We reached Changsha, after a 15 hour overnight train ride in the top sleeper beds of the train. Dinner was served, but I slept through that. I woke up to the lingering scent of cigarette smoke and a black and white fuzzy tv screen. We arrived at our guest house and were treated to a very hearty, welcoming breakfast. For the next couple days, we toured Changsha, visited museums and a famous university. The day to meet our homestay families had finally come. The suspense had been building since Beijing! I met my homestay mom, Ms. Wan, who’s english was limited, so she brought her student, Ding Ming (Tina is her American name) to help with translating. We got home to Ms. Wan’s apartment, which was about a 7 minute drive from the university (thank goodness!). She lives on the 5th floor at the top of the building with both of her parents. We learned that she has a 17 year old son who’s participating in a high school student exchange program in US, going to high school in Ohio. I think her parents were the most excited to see us. When walked in, they were so excited to see us and immediately offered us a plethora of fruits that were on their coffee table. They gave us a tour of the apartment and asked us almost every thinkable question regarding our food preferences. They were so happy when we told them that 1) we weren’t vegetarians and 2) that we liked spicy food (apparently spicy meats are their favorites). We got into speaking with our family a bit more (with Tina’s help of course). We found that Ms. Wan is a Women’s History professor, her father is a journalist/writer, and her son is an incredible artist. Quite a creative family.
We spent the first weekend with our host families. My host mom took us on a trek up Yuelu Mountain, a small mountain behind our apartment complex. It’s about a 20 minute walk uphill. I’m embarrassed to say that I was exhausted and dripping with sweat by the time we reached the top…its been a while since I worked out. But it was nice to be up there where the air was fresh, and there was so much green. We had lunch on the mountain and came home to rest before going to Taiping Jie (Peace Street).
The next day, we made homemade dumplings, which was fun. Our host grandpa, (the master pincher) taught us the appropriate way to pinch the dumplings closed so that they didn’t bust open while they were cooking. I lost count of how many dumplings I had eaten that night but it was great to spend some quality time with our new family and friends.