CHINA JOURNALMARCH 17 March 20, 2002
St. Patrickıs Day slipped by with nary a shamrock or Danny Boy in evidence. I found I was looking for green and orange things all day and chuckling to myself. (I always wear both green for the Irish Catholics and orange for the Irish Orangemen Protestants on St. Patrickıs Day.) At dinner I saw the perfect answer. My bowl of noodles had an orange color sauce and green vegetables as the only colors. I had to enjoy it in silence as I figured the explanation and translation would take more time than it would be of interest to them. The next day though I got an email animated card with Irish music and dancing leprechauns and shamrocks to top it offmy link with the old home culture!
Fu Lingıs older sister came to the house today and had lunch with us. The big event was that Charlie, the white dog, had a bath. Their shower is a corner shower. The step into it is about like stepping into a bathtub. There is a little corner seat. A person could have almost a bath in it, and certainly a little doggie could. Zhang Ji Sheng does the honors. Charlie has obviously been through this many times and cooperates fully. He emerges as a beautiful fluffy white dog that either the empress or Barbara Cartland would be happy to hold on her lap.
That afternoon Liu Yong arrived by pre-arrangement. He was the interpreter at my first official meeting of the Board. Part of the talk was business between Fu Ling and Liu Yong discussing the new International School that the Bomei Corporation is building and plans to open in the fall. (This is the one that wasnıt ready for this semester which is why I am living with Fu Ling. A serendipitous bit of timing.) As the conversation went on, I was brought into it in terms of sharing ideas. It also presented an opportunity for me to mention some of the things they need to do in recruiting new teacherssuch as hiring to teach a specific grade or gradesno surprises after arrival. She took in all these ideas. She also asked if I could come up with suggestions on how to recruit. Iıve started looking up organizations with home pages which would be appropriate for them to utilize. Now that I am here I realize the immense difficulty for them in recruiting people when their own English resources are so limited. Letters that come in, such as mine, are only partially understood, though that may change with Li Di on staff. I realized as I listened how unique and special my experience has been. Those who follow me will be living in the dorm with other English teachers.
We ended up by going out to dinner. This time it was to a make-your-own-soup place like I described in my very first meal in Tianjin with Cui Hua at the little restaurant near the office. This was a big barn of a room loaded with square marble-topped tables that had a large hole in the center for the burner and wok with soup. As we walked in there were blue coated waiters and waitresses all over and we passed the food preparation areas. The most interesting was the making of the wheat noodles. The man rolled the dough into a ten inch long sour dough bread shape and rested it on his forearm. He took what looked like a four by six piece of thin metal which had been bent in a V shape. With the other hand, he ran the V shape the length of the dough, slicing off a thin noodle which was propelled by the motion into a boiling pot of liquid about two feet in front of him. This was a very quick continuous operation and the noodles went flying into the liquid. Fun.
In deference to my not wanting meat, the big soup pot (maybe 18 inches in diameter) placed in our table had a divider in the middle. They never dropped any pieces of meat into the side of the pot closest to me. One of the really tasty things which we never do is to wilt leaf lettuce quickly in a hot soup. You keep putting things into the pot from the many plates of ingredients that you ordered, and keep pulling things out of the pot to eat. Shaved mutton (not lamb) was one of the meat ingredients this time. Before the soup and ingredients arrived, a three tiered rolling tray was brought around with twelve different cold dishes for appetizers on each levela total of thirty six from which to choose.
On the 18th, a Monday, I skipped Tai Chi to get to school for the Monday morning flag raising ceremony as students return to school after a weekend at home. They were adding an English translation to the four steps. There are four ³Pioneers² stationed two on either side of the gate. Students and parents walk between them to enter. The classes assemble in their rooms and then come in formation down to their position on the concrete court, starting with the oldest ones first. Each group is led by one of their own. The two school flags are already flying. The blue one has the Bohan symbol on it, and the green one has the Bohan writing on it. The Chinese flag has been attached to the flagpole rope but has not been raised. Then the student leader says, ³Let the flag ceremony begin.² The leader reads a lot which I did not understand. She is on the raised porch facing the student body. Along with her are the four who were greeting at the gate. Each of them says one line and salutes. Next comes, ³Present the flag.² The four students go over to the gate where the folded flag awaits. They open it and each one holds a corner. The walk holding the flag flat and opened across the whole line of students, up the steps and over to the flag pole. ³Salute.² The students do their wonderful Chinese salute with their right arm. It comes from their side in a sweeping motion across the body and up over their head as if they are sweeping the air above their head. It has a great flair. After showing and saluting the flag, it is folded and put away. Then comes, ³Let the national song begin.² The tape player is turned on, the song plays, and then the students sing it, led by Ciu Xiao Jian, my office mate. The flag is very slowly raised so that it reaches the top just at the end. (The Chinese flag is red with one large gold star and a semi circle of four smaller gold stars in the upper left quadrant.) Later that day I spent some time in the kitchen watching the dinner operations there which include the biggest wok Iıve ever seen with huge paddles for stirring the ingredients which remind me of the big kettles of beans and the stirring paddles at Pioneer Day every year. The big bamboo steamer where the rice is usually cooked was being used to steam the lunch boxes of the teachers. As is true throughout the school, it is a happy crew in the kitchen. I go in and teach them some words too and put labels up, which they seem to enjoy. The worst job would be hand washing the dishes in dishpans placed in relatively low sinksa real back breaker. I stayed late because I wanted to observe the third English teacher, Tian Yuan, with the first and second grade classes in a combined class from 6:30 to 8:00. That was an impossible situation. The first graders carry their little chairs into the second grade room and they all crowd into the desks together. After a day in school, they had no intention of paying much heed to English. I didnıt feel at all badly about my first day with the first graders (who since have become one of my favorites.)
Dinner was funny. I was looking forward to having a rest from food and eating an apple I had in my desk along with a small loaf of date stuffed bread Fu Ling had sent that morning when she didnıt think my cereal was enough. There were many phone calls back and forth between Fu Ling and the school. Was I going to eat at school or was I going to eat at home after school? I indicated I would eat at school, but I didnıt need any food because I had food. I finally got that across to everyoneıs satisfaction and, as I was walking up to the office with the head master, the tall kitchen man who usually delivers my special lunch at noon was coming down from our office. They had heard the discussion in the kitchen, and he had just delivered a delicious tray of sliced tomatoes and vegetables. So much for my efforts at controlling the intake.
That was the first night I rode home in the dark. Fu Ling and the head master had arranged for the piano teacher who lives in the same complex to ride home with me. Tian Yuan decided she would also accompany me. So off we start in the dark. I had a reflector and headlight that Scott and Patty gave me and my reflector straps around my ankles. I was surprised at the number of street lights along the main part of our route; however, I would not choose to go out for a pleasure ride at night.