As we shared first impressions, some of us wondered how long it will take for us to adjust to our new surroundings. Would hard beds ever feel comfortable? What about the high humidity? How difficult will communication be across the language barrier that sometimes looms so large? At the same time, some of us noticed that we were already adjusting, in small ways, to a “new normal.”
Tuesday afternoon, September 2 we arrived by bus to Nanchong, our SST home for the next six weeks. We were welcomed to China West Normal University New Campus by the university’s Foreign Affairs Office staff. We received a brief walking tour of the campus and then waited to meet our host families.
While in Chengdu an SSTer connected with someone his mother had met on China SST thirty-three years earlier! Lei Shenghua was an undergraduate student at Sichuan Normal University in 1981 when she became friends with that year’s SST group, and especially with a member of the group named Gail. The two friends reconnected in 2007 via the internet. When Ms. Lei learned that Gail’s son would be part of the 2014 China SST group she was determined to meet him.
SSTers arrived in Chengdu late on August 31, tired after two long flights, but also eager to start their China adventure. We checked in to the Dreams Youth Hostel on the edge of the city’s Tibetan quarter and got some sleep.
We arrived in Nanchong August 24 and spent a week unpacking, setting up our apartment, and doing a variety of things to get ready for SST – buying bus passes for the students, setting up a bank account, registering at the police station and meeting with key people who will help us with logistics this semester. Nanchong is a city of almost a million people, with another 6 million in the surrounding prefecture of rural areas and smaller towns.
Late on August 1 we touched down at the Chengdu airport after nearly 17 hours of flying, eager to prepare for another Goshen College Study-Service Term in China. Our arrival marked a return to China on several levels.