CHINA JOURNALFRIDAY, MARCH 29SATURDAY, MARCH 30
The delight of this week is that, after six weeks of everyone telling me they donıt know of any Christian services in English in Tianjin, I located a Christian International Fellowship just in time for Easter! Godıs perfect timing. Last Saturday we had located the Catholic Church which I was going to be content with. Until then I had been thinking that, for the first time, I might miss an Easter service. (Actually, when I was in Lebanon 45 years ago and traveling in Egypt I had two Palm Sundays and no Easter thanks to the Orthodox calendarbut the Egyptian Palm Sunday was as glorious as Easter.) This name popped up when I was virtuously pursuing Internet spots where I could post the Bomei Companyıs job announcement. I was looking at ³China,Teaching English² and a Peace Institute School in Tianjin was listed, so I emailed them and they told me of this fellowship. Whatıs more, it is on this general side of town.
Yesterday morning I went to the office again to try and get this job announcement pinned down. It takes time to first get the information asked and translated and then retranslated again after I type it up. It took us twenty minutes for me to convince Sun Zhi Hong that the section which I called Compensation should say ³room and board plus RMB 36,000 to 60,000.² He wanted to put in only what he called the ³pure salary² because he insisted that the room and board (which is provided) is not part of the salary. I ended up drawing a diagram illustrating how an American would look at the salary quoted and subtract from that all the things for which he thought he would have to paysuch as room and board, airline roundtrip ticket, and insurance. What was left over would be much less than the quoted salary. Then I drew another diagram showing how an American would look at the salary quoted and add on to that the cost of the room and board and other items being provided and end up knowing they were being paid a much higher amount in real compensation. Thatıs an example of only one point.
In the few days of working closely with Sun Zhi Hong on this and really pinning down information and wording, Iım getting a much deeper look at the Chinese way of thinking. One of my other favorite discussions centered on administrators, whom they are also seeking. (Frankly, I canıt imagine administrating a school in a country where I knew neither the language nor the culture.) In clarifying what the administrators would do, his feeling was that an American administrator, who knows the less rigid educational approach we use, would simply tell the Chinese teachers what to do and they would do it. I explained that our teachers receive that training and that is not typically what administrators do. This explains his utter surprise earlier when I expressed strong feelings that if someone declared herself as a primary teacher she should not be placed in middle school and vice versa. Whatıs more, I explained, our teachers begin to specialize and think of themselves as not a primary teacher, but a third or fifth grade teacher. The Chinese teachers normally just follow the nationally assigned text without a lot of variation or enrichment, so you could pick up a text in any grade and work your way through the semester without much preparation. They do a lot of exercise grading, but even those are ³canned² and written in a very prescribed way in a specific exercise book for that subject.
Sun Zhi Hong gave a nice little speech to Li Di to translate for me to the effect that I have done them an invaluable service and that what I have written has moved them way forward and will become the model they will use in directing information to other countries. I knew that was true, but it was nice to hear that he realizes it and appreciates it.
While we worked I heard a lot of sirens and looked out the office window. (It is on a main street.) First came about four police cars with top lights and sirens going. Next was a long triple line of motorcycle policemen. My thought was that it was a presidential motorcade. Then came four open army type trucks with a bench seat on each side that faced outwards. It was a transfer of ³criminals². Sitting bolt upright side by side on the benches would be first a guard in khaki, then a criminal in bright blue, then a guard, followed by another guard, a criminal, and a guard, and so on. There may have been six of the prisoners on each side of the truck for a total of forty-eight criminals being paraded through the street for everyone to witness. The procession ended with another motorcycle brigade and four more police cars with lights and sirens. Very sobering.
Several new food experiences came with both breakfast and lunch. One morning at the quick order breakfast place, Fu Ling brought me a bowl of what looked like cream of wheat covered with a thin peanut butter sauce and sesame seeds. It is apparently something specialized to Tianjin and is described by them as wheat tea. Iıd call it Cream of Wheat.and I do recommend peanut butter on it. Give it a try! The other item, called zongzi is reminiscent of a home-made tamale wrapped in corn husks. It is a glutinous rice ball with a few cherries in it. The ball was wrapped in a long bamboo leaf. The wrapping was done so that the leaf crossed over and forced the ball into a three cornered mini volcano with one cherry sticking out the top of the volcano. The leaf then wrapped up and the whole triangular package was tied with a grass string. Iım not sure if they were steamed or boiled.
Then at lunch one noon six of us from the office went to the food street to the same restaurant where we ate on my very first day. They are the ones who have an official plaque for being the first to make the famed Tianjin dumplings (jiaozi). After all the other food that we waded through, in comes the waiter holding six round steam baskets on top of each other (a separate waitress held two more that were vegetarian for me.) Each basket contained nine of the dumplings, such as I described making, placed in a circle around a center dumpling made in a round shape. So here we were with 80 dumplings and six people. Fortunately, what we didnıt eat did go home. I learned that the dumplings can be steamed, boiled, or fried.
In walking around in that area I noticed that the side street which borders on the side of food street is made up of old one story front businesses, some with very old carvings over the door. In several places there are arches across an ³alley². As you glance down those, you see the many little residence doors opening out. I had the sensation that this may have been what Old Chinatown in Bakersfield looked like a hundred years ago. It made sense that what had been the street for the Chinese eventually became China Alley and the entrances were reversed to face the new street, a wider entity.
Last night as I worked with Zhang Jie on her English, there was a world map and a list of 10 countries to be placed on the map (the numbers were already there identifying the locations.) They included China, Japan, Australia, the Soviet Republic, the United States, Canada, Brazil, England, Italy, and Mexico. It was interesting to me that the only one she could place was China. (It was not because she didnıt know the names because we made sure of the identification in Chinese.)