The dragon boat festival (DuānWūJié) was happening on this weekend almost at the same time with Chinese Children Day (ÉrTóngJié) on June 1st. This weekend we had the opportunity to stay at our Chinese friends’ house for 3 days. My roommate’s house is located 3 hours bus away from QingDao, which is in JiāoZhōu. We left QingDao on Saturday morning with couple of LiHao’s friends. When first arrived in JiaoZhou the weather is really hot, it is less humid and drier than QingDao. LiHao’s uncle and his child picked us up at the bus station and brought us to LiHao’s home.
It was quite a difficult adjustment for me because most of LiHao’s family doesn’t speak standard Chinese at all; they were taught by using local dialect. Even though they can understand what I say, most of the time I ask LiHao to help me understanding their meaning. I have been warned before that the family will deny anything. They denied almost every gifts, offerings, and helps that I want to give during my stay. They said that I am a guest and I should be served, I am not suppose to do anything including washing the dishes after eating. At one point I insisted to help clearing up the table after dinner and immediately LiHao’s mom raised her voice and held my hand to stop me. Later that day she tried to explain that it is the culture for his family not to allow the guests to do any chores.
I was treated so well especially in terms of food. We eat 3 times a day as usual, but the amount of food that was being served on the table is huge. Between lunch and dinner I was given small snacks and fruits all the time. I refused couple of times and only ate when they were willing to eat together with me. Table manners are not a big deal for me since I was born and raised with Chinese culture in Indonesia.
On the second day, it was a children day. We went to kindergarten school to see performances performed by 3-5 years old children. It was drizzling but the performances are still going on and many people willing to get wet to see them. I was there and I was amazed to see how good the children prepare themselves. In noon we visited local market to be made for dinner. I saw live chickens, fresh fish, and many other living animals ready to be slaughtered.
At the end of my visit, the family said that they are so happy to have me for couple of days there to share my stories and experience Chinese culture through the first hand. It was a short visit but I got a lot of things during the stay. And again Xie LaoShi is right, culture is more important than language, even if they could not understand what I said, they was still able to see my behavior.
Wednesday, June 4th we were visiting a village 2 hours away from QingDao. We were split into 4 groups to different families. We visited them expecting that we can do something to help them that day. But I believe that they have been told before that we will come, so they already did all the chores and prepared all of the dished. They did not allow us to help at all; we were treated as guests. In our group’s host family there are 3 persons: a husband, a wife, and a grandmother. We helped them to prepare the table and bring the dishes out from the kitchen. During the lunch, we were talking a lot of things. One of them is about the foods that we were eating, it turns out that they plant their own fruits and vegetables, also some meat they raise the animals by themselves. I love the environment at that village; it is quiet and peaceful. When we were about to leave the house, the family said that they hope we can go back again sometime, because they were so happy to be visited by foreigners who they often watch on television. I am happy that they enjoy our short-visit because I really hope that I can do something do help them, not being served as a guest.
Lao Mountain is the first mountain that we have to climb in QingDao. It took about 40 minutes for all of us to get to the end of the pathway, which has a beautiful waterfall. Apart from the site, I also admire the guy who took us there who we refer as 大哥 (dage). In my opinion, he speaks so clearly and neatly in addition to extensive information that he gave along the way to the mountain. After climbing the mountain, I think everybody was tired and hungry at the same time. That was the first time that I saw every dished on the table are gone. I think it is also because everybody was tired of street-food and missed restaurant-food.
Saturday, June 7th we visited Old People’s houses in TianZhuJiaoTang area. Before visiting their house, we were waiting for a while on the street; it is a really nice area where I saw a lot of people use that place as a pre-wedding photo area. We were divided into 4 small groups, every groups has a teacher and a Chinese friend to help us communicating with the old people. Bao Nainai is how we address the old lady who we visited. She is 95 years old and she is still in good health. We were staying there for about an hour. It was quite difficult to communicate with her because she has a problem with her hearing, so we have to speak clearly and loudly. We asked couple questions about her personal life like how long she has been staying in that place and how big are her family. In addition to that, each of us also sings to her in different languages: English, Chinese, German, Spanish, and Indonesian. She really loves listening us singing; at one point I saw her eyes were dropping some tears. Another thing that I am startled with is how she still makes her own food everyday and clean her own room without any help from others. Before we leave, she said that she was really happy and appreciates our time to come and talk to her. This is another thing that I will never experience if I did not join this program.