On this rare day I saw the sun. Outside students could be found doing...absolutely nothing. Instead of moving constantly to stay warm, everyone tried to catch the sun while it was here. After all, it is the middle of winter, right?!

At night while returning home I realized that I wasn't wearing 15 or 16 layers of clothing and I could almost compare my attire to that of what I'd wear on a typical day in America. I looked up and I could see the stars; though they have different stories, the stars are the same.

The warm, clear night reminded me of another place and another time, but I couldn't figure it out until I smelled the late-night dinner: This night brought me back to my training. Though only 6 months ago, events and circumstances make it seem longer...and shorter.

I think that I probably miss training because I don't look at it like I did when I was there. 4 hours of mandatory language study does not equal 4 hours of voluntary language study because it's required. From here, though, I can see that we were all together, the Southwestern China volunteers. But then, when we were all together we had less need for one another (reliance, support, whatever you want to call it).

This time has been short and I have gained so much. I'm still looking for ways to give, but it's hard to keep up with the things I get from this experience.

As I prepare to leave for IST in Chengdu I look back at what has happened in this short time and realize that, though I have accomplished some things, I have a lot to do. Now I can speak Chinese well enough to do just about anything I need to do, including mailing packages, traveling, making conversation, making jokes, and buying anything (if I can afford it). Though I am able to communicate, often I have difficulty understanding people. My communication tends to be me telling people what I want and crossing my fingers (perhaps my tones were correct!). I can currently read over 500 characters, but I can only write about half of those. And every day I learn how to "be" more Chinese, though I am constantly reminded (in many ways) that I am indeed a foreigner.

After one semester of classes my students understand what I'm saying most of the time. I can explain things and almost everyone gets it the first time.

The cultural differences can be daunting. Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. Sometimes it's easier to complain than to try and understand.

There are days when I really miss home. There are days when I miss home so much I start imagining myself doing things in America: the silly little things like shopping at Safeway, watching a tv show, or eating ice-cream. And there are so many people I would like to talk with, too.

I don't know how to describe being a Peace Corps Volunteer yet. People say it's "the hardest job you'll ever love," but for me that's not quite it, exactly. One thing that I do know is that I have learned more about people, culture and poverty in the last 6 months than the entire rest of my life.

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