That Time My Chinese Host Family Came to Visit Me in Colorado
I apologize for the length of this story but felt it was necessary to preface the deep connection I have with my host family before telling you about our most recent visit together here in Colorado to see me.
Meeting my Host Family – July 2014
I met my host family in China when I was training to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. I remember the very first day I met my host family. And I remember how tired and homesick I was feeling. I was at the New Parade Training Center in Chengdu, and our host families were lined up waiting to discover which volunteer they would be welcoming into their home.
I remember getting a piece of paper with my host family’s names on it and a fellow PCV of mine asked what my family was like. I showed him the paper, he read through it, and he said, “Wow, you’re living with your sister and she lives separately from her parents. That’s not usual in Chinese culture.” At the time I didn’t know why that was unusual. But my host family was not usual.
When they called my name, a slight woman in cut off shorts and a loose black shirt, named Soe, was named my host sister. She had soft black hair and glasses. Soe is a talented woman, brave, strong, cultured, and intelligent. She can speak English and Korean in addition to Mandarin and Sichuan dialect.
The first day I met her, she helped me carry my three huge suitcases up 6 flights of stairs. I felt so bad for making her do that. Shortly after that, we drove my host parents house to meet and have dinner. They instructed me to called them Mama and Baba rather than Aunt and Uncle.
I couldn’t understand anything they were saying, but they were so overjoyed upon our first meeting.
Living with My Host Family – August thru September 2014
I lived with my host family for 10 weeks as I went through training to be a Peace Corps Volunteer. Every morning, I woke up and had breakfast with my host sister. We would boil milk and eggs, sit down together and eat steamed buns and fruit along with them.
Soe would leave me notes everywhere and they were always sweet and well written. And every day, I would go to school and Soe would go to work. At the end of the day, we would both find our way to Mama and Baba to have dinner together.
I would struggle to understand, I would sit with Baba and watch TV after dinner. Some nights, when Soe couldn’t come to dinner and when it was time to go home, I would walk to the bus station with Mama and Baba. Baba would be humming something or singing aloud because he truly loved it, and Mama would practice counting to 100 with me in Chinese.
They gave me their surname and a new Chinese name that represented me and my character. Them giving me their surname was a great symbol of our connection to each other.
There were many days, the language barrier was frustrating. But it didn’t stop us from building a bond. I remember Baba saying to me, “I wish you could speak better so we could talk more.” And I remember thinking how badly I wished that too. After ten weeks, we parted ways at the swearing-in ceremony and tears were abundant. I remember feeling like I was leaving a piece of my heart behind.
My Host Family Visits Colorado – October 2018
I left home for America, not knowing it would be more than 2 years before I saw my host family again.
But to my surprise, they had been planning a lengthy trip to the states for several months with every intention of visiting Colorado to see me.
They arrived in the middle of October on a Tuesday. I arrived early at Denver International Airport to make sure I could receive them. I waited for forty minutes at the fence where all people dispersed from their travels.
After some time, my Baba was the first to round the corner and rush towards me with a huge smile on his face and eagerness to get within arms distance of me. I hugged him tight and told him I missed him. I asked where Mama was and she wasn’t far behind in his wake. She hurried to me and hugged me and it wasn’t long before the tears of joy came to my eyes.
After that, everything else about Colorado became a journey. From renting a car to staying in the Airbnb, to 3.5-hour photo shoots in the mountains, to many delicious homemade meals I have missed for years.
Renting a Car for Your Host Family
We rented a car from Advantage Car Rental and let me tell you, they were ABSOLUTE lifesavers. We had the sweetest guy name Lorenzo take care of us and get us just exactly what we need to help seven people get around Colorado.
They were incredibly patient and loved the story of how we met. I will go back to them again just for their kindness.
How to Accommodate a Cohort of Chinese Companions in Colorado
The easiest way to make sure your Chinese traveling companions have the best lodging experience is to set them up in an Airbnb, I don’t recommend hotels for one reason – they can’t make you delicious food from China without a kitchen.
My sister and I put them up in an Airbnb in Colorado Springs which turned out to be the most perfect situation. Luckily, Colorado Springs has an Asian Pacific Market handy and full of some commonly used ingredients for some of the most delicious Chinese food.
Places to Take Your Chinese Family in Colorado
Chances are, they haven’t really heard much about Colorado. Much like we think of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing being China’s most notable places, it’s likely Chinese travelers are going to visit the standard, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas locations.
I loved having them in Colorado because it was a nice surprise for them. It’s likely that they have rarely seen mountains and wildlife in China, so Colorado is a state with plenty of excitement.
We had six days to see Colorado, which really means three if they are really into taking pictures.
For this trip, I took my family to four places that would be unforgettable in their minds. Pikes Peak Summit, Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, and Sangre de Cristo Mountains. All of these places have resources in Chinese except for RMNP.
Visiting Pikes Peak Summit and Garden of the Gods with your Host Family
I chose Pikes Peak as my first destination because we were staying in Colorado Springs, and it was a short drive from where we were staying.
Be mindful of your companion’s capabilities to climb to the top of the mountain. Tell them to bring snacks and enough water to make the journey. Altitude Sickness is a real thing and climbing the mountain as quickly as you are can cause nausea.
We, unfortunately, didn’t make it to the summit on account of my host mom’s stomach, but luckily Pikes Peak was dusted with snow making it a perfect destination for taking photos.
If you have the time after your Pikes Peak trip, you can take them on a quick drive through Garden of the Gods to see the sights. Make sure to stop at the balancing rock. If they’re feeling up for it, you can take them on anyone of the easy hikes in the area.
Seeing Rocky Mountain National Park
We left around 7 am from Colorado Springs to get to Rocky Mountain National Park by 9:30 am. I recommend going between September and October so you can increase your chances of seeing an elk. My family was particularly interested in seeing them.
Rocky Mountain National Park also has those gorgeous mountain views and clear skies you just won’t find anywhere in China.
Be prepared to spend a lot of time stopping your vehicle to take pictures because this will be a fun destination for them. A day pass is only $25 per car and allows you to go through the park barring there are no road closures on account of weather.
I highly suggest taking snacks and drinks and a proper lunch, because those photo shoots can take a really long time.
Taking a Drive to the Sangre de Cristos
I love the drive to the Sangre de Cristos and it has personal sentiments to me because I often take this drive with my Dad when I come home to visit. We depart from Canon City and make our way down toward Salida curling through the valleys alongside the Arkansas River.
We drive all the way up to Texas Creek and Barry’s Den at Texas Creek. Sometimes we’ll stop for breakfast and coffee, and other times we’ll turn at the cafe and make our way toward Westcliffe, Colorado where the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rest.
I liked this drive because it is seemingly boring to the average tourist until you emerge to see the snowy peaks of the Sangres. They are the backdrop of many lush green farmlands that are still present in October.
If you have time, stop in Westcliffe to take an easy hike toward the mountains, or continue you on back toward Florence, Colorado for the full loop
Visiting My American Parents
Our final stop was to visit my parents. Seeing my parents meet my Chinese parents for the first time was just adorable. They hugged each other like friends who hadn’t seen each other in a long while. They were all so excited to meet each other
My Chinese family completely took over the kitchen to prepare dinner for the evening, making a variety of dishes in addition to my mother’s meatloaf and baked potatoes. Nine of us sat around the table eating, speaking in multiple tongues, and enjoy the company.
My mother taught them how to properly smash a baked potato on the table to open it up, and of course, my Chinese parents and their friends followed suit.
Shortly after dinner, we hurried down to the Rialto Theater in Florence, Colorado to watch the Sons and Brother doing a wonderful performance. Country is a great genre of music to introduce your Chinese traveling companions to.
My Chinese family left to go back to China six days after arriving in Colorado. I was so incredibly sad to see them go, but we had an incredible time. We made food together, took pictures together, traveled around the state together, talked about the second moon Chinese scientists are creating.
If you like this post or need more ideas for taking your Chinese friends and host family around Colorado, leave a comment below! Or read my latest blog about my trip to Mesa Verde National Park.