On our second Saturday in China, we got to sleep late and pack to go stay with our host family. I was like a child on Christmas day. I was bouncing off the walls with excitement!
Dustin compared it to sorority bid day–Chinese host family style.
We cheered as we heard our friends’ names called to meet their match. When my name got called, everyone cheered and I grabbed my luggage and ran over to meet Hannah, my host! She was so adorable and I was thrilled to take a look inside her life.
Hannah took me along with David, Shiloh, and their hosts to the Culture Center Museum that we had previously visited. We went to the art section that we had not yet seen. I ran into a cab driver I had had a few days before that had taken my picture. How bizarre!
After the museum, we all went to the Galaxy Mall, which puts American malls to shame. It was huge and extremely expensive. After window shopping for a bit, we made the long hike to the subway. (Keep in mind that I had my backpack filled with clothes, toiletries, and my laptop). One of the kind boys, Jack, offered to carry my backpack to ease my swollen legs.
After several subway rides, we made it to Ancient Culture Street where I finally found a tea set! We all explored and took a nice Coca-Cola break before parting ways. I went with Hannah to her home for dinner prepared by her parents.
I was welcomed with my own pair of slippers–it is a Chinese tradition to wear them in the home. The dinner was very traditional and very delicious. We used our chopsticks and I ate everything that was presented to me: noodles, soup, vegetables, unknown objects. (I did not drink the water in fear of getting sick). After dinner, Hannah insisted we rest on the couch. Her and her mother argued about her new boyfriend (mostly in Chinese) and I had some Chinese fruit. Then we ventured to another mall in her parents’ new car that spoke to us in Chinese when we got too close to an object.
Hannah loves to shop and so does her mother. Her mother picked out a scarf for me to buy and Hannah bought an umbrella. Everything else was extremely expensive. I did find a cute top for $8 that Hannah’s mother loved on me. After the mall, we went home and went to bed. The Zhang’s did have wifi so that was a plus for me.
The next day, Hannah planned for us to go to Beining Park and Water Park. Beining Park was beautiful, and Hannah’s new boyfriend Ethan decided to tag along. Needless to say, I was the third wheel all day. But hey, I was in China, so it was fine.
After Beining Park, we went back to get my luggage and take a nap. (I’m always down for a nap). Then, we went to Water Park. Ironically enough, it rained the entire time. Was I in my Rainbow leather flip-flops? Yes. Did they get ruined? Yes. I said, “Hannah, is there anything else we can do since it’s raining?” She didn’t seem to think so.
We went to UBC Coffee, which I had been dying to try. It was easily the worst coffee I’ve ever had for 8 American dollars. After our third-wheel coffee date, we took a cab back to my dorm. I have never been so excited to see my friends and hear about their experiences.
While the end of my experience was not ideal, it was so much fun to learn about Hannah’s life, ask her and Ethan about religion and politics, spend time with her parents, and have some amazing food. I would do it all over again for the experience of a lifetime. Hannah and I are still very good friends and I also met Kate, Shiloh’s host, who I will be picking up from the Huntsville airport to take to her new home at the University of Alabama. The Zhang family also gave me gifts of tea and nuts, and I gave Hannah a Bible and some UNA gear.
Every student should stay with a foreign family. It is so eye-opening and such a fun learning experience!