Dear Prague, How you have inspired me…

Having returned to the United States, the way I function in relation to the rest of the world is completely different.  I would consider myself a homebody who typically leaves the home to go to school or work but not to explore or be part of the community simply for the sake of being part of the community.  I am happy to volunteer for specific events or dedicate time to activities that have set times, but I don’t generally go for walks in unexplored territory or further than a radius beyond a couple blocks of where I live.  Dear Prague, you have inspired me to increase my footprint in the world.

As an adult student registered with Students Services for Disabilities, I think having that mark really impacted my view of myself and what I am capable of doing.  I know that I have overcome a lot but due to the amount of time I have spent in hospitals or convalescing I am comfortable being indoors.  Now that I know that I can explore the world, I am empowered to continue to do so.  Dear Prague, you have inspired me to empower myself.

This week, for example, I spent time with one of my classmates from our study abroad program.  We are both adjusting to life back in the States, and it was a beautiful connection to meet at home with a friend who lived a similar experience.  It became clear to me that I can travel around the city at my will and that I am not limited to my little corner of the city of Chicago only going to campus to study or to a job site.  Armed with a liter of water, my UPass, and supplies for the day I can spend a day out in the city of Chicago just as I did in Prague.  Dear Prague, you have inspired me to live in a more worthwhile way.

My friend and I shared with each other that it was a bit of culture shock to return to the States and encounter common behaviors of Americans.  From O’Hare airport and back to our neighborhoods, we traded stories of how we missed walking down the streets of Prague because the people we encountered had a quieter, more respectful, perhaps, demeanor.  We laughed about how we can look at behaviors of Americans in the Lincoln Park or Lakeview neighborhoods and how those neighborhoods specifically cater to the idea of remedying hangovers.  In Prague, however, Pilsner Urquell is a commonality but the expectation is that people enjoy their beers with friends and won’t require a “Hangover Smoothie” the next day.  Dear Prague, you have inspired me to have a beer every once in a while.

My new-found feelings of limitless exploration and self-empowerment are perfectly timed as I extend myself into the professional world looking for full-time work.  I have decreased anxiety about a commute to get to a new location and don’t mind the idea of visiting friends in different neighborhoods.  The confidence I have gained from traveling is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  And because of my travels, I am confident that now my life will be more interesting.  Dear Prague, you have inspired me to test my limits and look for new challenges as I continue to write my story.

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Reflecting on Guatemala

Right now I’m taking the train into Philadelphia to a doctor’s appointment. I’ve put off writing this for a while, but I figured that now, when I have nothing else to do, I have to start thinking about the end of my study abroad experience. Part of why I have avoided writing this blog is that I’ve been adjusting and catching up on sleep. I’ve also been meeting with friends from home and preparing my things in this quick turn around between Guatemala and returning to school.

Part of it, I won’t lie, is because I’ve picked up watching The Office and I had to get to the point where Jim and Pam become a couple. But behind all of that is my want to avoid thinking about what just happened. I feel like I’m in sixth grade, adjusting to waking up early for school for the first time, refusing to open my eyes or move my body even though I’m awake just because I know that I have three more minutes until 6:30 a.m. and maybe I’m not ready to face a return to real life yet. For a week I found myself giving vague responses like “it was amazing,” so that I don’t have to start synthesizing my adventures. Once you catch yourself in your own tricks on yourself, how can you let yourself keep playing them?

So now I’m thinking about the question my friend asked me three weeks into my study abroad: “Is it everything you thought it would be??” Wow. Fantastic question, Meg. You really nailed me to the wall on that one, making me stop saying superlatives and start thinking. Geez, I don’t know, I thought. For the most part, before this summer I just knew I would have “experiences” with no real idea of what kind they would be. I decided I would wait to answer that question until I had lived every part of my experience. I kept waiting because I didn’t want to say that it was over.

Well, was it everything I thought it would be? Heck no. Is it too cliché to say to say that it was better and more than I thought it would be? Probably, but that’s the truth. How could I have predicted anything that I did or saw this summer? Disney got one thing spot on when it said, “You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew.” In my last week alone, I found out more tangible examples of what I want to be than in two years at college.

When my last week in Guatemala started, I was on a redeye bus from Tikal to Guatemala City, coming back from the oldest, most expansive, and most impressive site of Mayan ruins in the world. At the same time, my friends, Taylor and Risa, and I realized it was the end.

“We go home next Saturday,” Taylor said.

All I could think of to say back was “yeah.” To be fair, what else can you communicate in a whisper in the middle of a red-eye bus? I sat up and leaned my head against the window while I tried to make out familiar shapes from the unfamiliar shadows on the highway. No, the fact that we were leaving so soon hadn’t sunk in. I couldn’t feel anything. I don’t think it had fully hit any of us. None of us felt like saying things like, “I can’t believe we’re leaving in a week,” or “I know, right?” We felt numb but not so much that we didn’t know it would be cheap to say things we didn’t really understand yet.

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On my last Monday I acted out a skit in Spanish class with my friend Aiza of our first real weekend when we went to the less-than-safe, more-than-fear-inducing-and-dangerous caves in Semuc Champey. I recalled how scared and cold I had been, how I had heard a choir of children singing “Will I Lose My Dignity” from RENT in my head, and how I had said I never wanted to go in those caves again. All I wanted now was to be back in that state of fear with a whole summer of adventure still in front of me. I watched as Nory, my lovable Spanish teacher, for the seven hundredth time encouraged us to learn through laughter and real life, and I thought, “Man, I’d love to be like her.”

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Later we went to a Mayan ceremony that asked for blessings for workers and students, where the priest asked for safety, health, and success for each of us by name. We had a barbecue with one of our professors, Ricardo Lima-Soto, at his house.

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See, the thing is that Ricardo is one of the most intelligent, funniest, and nicest professors I’ve ever had. He’s had more adventures than Leonardo DiCaprio in all of his movies combined. Ricardo could spark incredible debates and conversations about subalternism, post-colonialism, and racism in Guatemala with respect to the scores of different identities and nationalities in Guatemala, but somehow got us to draw just as many parallels about the intricacies and social-racial dynamics in our own country. What left the biggest impression on me was how at peace he seemed to be with himself and the world. It was not that Ricardo underestimates the problems in the world or the problems he faces; instead I think he has a perfect understanding of both and still he has a calmness, happiness, and sense of stability. As malleable, young twenty-somethings who lack this peace and clear sense of direction, my classmates and I marveled at our teacher who could talk about systemic oppression and then Minions without missing a beat or seeming like he didn’t understand the actual level of gravity or levity of the two, respectfully. We all decided at one point or another, “I want to be like him.”

On Tuesday night I had my last night with the teens and young adults in the English class at Los Patojos. I silently admired at how openly determined they were. Even if you’ve thought otherwise, the truth is that I’ve always been a little shy about saying, “this is what I want to do with my life and I am working on it right now.” But these people had the bravery to say, “These are our dreams and we’re putting them in action.” Again, as I talked to the other teachers and the students, “I thought to myself, I want to be like them.”

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On Wednesday afternoon my friends and I went to Earth Lodge on top of a mountain ridge, where we talked about our summer experiences while we watched the sun set over Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes below. Then our professor, Jennifer Casolo, told us her story. Jenn became my hero probably less than two minutes into the story: she had worked for peace in El Salvador in the 1980s, been mistakenly arrested by the military, interrogated and tortured for days despite refusing to lie and name innocents as subversives, and then eventually released thanks to nation-wide support back in the United States. As I sat there, feeling like a preschooler with my hands motionless and my head tilted up to watch her without blinking, I realized I was listening to a hero. Even now on the train, I can still see Jenn, her hair tucked behind her ears, wearing colorful clothes, standing instead of sitting as if she was about to sprint with all of her excess energy, her hands alternating between motions and clasps together, and her eyes trying to reassure us as we listen in panic. Jenn was calm as she told a story more harrowing than our worst nightmares. She told us of how she had felt at the time like she would somehow be okay, and we sat there like cub scouts listening to our first ghost story, in awe and mystification at how she could be so courageous. It grew dark and we all had to go home for dinner (I know, how cute and great is that?), but we begged Jenn to meet us at a café afterwards to continue her story. We sipped our tea by candles and leaned in down the table to listen. There was a room-wide warm-golden-fuzzy-happy feeling as we heard about her adventures. This time I thought to myself, “I wonder if it’s even possible to ever be like her.”

On Thursday I went to Los Patojos and saw part of the Poetry Exposition that they hosted for all of the schools in the area. Fourth graders recited and performed poems written by current Guatemalan poets, some of who attended the event. I felt like the kids were singing songs in front of rock stars. If these kids wanted to go to the moon, I think the teachers at Los Patojos would contact the X Prize competitors and make it happen. Seeing their commitment made me want to be like them.

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On Friday I said goodbye to my teachers, my roommates, and my friends and students at Los Patojos. When I started to realize it would be years before I saw these people again, I felt duped. For two months, I’ve been trying my best to acclimate myself in Guatemala and to feel and learn everything possible. I sewed my heart to this place and these people. And as I left, I felt someone pulling at the seams. I don’t think I write enough to explain how much I love this school or how Juan Pablo is my role model.

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This summer I got to have real adventures, the kind I always watched in movies and assumed that I’d never get enough bravery or coolness to leave my warm couch and blanket to have. I clung to the bars of an open truck bed as we drove through the jungle of Alto Verapáz on our way to climb up waterfalls. I found out that I’m afraid of caving and bats, but I climbed and swam through caves of Semuc Champey and I walked through the Bat Palace of Tikal. I jumped off a rope swing, took a boat to a zoo in the middle of a lake, walked through an ancient Mayan ball court with a little girl in Mixco Viejo, kayaked in a lake surrounded by volcanoes in Panahajel, climbed volcanoes in Pacaya, made new friends and danced on the regular. I got to study in the peace of the most beautiful and expansive social science library in Central America, listen to speakers who have actually changed the world, have some of the best conversations, and joke with my host parents daily. Guys, I got to see a volcano every morning when I woke up. Can’t stress that one enough. But the adventures can’t compare to the people who taught me what I want to be when I grow up. (I’ve still got plenty of time before I cook my own Thanksgiving dinner, and that’s the standard of adulthood that I’m sticking to.)

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So what’s next? Well I’ll go back to school at Penn State and work to earn enough to return to Guatemala as soon as I can. I’ll keep wearing the bracelets my kids gave me. I’ll take small steps as I try to get used to walking down College Ave instead of Segunda Avenida Sur. I won’t even be mad when I have to explain that I went to Guatemala and not Nicaragua, Costa Rica, or even Thailand. I’ll wish my friends back in Guatemala happy birthdays and think of them every time I see them on Facebook. I’ll do my best to not cry as I work on compiling all of the work of the kids at Los Patojos into the final book. I’ll write more of my novel. At the risk of another cliché—but hey, third time’s the charm—I promise I won’t forget this summer in Guatemala. I mean, really, how could I? I might’ve known that I wanted to be a writer and a teacher before this summer, but I never could have known the mindset and personality I wanted to have without Guatemala.

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There’s just one more thing I’d like to clear up. Lucky and José, I wanted to explain to you what I couldn’t before. Whenever I’d ask for a packed lunch, you’d always play a joke on me and pretend to be inconvenienced, and I’d always get worried that you weren’t kidding. We’d laugh about it, José would say “Tranquila,” (Calm down) and then we’d move on to the next joke. Here’s the thing: Ninety-eight percent of me knew that you were kidding. How could you not be kidding? You two are the nicest, funniest, most interesting, and most welcoming host parents I could have asked for. But that two-percent possibility that I was upsetting you made me freeze because the last thing in the world I wanted was upset two of my new favorite people in the world. Man, José, I can hear you teasing me and asking me if I’m going to cry. Pretend you can hear me saying “no” unconvincingly. Lucky, I can hear you laughing. Pretend I’m saying good afternoon after class. Pretend I’m smiling because you just called me your rose or baby (sin pampers, so almost close to an adult but not—I never did acknowledge how true that is). Pretend I’m a minute late after the dinner bell and tease me about it. Anyhow, I just wanted you guys to know that I love you both and that I’ve always wanted to be like you. I promise I’ll be back soon. Jose, help a gringa out and translate this for Lucky.

Forgive me if any/all of this seemed scattered—that’s sort of how I feel. I guess it’s better to say it all like this than to not say anything. I know that there are a bunch of things I’ll wish I had written later on. But the summer’s got to end and I have to pack my dorm furniture, so count up your points, my friends, and maybe you can take away one last thing from all of this. The best I can do is to tell you that I thoroughly loved all of my life-changing fifty-six days in Guatemala, from the unbelievable adventures to the everyday chores. Que te vaya bien, hasta pronto.

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CET Kunming and My Academic and Professional Goals

I think the most strange (and probably most fascinating) phenomenon that I’ve been experiencing lately is the more time I spend in China, the more I can see myself living here long-term. Since I’ve only just started college, I’ve still got lots of ideas (albeit extremely vague ones) for what I’d like to do in the future. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to experience China through an unbiased lens, the more that I appreciate it for just what it is, and that’s caused to me to want to experience what it’s like to work in China.

There will always be things I never quite understand (like places designed for pedestrians are also places for bikes and scooters to drive through apparently), but it’s refreshing to experience a completely new environment and I’d like to see what a typical Chinese working environment is like. As I prepare to head back to America, I’ve also acquired a knack to auto-translate sentences in my head (otherwise I will completely misunderstand at times), so I’ve thought about working in a translating job, especially since some translation jobs here are complete wrecks. One thing that still interests me is that nowadays Chinese people are all about things that are 洋气 (yáng), which means “stylish” but more accurately means things that are have a Western essence to them. Because of that, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say almost every sign or place has an English translation or some kind of shout out to a Western country.

A prime example of the translation craze; if it’s in any way a tourist attraction, they will have English translations (sometimes not so great ones).

A prime example of the translation craze; if it’s in any way a tourist attraction, they will have English translations (sometimes not so great ones).

In America, it seems like the only Chinese influence we have in our immediate reach is the “Made in China” sticker on virtually all of our goods, or some rant from the news or media about a Chinese situation that we can’t quite wrap our heads around, which is very unfortunate. At times I think this can cause us to be so inward-focused on our country and language that we sometimes don’t have the desire to go the extra mile to learn something out of our understanding or language.

Speaking of languages, my biggest academic goal is to reach as much fluency in Chinese as I can. Since advancing my language skills from elementary to intermediate, I’ve discovered that when learning a language, you have these awkward and weird gaps in your language skills. To give an example, I’m very capable of saying “China’s economic development has caused Chinese people’s living standards to improve greatly” but when I’m at a restaurant or at a store I don’t know what the word for laundry detergent or banana. Imagine the surprise on the cashier’s face if I say with complete confidence “I think this product’s quality is great!” but turn red just trying to say a fruit’s name. That kind of situation is honestly an out-of-body experience, probably more for the Chinese cashier than for me.

The language barrier awkwardness aside, I think knowing at least one other language than your own opens so many doors and creates so many interesting stories that you can’t get anywhere else while at the same time allows you to study your own language and how it’s structured. In Chinese, since the sentence structure can be so vastly different from English, it’s very easy to make a fool of yourself if you don’t pay attention to how you’re saying things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried saying something (and made myself look like a flailing tomato while doing it) and only succeeded in confusing the Chinese person more. Alright, to wrap things up, I’ve made a little fun list of my academic dreams, professional goals, and what I have learned in China:

  1. I’d like to work as a translator maybe for a video game company or TV show to make English content available to Chinese audiences (and vice versa), but it might get difficult when I try to translate words things like “I’m a little salty” or “Today my clothes are on point”.
  2. Fluency: The funniest and most embarrassing thing to try to accomplish, especially when you try to say something simple and end up saying a curse word instead.
  3. Humor: Sarcasm is a tricky affair in Chinese. Your intention is to lighten the air but you inadvertently insult the other person instead.

Until next time,
Garrett Schuman, 许可儒

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Prague Reflections

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Instead of A Résumé

Mixco Viejo Kakchikel Fortress Ruins

Mixco Viejo Kakchikel Fortress Ruins

Someday someone is going to have a stack of résumés on a desk. He or she’ll pick up mine early one morning or late one night when he or she really wants to pick up coffee instead. This person will read the frame of my professional life and try to surmise if I’m worth the interview. Let’s say that I am, for the sake of the argument. When I get called into an interview and maybe my hair’s still a little wet from my morning shower and I’m wearing a suit I only pull out a few times a year, I’ll sit in front of this person with my shoulders pushed back—because I’ll have reminded myself that good posture is supposed to be a good sign. This person will ask me what makes me qualified and prepared for the job. My whole body will want my mouth to say, “Guatemala,” hoping that just that word will transfer all my knowledge and experience into this person’s mind The Giver style. My second urge will be to ask this person to read my personal travel diary even though it’s in Spanish—a next best option for explaining how this summer abroad has changed my life. The truth is, some of the things that give us the best preparation for a path in life, including a career, are often too gigantic to synthesize into a 12-point, Times New Roman, single-spaced blurb.

Even if I say this summer has changed my life, I wonder if that’ll mean anything to the person who interviews me. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t blame that person. See, the thing is, when every adult in my life said to me before I left, “You’ll have the time of your life,” it’s not that I didn’t believe them—I just didn’t understand them. How could I? We throw absolutes and hyperboles around so much that we don’t realize how much meaning we strip away every time we use “life-changing” to describe our pizza, a new album, or a newly discovered bookstore. Let me jump off this train back to my point. For half of my life, I’ve wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I’ve made it my ambition in life to work as hard as I can to do both jobs well someday. Three years ago, after tutoring ESL students every day after school for a semester, I knew I wanted to work with English language learners, so I stopped cramming for Spanish vocab quizzes and started asking about the more intricate grammar. Two years ago when I took my first Latin American History course, I also knew that I wanted to write about Guatemala, a country with a history so painful that it floods the land’s beauty with blood like dye in water. Studying and spending my summer in Guatemala has brought my dreams closer within my reach.

Mis padres de Guatemala

Mis padres de Guatemala

In Guatemala, I’ve learned what it means to be a language learner. My Spanish, although not perfect, has improved faster than a student athlete on steroids. But man, has it been a hard go of it. It’s not just a matter of learning the conjugations, idioms, and sentence structures. It’s not even as simple as using them in regular conversation. It comes down to this: when you’re nervous and flustered at the post office, on a tour, when your schedule changes, or when you’re so lost that you duck into a “Chicken Champion” chain restaurant just to ask directions, can you convey what you mean like a normal human being? Now while I can’t assume the ontological position of (all of the conditions of) an English language learner, I can grasp a heck of a lot better their challenges. I know how scary it is when you don’t have time to strategize sentences strung together in your head. I know what it’s like to struggle with a grammatical structure that absolutely doesn’t exist in your native language. It’s difficult when you concentrate all your energy on just understanding and you have none left over to create a thoughtful response—and I know how it feels when someone mistakes that for disinterest. Worse, I know the sense of helplessness when you realize instantly that you’ve just made a grammatical error and there’s no time for you to let the native speaker you’re with know that you know the correct form without stalling life—but you wish like crazy you could let them know you know.

A Guatemala Ciudad

A Guatemala Ciudad

Living in Guatemala, even for a sneeze-worth of time, has taught me what real poverty and terror can look like for a lot of folks. Frankly, I don’t even like to talk about it too much when my audience can’t see my eyes and know for certain that I’m not bluffing or speaking glibly. Because in addition to these conditions, I’ve seen in Guatemala what it means to enjoy and succeed in life. I’ve seen what it means to have dozens on dozens of different cultures crammed into one environment, and what it actually means to coexist.

Las chicas de la mañana a Los Patojos

Las chicas de la mañana a Los Patojos

Chicos de la tarde de Los Patojos

Chicos de la tarde de Los Patojos

At my internship at Los Patojos, an alternative school full of love, creativity, excellence, and bossness, I’ve learned what it means to invest in your students as much as you wish to be invested in, to work long hours, plan lessons and then roll with it when plans change, and to collectively find a great idea and run with it while laughing your eyeballs off. My readings, lectures, and class discussions have taught me the intricacies behind culture and fighting against systemic oppression. In a phrase, from Guatemala I’ve learned how to respect what’s different without making a scene and then to keep working for a better world. All of this and more, I’m sure, will help me as I work as an English or History teacher in a Latino community. Maybe I won’t know a Dominican accent that well, the details of a small regional culture from Ecuador, or the exact chain of events in Mexican history. Still, this trip has made me aware enough to be on the look out so that I can learn.

Lago Atitlán

Lago Atitlán

And as far as writing goes, as kids say these days, the ideas are literally everywhere (no figurative meaning for that “literally”). The mountains look like sleeping dinosaurs covered in moss, the fog floats around the highlands like a sea of clouds, the lakes seem like massive craters in the moon filled with water, and the people have more passion to work for a better Guatemala than any metaphor could explain. The historical, political, sociological, and emotional knowledge I’ve gained has given me what I needed as I write my creative thesis (and hopefully someday novel) about Guatemala—things like jokes, facts so unknown to outsiders that you could never Google them, and belief systems that I’d never learn at my home library in Pennsylvania.

Cerro de La Cruz en Antigua

Cerro de La Cruz en Antigua

In Guatemala, my life has changed and certainly for the better. I think of my professors and teachers who gave me a boost to where I am now, and I know that whenever I see each of them, I’ll have an uncontainable grin and tell them, “I learned so much,” and I know they’ll understand. I know they’ll grin and nod back at me because more than anything, Guatemala’s taught me how to be a grown-up. More than once I’ve realized that I’m not on some guided tour through life anymore with snacks and hugs provided by adults with name tags—rather I’m on the precipice of having to be an autonomous human being that has to participate in the world without a provided prompt.

Dos Mundos Reúnen

Dos Mundos Reúnen encima de las ruínas

A thousand points if you figure out a way to convey that all with sincerity and passion in a 12-point, Times New Roman, single-spaced blurb, because this is one for the books.

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Friends Taking the Shock Out of Culture

My first couple of weeks trying to manage what I will call my new and transformational “Chinese life” definitely presented some difficulties. Months before I even thought about how everything was going to work out abroad, I heard the term “culture shock” at my university’s study abroad orientation. It seems that in many people’s minds culture shock is some mystical, fairytale-esque concept, or that it’s your immediate reaction to a new place when you first arrive. This term was briefly discussed during the orientation for my program, and I overheard several students sort of laugh away the significance of it. To put it simply, culture shock develops this way: once you enter your new surroundings, you’re in a “honeymoon” state, everything is wonderful and unfamiliar, for a while it feels like you’re the star of some kind of movie.

My motion picture included sign upon sign that reeked of bad translation, my running theory is these places pay someone to just run their shop’s name through some mediocre translating software.

My motion picture included sign upon sign that reeked of bad translation, my running theory is these places pay someone to just run their shop’s name through some mediocre translating software.

As time goes on it fades and gradually you start to feel uncomfortable and extremely out of place (in China, where everyone save a small percentage are ethnically Chinese, this feeling comes extremely quickly), and you start to miss the little things your home has that your new home doesn’t. I’m here to tell you that during my first “transitional” few weeks, I was a prime example of this stage of culture shock. I’ve never been in a city as large as Kunming, and my biggest distress was that I felt like a grain of sand on this huge beach I didn’t understand. Slowly but surely this started to fade away as my relationship with my classmates and my roommate improved. So far the person that I appreciate the most is my roommate. Here’s a short breakdown of how I got my roommate: CET Academic Programs, the organization that is in charge of my program, gives each one of us a Chinese roommate in order to foster our language abilities, as well as give us a chance to intimately know a Chinese person and how they live their lives day by day. My roommate had to apply and be interviewed, and is given strict instructions to not speak English at all with me. That being said, even though at times I fear our communication is poor due to the language barrier, he’s become one of my best friends so far. The most interesting thing about our friendship to me is the fact that we’re constantly exchanging cultural information about our homes, while all of my other friends back home center around our common interests (my roommate and my interests almost mirror each other, so that aspect is there as well).

I take that back, the most interesting thing has to be his fear of photos.

I take that back, the most interesting thing has to be his fear of photos.

A couple of weeks ago we got to talking and somehow I brought up Fifty Shades of Grey, which was risky because I really didn’t want to explain what the plot line was (is there even one?), and after a while my roommate eluded to the promiscuity of Americans by saying he didn’t know why we liked being intimate so much. At the time I played it cool but was surprised that that kind of misconception of Americans exists. I tried my hardest to clear that up for him and tell him that many Americans (myself included) aren’t like that using my child-like Chinese, and I don’t regret it one bit. Although we’ve never had a talk about misconceptions and stereotypes about Chinese people, many of them have been cleared up from subtle nuances I caught just being around him so much. My favorite cultural insight is Chinese hospitality. When he and I would go out to eat, countless times he would pay for me without a second thought (we started going dutch after I finally figured out how to say there was no need), and let’s not forget all of the times I had no idea what I was doing and he would help me understand something, or simply take me to put minutes on my phone.

He also took me to a temple near Yunnan University, the college that I have my classes in.

He also took me to a temple near Yunnan University, the college that I have my classes in.

When we got there we were given two candles and some incense. Once we got to the kiosks where they go, I lit my candles with the flame of another, then placed them down inside the kiosk.

When we got there we were given two candles and some incense. Once we got to the kiosks where they go, I lit my candles with the flame of another, then placed them down inside the kiosk.

After that, the incense was lit, and I stood in front of one of the temple’s buildings to make a wish and pray (my roommate helped me with this every step of the way). Not going to lie, I wished for a hamburger.

After that, the incense was lit, and I stood in front of one of the temple’s buildings to make a wish and pray (my roommate helped me with this every step of the way). Not going to lie, I wished for a hamburger.

All in all, I’m going to make sure once I arrive home to not forget his kindness, and to pay it forward by taking that piece of Chinese culture to the States. Going back to what I said about culture shock, there’s also a stage where you begin to feel comfortable with how things work where you are. I can proudly report that I’m tiptoeing my way into a rut, but not in the cliché way this word is often used. In a place where little children (and very often the elderly) look at you like you come from outer space, having a routine that includes friends you never thought you’d have is a blessing that is hard to take for granted.

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Internship & Daily Life in Prague

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Filed under Lissette in the Czech Republic