Margaret: 朋友 – Péngyǒu – friends

November 22, 2011

Today I received an email from Yao Yao, one of the Chinese friends I met while visiting the “small city” of Loudi, population 4 million, in 2008.  It’s a strange reality three and a half years later, that I may so casually return to Nowheresville, China to run around with some very old friends in a place with a two-story Walmart but no white people.

It makes me think of when this all started during the spring of 2007.  A fifteen-year-old me was probably watching some crappy MTV reality TV show when mom walked in and asked me if I wanted to host a Chinese student at our house for a few weeks in the summer.  I was indifferent.  Nobody in my family showed any interest, but my mom signed us up anyway.  Peter was so friendly yet so foreign, breaking through my fifteen-year-old consciousness and making me realize that there is in fact a world beyond the chemical-drenched lawns of suburban Eden Prairie.  I remember grappling with it at the time though.  What does this really mean for me?  I’ll never have any reason nor opportunity to see this kid again, he’s as insignificant as I am.  Yet, the world works in mysterious ways, and here I am listening to pre-maturely played Christmas music in a Chinese coffee shop in the middle of Beijing while looking up train routes between here, Loudi, Kunming, Guangzhou, and a plethora of other places that are calling my name.  So thanks mom.

I really need to upload a video of my erhu.  Unfortunately it still sounds like the Chinese version of a bagpipe, so for the most part I don’t dare to play it in my dorm room.  Next weekend the erhu class is going to a park to play outside despite the freezing temperatures.  I don’t think anyone here has ever seen a white person play erhu before, so next time I post, hopefully I’ll have lots of funny pictures of onlookers.

I have the second set of midterm exams this week.  Tomorrow I’m giving a five minute speech, and on Friday I have a written exam with about 225 new characters I have to know how to write.  That’s roughly 2000 strokes, people…  Because of this, the thought of Thanksgiving literally hasn’t even crossed my mind, but I know there are several dinners being put on by restaurants in the Chaoyang District.  Sure, it’ll be sad not celebrating Thanksgiving, but the nice is, it’s out sight and thus out of mind.  My parents are hosting a few Chinese visiting scholars who are teaching or researching at the University of Minnesota this year.  A piece of advice: Don’t try to teach them how to play 31.  Bad memories of when Chinese people tried to explain a card game to me and Brian in a Loudi apartment one evening three and a half years ago.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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