Robert from Germany has been a student at GoEast for several years, going from zero to HSK4. We decided to put him (and his Chinese skills) to the ultimate test, in a trip to a rural village.
Robert: “My trip started early in the morning at the Shanghai Hongqiao station. After two hours in the high speed train to Ningbo and two more hours in the bus, I arrived at the village, Fengpuao. It’s so small it isn’t even shown on Google Maps, but two thousand wonderful people live there, next to a lake and forests.
I stayed with my family for two days, and they’ve been extremely welcoming from the first moment. When I arrived they had already prepared lunch for me, and because I could talk with them well in Chinese, they told me I could call them Mama and Baba.
They told me that they built their house themselves, in which they live with their daughter Eva. All three of them are actually quite tall! Almost as tall as me. Eva showed me the garden in which small herbs grow, and where chickens and a dog named Leisi walk around freely.
After that, I joined Baba and two of his colleagues with a car to a farm where bay leaf (yuèguì yè) is grown. After trimming bushes and planting new ones, we went to collect our dinner. We walked to a bamboo forest to cut fresh roots, and then we went knee-deep into the lake to fish fresh shrimp. It was amazing to see up-close how it grows and how it’s harvested, and it was the freshest food I ever ate.
That evening, friends and family came over. I could speak freely with all the guests, and we laughed, drank baiju and played Mahjong (although I was no match against these experienced players).
The next day I woke up to the sound of birds tweeting, something I never had in Shanghai, as usually all I hear is traffic. Baba had left at 5:30 to a market to buy some food for breakfast, which was also made with freshly laid eggs from the chickens. The rest of the day we worked on the farm again, this time we fertilized the plants.
We returned home and had a short rest, while Mama was already preparing lunch. In the afternoon, Eva and me walked around the lake. From there I could see how clean everything was and how the area depends mostly on agriculture, and we saw animals like insects, little fish and a snake! When we came back to the house, my Chinese parents took me to a traditional gathering together with their friends close to Ningbo city. After that, they went back to Fengpuao and me to Shanghai.
Even though the trip was only two days, it was an amazing time together with my host family, something I’ll never forget: A rare insight into the life of people living at the Chinese country side and the chance to prove my Chinese skills. And I’ve really learned how the people in Fengpuao live much closer to nature than we do in Shanghai, how life in Shanghai isn’t the only life in China. Life is more calm and less busy in Fengpuao, and runs a more natural pace.