September brought all kinds of surprises… Welcoming the new China volunteers, adjusting to 18 hours of class/week, Ghost day and so much more.
The ghost festival this year fell on the first week of September. The zhong yuan jie 中元节 is a time for ghosts to raise from the underworld and visit their loved ones. The loved ones of these families burn “hell money” or paper wrapped in golden paper so the ghosts can have it with them when they go back after this day. It was interesting to see so many families come out in their PJ’s to light bundles of trash on fire to make sure their family and friends who have passed are comfortable in the afterlife. Strange, but people around town were really committed. Danny and I did a lap around our little part of town and saw so many displays of this tradition.
Dinner at Lisa’s! Lisa is another English teacher, who just spent the last year studying abroad in Singapore. Her English is excellent as well as her heart. We cooked dinner at her house and invited some of her students she teaches on the side. Yummy dishes and new skills… a good day fo sho. A slightly overcast Sunday came along, and I thought, “hey, I’ll get so much done today… I’ll lesson plan, grade, and maybe even make copies”. Interrupting my thought comes a text from my good friend and Xingyi celebrity, Henry. Henry invited me to go fishing with him and some of his friends near the lake. I said, “heck yeah!” Our fishing adventure was put on hold as we first went to Henry’s friends farm and house. It was beautiful and eye opening. The family’s house was on a mountainside overlooking a school and a small village. I learned that this family’s youngest daughter went to school at the school below us, and walked to and from there everyday. Her parents told me it took her about an hour.. and it was steep. After talking to the family, I learned that their son had an apartment in the city and they only got to see him about once every 2 months. Their son has no car and has to wait until one of his friends offers to take him back home. This time, before we went fishing, we ate and talked with his family for maybe 2 hours. His father told me his son had a better chance to earn money outside of the farm. The son also would collect goods from his families farm to bring back to the city and sell when he had free time.
Fishing was a blast! It turned out to be a beautiful day, and the sun came out just before sunset. We caught a few small fish and took them to one of Henry’s restaurants. We just walked on in there, handed them the fish, and they made us some great fish hot pot with our own fish that we caught! It was a great day, and a great insight into how many people around this part of China live.
Guizhou Welcome Party took place this September and was a great time for meetin’ and greetin’ the new volunteers here, eatin’ and dancin’! My good friends, Adam and Laurie hosted this event at their baller apartment and it was a success. Us China 17s, who have been here for about a year welcomed the new 18s with good food and good company. It was so rewarding to meet so many MORE awesome people. Peace Corps communities are filled with them, and I feel so blessed to have met each and every one of ’em.