Week Six of being in China has been pretty eventful! The weather has been getting a lot nicer and into Spring so that makes absolutely everything better. The air quality is better and the flowers are blossoming! I was running today and one petal fell and blew straight into my eye though and it was really uncomfortable for a moment. So hazardous. Also, my classes are getting way more manageable. I think I’m feeling better and better about my Chinese most days. Yee!
Last weekend we went to the LouGuanTai, a Buddhist temple that is a scenic hike up into the mountains outside of Xi’an. It was so nice to get out into nature with some friends and see some green. The temple was really expensive to get into but we were able to take pictures in the doorway, so that’s pretty much the same :)) Walking around the trails of bamboo forests with little wooden temples along the way was really worth the trip. We also found a really nice lookout and giant statue of the writer Lao Tze. Oh and we also rode on horses for like 5 minutes! Then they tried to charge us more so we got off but it was really quite thrilling I don't often ride horses.
I’ve also started volunteering with a kindergarten on campus teaching English! It’s only one class a week but it’s so much fun. It’s also really easy to come up with lesson plans because one of the Chinese teachers set me up with a tutoring gig with his friend’s daughter who is also five. It turns out I can reuse the lessons and materials I make for tutoring with teaching at the kindergarten and vice versa. The little girl that I tutor, Chen Chen, is so cute and creative and clever, it’s so much fun to be paid to play games with her once a week. The first week I completely underestimated her level, she’s only five but I had planned to teach her the seasons, when we got to Spring I asked her if she knew what the picture was and she said, “Springtime, flowers are in blossom” and I was like, Oh WOW we need to do something else. On Wednesday her Mother texted me and just wrote, “I will pick you up at 5:30 and we will go back to our house for the tutoring session tonight”. I said that was fine but when we arrived at her house it actually turned out to be a birthday party for Chen Chen! They invited me to eat dinner with them and then one of Chen Chen’s friends came over and we had a birthday cake and everyone sang happy birthday in English! Even the grandparents! I was so touched that they invited me to the birthday party. It was really nice to be at home with a family, I was so happy.
I’ve also started volunteering with the OCAT Xi’an Contemporary Art Museum! I’m super excited about this, I was given a tour by the founder of the Museum for their new Oil Painting exhibit which opened this past weekend. I later found out that this was my training as an English tour guide for the exhibit (posh voice). I went to the opening but nobody needed an English tour merp. But I did give my friend Lauren a tour. She is going to be volunteering at the Museum with me. On Wednesday we had a meeting scheduled with another volunteer who was running really late so we did the tour and we analyzed the artwork (which she is really good at!) and then we did some yoga in the activities space upstairs – she was trying to show me how to chatarunga – which thankfully no one walked in on. When we actually had the meeting, it was super productive! We seem to have full reign of the room upstairs to hold weekly activities every Wednesday. We came up with a list of programs to run by Ma Ying (the person you run things by) that middle school to University students may be interested in taking part in. Some of the ideas we came up with were; a poetry workshop based on the paintings in the exhibit; a workshop/informational session on Chinese-Muslim calligraphy, a workshop where kids bring in trash and we try to make musical instruments out of them and teach them about protecting the environment; and a poetry reading where kids have to draw a picture to go along with a poem. These were a few of our ideas but they have to be approved my Ma Ying before we can start working on any of them. Still, the meeting felt really productive and got me really excited to start working on any one of these programs.
Anyways, I'll keep you updated! I've included pictures of the hike and the Buddhist temple, volunteering at the kindergarten, and we also went to BingMaYong, the Terracotta Warriors (we went on the same day that Michelle Obama went! But we didn't see her.) so included a couple pictures of us there as well.