A Travellerspoint blog

New Year's Eve and Morning

Celebrating Chinese New Year

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The Chinese New Year is based on a lunar calendar and this year the New Year starts on January 26th. It is the year of the cow or ox. The celebrations last about 2 weeks and just about everyone is off from work. Most people will go home during this time to see family so the travelling conditions are very crowded. Our group will soon be travelling to points beyond Beijing and will get to experience just how crowded the trains and buses can get.
On Sunday, January 25th, Ms. Xiao took me to get my residency papers. In order for me to stay in Beijing for an extended period of time, I need to be registered iwth the local governemnt. I have to carry these papers around with me all the time and produce them if asked. The procedure was very simple and I undestood none of it-I just smiled while Ms. Xiao dealt with the police.
On Sunday afternoon, my host family and I met up with the rest of Ms. Xiao's family who were in town for the New Year. We met at a restaurant and had Peking Duck which is a specialty in Beijing. Duck is roasted and then sliced table side. You take a rice pancake, place the duck, dipped in sauce, scallions and cucumbers and then roll the pancake up and eat it with your hands. It is very very good. The sauce makes it. Miles' grandma, grandpa, two uncles, one aunt, and two cousins along with myself and my host family were there for lunch. One of Miles' uncles lives in Newton and works at MIT. I talked with him through the dinner. It was nice to hear about the differences of Beijing and Newton and compare them with my formative opinions.
After lunch, we went back home for a rest and a nap to gear up for the evening's festivities. We drove in Mr. Zhang's car to his second apartment which is near the 5th ring road. Ms. Xiao's family was staying in this apartment as Mr. Zhang's first apartment is too small for all of these people. When we got to Mr. Zhang's second apartment, Ms. Xiao's family was ready to party for the New Year! Grandma and Miles' aunt were preparing a feast for us to sample traditional Chinese cuisine including lotus root and dumplings! Miles, his uncle and his cousins played Uno (High School Musical version-Miles is a HUGE fan) while we waited for the feast to begin. Miles' cousin, Jessica who is 6 won the game and I had a negative score at the end. The dinner was great and it was nice to eat home cooked food for a change as every meal before this except breakfast had been eaten at a restaurant. During dinner, there were toasts with wine to the New Year and everyone's good fortune. I made a toast thanking everyone for making my stay feel very comfortable.
After dinner, we watched the New Year's eve show on CCTV which is a collection of different acts including some that celebrate the minorities of China. All of them were spectacular and amazing. Anyhting that I did not understand, the Zhangs explained to me...this is true especially for the skits and comedy troupes. I explained these terms to Miles. We left at 10 and finished watching the CCTV broadcast at home. And at 12Am there was an amazing fireworks show as everyone in Beijing seemed to have saved their fireworks for this time.

Posted by msarich 23:06 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

My Host Family

Living in Beijing with a great family

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My host family has been great to me since the moment we met at the airport. My host family consists of: Miles, my host brother, Ms. Xiao, my host mom and Mr. Zhang, my host dad.
Miles
TTurtle_091.jpg Miles is in 9th grade at Jingshan school and in a special advanced class. He is a great student as he studies a lot. Unfortunately he is not taking biology, he is taking chemistry and physics, so I can't help him. His English is very good so I am lucky to have someone to converse with. Miles has been helping me with my Chinese, especially my pronunciation, and I will feel a bit more confident when I am out on my own. Miles is very outgoing and easy to talk with. I have been teaching him English idioms and he is sharing their Chinese counterparts with me.

Ms. Xiao
My host mom has been really great. Her English is good and we talk about shopping and prices of items. On Tuesday TTurtle_098.jpgwe went shopping at a large mall. The clothes in Beijing are more expensive than in the US. The shoes are more expensive as well. When you make a purchase, the sales clerk gives you a slip and then you get your item later. The exchange rate was also tough to wrap my head around as I had to divide all the prices by 7. Ms. Xiao makes sure I try everything and always serves me food first. I have enjoyed everything I have eaten. She also makes sure I feel at home and don't have to worry about making a mistake in doing daily chores.

Mr. Zhang
Mr. Zhang and I have lots in common. He is into computers and photography. Every morning during and after breakfast we have been talking about business and the economy in China and America. Mr. Zhang has been very DSCN0273.jpggenerous and makes sure that I feel comfortable in Beijing.

During Chinese New Year, CCTV has a program that is a variety show that runs from 8pm-1am. The excitement was to watch this program. Even though I did not understand a thing, it was fun to watch the Zhang's enjoy the costumes and skits. They kept explaining the jokes to me to make sure that I felt included. It is moments like this that make me feel so comfortable in Beijing and have eased my transition.

Posted by msarich 22:34 Archived in China Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Flight to Beijing

A 15 hour voyage

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Arriving at Logan at 7am, Kristen and I were dropped off by Brian, my fiancee. Both of us had 2 check-ins and 2 carryons. We were flying out United and wanted to get to the airport early before the rest of our group. We weighed our bags on an empty scale: I was at 49.5!! success for the under 50lb weight limit. So we checked through and waited for the rest of the group. It was sad to leave Brian and I did cry, but was also excited about the trip. Gao Ying, one of the Chinese teachers, said it best that this moment was

bittersweet

. So we said goodbye, went through security and boarded our first plane to DC.
The excitement was high and I wanted to sleep as I got none the night before since I was packing to 3am. Since I had to get up at 5, I just figured I'd stay up anyway. Brian tried to stay up with me, but passed out at about 1am. At Dulles, we all got bottled water and provisions for the next leg of our journey: a 13+hr flight to Beijing.
There was worry about the water in Beijing and that we would need to brush our teeth and drink only bottled water. I made sure I would have enough so I lugged 4 1-L bottles with me onto the plane. I also talked to my Dad and to Brian for the last time in 4 months or until I could figure out skype.
So here we were getting onto the plane and saying goodbye to the US and everything we knew for 4 months. Next time we would be in the US, flowers and not snow would be everywhere.
Kristen and I were in the very last row of the B.777 which seats 2-4-2 across. Yep...I imagined that there were pedals and a gear shaft since we would obviously be employed in powering the plane. So I will spare you the details of being holed up in a tin can with my knees against the seat in front of me and just let you know that I made it safely to ground amid one of the worst turbulent landings that this seasoned traveller had ever been a part-that claimed 2 victims in our group to losing their lunch.
It was after we made it through customs and saw the happy faces greeting us at the airport that reality set in and our long awaited journey would begin. Strangely I have not been terrified, but I did feel a bit lonely since I did not know my host family and had no idea whom I was about to meet. Miles and his parents are fantastic and after some pictures with the Jingshan students and the newton students, we were all wisked away to points far and near to take part in the spring festival celebration.
On the car ride to Miles' house, I was a chatty cathy and couldn't stop talking, asking questions and making comments. I was jusst nervous and tried to will my nerves away with my tongue. More on my host family next...

Posted by msarich 22:00 Archived in China Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Preparations V1

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Saturday morning and a week from now I will physically be in China. Mentally, I have been there since last March when we interviewed the students. So to recap: My name is Amy Richard (Ms.Richard to my students) and I was chosen to chaperone 7 Newton Public School students on a semester long exchange program to Beijing, China. I will be chaperoning with another Newton South HS teacher: Ms. Kamerik. The group studied Chinese over the summer for 6 weeks and that is about the extent of my Chinese knowledge. So apprehension #1 is language barriers. I have been told that everyone in China is very nice to foriegners which eases my apprehension a bit. I am packing a lot of asprin to stave off my very certain and prolonged headaches.
Aprehension #2 is that my gifts to my Chinese famies will not be up to par. China is a gift-giving society and gifts are given as tokens of appreciation and friendship. I hope the gifts I have chosen will also convey friendship and appreciation to my host family and my new Chinese colleagues.
Aprehension #3 is that I will not have packed everything I need. Every traveller has this fear and I always waylay it by stating that anything I need, I can purchase in the country I will be staying. I am trying to not pack much so I do not have to port it around and so I can bring more stuff back. I would rather have Chinese things that will stay with me forever and I will never have access to again than making sure to have 3 pairs of jeans so I can have choices then I am in China. Also, we were told that the dress code in China is very casual, so I am not too concerned about my appearance and having the latest fashions. The students get to wear uniforms. Ms. Kamerik and I lobbied to be treated the same, but our idea was ridiculed when it was pointed out that we should not be treated the same as the students.
Apprehension #4 also hits every traveller especially on long stays in a foriegn country: routine. Routine and habits take a long time to establish and a long time to break. I am waylaying this fear by just trying to go with the flow . I would like to get a bike as soon as we get there so I can tour my neighborhood and get out on my own. Typically when I go to another place, I will go for a run which does a few things: shakes off the jet lag, gives alone time and lets exploration begin. Running, I have been told, is not a normal behavior by the Chinese citizenry.
So, I am enjoying my last quiet Saturday morning Stateside until June. The calm before the storm as I try to get everything in order before I leave next Friday. In these few days left I will have to pack, organize my condo for sale while I am away, get my car fixed and pass it off to my dad, see as many family and friends as I can before I go, grade papers and enter grades and get my sub ready for his role, win a championship, make sure my wedding invites are all addressed and pick a dress, and do all of this with a smile. Stress really doesn't describe it.

Posted by msarich 09:03 Archived in China Tagged preparation Comments (0)

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