother were incredibly patient with us. With Vicky’s help, we were able to thank our host family and talk about life at home, farming, and life in the U.S. Vicky was a great sport during this entire host stay. WithNancysick at home inBeijing, Vicky really had more work than usual and she was great the entire time. I’ve already thanked her but It’s important to thank the Student Trip Leader in more ways than one.
Our dumplings were delicious. We ate too much and too fast but we were excited for the afternoon performance. It was the 91st birthday of the Communist Party and Grace’s grandmother, along with other premium dancers, prepared a special traditional dance to honor the party. When we arrived, I couldn’t believe that the square could be more vibrant and more full of life. Men and women and children of all ages performed dance routines, songs, poems and played musical instruments. People danced and sang and truly enjoyed themselves. I was sad to go back home when everything ended but it had been a good day and we were all tired. It was a wonderful way to end our last night with our host families. Tommorrow, we would wake up at 5, exchange gifts, and head to the No. 3 Chengde High School.