VTC2018 Journals – Steven Chen



Sunday Mar. 18. 5:40 PM Vancouver Time.

I dislike this flight. We’re only four hours in and already writing journals. That’s an easy way to tell if someone is bored. “Day 1” started out alright, though logistical issues have ought to ensue with a group this large. Sorting out plane seats alone took three attendants and a good twenty-thirty minutes and checking in slightly longer than that. I’ll probably continue the entry in Yuncheng, 10 more hours away by plane.


Mon March 20, 12:45 AM Shanxi Local Time

Too long after that, roughly 12 hours, we arrived at a place called the Dragon Gate hotel. Seemed old, but the rooms reeked of cigarette smoke, silverfish were present in the bathrooms, etc. Time to wake early tomorrow, so I guess I’ll leave it at that. Gotta make tomorrow’s journal neater.


Journal II. 20th. 4 PM Local Time. Mingxing School, Shanxi.

After a night at the hotel [rooming with Kevin], made it to the schoolhouse. Didn’t teach today, so explored the grounds and saw peach blossoms. The mountainside is dry and dusty, with terraced-type layers separated by severely angled slopes. We will sleep in caves cut into the sides of the mountain, very novel for me.


Journal II, 21st, 5PM Local Time

I should probably elaborate on where I’m writing this from-outside our cave is a dump, with everything from a tanker truck to beer bottles. There are three clean concrete slabs overlooking the environment, upon which we write, sketch and play music on. Taught 9th and 7th grades. Classes went smoothly enough; have to bring them a game tomorrow. Students here are ridiculous- disciplined as all hell, but the minute you go slightly lax all hell breaks loose. Apparently Emily’s class didn’t go very well. Lack of authority?


Footnote- Why is it 1. So cold and 2. The food- why is it so spicy?!


Journal IV. 22nd, 7PM Local TIme.

Not too much to note, the night sky is clear and we saw both dippers and Orion. Which shoulder is Betelgeuse on? Note to Self- should begin studying Euro soon….


Journal V. 23nd, 5PM local time.

Today Harvey spilled yogurt- brown, bagged, unrefrigerated yogurt over Henry’s sleeping bag, the wall, and everything in a meter radius. Took a decent hour to clean up. Taught 9s w/Serena and my own 7s today. Henry thinks we should go rat hunting at night, after one ran over him last night. I’m wondering if the curved metal rod used for the heated bed is enough to catch and kill a rat. Hopefully it is, and hopefully we get one. Class liked to play games, but a little too hyper. Energy level issues. As well, their competitive drive outstrips my energy…


Journal VI, 24th, sometime close to noon, after eating.


Went exploring outside classes today, and found a small village and lots of farmland. Fauna includes rats, varied butterflies [notably tortoiseshells]. Flora included some ridiculously spiky plant that could grow into trees. Natives of the region use it as pseudo-barbed wire around their crops. Class went fairly well.


Journal VII, 25th. Speeches are killing me. I had to draft Emily’s, a massive extended metaphor [it didn’t end up seeing use, thank God]. The other guys take communal shits every night. Orion is really bright, isn’t Betelgeuse in the right shoulder? It seems brighter.

My class likes my drawings. Certain people think I should become an artist. Personally I disagree.


Day VIII, 26th. My sketchbook got pillaged by students. Well, I can’t mind, they’re all looking for a piece of me to keep. I doubt any person doesn’t at least feel some sense of remorse for leaving the mountains, but then and again it’s so much easier to live in comparative luxury, despite the feelings that hit when leaving. Finally, showers, baths, non-spicy food, proper toilets, and plentiful water.


[I wrote this below in Beijing, later]


We went for KTV and Hot Pot. I took six shots and two cups of beer and heard Henry chant Communist songs. Later I’d get sick, hungover, and car/airsick and regret the drinking. Anyways, staying sober from here on out for the next few years of life doesn’t sound too bad.


Day IX. 27th. I wrote this on the 29th because I was both sick and hungover on the day. Anyways, flew back to Beijing. HuGuoSi hotel is so much nicer than the smoke-smelling one in Shanxi, and I can’t compare it at all to living on the mountains. Feels like a luxurious life; perhaps the mountains affected me more than I thought. Not too much to note I guess.



Day 11. 29th.  Didn’t follow the group, instead went to see my grandma after practice. Went and just stayed home and walked around parts of the city I’ve been to before. Feels nostalgic, being back but being changed as a person. And as a person who draws things, I really think I should have tried sketching parts of the city-Beijing is a mix of the most interesting ancient, super-modern and Communist-era architecture that exists. As well, went to a show- quite something. Sad but highly Nationalist story. Emotional impact would’ve been better if the characters weren’t stock and highly patriotic.


30th. Day 12.

Performed at a Chinese nursing home. Quite an interesting experience, I must say. Different from the nursing homes in Canada that we see at Vanstring. For one, far more people. Not too much to note, except that after the performance we went to eat open-air hot pot. Found out Raymond is addicted to [eating] mushrooms. Surprised me a little, our first violinist and near-perfect human had such a hobby.


31st. Gala concert, full of glamour, six hundred plus people or so. Didn’t mess up! All is good!

I had to bring some 50 printed books back though. Awkward packing.

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