Banquets and New Beginnings

Trip Start Jul 28, 2008
Trip End Jul 2009

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    I can't imagine a time when a month went by quite as fast as orientation and yet, although in many ways it felts as if I were still in Los Angeles waiting for the plane, often times it felt like I had known no place but Changsha for a very long time. As a collective these two very contradictory feelings left me feeling disconnected from time, like it barely passed for me but was rapidly passing for those not in China.
      By the time the end was coming we were all desperately tired and eagerly looking forward to even just an afternoon off. We were not to get the afternoon off but we did have a closing banquet to look forward to with the Hunan Department of Education. It was my first real Chinese banquet and it was a little surprising to see all the volunteers dressed for the occasion. Unfortunately due to some miscommunication our Chinese teachers were not informed of the formal nature of the event, but while this would have been incredibly embarrassing to most Americans, our teachers barely seemed to notice. The food was of course delicious but I lost track after the twelfth course.
    Not wanting the night to end quite yet a few of us went with Bei Bei to a coffee house called Flower Time. The service was slow and the price high but after a hectic four weeks the flower patio was worth it alone. After flower time we went to say our goodbyes to Freedom House. At this point I had still not repacked and so I left early in order to gather my things and thoughts before I departed for Tianxin.
    I awoke very early despite not having made it to sleep until 2 am, but the anxious knot churning inside me would not let me sleep longer. We were meeting our schools today and I knew very little about Jiufang middle school other than there had been problems with volunteers in the past. I met my liaison who appeared to be painfully shy and while other volunteers gleefully talked with their liaisons we sat struggling over sentences.
    The drive to Tianxin was not long, and within twenty minute the road began deteriorating and the buildings slowly crumbled into the dilapidated construction of the country side. Tianxin seemed to come up suddenly after about an hour of driving and in the hot stillness of the afternoon it did little to reveal itself.
    I was left on my own for most of the day and so set about exploring my new apartment and town. My apartment consists of a bedroom, living room/kitchen area and a bathroom. It was not much to look at but was certainly quite adequate and honestly more than I had hopped for. There was little left in the apartment, no plates or cups, no sheets, but it did have a drawer full of black-market DVDs and a fare collection of books.
    The town appeared to be quiet and for the most part in ill-repair with a multitude of grandparents bustling around on various errands or simply doting on small grandchildren. The people here were shyer, and often their mandarin was quite poor and so with a great struggle I attempted to get some dinner. I fell asleep early that night and woke-up in time to explore the early morning markets that take over Tianxin.
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