By Jonathan Hwang
Amari Montin is currently an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the US. She is studying Chinese at Peking University this year and is serving as a volunteer during the Olympics. Jonathan Hwang interviewed her for china.org.cn on June 3.
China.org.cn: Could you tell us where you're from and what your hometown is like?
Amari Montin: I am from Southern California, Whittier, California. It's very nice. It has suburbs and you do not get run over in the street.
China.org.cn: What's the biggest difference between your hometown and Beijing?
Amari Montin: All of the Chinese people...All the people.
China.org.cn: How's your study abroad experience in China?
Amari Montin: It's really good to be here instead of in California because even if I don't sometimes study that diligently here but it's good that I'm forced to speak Chinese even if I'm lazy. And the fact that the teacher speaks Chinese in class.
China.org.cn: What was your main reason for coming to China?
Amari Montin: I wanted to come ever since I was a kid but I found the right opportunity in college.
China.org.cn: What's been your most memorable or craziest moment in China?
Amari Montin: Well, can I say two things? Well, the first was going to a church in Inner Mongolia in the middle of winter, and I got to meet a bunch of people, even though I didn't understand what they were saying, we got to sing in Chinese. We went to the real nong cun (rural area), and I went with a grandma to the restroom, and we were walking through a maze with this pump flashlight, it was 20 below zero, and we finally get to the bathroom, and we get there it was pretty bad, and through the hole you could see outside, and I was like, could you guys dig a proper hole? And the grandma was pumping the flashlight, saying, "don't fall, don't slip, ok, go". So, I'm just with this old lady in Inner Mongolia and I gotta take a piss in front of her. It was a really crazy experience.
China.org.cn: How's being a volunteer in the Olympics? Was it what you thought it would be?
Amari Montin: I got to do a lot of cool things, like meet the President of China. I shook his hands twice. That was pretty cool. Yeah and when I went to the Pei Xun Ban (training course), we got to meet people from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, Tibet and Heilongjiang. They were so nice, mostly students, and they were all really cool, just come up to us and strike up a conversation. They would be like, "You could speak Chinese?!" And I would say, well the whole thing is in Chinese, you kind of have to. We're mostly spectator services. We went to a trial game, fast walking, at the Bird's Nest. And we got a feel for what it would be like, but it was just a bunch of old Beijingers. We weren't really useful. Yeah, just spectator services. Just helping out.
China.org.cn: So you're not sure what events you're doing yet?
Amari Montin: The Olympic Green North Cluster, whatever that is.
China.org.cn: Are you pretty excited about what's coming up?
Amari Montin: I am so excited I can hardly contain myself. This is the best experience anyone can ever have.
China.org.cn: What's been your greatest difficulty during your time here?
Amari Montin: When I walk down the street in the States, no one stares at you. But here, everyone stares at you. There are foreigners here all the time but no one really gets used to it. It gets on my nerves sometimes.
China.org.cn: What was one perception of China or Chinese people that you had that has changed?
Amari Montin: I kind of idealized people in China. Ever since I was a kid I loved Chinese culture. I know that Chinese people wear western clothes and not everyone sings opera. I'm not retarded. I used to think, oh, there's so many problems in our country [the US] and I just want to come to China. But then I come here, and I realize that everyone has their own problems. The [problems] are just different. The way people act is just different. There are some things that I like about how Americans handle things and some things I don't like about how Chinese people handle things. But I really do think that coming here is the gift that keeps on giving. It's a real eye opener and it gives me more perspective.
China.org.cn: Has it made you appreciate things back at home more?
Amari Montin: Yeah. I'm not going to say, "I'm proud to be an American." Because that's stupid. But I'm really thankful I was born in the US.
China.org.cn: What do you have in mind for the future? Is China in your plans? Would you consider coming back?
Amari Montin: Oh yeah, well, since I'm a film major, I think it would be fun to make a film in China.
(China.org.cn June 6, 2008)