The public address system kicked in early, we started hearing all the marching songs. It is another day of athletic competition here with all the chanting and cheering that precedes it. It looks like track and field – with a twist: one of the events appears to be running races while hula-hooping! Now there is a sport for me!
Katie and Stephen head out to the electronics store in their elusive search for a Nintendo DS with English instructions and games. They are gone a long time, but return empty handed. Meanwhile, Stefanie has arrived to take a last photo of Stephen before he returns home. Stefanie tells me a little about her family. Her father was in the army, but was injured, so came home and started a business. She was raised on her grandparents’ farm, while her parents worked in the business. Now, the Party boss in her village wants to take the family farm away. Her dad has spent 100,000RMB ($15,000 USD) in legal fees to try to hold onto the land, but it still is not looking good. Her image of life on the farm was not quite as upbeat as the picture painted the other day by Li Qingsi.
When Stefanie is ready to take the photos, Katie is silly and not interested in being photographed, but then Stefanie lets Katie use the camera and she is more cooperative. Meanwhile, Eve has arrived to look at some other photos sent by Yiyang adoptive parents. Four or five familes on the Yiyang orphanage listserv have contacted her to see if she can get some information for them from Yiyang.
After the photo shoot we head into downtown
Stephen and Katie arrive and we have a great dinner, Vietnamese food, and have a lot of fun. Afterward we walk around the
Sunday, May 11
I hadn’t even realized it was Mother’s Day, but Katie made me a nice little card and surprised me, and then Eve sent me a text message, to “a great mother of three children.” Rory even managed to get a quick email in just under the wire at . But my favorite was a Youtube link my friend Louise sent around. Check it out if you are the mother of warring boys:
We’ve arranged for a driver, the fellow Lucy used, Simon, to take us out to the furniture village, Gaobaidian. On the way we drop Katie off at her friend Yuanyuan’s house, in a hutong near the
Ann McConnell from the embassy leads us out and we followed in “our” car. Another Fulbrighter, Beth Farmer joined up. We revisited the factory where Ann’s furniture was being repaired and Stephen gave her some tips on stains and refurbishing techniques. We then went by the carver’s workshop, where four young kids, 17-20 years old, were carving wood in dim light. They are all migrants from
We end up in a shopping area in the center of Gaobaidian but manage not to buy a thing before we need to leave. We retrieve Katie at her friends and then head to the restaurant where we are meeting Celine and her family for dinner. Celine will return to the States this week and get her degree from BU. We eat at a great Taiwanese place called Bellagio, near Worker’s Stadium. Great food. And of course Celine and her family have gifts, tea and cosmetics, more than we have brought for the guest of honor!
After dinner, Celine’s dad asks if we like to bowl. Apparently, there is an alley next door. Sure! Off we go -- Bowling in
We all squeezed into Celine’s dad’s car and he got a kick out of us giving him directions in Chinese “Renmin Daxue Ximen”, “zou guai”, etc. What a lot of fun!!
Monday, May 12
Stephen announces it is time to go home – his tooth has fallen out again. The day he arrived two weeks ago, he bit into some candy and pulled out a dental bridge (the same type of candy that triggered Katie to lose a tooth on the plane home from
We go in to school with Katie to have a parent-teacher conference with Katie and her teacher, Anya Dalais. All is well. We learned that Katie is a social animal, is liking math(!), needs to be more careful and take more time with her writing, and needs to follow through on all her good ideas. No surprises there. She’s had a great time at this school and with this teacher and we are both not thrilled with the idea of returning to Chenery. Ms. Dalais and her husband are moving to
I worked all morning on a lecture on war coverage, especially on the run-up to the
After lunch, I took a nap. In the middle of a very bizarre dream about a hurricane, I felt the bed move. At first, I thought I was dreaming, then I thought Stephen had come in to wake me up, but neither was the case. I got up to find Stephen and he was sitting at his desk, feeling like he was experiencing vertigo. I decided it must be someone doing work on the building. A few hours later we learn in an email from my sister-in-law Karen that we were in the midst of an earthquake. Never a dull moment! There was a huge quake 7.8, out in
For dinner, we attempted to go to a pizza joint I read about up by Beijing university, Kro’s Nest, but we schlepped up there to find it was closed, so we walked back to Papa John’s and got our fill of pizza for a while.
Tuesday, May 13
The news about the earthquake unfolded through the night, and so did the aftershocks. I watched TV a fair amount last night and this morning, trying to get a handle on this. I was struck by CCTV’s English language channel’s emphasis on infrastructure damage, buildings destroyed, roads closed, phone service out of order. And of course there was plenty on rescue efforts and Premier Wen Jiabao’s appearance with rescuers. Only about 4-5 minutes into the coverage did they mention the number killed: ten thousand! I don’t know if this is representative of all Chinese coverage, but it was certainly a different inverted pyramid than we would have done in the
I go into my office and prep for today’s class and a lecture I will give tonight at the Central University of Nationalities. The waiban, Mrs. Liu, calls and can give me little advice on my visa status, but she is hopeful that if I leave the country, I will be allowed back in….I certainly hope so! More disturbingly, she can’t advise me on what to do in the event of a fire or earthquake or any other emergency in our building. I ask her if there is an alarm system or any email or cell phone warning system that I might miss because I am unable to understand Chinese. She says no, no warning system, but there are fire extinguishers, and then she laughs and says, “but you wouldn’t know how to use them since the instructions are in Chinese”. Haha, not very funny! I mention that the electricity went out every night last week at and everyone else seemed to have been informed about this, but not me. What’s up with communication? Mrs. Liu is a very sweet, soft-spoken woman who seems very kind and concerned, but I find it very difficult to get a clear answer to my questions and concerns. I fully understand that I am the one who is unable to speak the language but there are many non-Chinese speakers on campus and it is a bit surprising that there is no method to communicate with any of us about what’s going on….not just for emergencies, but for other events (i.e. Hu Jintao speaking on campus and I was unaware until after it happened). As I left the building this morning, I see the lobby full of fire extinguishers. Are we supposed to grab one to have on hand? When I return at noon, the fire extinguishers are gone. And the two that had been sitting in the box near the elevator, are gone too. Bad timing to take fire extinguishers OUT of service.
At I return home for lunch and read some western media on the earthquake and answer a flurry of anxious emails from home wondering if we are OK. For the moment all is fine. But I am growing more anxious about being on the 17th floor of a paper-thin building. I scan the internet for images from the affected areas, but most of what I see, cell phone video taken by understandably distraught residents, is too shaky or blurry to really make out what is going on.
Stephen is packing to head off to the airport. I loaded him up with all the winter clothes and some of our purchases, and he has quite a heavy load. I walk him out to the taxi and bid him adieu thinking I’ll see him in six weeks. I head off to my afternoon class and we discuss the earthquake coverage. None of the students in this class are from
Later, a student asks about when the next few assignments are due. When I examine the syllabus, I reiterate the due dates through the end of classes on June 26. But the students say, no, classes end June 12. No, I assure them, I have a calendar given to me by Mercy, which says we go until the end of June. No, they assure me, there are no classes after June 12. OK, so I have passed out two syllabus/schedules to two classes and NO
The students showed their first video stories. Some were good, others disappointing.
After class I return home, try to get answers to the schedule snafu, tell the
Just before , Eve text messages me that we are to turn out the lights for three minutes in memory of the now 12,000 confirmed dead. I turn my lights off and look out the window to see a few more windows go dark, but the majority of lights remain on. Eve tells me the next day that she is disappointed that so many students are too busy with social activities, getting food or playing sports, to participate in the vigil. I spend a few hours awake in bed, worrying that every rumble of a truck or every thud from the apartment above, is the quake that will topple this building. Another sleepless night in
Wednesday, May 14
I watch a bit more of CCTV’s coverage of the earthquake. There is more video coming out today (yesterday was mostly graphics or maps of the area covering phone interviews). The scene looks like Hell on Earth. The wailing mothers, the teenagers holding the hand of their dead friends, the children’s limbs reaching out from the rubble, crushed just inches from safety. Thousands of people are homeless, and thousand more are voluntarily choosing to sleep outside, in parks, to protect themselves from aftershocks. Rain only makes matters worse.
Kelly Proctor, a student Fulbrighter, also at Renmin stops by my office today. She is doing research on Chinese journalists covering the environment. She says that the journalists she talks to have a lot of liberty to say what they want to say, and when they do get heat from an editor/censor, they just put the controversial stuff up on their blogs, and it gets out that way. She says most environmental journalists here are also advocates, and often work for or develop their own NGOs (non-governmental organizations). Unfortunately, a blogger in Chengdu, who helped organized a “stroll” to protest a proposed chemical plant, has found himself in a bit of trouble. This from the site Danwei:
According to today's Beijing News, four persons involved in the May 4 protest in
The mainstream media has little coverage of the May 4 incident. One of the few reports was in the Ｍay 5 issue of The Beijing News. According to that report, about two hundred people gathered in downtown
"Rational expression of the public opinion"? But the police did not feel that way.
But there are good reasons to fear of a chemical plant so close to
My afternoon class submits its preliminary research for their final reports. Pathetic. No research again. These are PhD candidates and 13 weeks into the semester I have seen ZERO research on their topics. Frustrating. Michael, who audits the class, is from
I still have not heard from Mary Ekmalian, traveling in
Thursday, May 15
I spend the day hunkered down doing final preps for my talk in
I received an email from a journalist friend asking if I would like to be interviewed about how it feels to “have a daughter of
Even more disturbing, the government is saying tonight that as many as 50,000 people are presumed dead, even though only about 20,000 bodies have been found. As feared, the closer to the epicenter the relief efforts get, the less likely they are to find people alive. Jim Yardley’s story in the New York Times, of parents at a morgue dressing their dead children in their favorite clothes, or giving them their favorite toy to go into the crematorium with, is just heart-wrenching. So much sadness.
I have little basis for comparison, but according to other journalists here, the coverage of this earthquake is more thorough, balanced and transparent than other major stories here. It certainly is better than the