I go with Katie as far as her school with Shen Shifu and then take a taxi to the airport. Katie will go home with her friend Yuanyuan for an overnight until I return from
A lovely student named Wang Qian meets me at the airport and after a little difficulty finding the driver we head into
At a local park I am surrounded by a couple dozen elementary school kids who want to try out their English. I am very impressed at how well they speak. They are out collecting money for the
The lecture is actually at a satellite campus almost 40 minutes from the man campus. Enroute, Wang Qian and I have a nice conversation. She is from
We arrive at Nanjing Normal’s other campus, and it is a space age looking facility, enormous, all white modern buildings, very impressive from a distance. However, when we get up into the classrooms, it looks pretty shabby. Rows of broken down desks, peeling paint, and no air conditioning. Two girls are there to greet us, and they take a box of colored chalk and create a lovely sign on the blackboard for my speech. Around the two faculty members, both men, who have invited me to give this lecture on adoption, arrive and we have a brief chat before I begin. The audience is about 30-40 undergraduate English majors, almost all girls. Not the social workers or early childhood audience that I anticipated. I can’t imagine holding a lecture at BU on a Friday night at and filling the room, but here it happens. They are very engaged, have great questions and a lively discussion afterwards. I don’t think many of them were aware just how many Chinese girls are abandoned or adopted. None of them said they knew of anyone who was adopted.
Just as thought I was going to have a “clean getaway”, one of the professors asked about western media bias against
I spend the night in the lovely guest house but unfortunately, a few mosquitoes have joined me and I don’t get much sleep.
Saturday, May 17
Very early I am awakened by a cacophony of tropical birds outside. Really incredible. Loud, but lovely. I take another towel-less shower, using yesterday’s clothes to dry off with, and head out to this great German bakery around the corner that Elizabeth Knup had told me about. Great stuff. I then meet up with Qian who will be my guide for the day. We head to the
From there we head to the
After the museum we head back to Nanjing Normal. Qian has been such a lovely guide, solicitous in every way, I want to take her out to lunch, but she insists on taking me to this sidewalk hole-in-the-wall place. I had the most delicious “
I return to my room, pack up and a young man arrives to take me to the airport, also an English student, who has just defended his dissertation yesterday comparing Hemingway’s and Faulkner’s first novels.
My flight to
Sunday, May 18
Lazy day, laundry, catching up on news and email, getting reimbursements for all these guest lectures sorted out, etc. Katie has busied herself making a boat out of a paper bag, chop sticks (which she has whittled using a dull kitchen knife – which is a lot duller now!), and the indispensable all purpose duct tape. It is quite a boat. Looks exactly like the dhow that Arab merchants first used to explore east Asia. Not sure if it is sea worthy, but I suggest we take it out to the pond in the park and give it a try. She says no, that would be too public. A year ago, even six months ago, she would have been fine with that idea, but now the “tween” self-consciousness is setting in.
Around 4 we head out to the grocery store. It is really balmy and breezy. We walk by a group of chanting waiters and waitresses, marching in place, singing and grunting in military style, apparently getting ready for another night waiting tables. If anyone had asked me to march and chant before starting my shift at Eadie’s Restaurant in
We arrive at Carrefour, the French super market chain that has been the target of a boycott for its alleged pro-Tibet activity. I am hoping the boycott will mean the store is quieter. It is usually one of the least zooey of the many stores we have tried shopping at, but even here, I confess, I hate grocery shopping. I have gotten used to a lot of things in
We eat a pasta dinner and watch the TV for news on the earthquake. It is the only story, 24/7 and there is incredible footage of people still being hauled out of the rubble alive six days later. Lots of images of newly orphaned kids. The government has called for 3 days of mourning starting tomorrow, and a three minute silent pause at tomorrow, the moment the earthquake hit. Katie is sad because three pandas from the Sichuan Reserve are missing. The Reserve is 18 miles from the epicenter of the quake. While I am sorry for the pandas, I am always troubled that Katie has more concern for the animals than the humans in these situations (remember the dog we almost adopted from
Monday, May 19
Eve texts me in the morning to let me know about the three national days of mourning starting today. All flags are at half mast. Apparently nothing like this has ever been done before in
Rescuers are still finding people alive and the newspapers are full of these accounts of survivors, who somehow stayed sane while pinned under debris for days. The headline in the China Daily is that all nuclear facilities in
Katie returned from school to report that they had also marked the 3 minutes of silence, and all the kids are collecting new toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, etc. to send to the quake area.
Tuesday, May 20
I work on some writing in the morning and then go to class. We discuss the earthquake coverage, and how families who have lost their only child have it hardest, and that leads into a discussion of the one child policy. There are more loopholes in that law than I had imagined. Two of my students both went to the same high school in Chongquing. One girl says everyone in her class had siblings, while the other says no one in her class had siblings. Apparently, one girl had mostly rural students who are allowed more children? I don’t get who, why, how, you get around the policy, apparently legally.
After class, Eve comes to babysit and I head into the city to meet up with Mary E. at her hotel. She is staying at Raffle’s Beijing Hotel and the lobby, and I am sure the rest of the joint, is lovely. A little oasis of calm after an hour long cab ride in traffic. Mary and I then head to the satellite building of the
Wednesday, May 21
Mary continues with her tour group to the Great Wall. I’ll meet up with her again on Thursday. I head off to the office and work on the book chapter on living here with an adopted Chinese daughter. Mercy has re-surfaced and asked me to lunch. We go to this street, about a mile from here that is
In class, I suspend my normal lecture to discuss the earthquake and its coverage. Most students are heartened by the extent of the coverage and the government’s response, but are obviously devastated by the loss of life. The death toll keeps climbing. One student provocatively asks, “on Monday, thousands of Chinese stood in
Thursday, May 22
I go in with Katie to school and then mime for Shen Shifu to take me to the nearest subway. We get into traffic, but he won’t take extra money for driving out of his way. I head to Mary’s lovely hotel, Raffle’s Beijing Hotel, gorgeous room and decide we should be staying with her rather than her staying with us! We have a great buffet breakfast, then walk down ChangAn to the “bird’s egg” national theater, try in vain to get an English language schedule of upcoming events. We then cab it over to Liulichang, where Mary buys two scrolls, one of peonies and one with calligraphy. Then we head down to my favorite tea store. I get more jasmine and lychee tea and a nice little pot and some glass tasting cups. The owner’s little girl emerges after a few minutes and is as adorable as ever, pouring herself a cup of tea which overflows down her pants to a puddle on the floor. How you manage to have a two year old in a store full of glass pots is an interesting challenge. We then head back to Mary’s hotel, retrieve her luggage and head to Katie’s school. Katie keeps saying Mrs. Dalais, her teacher reminds her of Mary and there is a slight similarity, mostly in their coloring and good dispositions. Katie has won 3 gold medals in swimming! We get back to our house and Mary unloads all the loot she has accumulated from all the five star hotels she stayed at. She had half a suitcase, at least, of toiletries, slippers, etc. We quickly re-package high end soaps, shampoos, toothbrushes and combs into plastic bags, that Katie will then bring to school tomorrow for donations to earthquake victims. I feel a little like Robin Hood, taking from the rich to give to the poor. But this exactly what the relief groups are asking for, the most basic daily needs for hygiene. For dinner we head to the Qing Dynasty Restaurant, and after our not great meal, go the main dining room for a show of mask-changing, opera and traditional music. When we get home, I check my email to see a gushing note from my