Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Chinese Home and Family: The Inside Scoop

My student is the only child of a fairly well-to-do family. Her parents are both accountants, with her mom working in the hospital and her father doing something related to education. They apparently had known each other through work, but their marriage was arranged by relatives. Her mom and dad were so good to me! They said that I could consider them my Chinese family, and they took great care of me when I was there. Her mom cooked great home-style meals and her father treated me to several different kinds of tea (and when I mentioned liking one of them, sent me home with a bag of my own).

My student, Angela, has several cousins nearby that she refers to as "brothers" and "sisters." However, she still acts like an only child and gets her way if she cajoles her parents enough. Independence and maturity seem to come a little bit later for some students in China, perhaps a byproduct of spending all of middle school and high school in study. Once when we were waiting for a half-hour at the train station, Angela quite contentedly amused herself with a stuffed animal the whole time, although she is 18. All that to say, I never felt like I was with a peer, and her childlike-ness was sometimes charming and sometimes irritating. Angela's English is fantastic for a freshman, and she did a great job helping me and translating for me. We had a good time together.

I'm not sure what the family's daily life is like when it's not the holiday, but here's my guess based on my few days there: Mom and Dad go to work and come home in the evening. Mom cooks up some supper. They eat in front of the TV, with Dad putting away a few beers. Then they clean up and go to bed. If Angela is around, she goes off to chat with her friends online.

I've included a few pictures of their apartment, which was very nice. (Side-note: People here usually live in apartments, not houses.) I even had a room to myself! The bathroom isn't pictured, but here are its three most important features: 1) A Western toilet. Hooray! I don't mind squatty potties, but I'd rather have Western. 2) Showerhead. No walls or curtains, though, so the whole bathroom gets wet and you just mop the floor when you're done. 3) Inspirational English sayings written in dry-erase marker on the walls by Angela: "I believe in myself," "The surest way to fail is not to try," and that sort of thing. She is one motivated English student.

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