Different and Unpredictable

Now that a few weeks have passed, I am starting to get more comfortable with my role in the hotel. Typical for China and for a hotel, every day is different and there really is no schedule or far-advance planning. Usually, my boss will tell me about meetings a couple of hours before they start. This is very unlike my rigid schedule at school and the way that I normally like to organize my life, but I am learning to enjoy the flexibility.

My boss just let me know that I am going to be accompanying her on a business trip to Lijiang and Luguhu (a 2 hour and 6 hour drive away, respectively), to research new potential sites for the hotel. I am excited to see more of China, and to help influence an important expansion decision like this!

The new intern, Xiao Kun, arrived this week. He is a rising junior at the Cornell Hospitality school. He is from China, so he speaks Chinese more fluently than English. I think he is having a faster time adjusting to the staff because there is no language barrier. I speak in Chinglish with my coworkers, but a different kind of Chinglish. Usually, Chinglish is a mixture of Chinese and English words, smushed together with a mixture of English and Chinese grammar rules. Here, my conversations alternate in Chinese and English sentences. Even in a short conversation, my coworkers and I will both alternate between Chinese and English sentences. With my boss, I usually speak English, but with the Linden Centre tour guides (in the activities department), I speak mostly Chinese because they seem less comfortable speaking English.

Despite the language barrier, I have been getting along really well with my colleagues and I enjoy spending time with them outside of work as well. Last week we went to hot pot and karaoke (my first time in China!) in the city, and we are planning a movie night with snacks at someone’s house soon.

In terms of work, I have been doing a lot of design + translation/writing to promote the 3 summer camps coming up. The summer camps are all collaborations between local schools and the Linden Centre, and are targeting a Chinese and international market. The Chinese schools are doing the bulk of the organizing, but it means that all the promotional material produced so far is in Chinese. I translated (with the heavy and careful use of my dictionary) all the details about the summer camps into English and have designed posters and informational email PDFs for all three summer camps. The translation took a particularly long time because I realized our international audience has different interests. I made sure to put more emphasis on how students will be immersed in local culture and language. We’re also going to try to add a webpage that promotes the summer camps, so I designed a mockup for that to send to the IT team.

One of the most unexpected jobs I have had this summer is recipe testing. When I casually mentioned that I love baking to Brian Linden, he immediately exclaimed that they were looking for recipes to add to the bakery they want to start. Fast forward a couple weeks, and I have been spending most afternoons in the kitchen by myself, testing different recipes I have found. It is a double challenge because Xizhou is at a very high altitude, and I have limited Western-quality baking ingredients. A Chinese kitchen has very coarse sugar, for example, instead of the finer granulated sugar I am used to. Despite the challenge, I have been having so much fun and have been trying to come up with my own recipes, inspired by local ingredients. My most recent successful recipe is a pepper-sesame shortbread which is so good that I can’t wait to make it again at home for my family. It has very interesting and complex flavors. Baking has also become a great way to talk to more of the staff; no one can say no to trying cookies!

Every day here so far has been different and unpredictable, but I am loving every minute.

Leah Sprague                                                                                                                                               The Linden Centre, China

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