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My host dad’s name is Living. He’s a middle-aged man. He speaks English and he’s very fun to talk to. My host mother’s name is Amy. She’s a middle-aged woman. She doesn’t speak any English and our conversations don’t go past hand movements and me saying thank you in Chinese. My host brother’s name is Jerry. He’s a neat-looking seventh grader.
Southern hospitality is jackfruit next to the hospitality my host family has shown me. Not really, but I just wanted to say jackfruit. Durian, while I’m at it. Back to hospitality. My host family has treated me well, too well. Jerry gave up his bedroom and moved to a room with a much smaller bed and less desk space. I told them I didn’t even need the desk and would be perfectly fine with the small bed but they wouldn’t budge. They also take excellent care of me in the food department. I have some dietary restrictions and during meals Living will painstakingly describe the ingredients in the dishes and that reassures me that there is nothing I can’t eat in them. I really appreciate their hospitality, but sometimes it is too much for me: I still feel very much like an intruder and don’t want to accept more than I’ve already taken. I want to help around the house as a sort of reimbursement for their kindness but Living puts his hands up and simply tells me to treat him the same way when he visits America.
Dinner has been the only time when we’re all together. When my host family is speaking in Chinese, I listen to the conversations just as intently as I would in English but don’t understand any of the words other than an occasional wan shang, wo, ni, or whenever my name is mentioned. If I’m about to take a bite and looking down at food I’ll jerk my head up instinctively whenever I hear any of the trigger words, using them to find a way to latch onto the topic of the conversation. Not being able to understand the language is a real crutch and I really want to learn some Chinese, but I also feel uncomfortable simply memorizing phrases. This isn’t for any ethical reason or anything, but only because I like to understand things from their fundamentals.
At the same time, I’m surprised at how much of the dinner table conversation I can understand. Whenever Jerry cringes at something my host dad says and then my host dad looks at Amy for backup, I get a sense of what’s going on. Jerry eventually gives me a translation which I can check against what I thought was actually going on. I’m usually pretty happy with how much I understand.

This week also had us teaching after school classes for the first time. I’m teaching film and sports, and both seemed to go pretty poorly this week. The first film class wasn’t very organized (my fault completely, my partner Caroline made a fantastic powerpoint) and we had a lot more kids sign up than we expected. Sports was a similar mess. I’m specifically teaching frisbee and again, many more kids that I had expected signed up. I was surprised how not great they were at throwing frisbees given how amazing many of them are at basketball, but I suppose I didn’t do enough chores as a kid. For example, Jerry helps cook dinner every night and makes some tasty fried rice. It’s dinner time, so maybe I’ll go have some now.