CHINA JOURNALMONDAY, MARCH 25 thru FRIDAY, MARCH 28,2002
Itıs not clear whether my most time consuming project right now is getting the information out for the web page or preparing the talks for the Nankai Bureau teachers. The teaching just gets worked in. (By the way, the topic for the 5th talk for the teachers has been changed to family life and relationsbirth to death, babies, children, old people, marriage, etcso any ideas are welcome on that. I can probably come up with the ideas, but I could use some statistics.)
Monday and Tuesday I donıt teach until the afternoon, so I spent both days at the office typing on my laptop computer asking Sun Zhi Hong the questions that need answers with poor Li Di spending the whole time translating both ways. He was more exhausted than I was, with good reason. On Monday they brought in steamed buns for lunch, one of my favorites, and we ate while we typed. Meanwhile Mr. Fung, the new man, was writing down everything said in Chinese for a record. Others sort of stood around marveling. They seem a little surprised at the speed with which we got to it. I donıt like wasting time, which I realize is a very American trait.
Tuesday morning we went out to breakfast right after Tai Chi and before going to the officeFu Ling, Sun Zhi Hong, Jian Goa, and myself. It was on food street near the office. For the first time we went in the main entrance. It opens to a huge, modern, but very Chinese looking mall. I was amazed. We went to what I would call a fast food restaurant. The inside space was about the size of three McDonaldıs put together. Like a fancy hotel breakfast buffet, it had four food stations. I think they were individually owned because patrons exchanged money for tokens and paid tokens at each station. One had soups, one had noodles, one had breads and buns of all sorts, and one was a one propane burner omelet station. You paid for what you wanted and scrambled for a place to sit. On the way back to the office, Fu Ling stopped at a specialty shop and bought candies and ³cakes² for me. They rarely have something that an American palate would call sweet because they rarely combine sugar and fat as we unfortunately do. The candies were peanuts covered with a large, crunchy coatingin different flavors and different colors. The cakes are like finely spun rice and wheat flour with sugar addedvery crunchy and crumbly.
Back at the office, the surprise was that Jian Goa had gone to pick up my new red jacket, so we had a style show. It is stunning and fits beautifully. Even the frog closures have been handmade out of the same material. What a lovely gift.
When we went for the walk after the hair washings, Zhang Fu Ling had brought home a bunch of different flavored ice cream bars. So far I have had red bean, green tea, taro, and chocolate. Iıd have to say the chocolate is at the bottom of the favorites list for me. The Chinese do amazing things with their vegetables.
Wednesday was my morning to give the talk. This was the first talk for the primary teachers. They were a good audience and gathered around afterwards for questions. Last week with the middle school teachers, Miss Su had rushed me out the door, closed the door behind me, and talked to the teachers. (I wondered whether I had said something that was not politically correct.) This time she invited them to ask questions. It was a nice group of fairly young teachers. My favorite question came from the woman who said her class wanted to know what this means and showed me, ³The wolf said, Let me in.ı The little pig said, Not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.² Isnıt that a charmer?
This morning was my class with the sophomores at the middle school. I would say they are hopeless, but I know better. After today, Iım really ready to start back at square one with them. I wish I had them twice a week and had started with them six weeks ago. I have to think of some fun things to get them participating. Meanwhile I have the third graders delightedly following a direction that has six parts to it which they have to process: Put the clownıs hat under a girlıs chair. Put the teacherıs book in a boyıs desk. Ah, me.
The funniest contact is the afternoon woman doctor. I dread it ever time I see her come in the door, because I think Fu Ling has sent her in to check me out. Yesterday she walked in, beamed, and said, ³You help me English?² She had words she wanted to pronounce with me. Most of them are non-medical from a quotation she has read where the quotation was in both English and Chinese. That kind of doctor contact I like!
In walking back from the newsstand, I passed a lunch stop where the cooking is done mostly outside and the eating inside. Right inside one small room two men were making noodles in a most fascinating way. They mixed what looked like regular dough, kneaded it, and worked it into a round roll about a foot long. They pick up the roll, stretch it just a little, and then, holding it by the ends up in the air, whack the middle down against the table. It seems to separate into round noodles right then. Next they stretch it out in the air a bit more and again, swinging it in a circle like a jump rope, whack the middle down. One end gets folded over to the other and the new ends are pulled and whacked. This keeps happening until the noodles are about a yard and a half long suspended in the air between two outstretched hands like an upside down bridge. They rest in plastic until someone buys noodles, at which time the whole strand is dropped into boiling water and cooked. Noodle making is an art.