CHINA JOURNALMARCH 19-20, 2002
Tuesday morning the 19th was an amazing change in the weather. It was very, very windy and very, very cold. Shen Yuan, Zhang Jie, and I did our fast walk and talkand shivered the whole way. At 7:30 the Tai Chi exercise group begins. The routine is usually the warm-ups, the 24 moves, the 48 moves, and the 42 moves, followed by the sword moves, and finally the fan moves. We all did the warm-up and then went into the Yang 24. The wind was so strong that it kept blowing us over. After the 24, they all laughed and indicated they werenšt going to try the 48 and 42. They pulled out their swords. With this break of a few extra minutes before Sun Zhi Hong would arrive for our private Tai Chi lesson, Zhang Jie and I hurried back to the house to put on extra layers plus hat and gloves. As we were doing that, Fu Ling started to laugh and called us over to the window. There was NO ONE left in the park. Even our faithful sword wielders had given upa pretty unusual sight. Fortified with more clothing, we went back out and met Sun Zhi Hong for a short session.
Tuesday night is the private lesson when I work with Zhang Yu and Zhang Jie. We had just gotten started when I learned we were going to dinner. Jian Goa had just brought Fu Ling home and he drove us over to a hotel restaurant that is across the street from school. I didnšt know that one-story building was a hotel. It must be a small one. But I had been interested in it because one Monday they had about twelve dressed ducks hanging out in front in ranks. Išve been looking for those ducks everyday since to get a picture but they havenšt reappeared. When we walked in to the restaurant, the first thing I saw was the fish tank with large edible fish swimming, and two plastic dish pans on the floor, one with flat, live, dark green turtles and one with big flat, live, dark green frogs. Išm sure they were there in case you wanted to pick out your dinner as you entered. The new interesting item at this repast was small individual loaves of bread that looked as if they may have been fried. You pick them up with your chopsticks and dip them into a sugared milk.
While we were missing our English lesson at home, Zhang Yu got in good practice time being our interpreter, something she did quite well and could not have done a month ago. Zhang Fu Ling had a message for me regarding my visa. The day before, on Monday the 18th, Sun Zhi Hong had appeared at school at about 8:45 a.m. and indicated he wanted my passport. It was at home, so I got in the car and Jian Goa drove us home to get the passport and to pick up Fu Ling. Now, Tuesday night, the report on the visa status was coming. If you recall, they hadnšt been able to get me a work visa so I came on a three month tourist visa which they planned to renew for another three months to take me through the five months of teaching and a few weeks of travel. It turns out that what is meant by a three month visa is that you can enter China anytime during that three months, but once you have entered you can only stay one month. I had entered on February 18th and Monday was March 18thmy one month was up. At this point they are unable to get the work visa, but they got special permission to make three renewals of the tourist visa. This gives me a total of four months, which means I now have a departure date of June 17th, sooner than I had expected. They keep wanting me to stay over, and my excuse has been grandsons who want me back. Fu Ling is quite serious in saying why donšt I stay and bring the grandsons over! When the new school opens in the fall, the plan is at that time that they will be able to get work visas for the teachers.
This development surprised me and my first inward reaction was disappointment that I wouldnšt be able to get in the extra travel in China that I wanted, but I donšt think I need to worry about that. They have already given me a lot of travel and tourist time in this area. In May there is a week when they plan to send me on a trip that will apparently include many of the places I wanted to go (the itinerary is not finalized yet.) While school doesnšt end until later in June, English lessons end June 10th which is a Monday so that the students can get ready for their Chinese and mathematics examinations. I donšt have to teach on that Monday which means I will have from Friday the 7th until Monday the 17th for another trip. I think Išm getting the best of both worldsfinish my commitment, get in plenty of good travel, and get home in June! Išm about to call United to make my reservation for the trip home. After dinner we went back to the house for more English lesson.
This morning we woke up to a yellow sky and a cold temperature. While Bakersfield may get its Santa Ana winds, this part of China gets something more exotic soundingsandstorms from Mongolia. All day the sky looked like it did about two hours before the big blackout sandstorm of December 20, 1977 in Bakersfield. This was the morning I was talk to the 200 middle school teachers at the Nankai Bureau. That was a heated building so I took off layers but wished I had even more to put back on when I got back to the unheated school. The talk, I think, went well. Išll be curious to hear reactions. No one was bold enough to ask a question, which didnšt surprise me, but they did participate in the few places where that was appropriate. Miss Su has given me topics for future talks. The second talk will be in two weeks, since each talk is repeated to the other group of teachers. It is on holidays, etc. I can handle that one. One month from now it is on famous people. Išm looking for nominations from all of you. Once you get past Washington and Lincoln, who are some people you would include? Let your suggestions reflect your special interests. (Be prepared. I may ask you for supporting information.)
It had rained while I was talking to the teachers, but nothing changed in the color of the sky. My sessions back at school are going well. The students are finally trying to use the language instead of just parroting the teacher. The little first and second graders are so cute. I ask them to do something at the board. They come up and do a deep bow in front of me, do what they were asked, and give me another deep bow along with that wonderful flourish of a salute swung over their heads. One or two of them had done that at the beginning and I guess they decided they liked it, because they all do it now.