Today on the shuttle ride I was thinking about it some more. Even though I've been living outside the US for nearly 9 months now, I've spoken (or listened to) English every single day. English is a must at work. And even on the weekends when I might be out in the city, I'm always with or among lao wai or a Chinese friend who speaks good English. And if I'm by myself, I'm listening to my iPod with English-language music. I come home and read English-language books or web sites. So I don't know what it's like to go completely without English.
Anyway it occurred to me that if I'd been able to go with my ayi, I would have gone like a week without speaking or listening to English once (besides the "OK!" and "Bye bye!" that everyone seems to know, and assuming I don't take my iPod). She doesn't speak or understand English, so it follows that her family in small-town Anhui wouldn't either, unless there maybe are younger children there, who stand a better chance of having been educated with English. Then I got excited at the thought of relying on my Chinese for so many days and getting to experience what we call the "real" China, i.e., China - (English + Western culture). Then I remembered I couldn't go. Dang.