It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap

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Hey! So I know it’s been WAY too long since I’ve written a post. Sorry about that.
First, I was kinda busy, then I was lazy, then WordPress got blocked by China. I mean, it’s still blocked, but I’m currently using my proxy to write this.
So a lot has happened since I last wrote (no duh, it’s been like 2 months).
I’ve eased up a bit, and grown a lot. A big thing I learned: sometimes it’s okay to not follow the rules if it doesn’t harm you or others. Just use common sense.
So now, I like never wear my uniform. I mean, I wear the jacket, and sometimes the pants, but the shirt is so ugly, no one wears it. I also wear jewelry every day, and makeup some days. If there was a problem, people would tell me, but no one says anything to us when we break the dress code, so I guess it’s okay.
Okay. So random story. Before I came to China I wondered if people would think I’m Chinese or a foreigner. People in the US think I’m Chinese, but if I go to a Chinese restaurant, the legit Chinese people don’t think I’m Chinese. In Beijing, people would always think of me as a foreigner, but then I realized it was probably because I was always with people who were obviously Caucasian. Once I got to Nanjing, and was away from the foreigners (just with my host family), people would only speak Chinese to me. It’s pretty interesting. One time, this sales clerk thought I was my host mother’s sister. But when I am on the bus, people speak to me in Chinese like all the time. I’ve figured out how to look foreign when I want to, but also how to look when I want to be Chinese. The difference is miniscule, but it totally works. If I put my hair in a ponytail, EVERYONE thinks I’m Chinese. In the morning, other exchange students have mistaken me for a regular Chinese person. At times, it can be frustrating when I look Chinese because people think I’m a translator or a tour guide. Or at school, there’s this guy who patrols when people walk into school, and he sometimes thinks I’m Chinese, so he stops me and asks where my uniform is. One time he’s like “ku zi zai nar?” which means “Where are your pants?”. But it was seriously 7:00am. I was not in the mood to explain that they were dirty (I only have one pair of uniform pants). So I played the foreigner card. Yeah. I don’t do that all the time, but sometimes it’s quite convenient. So I replied “ummm wo bu dong”, which means “I don’t understand” and I walked away. Yup. This happens sometimes. It actually happened again today. He kinda chased me down… But he’s like “ku zi zai nar? Ta men chuan yi yang de ku zi. Na ge ku zi shi xiao fu” which means “Where are your pants, they are wearing the same pants. Those pants are the uniform!” Once again, my pants are in the laundry so I said, “Wo bu dong, wo shi mei guo ren” which means “I don’t understand. I’m American”. So then he understood and let me go.  Sometimes with the other exchange students, the guard tells their host sibling to tell them to wear their uniform. Haha.
But I’ve definitely become a more “go with the flow” person. I mean, I’m never going to be as easygoing as my sister, but still, I have improved a bit. People in China change their plans all the time, and usually don’t know until the last possible moment. One of my classmates told me there’s a saying in Chinese that translates into “do something, then let people know”. Yup. That’s China. We had this camping trip a few days ago. We left on Thursday, but they didn’t tell us about it until Monday. So that was kinda random.
So Chinese camping trip, that was interesting. I was definitely dreading it. If you know me, you know I’m certainly not an outdoorsy girl. I mean, I won’t die, but I do NOT go camping unless I’m forced to. I dread school camping trips too. There were a mix of things that were better and more than I expected them to be.
I’m lazy so, I’m going to make a bulletpoint list of stuff I did and how it was:
 Plowed with an ox (well, other people did, I didn’t feel like it). The ox was interesting… It almost peed on some people
 Learned how to make rope with hay. This was the crafty part of the trip, so that was fun. I can now make a noose, bracelet, or jump rope out of two pieces of hay.
 Plowed with hoes, dug holes, cut down trees, planted “oil rape” (it’s this leafy plant)
o Lots of people were impressed that I could dig a hole. They were convinced that I do this in America, so I have practice. Haha. Wow.
 Sang a Chinese song I don’t know the words or tune to with the other exchange students for a performance in front of 500 of my classmates
 Sang Justin Bieber’s “Baby” with the exchange students in front of like 500 people… Don’t ask.
 Froze my butt off
 Watched Chinese people try to make a fire (they finally figured it out, but to cook dinner, they tried using ONLY hay, which completely failed
 “Learned” how to sign a Chinese song in Chinese sign language. That kinda failed since I didn’t know the meaning of the song in Chinese. But I learned a few words (love, failure, success, every day, friendship). We learned sign language because we were at a school for deaf, mute, and mentally retarded people.
 Ate really gross food. Chicken feet with claws, anyone?
 Slept in a mice-infested dorm that had bars on the windows… Also, the beds were planks of wood with a mattress that was more like a sheet. So the beds weren’t exactly comfortable.
So, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t good by any means. Our teacher was really nice to us, and shared some actually good food with us, which was really nice. She totally understood that we didn’t want to go. She explained it to us “if I was in a foreign country, on a camping trip I didn’t want to go on, I’d want someone to take care of me”. It was very sweet.
Oh, something kinda creepy. We were told lights out at 9:00, but we were still talking to our teacher at 9, so suddenly, there was this loud “whooomp” and all the lights went out. None of the lights would turn on. Not even in the bathroom, so it was pretty clear that they cut all the power… Also, something a bit strange: girls are allowed in the boys dorms, but not vice versa.
The thing that bothered me most on that trip is that it was like being in middle school again. We’ve (the exchange students and I) noticed that Chinese people generally act 4 years younger than their age (compared to typical Americans). Yes, this is very stereotypical, but so far, it’s been quite true. They constantly have to fight with each other (with sticks, saws, fishing poles, etc.), the petty meanness because someone is “weird” or has “social issues”, and the truth or dare that has people hug or ask if so and so are dating. It just gets somewhat frustrating to constantly be around people who act so much younger than you. It probably doesn’t bother other people, but it’s one of my little quirks. Oh well. It’s all good.
So after like the first 3 weeks of school, all of the exchange students realized that Chinese class is really boring because we don’t understand anything. So we started doing other things during that time. Sometimes we chill out in the classroom and study. Sometimes we go out and explore the city. Yeah, we’re not supposed to, but this is far more productive and fun. I know can almost get around downtown Nanjing (Xin Jie Kou) by myself. But we go shopping different places, get Starbucks (I get it more often here than I do in the US, and now I’m slightly addicted), and get American food. I don’t go out as much as I used to, but several times a week, I’ll go out and have some fun  I have also learned the buses I need to take to get certain places, and which ones I can and cannot take back to school.
Things with my host family are… interesting. I don’t really talk to my host sister because she’s always so busy with school. Host father doesn’t come home till late. I can’t understand my host grandmother most of the time. She’s from Changzhou, and has a really strong dialect/accent thing going on. Instead of saying “zuo tian wan shang” she says “zu ti wa san”. So it’s pretty crazy trying to understand her. Host mother gets home late sometimes, but she’s the one who’s always in my room super late.
I’ve tried talking to her, and asked for her to be out of my room by 10:00 so I can have some time to myself before I go to bed, and she agreed. But then she violated it. Every night. So then I had my AFS coordinator call her and explain it in Chinese. That didn’t do anything, so I tried to deal with it. A month later, my coordinator kinda checks in and asks if things have changed. Things have not, plus new things have come up. They don’t knock on doors here, so people have walked in on me in the bathroom, getting dressed, and even showering. Not cool. So she calls my host family again reminding them to leave my room by 10, and to knock before opening the door. Still nothing. Ugh. So just last week, she asks again if things have improved. Nope. So she said she’d call again. And still. Every night she is in here, past 10, sometimes past 11. Always after I have turned the lights off and attempted to go to sleep. GR.
Even though there was a ton of bad stuff, I have been productive recently. I study a lot, sometimes I keep a diary in Chinese. I just started one in English. So last time I wrote, I talked about how the other exchange students are all into exercise and stuff. Well, their habits kinda rubbed off on me. I used to run every day, which I knew would not last long. Now my goal is to run several times a week. So that’s good. Ummm. I also try to eat more veggies. That doesn’t always go well, so sometimes I go across the street during lunch to buy some carrots from the Suguo (a mini supermarket).
So this following paragraph will probably come as a shock to some people.
After much discussion and deliberation, my family and I have come to an important decision. I am going to spend a semester in China, rather than a year. I am doing this because of my future. Just next year, I will be busy, applying for colleges. And I really want to be a doctor. When I was 3, I told my mom that I wanted to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. I don’t want to be a pediatric neurosurgeon anymore, but I still strive to be a doctor. So when I apply to colleges, I want to look into programs with a heavy math and science emphasis. If I were at school in America this year, I would be taking pre-calculus, AP US history, biology, and other classes. My senior year, I plan to take AP calculus and anatomy (granted that it’s offered). If I do not take pre calc and bio, then I can’t take those classes. I planned to teach myself pre calc and bio (that didn’t go so well…), but then I found out from my school that I can’t get credit for those classes unless I take a legit class. That makes sense. But still, it would have been nice if I could have tested into those classes. So me, being the planner I am, planned my senior year schedule in seventh grade. There are been a few tweaks, but the main courses are still the same. I have gotten to know myself better, and I know that I would NEVER forgive myself if I didn’t take those classes senior year. So I will take classes at the community college next semester.
I honestly wish that I could say that I want to stay, but I don’t really want to. I think that this is what’s best for me. I’ll be happier, I’ll be learning, and I’ll be getting prepared for senior year.
I’ve gotten the okay from my parents and my college counselor, so it’s all good. Before I made my decision, I really wanted my college counselor’s opinion because I wanted all of the facts before I did anything drastic. Would it completely screw up my college apps? Will colleges flip out if they found out I was supposed to do a year? But she said it would be fine. She even thought it was a good idea. That made me extremely happy.
During this whole thought process, I have spoken to a few friends and teachers. One of my friends told me that there isn’t a right or wrong decision, and that I should just choose the one that’s best for me. My teacher told me something similar. She said that decisions aren’t just black and white. We all have the power to view it from a different perspective and make it positive. I got some really great advice. Even if I’m not perfectly happy for next semester, at least I will know that I’m getting prepared for my senior year, plus I will also be with my family and friends. I think it’ll be okay. I have a plan.
I won’t get to go back to my old school until my senior year. It would just be way too inconvenient to try and catch up. So I am going to homeschool myself. I’ll take classes at the community college, study Chinese at home, prepare for the SAT and ACT, volunteer at the hospital and cat shelter, and spend time with my family and friends. Yeah, that’s a lot on my plate, but I think I can do it. If I’m really that determined, I will find a way to make it happen.
Again, like a month has gone by since I wrote the above paragraphs. Wow. I’m so bad at this whole blogging thing. So I went through the whole process of trying to get myself home. Once I was sure about my decision, I had to tell my host family. I told my host sister and my host father (they’re the easiest to talk to). My host sister seemed a bit sad, but she said she understands my reasoning. My host father agreed that it would be the best for me, so he supports my decision. The next day, I had to talk to my teachers and the other exchange students. I wasn’t nervous about telling my teachers, but I was super nervous about telling the other exchange students. When I got to school, I took a deep breath and told them. They were mostly understanding, but a few seemed uneasy with my decision. Then I told Ada (my teacher and AFS coordinator). She was like “Okay. Do you think I should call AFS China?”… Oh goodness. So yeah. That was it pretty much. I’ve told some people back home, but not everyone since it wasn’t set in stone. Until today. After much hard work on AFS’ part and my mom’s, I finally have a ticket to come home. This process was definitely not easy, but it wasn’t impossible either (even though it usually felt like that because of lack of patience).
I told my AFS coordinator. She told AFS China. My mom talked to AFS USA. It took my mom such a long time to get a hold of a real person. So that was frustrating; but once she got a hold of someone, she really helped a lot. From what I’ve heard, the AFS lady was super understanding and helpful. We finally found out that NSLI would pay for my ticket back (such a relief!). So while she was working things out with the State Department (my scholarship is through them), I was doing my part in China. I talked to the NSLI person who may or may not be AFS (honestly, I don’t know) when she visited Nanjing. I told her pretty much everything about everything. So then she was going to talk to the State Department. Then I found out that my mom and I needed to write official statements to AFS/the State Department, requesting early return. UGH. It seemed like it would never end. So then AFS had to review them and then send them to the State Department. In the meantime, my coordinator texted me and asked me to come to her office. Then she told me that AFS USA is refusing to buy my ticket until they “fix” my host family. I asked what that entailed, but she kept telling me she didn’t know. Then she kept asking “does the stuff you wrote in your statement about your host family really happen (aka them walking around in their underwear and staying in my room really late)?”. So I told her, “Yes, it does. And I told you this in September…”. Then she proceeded to tell me that them doing all this is fine, and that I’m selfish for wanting them to alter their lifestyle for me… Goodness. So then I was all confused, so I emailed my mom and told her to ask AFS USA what exactly they are trying to do with my host family. The next day, I got a reply saying that AFS USA is actually waiting on AFS China, so I’m not really sure what my coordinator was talking about. Then the AFS USA woman connected my mom with the travel lady. They were discussing getting me back before Christmas. The lady said that they had just gotten someone a ticket back home, and it was for early January, but it was to a different country, so it might be okay. So then I, being my impatient self, researched all these plane tickets and their prices. I sent them to my mom to prove that there are still plenty of tickets available between then and Christmas. The AFS travel lady confirmed that there were tickets available, but we were still waiting on the State Department. Oh the joys of bureaucracy. So I could have my ticket and be back before Christmas, but unless the State Department gave it the okay, then I’d be stuck in China until they got to my request. Very nerve-racking. My mom talked to them on Monday (America’s yesterday) and they approved it!!!!! So today, Tuesday, they are purchasing my ticket. It’s my Tuesday night, so I don’t know when the ticket is for yet, but when I wake up tomorrow, I shall enter the date and post this.
I am still going to blog when I get back to America. Even though my China adventure is over, doesn’t mean my adventure is over. I’ll write about how things are going. How I’m settling in. My reactions, my goals, my reflections. Maybe I’ll even get better at writing more often. Nah. I highly doubt it.
It’s like 10:00, and I’m tired. I’ll add pictures or something soon. Maybe.
Oh. We had a Thanksgiving here. The girls did all the shopping and cooking. It was kinda fun, and the food was pretty good. I’ll post pictures.
I also want to go to the zoo before I leave. I may or may not go after my Chinese class on Thursday. I mean, I HAVE to see a panda. I’m in CHINA.
So, when I hear from my mother when I’m coming home, I will add it to this post.
I really appreciate all of the support I’ve gotten from everyone over the past year. It really means SO much to me. I could not have made it this far without you.
Oh. And my email signature thingy says “Unlimited, my future is UNLIMITED”. Yup. I quoted yet ANOTHER musical. Sue me. Back to the point. I really believe that my future is unlimited, and I want it to be that way for as long as possible, and by coming back, I am doing it in the interests of opening as many doors for my future as I possibly can.
I really think I’m going to go to sleep now.
I will be home on December 20th.

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One response »

  1. Reading your post was a bit like taking a roller coaster through a waterfall, Jaede! Wow. I am so happy that I will see you in a week’s time! It seems surreal. I’m proud of you and your journey. Many hugs.

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