We met our host families today!!!
This morning, I overslept a bit, so Cindy got me breakfast as I showered and got ready for the day. When she came back, we hurriedly packed all our belongings and checked out of the hotel.
I was really nervous about meeting my host family, until I finally got to hear about them from Dong laoshi yesterday. At 11am, we walked into the ZXZ building (the building right next to our hotel) conference room and finally got to put faces on the people we all heard about. I was greeted by warm hellos and smiles, and after a quick introduction, the host parents quickly made room for me to sit next to my host sister, Elaine. It turns out that Elaine is really good friends with Michelle's host sister, Poppy, so we made some plans for the day.
After my host family took me to their apartment to drop off my things, Elaine and I met up with Michelle and Poppy for lunch at a hot pot place. We picked our sauces from the sauces booth, and then Elaine and Poppy ordered the raw food for the hot pot. As our broth began to boil, one by one dishes started appearing on our table – some beef slices, pork slices, spinach, Chinese cabbage, meatballs, shrimp paste, vermicelli, potato slices, and a special surprise ordered by Elaine… pig throat!!! Everything was delicious, including the throat. For those who are curious about what it tasted like, it was white cut into square strips, and did not have much of a taste, but it had a soft crunch and emphasized the taste of our sauces. We ate and got to know each other a little better. Turns out that both our host sisters are starting college in Massachusetts next fall! Elaine is attending Northeastern University (so excited!) and majoring in Media, and Poppy is attending Smith College and majoring in Women's Studies.
After lunch, we went to a local market so Michelle could buy a towel. I never got the name of it, but it was huge – two floors of Wal-Mart-esque aisles. When we got to the cashier, I turned around and thought I was at a Western supermarket, such as Stop and Shop or Ralphs, because it was just as organized. Afterwards, we took the bus to XinJieKou, which is like the Grand Central Station of Nanjing, to do some shopping. I needed to buy some shoes for my internship (dress code is business casual), and it just so happened that Elaine wanted to buy shoes for the summer, too. After looking at some pretty expensive shoes at the department store, we decided to go downstairs to Fashion Lady, which is like a giant underground flea market, where you can go and bargain for everything and anything. After walking back and forth for an hour or two, Elaine found a pair of cute grey sandals and I was still empty-handed, so we just went to H&M where I picked up some dark blue flats. (P.S. Tip for travellers in China: NEVER FORGET TO BRING TOILET PAPER/TISSUES WITH YOU. I forgot to bring some to the bathroom today and I was yelling for Elaine, who was outside, so I could borrow some toilet paper, but she never came. I just ended up borrowing some from this lady who was staring at me as I was yelling, since stall walls were just tall enough to cover you as you squat.)
We took the subway home afterwards. Elaine and I were exhausted from a long day, but when we got back, I didn't want to nap because I was afraid that I was never going to wake up from my nap. Instead, I tried to watch TV with Elaine, except we couldn't find anything to watch, so we watched the first quarter of The Notebook. I kept dozing off during it, which really shows how tired I was because The Notebook is one of my favorite movies. When we were a quarter through, it was time for dinner. Lu ayi made 5 dishes plus a soup. There was one I especially liked, which consisted of your typical dumpling, except the skin was egg, mixed with some pork. All the dishes were delicious – fried egg stir-fried with bell peppers, roasted duck, egg dumplings with pork, black fungus stir-fried with vegetables, tiny salted shrimps, and an egg black fungus soup.
After dinner, we went to the local market to buy some fruit, and then I shared my pictures with my host family. There was one group picture from when I was 7, and Lu ayi was trying to guess which one was me. She picked all of them except for the one that was actually me. When she realized which girl it was, she exclaimed, "Oh! Now that I know this one is you, I definitely see the resemblance!" When I asked to see their photos, Lu shushu told me that their family moved recently to this residence, so they still have their belongings in their old home, including photographs, but they have a lot that they cannot wait to show me.
Tomorrow, we have plans to go to a museum with Poppy and Michelle and possibly others. I am so excited!
- Christine T.