A soft rain fell on Monday morning. From my balcony I sipped coffee and stared at the gray sky, rejoicing in the moment. Damp earth below, slight breeze through the screen, a view of my city. A long list of tasks awaited my attention, but for that moment, I could be present.
Today is Friday, the morning sky is obscured by low-hanging haze, a mixture of clouds and other particles drifting in the air. Even though the sky remains gray, natural light fills my apartment, and for that I’m grateful.
It was only 8 days ago I packed up and said goodbye to my new friends, goodbye to Chengdu and hello to this new life in Mianyang. I’ve come so far in the past 10 weeks–I completed my pre-service training, took an oath, and now am an official Peace Corps Volunteer. Here I am, another life abroad, another round of service, this time in China.
This week I worked hard cleaning and preparing checking off tasks on my list, and exploring this city that is now my home. Mianyang is an hour north of Chengdu by high-speed rail and is Sichuan’s 2nd largest city. With a population over 4 million Mianyang is known as a electronics and science city.
I toured the campus at Mianyang Teachers College 绵阳师范学院 (Miányáng shīfàn xuéyuàn) with a few students and caught the tail end of a college entrepreneur competition, and the closing ceremony that included cultural show and awards. Tomorrow my work begins in a more official capacity, as I will attend a staff meeting and introduce myself to faculty.
There is a favorite phrase here in Peace Corps China, and other locations as well I imagine: It Depends. So many questions arise during pre-service training that are met with “it depends” said with both seriousness and irony. What will I teach? What will my school expect of me? Where will I be placed? What will the classrooms be like? How many students will I have? And so on.
Here I am, already a week into life at my site and there are still questions unanswered. Classes at Mianyang Teacher’s College start next week, although some of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) have already taught their first lessons and some will not teach a class until October. I do not have my teaching schedule yet, while some others have known for a few weeks. I have a nice apartment in a high rise building with a lovely balcony view, but some of my fellow PCVs have less amenities.
What’s it like here? … It depends.
And because of that, I will continue to find joy in the mornings and be present to this new life. It won’t be easy, nor always constant, but I’m ready for the journey.