Arriving in Chengdu
Thursday, 12 September -- We're settled in Chengdu now, after a 15 1/2-hour(!) train ride from Xi'an. Students remained in good spirits throughout the trip, and several had extended conversations with Chinese friends on adjoining bunks in the hard sleeper compartment.
Sichuan Normal University, where we will be based for the next 11 weeks, is growing rapidly, with construction going on just outside the waiban (the foreign students' area, where we live) throughout the night. I was amazed to see the new buildings, plazas and fountains erected since I (Keith) visited the campus last year. For several years the university has been adding 5,000 new students each year, now up to 36,000.
Friday morning we had our official welcoming event, which included presentations from several university and provincial dignitaries as well as Jessica (representing students) and Keith. In the afternoon we took the public bus into downtown Chengdu, and then walked to the famous Mao statue in the primary square. This weekend we have essentially free, and we've been spending our time doing laundry, catching up on journaling and Mandarin studying, and developing friendships. Students have been tremendous at meeting others while out on campus and in town. Daron went home for dinner with a newfound friend, and many others have played table tennis, basketball, or other sports with friends.
Sunday morning we will have our first weekly group meeting, a time
for processing the events of the past week and reflecting on SST thus
far. Next Sunday we'll visit the main Protestant Church in town, and
then hear from Peter Yuan, a Chengdu native and Eastern Mennonite Seminary
graduate who now teaches at the seminary in Chengdu. Chinese language
classes begin Monday morning, and will continue throughout the term.
We'll also have a series of lectures and short field trips next week,
and many in the group are looking forward to getting into a routine.
Life is good in Chengdu.