My father grew up on the island of Puerto Rico until he was a teenager, when he then moved to New York. He has told me stories about his misadventures in his hometown of Naranjito, a small mountain town. Some of those include drowning a duck, because he had been trying to cool it off in the hot Caribbean sun, or learning how to drive a truck before the age of 13. One thing he vividly retold was being awoken by the crow of a rooster. I one day hoped to be awoken by the crow of a rooster, but never did I think it would be in the rural village of 临石(Lin Shi), halfway around the world from where my father grew up.
When we first arrived here, we were given away to our host families. We were told to call them 姐姐 and 阿姨, which are older sister and auntie, respectively. Over these past few days, despite our language barrier, and with the help of 姐姐’s 手机 (phone), we were able to overcome it. Our 姐姐 guided us through many arts and crafts, such as calligraphy and yarn tying. She was very skilled at both, and in fact, gave us amazing, hand crafted pieces to give to the women in our lives. Our 阿姨 was a very skilled chef and we helped her make our meals several times. We also helped them maintain their family garden by helping them weed their flowerbed. I have been able to do most of these activities in America, but to be able to do them in China with my new family was a special experience.
My favorite part of everyday was going to the village square/park. We would go and play basketball with some of the locals, and then we would dance with the Zumba-esque crowd adjacent to the court. We attracted crowds everywhere we went, but during these times in the square was when we attracted the most attention. I felt like a celebrity of some sort, as we at one point even were swarmed by little kids in a school to sign autographs. We did not receive this kind of treatment in the city, so it was fun to be given such attention for doing things that were typical of an American high school student.
Participating in this homestay has been an integral facet of the already life-changing experience being in China has created. Creating bonds with the people of this town, especially 姐姐，阿姨， 和妹妹(little sister), have been indicative of the welcoming culture present in rural China. And thanks to applications such as WeChat, or even just mobile phones, these bonds hopefully will last longer than this homestay. Aside from my Chinese speaking ability improving vastly, I have been able to gain much more insight into what it means to be a Chinese person. More often than not, people think of Hong Kong and Beijing when they think of China, but this homestay has showed me China has so much more to offer. China is just as much a rural, agricultural countryside as it is home to some of the most densely populated areas in the world. I have loved being 小雅’s 哥哥(big brother), and I will miss her and this family very much. Their food, hospitality, and of course 菠萝 （pineapple）will all be sorely missed.