So far, I have lived in China for one whole month already. The time has flown by! I am going to my school tomorrow to register for classes. I will be learning more Chinese while I’m here. I already took two semesters of Chinese classes while in Mei guo. Mei guo is the Chinese name for the United States of America, and the Chinese characters look like this, 美国. mei means “beautiful,” and guo means “country,” so mei guo means “beautiful country!” Isn’t that a nice way to describe the United States?
I have been practicing speaking Chinese a lot in the last month of living and traveling here! My wife, Rachael, and I are living with a Chinese family. We call the mother and father “mama” (妈妈) and “baba” (爸爸). It is obvious who “mama” is, but do you think “baba” sounds a little like “papa?” I do. Sometimes I accidentally call him “papa,” but I don’t think he minds because he responds to both names.
Baba has a number of lucky crickets. They are huge! I have included a picture of them for you to see how large they are. Sometimes he puts them in jars on a belt and wears them, so that the good luck would follow him around. I think the crickets recognize baba, because when he gets home from work they start chirping like mad! However, when I go past the shelf on which the crickets live, they do not make any noise. Did you ever think people would have crickets as pets? I didn’t!
We eat three meals a day at home. Mama cooks Chinese food for us. I like 95% of the food so far, and Rachael likes almost all of it! We eat a lot of vegetables (菜), but only a little bit of meat. I asked my Chinese mama if we could have more meat, and since then we’ve had all kinds of different meat. We’ve had chicken and beef, and yesterday mama even brought home a giant fish from the market!
Every night after eating dinner, Rachael and I sit on our bed and watch American television shows. During breakfast and lunch and at other times during the day, we watch Chinese television with either mama or baba or both. I try hard to learn the new language every day, but I can only understand some of the words when watching Chinese shows. I am therefore grateful I can also watch American television shows, and understand something every day!
I’m excited to go to school and keep learning new words. But learning new words doesn’t work if you don’t practice them! Today Rachael and I went to the Dongjiao market to buy yarn. Rachael likes to knit, and she is knitting a blanket for our first baby who will be born here! Would you be nervous to have a baby in a different country? I am! Luckily we have many friends here, some of whom are Americans who have had babies in China, so that makes me feel a lot better!
At the market I used lots of new words, and even learned how to ask where the wool yarn shop was. It was fun to do something so difficult and manage to do it well. Often when I talk with Chinese people, they tell me that my Chinese is very good. I say nali nali, which literally means “Where? Where?” or “Where is the good?” That is how you are supposed to respond to a compliment in China. Chinese people are very humble and don’t like to brag about themselves.
Chinese New Year has just ended. It is a huge celebration here. Everyone in the entire country gets at least a week off from work or school, and many people get a whole month off. People use the time to visit family, have numerous big meals together and light lots and lots of fireworks. Our Chinese family had “hot pots” for Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner. Hot pots are made by boiling broth, spicy or not spicy, and then adding meat and vegetables or anything one may want. The boiling broth cooks all the food, which is then ladled out of the pot and eaten. Adding different items changes the flavor of the soup, which means that you never have the same hot pot twice!
On Chinese New Year’s Eve we went outside to watch the fireworks that the people in the neighborhood were lighting. There were so many fireworks that they went on for twelve hours straight!