Sunday was my planned day with my host family. My “family” consisted of a mother and her son who is getting his PhD. He was our translator since she barely knew any English and spoke Sichuan dialect which is different from the Mandarin I am learning. First, we had a traditional Sichuan breakfast. I had bean jelly for the first time. I was very confused on what it was and Dennis (my host brother) was trying to tell me it was jelly but it was almost the shape of a sliced onion. Then when I ate it, it was the consistency of jelly straws. It was kind of odd, but not unpleasant. It just took on the flavor of the spices it had on it. Next, we went to the Sichuan Museum. It was beautiful and interesting. It was full of cultural artifacts and paintings and embroidery. I was very excited because they had descriptions of each item in English, so I could actually read about them. There were even weapons and pottery from the Warring States Period, which was around 300 B.C. It was really interesting to see bowls and cooking wear from every dynasty. There was also a whole section on a famous Chinese painter, Zhang DaQian. He is supposed to be the best painter in the past 500 years. Another section was a dedicated to embroidery. The work was incredibly complex and delicate I was amazed. The whole trip to the museum was incredible.
After the museum, we went to a restaurant that had little individual hot pots. There was a conveyor belt that had ingredients, and you could just choose what you wanted to put in yours…such as beef, cabbage or potatoes. It was great because everyone got to choose how spicy they wanted their meal to be. After lunch we went to this bookstore that had English and Chinese books. It even sold clothes, plants, and teapots. We walked around for a while around the bookstore and then explored other parts of the mall. The final part of my day long adventure was a huge dinner party. My host family (including my host mother’s husband) went to one of his student’s dinner party celebrating the student’s recent marriage. Walking in, the room was very fancy and I started questioning why I was there. But everyone was extremely nice, saying hello and welcoming me as their friend. Dennis told me about some of the traditions that are associated with formal dinners. At the beginning of the meal, there were three toasts. The first and last were by the hosts of the gathering. That opened up the floor for everyone to go around the table and say cheers to one another. Everyone walks around the table and says something to all the people sitting down, and then those people say cheers to the same people. For a while, a little one year old and I were the only two people actually eating. But it was such a great experience, and the food was delicious (if not spicy). Everyone was incredibly kind to welcome a stranger into such a celebration.
Monday we had culture class again! But this one did not require needles. It was our calligraphy class. Although I have no artistic talent, it was cool to see the different calligraphy styles and practice them for ourselves. I learned how to hold a brush and write characters. I also sort of learned how to paint bamboo and pandas. The process was kind of stressful since I did not want to make a mistake. But I realized that a mistake was bound to happen. People train calligraphy for several years to become good at it so obviously I was not going to be perfect. The picture may not be the most beautiful but it was nice to learn another art form. My final product was painted onto a fan. One side has a landscape and the other has 天下一家.