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I’m all moved in! I now have two adorable little sisters (one of which is a Zhuhai N.9 middle school student), two incredibly welcoming parents, and a very, very full stomach. I was initially afraid that I would have trouble feeling comfortable in this new host family home, but I found myself quickly warming up to the space and the people. I think a surprisingly large part of the reason for this was my five-year-old host sister. She is still so young and has very little boundaries. A couple of days in, she was already screaming my name to come and play with her as soon as I got home from school. She loves tickle fights, pulling on my hair (currently happening), talking to herself, constantly attempting to have conversations with me in Chinese, face-palming every time I say “Wǒ bù zhīdào (I don’t know)” in response, and snacking on everything around her. Having a little kid in the house is probably the best ice-breaker possible. Even though it can be difficult to get to know each other through actual conversation, my host family and I have started to get accustomed to each other in more subtle ways. We spend evenings learning new words, laughing at our mistakes, making charades, watching overdramatic Chinese soap operas, listening to music, and just spending time in each other’s company. My thirteen-year-old host sister usually comes into my room late after finishing her homework, and she shows me her progress from the K-pop dance class that Jonah (a Duke Engage team member) teaches, while I sing songs for her. Last night, both my little sisters came into my room while I was responding to some emails on my computer. The older sister was playing on her phone, and the younger one jumped around on my bed screaming at the soccer game on the TV. The older one let me know that her little sister actually has no idea what soccer is, but was nevertheless yelling “COME ON!!!” in Chinese as loud as she could because she liked the white uniforms. I love spending nights with them, though sometimes that may mean delaying my work and sleeping a little later than usual. I think getting the chance to know them better with the little time I have here is more than worth it.

I didn’t think it would be possible with the shock of our first week, but I actually got to develop a routine this week. I had a pretty good idea of what every day would be like: what time we started and ended the school day, where I would go to eat for lunch, how to get to the school on my own, what time my host parents left and returned for work, what time we had dinner, what I would teach my English students, etc. This week was also our first week teaching our extracurricular classes. I am teaching a singing class with Irene, another team member, to around fifty students (only four of which are boys). We spent the first day singing their favorite song, “See You Again”, by Charlie Puth and getting their input on what they wanted to sing for our final performance. They love a lot of popular American singers- Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Owl City, John Legend, Adele- and were very eager to offer song suggestions. I often started off the singing class at 5:00pm feeling very tired from the adventures of teaching three classes earlier on, but I always ended up feeling energized by the end of class (cannot always say the same for the English classes).

This week was more challenging than the first for a few reasons. We encountered some divides in our teaching methods and struggled to find consensus. We overbooked lunch plans and had to disappoint some students that wanted to spend time with us. We did not have much alone time. We found it hard to maintain our motivation to stay engaged throughout the day. We all got a little impatient, tired, and frustrated at some point. Despite our occasional exhaustion, it only took a couple of bursts of laughter at our recollection of awkward moments, mess-ups, misunderstandings, and silly anecdotes of the day to make us feel better. We know how to make fun of ourselves every once in a while and just let go of negativity. This week made me especially thankful for my team and the way we lift each other up in small ways every day.

Thanks for the laughs team,

Athina 🙂