The most glorious day since we’ve been here. I left the house in my fleece and parka and within five minutes was back, shedding the layers. Probably 65-70 degrees outside. Overnight everything bloomed. Pink and red tufts of perfectly formed buds cluster all the little trees outside. It is a holiday today, Tomb Sweeping Day, kind of like Memorial Day. (April 4th was the day of my father’s funeral so this feels appropriate somehow). The campus is quiet and everyone is moving at a more leisurely pace.
Katie did not have the holiday off and has gone to Exlila’s after school. I must go to the center of the city to retrieve her, so I head in around and spend the afternoon walking around Liuliucheng, the old-fashioned antique/arts shopping area. It is a lot more touristy than I remember, although there are some authentic art galleries; one had several artists at work doing calligraphy and painting. I ended up walking east into a hutong, extremely poor, and ended up at
I got Katie at Exlilia’s and went to TGIFriday’s for a burger. As we are leaving, an elderly man holding a baby approaches me. Initially, I think he is trying to hand me the baby. I don’t know what to do. My heart is pounding. He keeps pushing the baby toward me. This happened in
We took the subway about half way home and took a cab the rest of the way. I hope the subway out to our area opens soon. It would make life much simpler. Although, the trains are pretty packed and it is rare when you can find a seat. But tonight, a nice young man, seeing Katie under the weight of her giant school backpack, offered his seat to her. That was a first. All in all a good day!
Gray, gloomy, and sleepy. We did not leave the house. I wanted to go for a walk but Katie had no interest. Eve from Yiyang came over in the morning to go over her Thoreau speech and we had a nice chat about philosophy and poetry. She loves William Butler Yeats and recited Innisfree, a poem written about an island in a lake about a mile from where my grandmother Donohue was born in
I spent a lot of time messing with photo and audio software. Managed to make a quick slide show with audio I already had on itunes, but I cannot open software to allow me to import new audio to edit or mix. Need to figure this out. My tolerance for taking on new frustrations has definitely gotten more practice here!
I cook up some rice and veggie stir fry and have a quiet evening at home.
We ended up watching a movie, a
Katie’s school is having a picnic and soccer game at a park on the far eastern side of town. The weather is gloomy, but I did not see any word of cancellation on line, so we get in a cab with directions in Chinese that I badgered Katie’s teacher to send us. The taxi driver takes us to a Holiday Inn, not the park. So much for advance planning! So I pull out a map and show him where the park is. He is yammering away in Chinese, but eventually gets us to the park. The one parent who I know is there and we have a nice time talking and meeting with some of the other moms. I go to see where Katie is and find her sitting watching the soccer game with the girls, not playing. I encourage her to play, that is the main reason we are here. But she says no. Within a few minutes it starts to rain, the second time in 8 weeks, and I am totally unprepared, no raincoats, umbrellas, or shelter. I tell Katie we need to leave. She is not happy, she wants to play soccer! I tell her she had her opportunity, but I am getting soaked and we are leaving. She is not happy and will make me pay for this for the rest of the day. We hop in a cab and meet our first cabbie who understands some English. He was very funny trying out all his new phrases. He had a tape in the car so he can practice and he imitated it very well, although I am not entirely sure he knew what he was saying. I call another Fulbrighter, Beth Farmer, who I made plans to go rug shopping with. She meets us at the Kempinski Hotel….where I order a cup of tea (for $7!!!) and try to dry out. I am soaked and my clothes are unfortunately very absorbent. Katie is in a nylon jacket that dried quickly so she does not get to experience the joys of rain as I do…..Beth arrives and we check out a few rug stores and see some nice rugs, but I have no idea how prices would compare with US, so I take pictures of some of the rugs and decide to wait until Stephen arrives to buy.
The last rug store is not far from the Pearl Market, so Katie and I opt to go there. She is still in a snit…(and it did stop raining very soon after we left the soccer game, so she is even more mad)….so we did not buy a thing at the Pearl Market. Hard to believe! Head home via subway, get off at Wadukuo station where the map says there are a couple of pizza places. I can’t find one of them, and there is a half hour wait at the Pizza Hut. I am not waiting even though I am craving pizza. (Have not had any since we got here). We go to a French bakery, get some bread and head home for another night of Annie’s Mac and Cheese. I need to prep for a lecture on Watergate, and I have a PBS documentary “Watergate at 30” produced in 2004. Katie, surprisingly, really wants to watch it with me, and asks a lot of good questions.
Monday. 4/7 gray and gloomy
Chinese class. I am getting more and more lost. The students who are taking all three classes are really progressing, but I am not able to keep the characters straight and the teacher is speaking more and more in Chinese, less and less in English….
I walked back from class this morning, and stopped by the old women doing line dances in the park, except today they didn’t have their boom box blasting their Chinese disco tunes. Dancing without the music is an apt metaphor for
I am pretty sure I will not be staying in
*The study was not specific to journalism on the web, and may have been a reaction to pornography and on-line gaming, so I may be reading too much acquiescence to government controls into this.
When Katie came home from school we took a walk to the grocery store and stocked up on a few essentials. Made a nice dinner of curried chicken, rice and green beans with the curry sauce Stephen sent over from Trader Joe’s. It never tasted so good! We also defrosted the Ghiardelli brownies he baked and sent over (which I froze to save for a chocoholic day). Let me add an oven to the list of things I am coveting! Watched the rest of Watergate at 30, and Katie is decidedly a democrat after watching this!
At , I attempt to flush the toilet and it overflows onto the floor and doesn’t stop, there is about an inch of water on the bathroom floor and it’s still coming. I try calling Mercy, then the waiban Mrs.Liu and finally, against my better judgment, the student, Michael, but no one is answering. I go down the elevator with a Chinese-English dictionary and start miming and attempting to explain in Chinglish that there is a minor flood on the 17th floor. If nothing else, the folks on the 16th floor will be down soon if the water is landing on them. Finally, I call the “Saline-Solution”, Celine, and ask her to translate via cell phone the situation to the woman at the front desk. I return upstairs and the water has subsided and gone down the washing machine drain. A few minutes later my new best friend in
Not much sleep last night. They are doing construction through the night and the trucks keep going over the speed bump in front of our building and making a racket every time they go by. That coupled with the militaristic “hop-2-3-4-“ drills that go on until after , I am exhausted.
My class is a lot of fun today. We go over their scripts for their second stories. They all picked good, challenging, off-campus topics…migrant children’s school, one-child generation, inflation, lack of toilets at the Olympic venues (I can reallllly relate to this one). (I did not raise the attacks on western journalists because I didn’t want to get bummed out if they thought this was a good thing). We work on their voice and delivery, but I am really focusing on making them speak in understandable English so I can actually understand the finished product (which I unable to on their first assignment).Confusing V with W and R with L are the ones they have the hardest time with. And I am beginning to understand why. The Chinese R is actually a zhrrr sound that is made by putting the tongue about half way between where we put our tongue for R and L. Aha! Now I know how to pronounce a Chinese R!!
Ann McConnell from the embassy calls after class to discuss housing. I tell her I am not ready to move yet, if they are truly going to replace the toilet. But if it still acts up, I’ll call her next week about plan B. It would be a dream to get moved closer to the center of the city, but I doubt that is in the cards. I think they’d move me across the hall, which would not be much better. Ann also wants me to come down and talk to folks there about the harassment of western media. I am not sure I know any more than what has been reported in the papers, but I’m happy to discuss this. I at least hope the
I skip Chinese class this morning. Too tired and too much else to do before my trip to
Eve from Yiyang comes to visit me in my office, ostensibly to go over her speech for her competition on the weekend, but we end up chatting for more than an hour about Yiyang, adoption, identity, and the one child policy. She says she is 100% sure Katie would come from a rural family and the woman would hide her pregnancy by going to live with relatives in another village until they find out the gender of the baby. If it’s a boy, keep it, if not, not. Eve says in the letter she wrote to Katie in Chinese that she sent me the day she met Katie, she wrote that if Katie had stayed in Yiyang she would be working in a field or sent off to work in a factory in
I give my Murrow vs. McCarthy lecture to the grads and showed sections of a documentary on Murrow. Relative to the Cultural Revolution, McCarthyism must look like child’s play to them. The documentary is a bit “inside baseball” and even for an American, there are a lot of names and references that would be challenging. My students are lost, but at least they are asking questions to explain that they are confused rather than just blankly staring. I guess this is progress. At the end of class I have about 15 minutes left and talk to them about censorship and how you go about getting the truth when the government so blatantly lies. They are very candid that things are not good, but one guy Tony, says most of
After class I check my email and the
I return home and they have installed a BRAND