Now that we've been here for almost a week I don't wake up in the morning forgetting where I am. The edges of the campus aren't unfamiliar anymore and I even ventured off campus by myself for the first time today. I walked to the market just outside the east (?) gate. I didn't buy anything but it felt weird not being in a group of foreigners, being the lone laowei, or foreigner, as a little kid shouted at us the other day.
I think what has really helped is having a community where I am living. Joni, who I have mentioned before, has patiently helped us ease into life in Qufu. She lives upstairs and last night she cooked dinner for us in her apartment, which is definitely the most homey of any of the apartments I've been in so far. She lives on the fourth floor where Tarah and Lisa, two American women who have yet to arrive, will also live. On the third floor is Adeline, a French teacher who comes from a town just outside of Paris. We really got to know her better last night and, like Joni, she makes the community in the foreign teacher's building even more homey. Next to me on the second floor is Eliza on one side and a Russian couple with a young son on the other. The son and the mom don't speak much English, but the father does. It feels strange calling them parents because they can't be much older than Eliza and me. They are friendly but communication is a bit difficult. It is kind of nice knowing that there is a family with a little kid next door just like any other apartment building around the world.
Outside of our building the campus is bustling because the students have returned. I don't start teaching until friday because most of my students, the first years, have registration and mandatory military training for the next three weeks. Everyone else has started teaching and hearing their stories has made me more excited than anything. I look forward to making friends with my students and comparing our life stories.
Speaking of friends, I literally instantly made one today. A senior whose English name is Mike came to Eliza's door while I was doing my laundry in her room. He was surprised to see me because he was used to a male Skidmore student living there last year. He was sad to hear he had left but came right out and asked if we could be friends. MY FIRST CHINESE FRIEND! He offered to help us buy cell phones tomorrow which will be a very nice thing to have. Everyday it gets easier being here but it still feels funny having every other pair of eyes follow us when we walk by. I've only seen one other westerner that I didn't already know. He was randomly walking across the street near the Confucius temple.
Overall the Chinese people, unless they have reason to talk to us, just go about their business after giving us a lingering stare. Unfortunately we had one bad encounter. John Lenhart, a Skidmore grad who lives in a nearby town, came to show us the ropes. His Mandarin is so good that he understood when someone said something rude. So rude in fact that he wouldn't tell us what they said. The people I have met, both western and Chinese, associated with Qufu Normal, however, couldn't be friendlier. Anywho, I am going to go join Eliza in watching more t.v. we can't understand. Tonight we are trying hot pot for the first time!