Personal Experience in Chengdu - Evolving with Chengdu

Authors: Katherine Kocen, student at Southwest Minzu University

2019-03-16

I’m extremely grateful that I have been able to visit the city of Chengdu multiple times and I look forward to many more visits in the future.
My experience in Chengdu is twofold, since I had my first experience in the city when I visited it in 2015 and now my second visit this year in 2019. So much has changed with the development of the city and feeling of the environment in Chengdu. I feel that the city has become even more welcoming and open to foreigners. I have had different experiences each time in Chengdu, where I did research and taught English my first time and now as a student taking classes at Southwest Minzu University.
During my first trip to Chengdu I conducted research and taught English to students at a nonprofit organization, where I was able to gain knowledge about the city and the culture. It was great to be able to visit different areas of the city, including the Global Center, Wide and Narrow Alleys, Jinli Street and a few other well-known places in the city. This year I have gone back to these areas and practiced my limited knowledge of the Chinese language to purchase street foods and souvenirs. Specifically, at Jinli during the Chinese New Year, I purchased some intricate paper cuts of my zodiac sign and I was able to use Chinese and some English with the vendor to complete the transaction. I have found that most vendors are willing to slow down and work with foreigners so that things are understood and it provides a great feeling of success when I can get the items I wanted.
An additional experience that I have had during each of my visits to Chengdu is enjoying hot pot with friends. While I was teaching at the nonprofit school I went out for hot pot with the other foreign and Chinese volunteers at the school. They were able to introduce me to hot pot in general and even better the hot pot in Chengdu. It was a great time picking out the foods to put in the broth to cook and try some more exotic foods that I would not normally eat in the United States. It was a great bonding experience to chat, in addition to trying to improve my chopstick skills to be able to grab things from the pot. At this hot pot restaurant, we decided to have a split pot with one side being a non-spicy broth and the other Sichuan spice broth and it was a fun time trying foods from the Sichuan spice side, which was super spicy to me but had really good flavor. This time around I have had more time to work my way up with the amount of spicy foods that I can handle, so when I went out for hot pot with friends I was able to enjoy the Sichuan spice hot pot. Although I really enjoyed the flavors, my face still turned red and my insides felt like they were burning on fire. It was such a great environment and good time spent with friends.
As a foreigner I have had great experiences with the people in Chengdu, with them asking me questions about the United States and wanting to take photos with my friends and I. In 2014, while exploring Chengdu with my research partners, we talked with many people who wanted to practice their English with us and we were able to try out a few phrases in Chinese with them too. Additionally, we took many photos with locals and kids who wanted to converse with Americans and make new friends. The locals in Chengdu have been welcoming and accepting of me, and even a bit impressed when I can use Chinese to communicate with them.
I have visited a few other cities in China, but none comparable to the amazing atmosphere and delicious cuisine found in Chengdu. I'm extremely grateful that I have been able to visit the city of Chengdu multiple times and I look forward to many more visits in the future.
Hot pot in Chengdu.
Some of the student I taught when I was in Chengdu in 2015
Me teaching during my time in Chengdu in 2015
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