Located just one hour from Shanghai, Hangzhou is most famous for its popular and extremely beautiful West Lake. It is here that Qing dynasty poets and emperors alike frequented its banks. More importantly, it was the destination of the weekly tour for the ‘Baobeis’ of the camp.
Hangzhou Baobei Nature Camp was a complete surprise to me. I had received next to no specific information regarding the nature camp, only to expect activities and lots of excitable children. What I experienced truly did not disappoint. We had pottery, archery, ATV, drama lessons, pool parties and various opening/ closing ceremonies, complete with fireworks and dance performances. It was our job, as the English speakers, to help the Baobeis learn key English words specific to each activity. It was also my plan to learn as much Chinese as possible from the children and staff at camp. Luckily, the seven-year olds were thrilled to listen to me attempting to speak to them with my limited vocabulary and were more than happy to speak extremely slowly in order to teach me new words.
Despite not having specific Chinese lessons from the camp, I was able to ask any child or staff member whenever I wished to understand anything in greater detail. From tricky grammatical rules to how best to ask someone what they want to drink. The month in China has been undoubtedly helpful for contextualising my existing knowledge of Chinese and also showing how hard I have to work in order to reach proficiency.
I was lucky enough to meet some truly wonderful people that had also applied for the camp through Gotoco, we have all had a brilliant experience and have stayed in contact after the camp.
The difficulty of exciting activities in China (mid July) was the 38 degree heat. We battled with uncomfortably hot children and language barriers and occasionally thought everyone would melt. However, we just about managed, with help from the pool, to keep everyone happy.
I have really appreciated my time in China and the opportunity the grant gave me. Meeting fantastic people, learning so much (including how best to avoid the chicken feet), and practising my Chinese, has been so valuable and am looking forward to returning next year for my year abroad.