February 16, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Meg Thomsen is serving in the Environmental Education program in Dengguan, Sichuan Province, China

Peace Corps Online: Directory: China: Peace Corps China : The Peace Corps in China: February 16, 2003 - Personal Web Site: Meg Thomsen is serving in the Environmental Education program in Dengguan, Sichuan Province, China

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, February 16, 2003 - 6:44 pm: Edit Post

Meg Thomsen is serving in the Environmental Education program in Dengguan, Sichuan Province, China

Meg Thomsen is serving in the Environmental Education program in Dengguan, Sichuan Province, Chin

Peace Corps
Peace Corps
Meg is serving in the Environmental Education program in Dengguan, Sichuan Province, China.

The Peace Corps is currently celebrating its fortieth anniversary, having been founded by President Kennedy in 1961. The Peace Corps' China program began in 1993, with an English Education program in Sichuan province. When the prgram began, Chinese officials were concerned about having representatives of the United States government working in China, so the decision was made to use the phrase for U.S.-China Friendship Association rather than Peace Corps as the Chinese name for the program. The Environmental Education program started in August, 2000. There are currently over sixty volunteers serving in China, ten of whom are working in Environmental Education.

Peace Corps -- This is the official Peace Corps website

Peace Corps China -- Go directly to the page for Peace Corps China

The Peace Corps in Sichuan -- Information from the American Consulate in Chengdu

U.S. Peace Corps Arrives in China -- From the archives of World Tibet Network News, here's an article from 1993 describing the arrival of the first Peace Corps China volunteers.

Peace Corps Kids World -- A special site just for kids

Peace Corps Writers -- Interviews, articles, booklists and other features about the writings of former Peace Corps volunteers

Thursday, June 28, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: From the other side.

Hello Friends!

Nimen hao! I'm finally here in China. It's been thoroughly enjoyable so far, but I can see that I'm in for a heckuva two years. The training schedule is hectic; I'm not sure if I'll find time to breathe, let alone comphrehend the fact that I'm actually here in China! But it's good at the same time. They have us scheduled for six hours of language training per day. During the rest of the time, we teach model school (they have scheduled classes with actual college students that we have to teach for three weeks), learn about health and safety, Chinese culture, technical environment training, etc.

It feels good. My mind feels like it's stretching and awakening to accommodate all of the new things that I'm learning. I've already learned some useful things: how to ask for soy milk in Chinese, behavior in the classroom, information about public transportation, and what you eat for breakfast in China (rice porridge with vegetables floating around in it topped with sweet soy milk and strips of bean curd. Yum!)

I've also managed to meet a whole lot of nice people. You'd like them. In fact, three of them had to help me today. We learned that excessive earrings are inappropriate in the Chinese classroom, so I had three guys helping me to pry them out, as they've been in my ear since I was fifteen (the earrings, not the volunteers). I feel like this starts a new phase of life somehow.

Sichuan is beautiful, full of green and water. The Waiban (Foreigner Building) that we're staying in for the week is a depressing concrete building, but upon leaving, one finds beauty everywhere. Along with people. At any hour of the day, and late into the night, there are thousands of people walking around, and all of them are staring! But in a friendly and curious way, many more "hellos" than "laowai" (foreigner). There are about eight people in a dorm room here at Sichuan Normal University, so it can be a crowded place!

I'm going to so soon to get my Japanese Encephelitis and Rabies shots soon, but before I do, I wanted to tell you about the fantastic meal that I had last night so that you know that I'm not starving. We had a hollow-leafed spinach, fried tofu, another leafy green called ona choy, an egglant dish, a giant potato pancake, a huge bowl of rice, and bananas fried in carmelized sugar, washed down with "Snow Beer". Everything, with the exception of the bananas, was fried in about a bushel of delicious hot peppers, and a ton of garlic and ginger. The cost, for dinner for six? 36 yuan, or $4.50. Now I see that the Peace Corps meal allowance of $3/day is very generous, since they feed us breakfast and lunch!

Miss you all very much. I hope that all is well with you folks. China would be perfect if only you all could be here with me.


Tuesday, July 3, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: Happy fourth.

Hello Friends!

So, I've lifted my backpack and moved again! I am living in Deyang for the summer. We have moved in with families, and mine is so nice! Qin Xiaonu is a teacher at the local foreign language school, and she teaches English. She and her daughter, Li Qingqing like to speak to me a lot (Qingqing is twelve, and we watch Jackie Chan on television and talk about actors, the Spice Girls and food.). Xiounu's husband, Li Dong, doesn't speak any English, so he smiles at me a lot and laughs at my pathetic Chinese.

Almost all of the Chinese that I have learned so far has to do with food. I can say, "Everything is delicious!", "I am full now.", "Thank you for this very good meal." and can name about a dozen Chinese vegetables. I think that my favorite thing to eat here is tofu on a stick (doufu gar). They make it on barbeques all along the river, and it costs 5 jiao (about seven cents). However, all of this food is taking it's toll-- Pepto-Bismol is my new after-dinner mint.

It's strange being the only foreigners in this town. Everywhere we go turns into a parade, with people following us around and shouting "hello!" Two other volunteers and I went on an excursion with our host families. We went to a park with famous carvings everywhere and huge groups of people doing tai qi and Chinese folk dancing. All of a sudden, an older gentleman came running out of the crowd and dragged me into the middle of the park. It turns out that he learned how to tango years and years ago and had no one to practice with! An American would of course make the perfect dance partner! So all of a sudden, I'm tangoing around the park with this old gentlemen with his huge black glasses slipping down his face, with a crowd of a couple of hundred people staring at the waiguoren dancing in the park, and all I could think was, "I'm really in China. And I'm so glad to be here."

Chinese class has been great, although I come home exhausted every day. At lunchtime, there is a siesta, and I really look forward to it! After dinner, my host mother makes me review my lessons and she hammers at my speech until I can actually speak Chinese. Yesterday, I came home with the Sichuanese folk songs that we had learned in class, and the entire family immediately started singing them! Then we sang the songs together, and now they keep asking me to sing them!

I've got to go home now before it gets dark, but have a wonderful Fourth! I miss you folks! And I'll write personal e-mails tomorrow, I promise.

Miss you lots and lots.
Tang Mali

Monday, July 9, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: Chrysanthemums in the morning.

Life is still pretty great in China. It's hot as Hades, I drop into bed exhausted every night after six hours of language class, I've been sick for the last two weeks, but I love it here anyway. I love that whenever I leave the house, strangers invite me over for dinner to welcome the foreigner to town. I love that the town shuts down for three hours in the afternoon so everyone can take a nap. I love the view of the river from the little restaurant on the corner, and I love watching giant groups of people huddled around a mah jongg game. I love that I never have any idea what's going on, and I really love that I never know what's going to happen next!

For example, the other day, I went home for lunch. That morning Qin Xiaonu, my host mother has mentioned that a few people would come out to lunch with us at a restaurant. When I got home, it turned out that English teachers that lived hours away had travelled to Deyang to talk with a native English speaker! So, we went and had a banquet at this super-fancy restaurant, me and twenty people who had travelled to Deyang to meet an American. So I told them about American history, different cities and popular sports. I praised all of the food in Mandarin, and talked in terrible French (the last time I took French was in the eighth grade, and I wasn't the best student) to the one French teacher in the mix. I sang a Sichuanese folk song for them and ate an unbelievable amount of food.

Something is always happening in China.

Last week (or was it two weeks ago, I've forgotten), I went into downtown Chengdu with a group of friends. It was a rather eventful trip-- when we finally found a taxi that would take five people, it promptly ran into another taxi, so we had to get out and walk. We walked for about an hour, and finally we reached our destination, The Highfly Cafe. Walking in, I ran into two friends from Boston! Katie and Punzak had just gotten married the week before, and were travelling to Tibet for a wedding ceremony with Punzak's family. There are coincidences, and there are occurences and meetings which are meant to be.

I'd better go home now, it is nearly time for lunch. Qin Xiounu has been trying a series of remedies for my finicky stomach. This morning's chrysanthemum and hawberry tea was the best so far. Yesterday's Muslim bagels that another volunteer brought from Kunming (a mere twelve-hour trip by train) helped, too.

Be happy, I miss you folks!


Thursday, July 19, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: Hot time, summer in Deyang.

Hello Folks at Home!

As it gets hotter each day that I'm in Deyang, I love it a little more. I am starting to know people on the street, to understand a few more Chinese words each day, to know the intricacies of these streets. It feels really nice. My host family is wonderful. Qin Xiaonu has taught me how to bargain at the vegetable market, where to buy the freshest soy milk (they grind it on the spot!), and today, we even had a dumpling seminar! So when I get home, I'll make you all vegetarian jiaozi. Delicious!

Of course, there are so many times when I miss home like crazy. On Sunday, I was at the school writing lesson plans, and we had coffee. Coffee here is a big deal. It is very difficult to find. So we had Nescafe instant coffee, and some nasty chemical non-dairy creamer, and I was mixing them together in a dainty little teacup and shaking it up and down to try to get the effect of one of those foamy coffee beverages. And when I shut my eyes and smelled the coffee, it was almost like I was at Diesel! And suddenly, I pictured all of you at home. Since we're twelve hours ahead, it was Saturday night in America. I pictured you all spread across the United States, in Boston pubs, at the Casa de Haha in Pennsylvania, wandering the beaches in California. And I missed you all very much.

We have started teaching, and I really like it! There are many difficulties (no textbooks, forty kids jam-packed into a sweltering classroom, rationed chalk, no photocopier), but the kids are enthusiastic and smart, and that makes everything fine and exciting. We've been learning about air pollution and environmental activists. They got into it when I pretending to be Johnny Appleseed marching around the classroom strewing seeds. Next week, we're writing letters to Dubya about how the Chinese and American governments should work together to help the environment.

Speaking of which, I'd better go and prepare for tomorrow's lesson. We're playing environmental Jeopardy!

Hey, my mom was so kind as to fix up my website!
Check it out: http://www.ethomsen.com/meginchina/. You can find my mailing address, and information about China there. As I start to get back photos, they'll be posted there too!

By the way, here's an interesting little fact about my Chinese name. My Chinese professor told me that it means "beautiful as jade". However, I have since learned that it really means "beautiful horse." Oh well...

Your lovely little pony,
Tang Mali

Wednesday, August 1, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: You are a hottie.

Hello Folks!

Deyang is still beautiful, China is still hot as all get-out, and I'm really enjoying life here. I'm starting to get used to Deyang, and Deyang is starting to get used to me. When I walk down the street, the stares and whispers of "laowai (foreigner)" have turned to "Ni hao, Tang Mali!" It's a really nice feeling.

Word travels fast in Deyang. Yesterday, three of us took a taxi home, and the taxi driver gave us the wrong change. So I was arguing with the driver to get the right change, and finally got it. My host mom came home about 10 minutes later and said, "Mali, did you just ride home in a taxi, and get the wrong change?" I said, "Yes, how did you know?" It turns out that she was riding home in a taxi and the taxi drivers were all on the radio talking about it. So Qin Xiaonu takes the radio away from the driver and started talking to them about it! My goodness...

Weipo, my new Chinese grandmother and Dong Shuang, a new cousin, have come to stay. It's nice having the house filled with laughter. I got to bed a little earlier than they, and I love falling asleep on my bamboo mat to all of the sounds- laughter and the pouring rain that makes the city green for the morning. It's a nice way to fall asleep.

Teaching is going well. Each day, I am astounded at my students. I taught them about land use and gave them a fictional pond. Then I divided them into four groups: cement factory owners, tiger preserve advocates, peasants and homeowners and made them decide how to use the land for everyone with little environmental impact. Their ideas were great. There's nothing that makes me feel better about the future of the environment than teaching.

They're all interested in learning English, and get a big kick out of learning slang. I taught several kids, "You are a player," and "You go, girl". I even taught my host mom to say, "You are a hottie" and now she says it to Brian, the only male trainee, all the time!

Hope all is well with you. I love hearing all of your news. Since I've been gone, people have come from the past, fallen in love, conceived babies, given birth, acquired dogs... It makes me sad that I'm not there with you, but happy that I can share in your life at least in a small way.

Miss you all, and hope that all is well.

Love, Meg

PS I went on a Chinese roller coaster recently called the "Crazy Mouse". If you ever get the chance, don't ever ride one. It's not a good idea!

Wednesday, August 8, 2001

From: Meg Thomsen meginchina@yahoo.com
Subject: Blue Sky Ahead

Hello to the Best People on Earth!

Hope that all is well at home. Life is good in China, and it's been a week chock-full of adventure. We finished teaching model school last Friday, and I felt a little sad that it was over! I feel good, though. My students will see me on the street and say things like "That man is smoking a non-point source of air pollution." I taught them how to sing "Country Roads", and now whenever I come home, I hear my host sister singing it in her sweet tinny voice "Country roads, take me home to the place I belong." If only John Denver knew of his new fan base in Sichuan!

Last weekend was the Big Test of our language skills. We had to form small groups and leave Deyang for the weekend, using our newly-acquired language skills to buy bus tickets and hotel rooms. Julie, Heidi and I went to Qingcheng Hou Shan, a Taoist mountain about three hours from here. We got off the bus, and it was raining like crazy, so when we saw a cable car going halfway up the mountain, we were pretty happy, because all of our bags were completely soaked by this time. Well, in the line, we were helped by a "friendly stranger" who then leaped onto the cable car with us. Turns out that she owns a hotel halfway up the mountain, and wanted to take us there. I use the term "hotel" loosely. We ended up naming it The Cesuo Hotel, because of its pervasive cesuo (bathroom) odor.

Our room had two broken windows and no lock on the door, and cost 60 kwai (about $7.50) for a three-person room. We decided to get on out of there, and hike to the top of the mountain. We ran into two friends on the mountain, Matt and David, and also made friends with a very nice Chinese family on the trail. It was still raining, and the trail was muddy and slippery, but after a few hours, the sun began to shine, and the nine of us trudged to the top to find the most beautiful temple you can imagine! The rain, the long bus trip there, and the Cesuo Hotel all faded into the distance as the blue sky and temple came into view. There were monks gliding through in their colorful robes, and Taoist scholars in black robes noiselessly turning as bells chimed. We had a delicious meal of potatoes, rice and tea at the summit, and ran back down to the Cesuo Hotel smiling.

All right, so by the time we hiked down if was dark and completely scary (a kind stranger eventually ended up taking pity on us and leading us down with his flashlight), and the Cesuo Hotel was full of drunk people playing mahjongg, so we pushed a table in front of the door and slept holding our knives and wallets. But all of these things were nothing compared to the beauty and purity of that temple.

I hope that all is well with you, my favorite people. It's been great receiving your e-mails (although currently, we're not getting a lot postal mail. Maybe the guy who reads English at the post office is sick? Maybe no one's writing to us? Maybe the Peace Corps staff is getting a vicarious thrill from wearing my Birkenstocks around that my mother sent me a month ago? Who knows? That's what I say about almost everything in China. Who knows?)

We will find out in two weeks where we'll be teaching!

Love, Meg

Meg's Mom's Related Links:
# In a Gorge at Qingcheng Shan -- Here's a beautiful photograph by Frank K. Pettit
# The Birthplace of Chinese Taoism--Mt.Qingcheng -- Here's more on the mountain and temple from the China Vista website.

Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - China; PCVs in the Field - China



Add a Message

This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.