Just when I think I couldn’t get more behind with entries, I look up and a week as passed.
What all have I done? We’ve been out to the same mall so that I could re-supply with groceries and incidentals, and I was able to pay for my purchases using my Bank of Beijing card; I shopped for Chinese shoes, but didn’t find anything; I’ve had to hike to the gates on the perimeters of the campus every time we go offsite, and it’s roughly a mile to every gate. Any time we leave the campus we have to scan out, where a camera scans our faces, and a card reads my faculty ID before we can either exit or enter. There are BAOAN (Chinese police) stationed at every entrance to the campus, and no cars not affiliated with the university can get onto campus. Police here are not armed.
I rode a public bus for the first time with my student assistant (pretty much the same as riding a bus in the US, except the ads are all in Mandarin), because when we left for our last shopping run it was raining at 9:30 am on Saturday and the DiDi drivers (China’s version of Uber) were nowhere to be found.
Construction on this new North Campus of Beijing University of Chemical Technology never stops. There are cranes everywhere, each of them with the Chinese flag at the top. The workers live in dorms on the construction site. The wild dogs like to wander into their living areas. They’re working most days before 6 am.
Beijing smog is pretty much the equivalent of Los Angeles smog, to my eye so far. It also doesn’t smell as bad as LA. Also, it isn’t as grotesquely rust-colored, just a mild stain. On the worst days here so far, it’s still been nothing like I’ve worried it would be. People do wear the masks you hear about. I have breathing issues but have had not a scrap of trouble so far.
The time really does fly. I got here Friday, June 7th; it’s Tuesday the 18th. Have I really been in China for almost 2 weeks? How is that possible? I’m leaving the 30th, still 12 days away, and have completed four classes of the 9 total I have to get through to complete their course. The 9th class period will be entirely spent hearing final exams, so that’s a class I don’t need to prepare for. Four 3.5 hour classes remain for each section, so four morning and another four in the afternoon, a total of 4 days of teaching; I can see the finish line.
I have a great deal to do the day before each class to prepare lecture notes and the day’s activities, about 3 hours of work, then another 3 or so review before class. It sounds like a lot and may even be overkill, but I think classes have benefited tremendously from it; every one so far has been a great success, even the afternoon class on my first day, when I’d been up since 11 pm the night before because of jetlag and was low-energy and feeling put through the wringer.
I made it, though, and the harsh schedule and pressure I’ve put on myself and my student assistant has made it a little grueling but in the end, the payoff has been worth it. I’ve toughened up and can finish the days without trouble. And these are excellent classes, for their size (36-38); every single lecture has been successful, the kids are entertained, enlivened, engaged, and actively participate. We have fun. They’re speaking every day and they work hard in class.
But there’s just so much to do all the time. It’s also kind of a pain that there’s been yet another dinner and faculty meeting summons to the East Campus this afternoon, one of my only days to do class prep during the week. I just want to stay in and rest and work from my bed, but I do need to take advantage of the opportunity to go to the main campus and see the Dean again, as well as take advantage of the opportunity to meet and speak with some of the other profs. I really have almost no time to myself, but Saturday I realized a lifelong dream when I visited and walked upon The Great Wall of China.
Wow! Talk about breathtaking. This one stop made the entire trip worth it; I’m pleased that this was my first real tourist attraction that I visited in the city, and I’m glad I was able to do it my first weekend, because this is the one thing I really did not want to miss. It was incredible, a stunning thing to witness, unfurling along the spines of the green mountains around Beijing. We walked along as far as it was possible to go, and I took about a hundred and fifty pictures with my husband’s camera.
There’s so much more to say, but I need to get the lecture notes for tomorrow’s class done before I have to get ready for this meeting and dinner again, so I have to fly. More to come, and hopefully soon.