CHINA JOURNAL---Monday, April 22 through Friday, April 26, 2002

            Today is Friday, April 26, which is the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The police warned over the radio and in the newspaper not to go on the Internet today because the major Chernobyl virus is due to be released today. It apparently comes out every year on this date, with a lesser version on June 26, and another version on the 26th of any month. Last year on April 26 it affected 6,000 computers in Beijing alone and caused a billion dollars worth of damage worldwide. I'll wait until tomorrow to dial in.

            Last week Zhang Ji Sheng brought home two black rabbits. This week he brought home an even bigger cage with a longhaired white cat with one blue eye and one gold eye. With the three dogs, the two rabbits, and the fish Zhang Jie bought last week, the animal count is now at 22. The cat was dirty, so the next day Zhang Jie washed it. I was amazed. The only time I've ever known anyone to wash a cat was when our father tried washing a fullgrown cat and emerged with scratches all over. This cat held perfectly still through the whole process. Then she decided his ears needed cleaning so she took him to a vet close by. There were still a few lingering bugs, so the next day she washed him again. It is a beautiful cat. Zhang Jie has a real touch with animals. The cat hasn't made a noise and lies perfectly still in her arms.

            I spent several mornings this week at the office getting the teaching notices posted and almost immediately we got two very promising responses. It is worth the time when you see results.

            In the morning Tai Chi group, the only thing I have down pat with the sword or the fan is the Girl Scout salute. Whichever hand is not holding the sword keeps in the position of two fingers extended like the Girl Scout salute and that much I can do. Zhang Ji Sheng was at ``play'' for May Day (I'm not sure if that means he is getting ready to participate in something on May Day) and found a sword that he bought and brought home to me. Just what I need ... but it is a beauty! This is a big heavy one like you hang on the wall. I'm glad I don't have to swing it around in Tai Chi. Tonight he produced a wooden bowl the size of a soup bowlŠagain for me. It is both a light weight wood and is finely turned, with very nice grain showing. The sword and bowl both come from a small town near Shijiazhuang, southwest of Tianjin.

            This Wednesday when I gave the talk on the famous Americans they finally had the right buttons pushed on their computer so that this group got to see the pictures. They are the primary teachers who may not pick up as much English so they are the best group for which to have the pictures working. Several of them and one middle school teacher joined us for the sandwich lunch afterward. Each time I learn something new. This time it is that most schools classes have 40 to 50 students in each classŠand no aides. With that number in a room I can see (1) why the Chinese loud, angry voice from the teachers is a help, and (2) why they don't deviate from the patterns set in the government issued books. They have nothing but fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice tests. I hadn't realized how unusual Bohan is in having classes of 20 to 24. I also learned that a typical middle school teacher of English has 12 classes, meaning two classes that she meets six times each (one day each week she has them in both a daytime and an evening session.) Since they are canned classes, that seems like a pretty slim load to me since they have, in effect, no preparation to make and fairly quick-to-grade tests. I thought that Zhang Yu at Bohan said that she had 28 classesŠbut they are the smaller size, so maybe that evens it up.

            May 1st is coming up. And May Day is the Labor holiday. So guess what? In order to earn the couple of days off, you work on the Saturday and Sunday ahead of time. That means that tomorrow, Saturday, I am teaching my Wednesday classes, and on Sunday I will teach my Tuesday classes. Hardly seems like a gift holiday. Plans are coming along for our holiday trip. Apparently there are complications involved with traveling with a foreigner. I know there are only certain hotels where they used to let Anglos stayŠand I guess that is still true in some places. I'll be going with Cui Hua rather than the four others. That suits me fine. She is a dear and has a good head on her shoulders...and I haven't gotten to see much of her recently. Today I was given two dates that we are leaving, both May 1st and May 3rd. Last I heard the planes are all full and we are going by train...27 hours. I'm actually looking forward to it because I'm always curious about the differences in trains in different countries, and we'll be seeing the scenery from northern China to southern China. I just cross my fingers on the bathroom and food situation.

            Speaking of food, yesterday at 5:00 a.m. I spent fifteen minutes spouting at both ends in the bathroom, and that was it. It acted like food poisoning, but no one else was sick. I think it was my tummy saying, ``Enough is enough!'' The night before Fu Ling and I had eaten at the neighborhood restaurant. One dish was the transparent, somewhat slimy band shaped noodles with slivers of zucchini and a tangy sauce. Fu Ling didn't think it was tangy enough and poured on more of what I found out was pure mustard oilŠvery strong, like horseradish. She loved it and kept piling it on my plate in spite of protests. It rather burns going down. I think that, tacked on top of an overabundance of intake, was the last straw. I slept all day, and was good as ever this morning.