Late August, 2007
When I first arrived in Longzhou, I really had no idea what to expect. I remember that in my mind I was picturing dirt roads, chickens running about, and sweating a lot. The roads turned out to be paved in some places, but my other assumptions were right.
I had just met Kyle a few days earlier, and he had told me all about his first year in Longzhou. He was friendly, and literally stuck out from the crowd in China due to the fact that he was 6’6”, and in Guangxi where we lived, few people even reached 5’6”. He had an easy laugh, and had lived in Seattle near where I grew up. We quickly became friends.
Millie met us at the airport. Kyle had already informed me that she was our co-teacher, or more correctly, our assigned friend. She had a bubbly personality and giggled an awful lot for a woman in her late twenties. She led us to the van the school had sent to us and climbed into the front seat.
Kyle and Millie slept through the 3 hour trip from Nanning to Longzhou and I stared out the window. Everything was so green, and the mountains seemed to erupt from the middle of the rice paddies and sugar cane fields. It was the most beautiful place I had ever been. I was so excited to finally be arriving at the school that I had been preparing to work in for months.
When we finally arrived at the school it was much nicer and much larger than I had imagined. My apartment was on the 8th floor, and my legs burned as I carried my suitcase loaded with clothes and books up the stairs. Eager students helped carry up the rest of my luggage, two small, thin girls had to work together just to handle my overloaded backpack.
The students and Millie left while I paced around my apartment trying to figure where I was going to put all my stuff. I decided I should probably shower, since I had become drenched in sweat, more from the weather than the exertion. I had never felt beads of sweat run down my legs before arriving in Guangxi.
The apartment was big and clean. It was my first time living completely on my own; an incredibly liberating feeling. Looking out the window though suddenly made me realize that I was now going to be calling a completely different world “home” for the next year. The feeling of “what the heck have I gotten into,” swept over me, and looking back I’m not sure how I got so far before that hit me.