DISCLAIMER: I’ll write about food in a separate post because it is THAT important. Don’t think I forgot about it here 🙂 If you’re dying to read about some Chinese cuisine, check out my last post about signature Shanghai dumplings!
My days are super busy here but I am loving every single moment of them. I haven’t been here long, but Jinhua has already made a huge impact on my heart. I love this place, the people, the lifestyle, everything about it. But mostly, the people.
After a long six hour bus ride of meeting new friends and fellow participants, sleeping, stopping for bathroom breaks (yes… the toilets are holes in the ground), and getting antsy to see our new temporary home, we finally arrived at the village!
No exaggeration, every single villager greeted us at the entrance. They were snapping pictures of our “foreign-ness”, taking videos, chanting, beating drums, hugging, smiling, screaming, jumping, clapping… you get the picture. It was absolutely incredible. There were even dancing dragons that lead us from the entrance through the village then performed a traditional routine! It felt so nice to be welcomed with such open arms and gratitude. The villagers know all 39 of us (the participants) are here to help them and their village become more financially stable; it was easy to see how thankful they were.
(Click for a video of the dragon performance) IMG_5006
My favorite part of the night was meeting “Mama and Papa”. All the participants were grouped together in a general meeting area and the Jinhua Home-stay Project called off house numbers one at a time. When number six was called, I stepped up with a big bright smile, then Mama and Papa came running with open arms. Even though I couldn’t understand what they were saying to me, I could tell we all felt the same way. That moment was so special to me.
Over these past couple days I’ve really bonded with Mama and Papa through the help of my translators, Lili and Jane. I think it’s super important that I take interest in the things they enjoy and take the time to break through the language barrier and understand who they are. So far, that has been an easy task. Conversation flows so easily and every chance I get I love to find out more about who they are, their love story, and their lives.
I knew I was in with Papa when he offered me a glass of wine with lunch yesterday. We cheers’ed and took a sip of our drinks. As Papa was cool, calm, and collected (as he always is), I felt as if I had just drank straight ammonia! My face told it all. Papa leaned back in his chair belly laughing and Mama did the same. We’ve been on hugging terms ever since.
This is Papa. He is just the sweetest human! He’s definitely the provider and typical man-of-the-house. Even through the language gap, its easy to tell that what he says goes. He’s extremely stoic but super lovable at the same time. When he met Mama years ago, she wanted nothing to do with him. Papa tried for three years until finally Mama’s family approved and she gave him a chance. They’ve been happily married for 44 years!
Mama is the quiet saint. She does all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, table setting, and listening. She is an AMAZING cook. You’d assume there would be difficulty transitioning from greasy, over portioned American food to authentic Chinese cuisine, but I’ve honestly enjoyed it. I mean, I’m literally writing this blog and casually eating rice porridge out of a little bowl and a wonton spoon like I’ve done it for years. Over the past few days, Mama and I have also gotten very close. She understands my interest in food and photography (partially because her and Papa always tell my translators that they love how I eat so much… Not sure if I should be happy about that haha, but I’ll take it as a compliment) so she’ll come grab my hand and pull me to the kitchen when she’s cooking.
When I am done with my daily meetings I like to venture out on my own to take some pictures. I love way the village looks at sunset, especially the beautiful brick walls that bounce sunlight off each other. Oh, and in China staring is completely okay. In fact, I am constantly being stared and pointed at when I’m in the village. It’s too funny! Because of this I feel comfortable photographing villagers, in fact, they love the camera and welcome it with a smile.
Mama and Papa had gestured to to me through hand signals and grunting that they wanted a portrait of them together. The photographer in me LOVED this and I took full advantage. After a couple photos, I kissed the air and symbolically told Papa to give Mama a kiss for the picture. When he leaned in, she took off! Everyone was laughing and they had the most genuine smiles on their faces. She finally walked back and gave Papa a kiss. Someone joked it was the first kiss they’ve ever shared. They melt my heart!
Feeling less jet lagged, I woke up at 5am and snuck out to catch Mama before she went to the river to clean laundry. She spoke some Chinese to me and held up her laundry basket with soap and sponges, gesturing for me to come along. I had the best time with her and the other wives at the river!
This last picture makes me laugh. After these short few days, I’ve found so many similarities between myself and those who live here. We really do have more in common than we think. However, one major difference between rural Chinese culture and American culture is definitely underwear. 🙂 #LittlePinkUndies
I think my favorite part of learning about the Chinese culture is that I am learning through example. Because Mama cannot use her words to describe something to me, she shows me. Learning through a language barrier and grasping a concept simply through expression and example is SO much more rewarding!
All the little details
What does the village look like? It is the most adorable, quaint, rustic, weathered, and historical place I’ve ever been. I’ve traveled around Europe, but I have never had such an authentic experience. Here are few pictures of the village:
Where are you living? I am living with Mama and Papa in their home in the village of Yuyuan. I have my own room in their home and it was recently renovated by the Jinhua Homestay Project. So YES, I have wifi and air conditioning.
What have you been eating? I’ll be making another blog completely dedicated to food and table etiquette. Stay on the lookout! It will be a good one.
Have you made any friends? Of course! Everyone in our group is unique, fun, and genuine. I don’t have pictures of everyone yet, seeing as it’s only day two 🙂 but I’ll work on that!
When do you start working on the Jinhua Home-Stay Project? Already have! Yesterday we were introduced to all information regarding the project, divided into our project groups, and assigned tasks. I’ll be working in the diary group, documenting my personalized Jinhua experience through the eyes of an American. Need a refresher on what I’ll be doing while in China? Click here!
Thanks for stopping by! My next blog will be all about food and Chinese norms. Be on the lookout!
Leave me a message below if you have any thoughts, questions, or fun blog ideas. I’ve been loving your comments!