Received an email from a student…
It’s a weird feeling.
So many voices and I can understand them all.
So much food but I don’t feel hungry enough.
Colorful skies, grasses, colors colors.
People really are so big.
So much “please” “thank you” “excuse me”.
It’s just weird.
It’s our last day in China. We fly home tomorrow!
Yesterday we visited our host family, and it was so cool to see how we’ve all changed.
China, you’ve helped me to see the world differently…to see myself differently.
I’m so grateful for the experience I’ve had.
As we wander around the Peace Corps office to finalize our departure, I’ve noticed the new volunteers as they come and go. Their clothes are so professional, everyone seems imbued with that glorious and precious idealism that comes with beginnings.
We’re leaving, but Peace Corps China continues on!
Two people, two years, three suitcases. This morning I say goodbye to Deyang, my little city that grows bigger every day.
If I ever return, I won’t recognize it at all. The cranes and constant din of construction are promises of a large and vague future.
My Deyang was countryside masquerading as city, a beautiful and self-conscious place where people repaired broken zippers and mended shoes on the street corners as empty coffee shops opened up and subsequently shuttered their windows within weeks.
Deyang was a city of smells. Hot steam from dumpling stalls wafted through the air, and on bad days rancid gutter oil would belch up from beneath the roads. Small yellow flowers would pierce the spring air with an almost artificial intensity. Babies shit on sidewalks, and the coal-burning sweet potato stall sent smokey campfire fumes rising into the grey air.
The colors in my city were often dulled with brown and grey, the muted green of trees and plants coated with a fine layer of silt. Black hair in clumps on the sidewalk outside the barber shop. Maybe this sounds unappealing, and perhaps it is. I loved it, though, at times.
Sometimes I hated Deyang. Sometimes I cried and wished for home, and familiarity and an anonymity that can never exist for a tall foreign girl in China.
Now that we are waiting for our car to Chengdu, I’m feeling very emotional. How can we really be leaving?
Deyang will never be the same city as it was for me.
Tonight is a tough one. Just finished saying goodbye to my best friend in China, Lily.
Lily became a teacher at the same time as we did…in fact, we sat in on her job interview.
We immediately bonded, and Lily always understood me. In my American life, I always wanted to have the “best” friend…the person you know you’re closest to, and the person you know you mean a lot to as well.
I finally found this, except it was in China instead of at home.
We promised each other that we will meet again someday. I feel like I’ve gained something I’ve wanted for so long, and now I’ve lost it.
I know that’s not true, she’s still my friend. The reality of Peace Corps is impermanence.
After all the goodbyes, tonight is the first time I’ve cried. I just want to be home now.
Fun fact: every time there was an awards ceremony, or an occasion for someone to be lauded on stage in our school auditorium, they always played the theme from The Magnificent Seven. For the graduation ceremony this year, it was played on repeat…over and over and over again…’twas glorious!
Yesterday we said our goodbyes to the office mates, and cleared out our office. I have been working hard to hold back tears during each phase of goodbyes, but yesterday was the hardest so far.
I just couldn’t believe I was leaving our building for good, never to step foot in those classrooms again—rooms I have hated for their shabbiness and poor upkeep, the building I cursed during the cold, damp and unheated winters.
I painted small goodbye gifts for each colleague—framed inspirational quotations. Thanks to allaboutchinese for the words and translations, I had a great time finding appropriate quotations for each friend.
I have loved this school, even during the rough patches. I’m excited for the next Peace Corps volunteers to continue on a path of improving relationships with teachers and students here. This little school has a lot of heart!
宜宾燃面 Yibin Ran Mian
Warm noodles tossed in spicy chili oil, crushed peanuts, ground meat and chopped chive. Addictive and mouth-numbing!
鱼豆腐 Yu Dou Fu
Soft, creamy-white tofu squares are fried and coated in chopped Sichuan chili, hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorn) powder, sesame seeds, chives and crushed garlic. The flavor is explosive and intense, and not for the faint of heart. If you don’t think tofu is delicious, try this and see if you still feel the same.
冰粉 Bing Fen (pronounced “bing fer” around here)
I have to be honest, I don’t know what the main components of this cool jelly dessert are. It’s clear, gelatinous and refreshing on a hot summer day. Goji berries or small tapioca pearls are added to the dessert, and finished off with a drizzle of molasses-like brown sugar syrup.
甜水面 Tian Shui Mian
These are long, very thick noodles that have been tossed in a spicy-sweet sauce. Sesame seeds and crushed peanuts are sprinkled on top. I could eat this every day.
烧烤 Shao Kao
Chinese street barbecue, in all it’s glory. Every night around seven or eight, the shao kao vendors set up their stalls along the streets. The meats and vegetables are skewered and placed on display, and you choose the foods you want. I usually pick a variety of vegetables (lotus, potato, cauliflower, mushrooms and eggplant) and some dried smoky tofu. If I’m feeling really wild, I’ll add one of the little sausages that comes in the red wrapper. The vendor will grill up your selection, coating everything in oil and Sichuan spices. Shao kao pretty much guarantees that my next day will be spent with stomach cramps but I don’t even care. It’s that good.