After several hours of language class, 3 coctails of immunizations, and 32 ounces of water and oral rehydration salts I decided to go with the crowd to Peter's (an American restaurant here in Chengdu). The food was authentic and it was a pretty good time. We decided to skip our extra language class and chose instead to go to a place with a name that escapes my memory. Some people were planning to play instruments on a small stage and we sat in our group of 12 and talked for awhile. After some time Kehl asked why I wasn't on stage playing the guitar, telling me I should ask if I could play. I did, the manager said yes, and suddenly I was onstage with a guitar and microphone, butchering such classics as Puff the Magic Dragon, Solitary Man, and Yesterday. The manager played along on drums or guitar and Paul asked to play the piano. We all played together for a couple of songs and I began to run out of ideas. Eyes turned to Paul in expectation and he certainly delivered. He could play an amazing number of songs, some he had never heard before but figured out based on how it seemed to sound. Incredible. Hen hao! The real amazing part of the evening for me was toward the end of Star Spangled Banner, which we belted out with all the energy and emotion of non-disgruntled ex-pats, accompanied by Paul's piano playing one note at a time. At that moment I looked around and wondered how I could have ever imagined this as part of my Peace Corps experience. The truth is, much of what we have done so far has been that way: the unexpected within a larger framework of pseudo understanding. We were all together for one last night before being divided into 3 groups to be sent to different universities in the area.
I am meeting my host family tomorrow. Most people seem to be nervous but I am excited to leave the hotel and begin learning Mandarin more rapidly. I'm looking ahead toward being sworn in as a volunteer: much work is still to be done, but these challenges have been very healthy. Cheers.