When I first started looking into the possibility of going to China, the first logical step was to look at the website for the agency I would be working with. This was made difficult by the Chinese characters that dominated the page when I looked at it. There was a button that said “English,” which I promptly clicked, only to be led to a page with links to blank pages. Not as informative as I had hoped.
My mind went to a friend I had taken a class with first semester–Yishen. Yishen was from China, and though we weren’t close friends (only having worked together on class projects and the like), we had exchanged phone numbers to coordinate group work, and I still had his. I sent him a message asking if he would be a translator for me, and he agreed.
After he told me what the website said (good news, I wasn’t signing up for any big surprises), I asked what his plans were for the summer. “Well,” he said, ” I am hoping to work at a summer camp here. Somewhere with horses.” He only had a student visa, so legally he couldn’t work for money, which made his options pretty slim. I racked my brain and thought back to the summer camp I frequented growing up. Though they didn’t have horses, I was pretty sure they had dealt with foreign students in similar situations, so I told Yishen that I would email the camp and see what we could arrange.
They were more than willing to speak with him about working at the camp, and in the end he decided that was his best option. When school ended, he and I travelled up north and I brought him up to the camp. Of course it was raining, so I couldn’t give the tour of my favorite places as a camper, but the benefit of the 4ish hour car ride was being able to quiz Yishen on everything I could think to ask about China and the differences between China and the US. Each time there was an extended silence I would come up with a new question, or make some sort of observation (i.e. ‘there’s a lake over there.’) to break the silence and help keep me awake. Of course I later learned that prolonged silence isn’t something looked at as bad in the Chinese culture, and that nervous small talk was certainly a western trait. Whoops.
So far it sounds like he’s having a blast going between the two camps, and he plans on coming to stay with my family and I over the 4th of July. I don’t think he knows what he’s getting himself into. 🙂 I think it’s really great that through trying to get my whole summer plan figured out, I was able to help a friend figure out his plan as well. If I had never been asked to work in China, I wouldn’t have seen Yishen or gotten the chance to ask him what his plans for the summer were, so there’s no way telling what he, or I, would have ended up spending our summers doing.