06/29/2012 - 07/14/2012 83 °F
They call me … Fāng Dí. Two weeks ago I was called Dan. In those two weeks I have traveled from Florence, Colorado USA to Chengdu, China. I have eaten calf brain, cow stomach, and duck blood. I have been partially immunized from rabies, hepatitis, and encephalitis. I have learned all about diarrhea and can diagnose and treat it using an impressive medical kit that has been issued to me. I can mispronounce a couple hundred Chinese words and put them in sub-optimal order to form Chinese sentences that barely make sense. I can tell you a little bit about the Chinese education system. I have been promoted from Peace Corps invitee to Peace Corps trainee. In seven more weeks I hope to be promoted again to Peace Corps Volunteer and be teaching English to university students in a western province of China. I hope to become a China 18.
The trip from Florence to Chengdu was a grinder. It started at 4:00 AM Friday June 29th at Mom’s house and ended around 4:00 PM Monday July 2 at Sichuan University. Seventy-five volunteers spent seven hours in LA on Friday preparing for a Peace Corps stint, reaffirming their commitment. After a night at the LAX Airport Radisson, we flew through Tokyo to Bangkok, stayed a night in Bangkok and flew to Chengdu the next morning. Apparently we were the first Peace Corps China group ever to show up at Sichuan University on time. The staff was surprised to see us. We were surprised when the medical staff immediately began immunizing us.
Our first nine weeks in China will be spent in pre-service training. We learn how to speak Mandarin. We learn how to teach English the Peace Corps China way. And we learn how to take care of ourselves in China. After two and a half days of orientation the China 18 trainees were split up and sent to one of four locations: Sichuan University, Sichuan Normal University, Sichuan Normal East Campus, or Chengdu University. We began training in earnest.
I was introduced to and moved in with my home stay family after a cool little reception at the Waiban office on the campus of Sichuan Normal University. I am now living with a couple in their mid-thirties, their eight year old daughter, and a pair of grandparents. They are all characters. I slid right into my new temporary family very easily. I love home stays. Despite the initial stress of living with people you don’t know, it’s the easiest way to get to know a place, it’s culture, and its people.
It’s been a helluva ride so far. I’m incredibly busy, satisfied, and usually tired and energetic at the same time. I don’t really have time to think about what I want to do. The Peace Corps has already thought my schedule through for me. All I have to do, is do. All I have to be is Fāng Dí.