Tuesday June 25 in Beijing, 9:48 am. Tuesday, my day off. It’s Monday night at home, 9:48 pm.
The wild dog fight woke me in the middle of the night; not last night but probably the night before… Sunday night, maybe? Yelping and barking. When I got up to look, I counted at least 7 of them, though the “fight” was actually more like a dramatic family reunion,with half of them wagging their tails and running around, and nobody really actually looking mad or biting anyone else… more of a territorial standoff, really, and when they were done with their carrying on they went bounding off together on their merry way into the 3 am darkness of the construction site.
Finally made it out into the city to see a little of the world of Beijing I’ve been missing because I spend absolutely all of my time in the classroom or preparing for the classroom. It was an extraordinary day, really — ripping around Beijing on the subway and various buses, stomping through The Forbidden City from one end to the other in the sweltering smog-dense 97F Beijing heat (an utter and contemptible misery, I was likely within arm’s reach of heatstroke); exhibit after exhibit in The National Museum, viewing Tiananmen Square… then on to Ghost Street and a restaurant renowned for its crayfish, Hunan something. The menu was a hard-bound oversized book in color with photographs of every dish. We had some kind of cooked greens, pumpkin leaves with steamed soy stems, and a very American-looking salad with lobster in it and some kind of ginger/mustard dressing. A note: there is no cheese in China.
On the other hand, classes have been a tremendous success. All of these students have dramatically, even drastically, improved in their ability to speak before a group, which is not a small feat for students speaking a foreign language. I’m really proud of them. I’ve also managed to pick up a couple of bonus students–word of the American teacher’s public speaking class travels, I hear: last week I was approached by a student who said, “Professor, I have heard about your class. My friends and I would like to know if we might be allowed to visit your course to sit in for the rest of the term.” I was pleasantly surprised; as the semester goes on in America, generally the trend is one loses students and attendance falls off, but here I think I’m a bit of an anomaly… people stare at the foreigner. Why not, I said, come anytime, and there were multiple new students in the last class. Also, another teacher — an Italian instructor — asked to come to observe as well. The more the merrier. We already have a full house, what’s a few more.
I went into the city with Fan, one of my Teaching Assistants, on Sunday. Headed out on the 8:30 am shuttle from the campus, down to the East campus by 9:30 am, where I met Fan and her son, and then out into the city.
First stop was The National Museum, right on the edge of Tiananmen Square and adjacent to the main entry to The Forbidden City. What a pain it is to try to buy stuff in China, including tickets for the tourist attractions. You have to use their version of PayPal for everything, or WeChat, China’s version of Facebook. Everybody’s on it, but foreigners can’t get accounts because they don’t have a Chinese ID number. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the help of native Beijingers at nearly every turn in the time I’ve been here, so getting to and from everywhere I’ve needed (or wanted) to go has been simple. Given my utter illiteracy, this is a great relief. My goal is to learn Mandarin, and I hope to be invited to return next year.
During the 2nd faculty meeting, a number of the professors were bestowed with an honorary title, Adjunct Professors of BUCT. They received certificates in very nice keepsake folders. It would be a great thing to be invited back, and I’d love to have the opportunity again. If I do return, I’ll need to be able to speak more of the language than I currently can. The extent of my abilities so far are ni hao (hello), xiexie (thank you), and meiyao (no). I use “xiexie” quite a lot.
[to be continued]