Green Onions and Good Company

So I have been in Dalian for around seven weeks now (still with no reliable internet), so I think it’s about time to talk about a unique aspect of my program; living with a host family. The only real way to understand and experience Chinese culture is to live with a Chinese family. I was fortunate enough to be placed in a family that’s not lacking in energy and enthusiasm. The family consists of two parents, four grandparents, and 2 younger brothers. I live with the grandparents in the same housing complex as the parents, so I can occasionally get a break from the boys’ questions and games. I originally lived with my host mother’s parents. They were both born and raised in Dalian. They are funny, likeable, and cooked incredible food. The grandmother everyday would hand-make (zongzi)粽子 for me. It’s definitely one of my favorite foods; a sugary rice snack with a fruit center。 Living with them felt like I was really part of the family. All they wanted to do was help me whether that was giving me snacks to bring to school or offering to wash my clothes. The only time we argued is when I told them I was full. They would tell me that I had barely eaten and that I needed to eat more. After this dance for a few minutes they would grudgingly accept that I was telling the truth.

But there are definitely struggles with my living situation. Dalian is known for its comfortable year round temperature, but right now it’s really hot and really humid. My home has air conditioning but my grandparents won’t use it because they believe the cold air will give them a cold. So the first really hot night I opened my window, but after waking up covered in mosquito bites I have decided the heat is better than the bites. Another challenge is my dynamic home situation. The one set of grandparents returned to their hometown and the other grandparents came to stay with me. The problem is that the new grandparents can’t really speak Putonghua. They came to Dalian from the countryside of Shandong so even my host mother has a lot of struggle talking to them. Their food customs have also been tough at points. The strangest tradition is eating plain green onions by the stalk. But they have also been great and welcoming toward me. Even inviting me to spend a week in their village home during the fall.

Michael

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