By Aubrey Brinton
The last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve had Giardia, several viral infections, coughs and congestion from the pollution, I’ve gained weight and my hair is getting noticeably thinner. All of this combined with the everyday stares everywhere I go, the spitting, the noise, and the overcrowdeness.
I smoked my first cigarette yesterday…. and I smoked several after. I was wandering around looking to find some coffee and free Wi-Fi when I realized the sun was out. This is a rarity so I decided to sit down and soak it in. Across from me was a group of gentleman gambling and drinking tea. One of the men grabbed his chair and brought it over to me, gesturing for me to join them. I didn’t know how to play the game so I just watched, listening to their highly accented Chinese (Chongqing hua) that I could hardly understand. After awhile, I was offered a cigarette. In the past, I have always declined because I don’t smoke but this time, I decided to smoke it. The offering and acceptance of tobacco in China, is a friendly action, symbolizing a type of camaraderie. Later, I too gave all four of the men cigars I had bought earlier that day. There is a reason why I bought cigars but that is another story. Anyway, I then ordered a beer and some famous Chongqing noodles. For that hour, I didn’t feel like an outsider. The nearby loogie hocking and loud voices suddenly turned into a melody of familiarity and for the first time ever, it did not bother me. I smiled and nodded to everyone staring at me as I smoked and drank my beer, which by the way is not a common thing to see among Chinese women. It is not lady-like to drink straight from the bottle and a very, very small percentage smoke. As the hour of bliss left me so did my tolerance. The spitting began to bother me again and I knew it was time to say goodbye to my friends. All good things come to an end and that is just part of life’s ebb and flow. Peace Corps is one big roller-coaster but the good part about that, is there is always an up after a down.
My dad will be here in less than two weeks. Now if that isn’t an up, I don’t what is! Also, I have to share some highlights from this month. I had all of my students participate in their first ever Easter egg hunt. Before each class, I hid eggs and candy suckers in the courtyard outside our teaching building. We had a short lesson about Easter and then I let em’ loose. They absolutely loved it!!
Also, I just got back from an amazing trip to Chengdu ( two-hour bullet train North of Chongqing) with several other foreign teachers from my school. We saw an unforgettable Sichuan opera performance, went to the Chengdu Panda Reserve and saw the cutest fattest pandas you ever did see, and went to the beautiful Wenshu monastery with it’s exquisite gardens, lovely aromas, and peaceful prayer halls. It was a lovely weekend. Back to work tomorrow!
Have a great day/week/month. Talk to you soon Kuna.
Dispatches 1: Baby sitting alone at the panda reserve.
Dispatches 2: Cook in Chengdu taking a break from serving.
Dispatches 3: Actors in the opera preparing for the show.