Sept. 22/11 – Dear Family and Friends:
Here’s my update for week #1 in Xi’an:
I arrived in Xian on Sept 15/11 at 9am. I am very grateful that Danna’s parents came to pick up Deon and me and accommodated us in their home for the first 2 days before I started my volunteer program with Cross Cultural Solution (CCS). Auntie and Uncle Zhu were so kind and friendly. Auntie made me dumplings for lunch and the sauce was especially yummy. They are very warm and have really made us feel at home. I am sure the experience would have been very different if we had arrived, hopped on a taxi and headed to the hotel all by ourselves.
The internet is very slow here and a lot of sites such as FB, YouTube, and even Blogger are all blocked. I guess I will learn to adapt soon. Actually, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to “connect” to the internet less and instead, “connect” to the people and the things here more while we are travelling anyway… so, all good.
I felt I had already blended into the “local culture” the 2nd morning. Hahaha. I went down to use the internet at the internet cafe but it was not open yet so I stood outside and checked my email – thanks to my laptop for remembering the wireless PW from the previous day. Auntie and Uncle were so kind to bring us umbrellas and 2 little small stools.They had figured out that we must be tired for standing for 45 minutes. As soon as they showed up, we happily took the stools from them and found ourselves sitting on them outside in the open street like the rest of the local people. I wished I had my camera then to take a picture to show you guys how well we blended in. Hahaha
I like Guangzhou. But I prefer Xian. Fewer people. Fewer cars. Less crowded. The streets I’ve passed are cleaner and the people I’ve met seem friendlier too. And the food was better than I had expected. I was impressed to discover the “gym in the park” concept here. Seriously, I found gym equipment such as stair masters, treadmills, bicycles, exercisers for legs, thighs, and arms too in the local park. Very impressive!
On the 2nd day, we went to a 5-storey spa and hanged out there for 5 hours. Deon asked me to play ping pong with him, a game I never thought I would ever play or enjoy playing after my god-bro, Ken told me that the expression on a ping pong players’ face is not very pretty because they look like they are having cramps whenever the game gets exciting. It’s not an image I wanna have. Haha. Well, it turned out that I like the game. Maybe it has a lot to do with Auntie and Uncle Zhu being great players, too. So after we left the spa, I went to buy ping pong sets and was ready to take some lessons while I am here. Another example of “never say never” since ping pong has now become my so called “passion” .. 🙂
On Saturday, Sept 17/11, we moved into the CCS Home Base. The 3-BR, approximately 1500sf condo was clean and simple. It’s located in the upper middle class area of Xian. Each room comes with 3-4 bunk beds for 6-8 people. But the mattresses are making squeaky noiseevery time we turn around and we find them very uncomfortable. I kinda expect better since total cost of our volunteer program fee is 36,000 RMB a month ($5500 CND/month). There was no internet on the first day and then there was no water the 2nd day. Luckily, the CCS staffs all speak English well and they are all very friendly. The activities they offer seem pretty interesting too so I am keeping an “open mind” about everything for now since I never budgeted this trip to be for a luxury 5-star kind of holiday to begin with, anyway.
There are 6 staffs (country director, program director, program assistant, driver, chef, house cleaning) and only 4 volunteers total (Deon, Mark, Samantha and me) in this group as this time is low season. In summer time, they get as many as 36 volunteers. Samantha is from Massachusetts, 18 years old and just graduated from high school. Mark is from Maryland (near Washington DC), 50 yrs old divorcee, a photographer for The Washington Post. He’s very down to earth and got a great sense of humor. So glad he’s in our group but unfortunately he’s only with us for 2 weeks.
Monday Sept 18/11 – Beginning of normal schedules. First day of volunteer work.
The school Deon and I volunteered to teach at has 1400 students. Most of their parents are farmers and are away from the city. There are about 60-70 students per class of 1 teacher only. We taught simple English to the grade 1-3 students whom I found them very adorable. The glow in their eyes was just amazing. They seem very eager to learn and very appreciative of us being there to teach them. Their English teacher can barely speak English enough to communicate with us. After my personal experience today, I finally understand why people continue to volunteer more after they start. There’s just a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I was so surprised that I enjoyed teaching these children as much as I did. Those kids really melt my heart. Perhaps by the end of this trip, my goal to open an orphanage home will become reality sooner than 2020. Also I am very proud to see how awesome Deon behaved and how well he played his “assistant teacher role” today. By the time we were done, Deon said “I can’t believe 2 hours went by already.”
CCS has activities for us every morning and during weekends. The afternoons are spent for volunteer work. Therefore the only free time we have is in the evening after dinner which I plan to use for ping pong lessons and reflexology. This is the reason that I am requesting for NO visitors in Xian because I won’t have time to spend with anyone. Instead, I am here offering my friends that I will go to Guangzhou to meet up with them around the 2nd week of November.
For those that bet I will be home before my birthday on Nov. 10th: sorry to tell you this, but for sure you will lose on this one because I really like my experience so far. And same goes to those that bet I will be home before X’mas because I just offered tickets for Kel and Jo to come to HK and celebrate X’mas with Deon and me. Paul will be coming to join me in Thailand and Maldives in Feb/12. And I am going to Bali with Liz in March/12. Therefore, it looks my going back to Vancouver date will remain as April 3/12.
That’s all the update for now…
Love and Hugs
Originally posted on Amy’s travel blog: TravelwithAmy.ca