Week Ten. Has it been ten weeks already? Half way there….
Friday April 18
Wow, what a full day! Lucy, Cate and Katie all were up early. We may have figured out what all the marching and chanting we have been hearing every night is all about: today there are no classes at Renmin because there is a big sporting event, some sort of track and field competition. We watch from our window as the various teams, chanting and carrying banners, march onto the field. Maybe, maybe, we’ll get some peace and quiet at night now that the Renmin Games are over??!! We hit the road a little after 9. To the bank, and then a cab into the central city. I drop Lucy and the girls at the
My two errands, both within a mile or two of the
From there we walk to the
We descend the 100 steps, and find a cab to take us in very stalled traffic, about one mile in about 1 hour. We are going to dinner with Martha G’s friend Elizabeth, who lives in
Saturday April 19
We take a taxi into the city and head for Houhai, the back lakes area, where the guide book says there is a traditional two courtyard Chinese home of a renowned author Guo Morou open for viewing. We get stuck in traffic, but when we are near we decide to walk to find it. We go into the maze of the hutong, much of it under construction and renovation, and find our destination by following the hordes of pedicabs to the place. The house itself is not inundated with tourists, just the street outside. Guo was known for studying paleography, which I take to mean the study of ancient Chinese writing found on bones, known now as oracle bones (ala Peter Hessler’s book title). The house was simple and the garden courtyards full of peonies in bloom. The peonies here are more like bushes with sturdier stems than the peonies in my yard, but the blooms are the same. Guo was apparently a big shot, lots of pictures of him with Mao and Zhou Enlai.
We walk from there to lunch, Katie is dragging and bored. But we find a little pizza place tucked in the back of a hutong alley and she is revived. The pizza was delicious! From there we take a cab to the city planning museum, much further by cab than it appears on the map, and the taxi driver has no idea where the place is, but I am very proud that I can direct him with my limited vocabulary and we arrive safely. The planning museum I’ve described in an earlier blog entry, but it contains a huge model of the city of
From there we head to Liulicheng the antique shopping area and we return to my favorite tea shop. The owners daughter, a precious two year old, captures my attention. She had the sweetest little voice, parroting everything I would say in English. We had some nice tea made from lychee fruit and bought some, plus a poster of teapots. Lucy got a very nice peach shaped tea pot as well. The girls both got ceramic dogs. Everyone was pleased with their purchases.
Next, we head to the area where the acrobatic theater is located. When we get out a cab, there is a sign on the south side of the street “ticket office”, but somehow, something on the north side of the street looks familiar. A man approaches us, trying to unload some tickets for half price, but he smells of alcohol and I am leery. We go into the ticket office, and ask if the tickets I called ahead for are there. The girl speaks no English, and I am about to purchase tickets, but she indicates it is for a 7;30 show and I was told on the phone yesterday that the show was at 7. So we venture outside and across the street and find the right ticket office for the acrobats. Lucky we didn’t get tickets from whatever-the-heck was playing across the street. The nice man at the acrobat ticket office directs us to an area where we can find a restaurant and we go into a storefront advertising “English language menu and service”. (We learn later the name of the place was “John’s”. We order a few items, all of which are yummy and head back to see the acrobats. Another incredible display of the bizarre abilities of the human body. This show was particularly splendorific thanks to the addition of a troupe of young boys, maybe 6,7,8, years old, doing incredible tumbling, flips and climbing up wooden poles and leaping between them. One little guy, who couldn’t have been more than 4, stole the show and was beaming at the end as we applauded.
The girls fall asleep in the taxi enroute home. Its been a long day. So I convince the cabbie to go in the North Gate, and we are permitted to do it in a taxi! Direct to our front door.
I check my email when I get home, and the Chinese reporter who had agreed to speak to my students is canceling. He says is wife is concerned that he will be targeted and harassed if he speaks.
We learn later, that the French embassy was besieged by protestors and dozens of armed Chinese soldiers were posted outside for added security. In the central Chinese city of
And there have been more arrests in one Tibetan area after apparent/alleged/reported rioting there. Hard to know what is really going on since no objective observer is allowed to get to the affected areas.
Sunday April 20
Up verrrry early for a trip to the Great Wall. Lucy has arranged for a van, which holds six, so we invite Eve and Stefanie to join us. It is gloomy in
The two little girls run way ahead of us and head for the highest point. I am winded but keep on trudging, stopping at every guard tower to get out of the rain for a few minutes.
The peach and plum trees are in full bloom, lovely pink and white blossoms dot the mountainside. Despite the weather, it is a lovely scene. After the highest turret, we see in the distance, two little girls way ahead of us. I am exhausted from climbing but start running trying to get within earshot of Katie and Cate. Fortunately, they are not as far ahead as I feared, and we call for them to come back to where there is an enclosed gondola that we take down the mountain.
We are all pretty wet and cold but manage to find time to buy two “I climbed the Great Wall” sweatshirts for Katie and Cate before heading to the van. The driver cranks up the heat and we begin to dry out.
We decide to try to find this contemporary art area called Factory 798. We get a little lost but find it. It is not one huge enclosed gallery as I had thought, but rather dozens of old munitions factories that have been converted to galleries. The rain is coming down fast and furious and no one is thrilled with the idea of running around in the mud. We eat at a storefront restaurant. Eve orders really spicy chicken, full of red peppers, a vegetable curry, noodles, dumplings, a green sautéed spinachy thing, and this wild fried egg in sugar that tastes like candy. More food than any of us can finish. We then drive through the 798 area and stop at one gallery and poke our head into a tiny shop across from it. There’s some very provocative art, including one of the Statue of Liberty wearing a dress with pink laughing clown masks, looking on as the World Trade center burns and collapses. At the shop across the street, Lucy and I each buy a poster of Colonel Sanders and Ronald MacDonald standing over a famous Mao revolutionary saying. What would Mao say now!?
From there we head home, stopping briefly at the Olympic village, but too rainy to walk around. We all are eager to get home, dry off, and rest. And rest we did. I slept for two hours, and then had to wake Lucy up at , while the girls watched two movies on the portable
Lazy Day. Katie is off the school and Lucy and Cate are heading into the city with a tour guide, who unfortunately for them, is stuck in rainy traffic and does not get to Renmin until to pick them up. They head to
Lucy and Cate return from shopping and sightseeing. The rain has finally stopped and we walk up to the Qing Dynasty restaurant up the street and have a lovely, festive meal, served by the same sweet English speaking waitress we had when we went with Hope and Lily. She also allows us to go sit in on a
Tuesday. blue sky and very windy. The rain really cleaned things up!
Lucy and Cate are gone before I wake up. Katie heads off to school and Stefanie joins her as part of the photo documentary she is producing on Katie. I get a call from Mrs. Liu that the workmen will be here at to fix the leaky windows. They arrive and I move all the furniture out of the porch. One guy (who has responded to all my toilet emergencies) ties a belt onto his co-worker and the co-worker steps up onto my narrow (non-existent?) windowsill and hovers over the 17-story drop, while he shoves caulking or some sort of white goo into the cracks outside the window. They do the same outside the other windows. We’ll see if that solves the problem. The rain has gone and it is a gloriously sunny, bright, clean and windy day. Feels like autumn. For the first time, I see real clouds, not smog and haze, in an otherwise blue sky.
I leave at 10 to give a guest lecture in Judy’s history of journalism class. The students are primed with good questions about why western media is biased, why don’t we report that the Dalai lama is a liar, why doesn’t Jack Cafferty get fired from CNN, etc. etc. I do my best to defend my profession, to encourage them to read multiple sources over time, and to tone down the rhetoric. I discuss the
I then head to my office and get ready for my class. They are unusually quiet today, and when I tell them the VOA guest has cancelled because of fear of harassment, they laugh. I ask them why they are laughing, and they say he is silly to be afraid. But I say my western journalist colleagues aren’t laughing at all the harassment they’ve been receiving and this Duke student’s parents apparently had to flee their home in Tsingtao because they were so afraid….I don’t see what is funny. But I keep getting nervous laughter….strange. I brought a few more photos for Eve of Yiyang and as she is transferring them to her portable drive, all the girls hover around and look at family photos of Rory and Jeremy and start chattering in Chinese at how handsome my sons are. I agree!
I spend the afternoon reading “Now They Tell Us”, a pretty scathing indictment of journalism pre-Iraq war….my profession is far from perfect, but it is still not the demon the Chinese media has made us out to be.
Tonight I cut about five inches off Katie’s hair….would love to cut even more. She has a big sports competition all day at school tomorrow and unfortunately I can’t go. Thursday is her exhibition on endangered animals in
Wednesday – gorgeous, cool, blue sky.
I head into my office and look through some DVDs that I brought showing some good professional and student examples. On one
We leave lunch and I once again get nearly mowed down by a car. I explain to Jessie that traffic rules are an apt metaphor for the differences between
In class, I plan to play some of George Clooney’s Goodnight and Good Luck, but the projector does not work. While we wait for the technician, I ask the class about the Carrefours boycott and demonstrations outside the French embassy. And for the first time this semester, all the previously mute students speak up. And their English is flawless!! Why have they been so quiet? We abandon the film and keep discussing Jack Cafferty, CNN, and all the so-called “western media bias” coverage. One very earnest girl, who somehow reminds me a Catholic nun relative of my mother’s, says she is praying for
Cate and Lucy return after a nice visit to Xian.
Spend the morning with Cate and Lucy at the
At Katie arrives home from school (with Stefanie in tow again) and Stephen has still not made it from the airport, so we decide to walk out the west gate and wait for him. And in the distance we see him dragging his suitcases. Katie makes a dash and Stefanie hopefully gets some nice shots of their reunion. Great to see him!
After he settles in, he and Katie go out for a walk while I make dinner.
After dinner they go for another walk to the grocery store. Stephen is trying to stay awake for as long as he can. By he and Katie are both out for the night. I read Jonathan Franzen’s article in the New Yorker about birding in