All your jiaozi are belong to me

One of the stated goals of the Peace Corps China mission is to promote cross-cultural awareness. Both their Chinese counterparts and direct American supervisors are quick to stress the multualization of this awareness. It is with this in mind that I explain what I've gleaned of family life here in China.
Sebastien and I moved in with a host family on Friday. We now live with a grandmother and father, mom, dad and 10 year-old-girl. In Chinese culture, the woman typically doesn't take the man's family name. This is interesting when you consider that the Chinese write their last names first. So in this family the Mother has the family name and thus first name Yan while the daughter, Father and Grandfather all have the first name Jian. This also means that the grandmother has a different first/family name and her's is Tang.
We were all given Chinese names to use in our communities and in our classes and mine is Mai Qi. In English it sounds like (My Chee) Sebastien's is even cooler Lao Hao Tian and his means big blue sky.
Name giving in Chinese is a very involved process that I've only just scratched the surface of, but I know your Chinese name may be chosen because it rhymes with something auspicious or has the same letter of one of the popular surnames.

With my host family we typically eat rice porridge in the morning. There is usually a second grain added to the mix. Yesterday we had a kind of pea and today it was corn. To this warm bowl of tasty, we add pickled vegetables, home roasted peanuts, hard boiled eggs and any left over meat dishes from last night's supper. This morning we had duck with hot peppers and short strips bacon. Each person uses serving chopsticks to add as much of the various sides as they like.

Lunch and dinner are quite similar. Each person is given a small bowl of rice to which they may add a few morsels at a time of the various meat and vegetable dishes. If you've ever had a Sichuan dish you know that by and large the food in our house is spicy. We're quite pleased with this arrangement.

On Sunday afternoon my grandma showed us how to make dumplings. The filling was pork, garlic, ginger and green onions. We boiled as much as we could eat in the wok and set the rest in the freezer for later. She made a special sauce but I haven't learned the trick of that yet.

Jiaozi = 饺子 = wontons = dumplings

There is a piano here, a western toilet, a flat screen tv, a balcony with a vegetable garden and we even have air conditioning. The hardest part of my life right now is meeting the goals set for my language requirement. One of the difficulties with that is we're trained to emulate standard Mandarin from Beijing and here in the Four Rivers province of Sichuan, the phoneme ling becomes lin.

Another such challenge is American intonation. Intonation is not the same thing as tone. We use intonation at the end of the sentence to indicate a question. Or we stretch out the word to play at sarcasm. When these habits come into Chinese speaking, the entire idea you were intending to convey is lost.  Another difficulty I personally am facing is many of the words in Chinese are homonyms to words in French. Bu means no in Chinese but in French it's the past tense form of 'to drink'. Likewise, the pronunciation for le and la are inverted between the two languages.

If I don't pass my practicum but the Peace Corps is still willing to keep me on by the end of my two month language and teacher training, I will be required to meet with a tutor four hours a week for the first semester. I don't see this as a real loss, as an affordable tutor was a budge item of mine anyway. That and nail clippers. I can't find the flipping things anywhere.

Have an excellent week, everyone.

Find your balance, or at least your footing. So sayeth we all.

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