Sept. 9, 2007
I finally gave up on getting my blogspot blog to work and started this one. Because of the delay in getting the blog started, Ill repeat here, with editing, some info that some of you saw earlier in emails. Newer news is further down.
I was met at the airport by a nice Mechanical Engineering student with good English. My apartment is large and looks out on a nice courtyard. I have a phone in my apartment,
011 86 20 84111875
86 is the country code and 20 is the city code.
My cellphone # is 137 1941 3449. I dont know what codes you would dial first.
Friday night Aug. 31 I had dinner at a Sichuan restaurant with Ellen and Stuart and some social work students I knew last Dec. They have now graduated and have jobs. All the students adore Ellen and Stuart, so it is good to hope I can create some good relationships too.
I met the head of my department–a woman whose English name is Angela–and she took me out to dinner at a western restaurant. She has lived on this campus all her life except for 7 years doing hard labor during the Cultural Revolution. Retired faculty members such as her father can still live here. She is a very interesting and energetic person, who goes dancing every night and is also head of gender studies. She took me shopping at ParknShop, a bustling department store where I have been quite a few times now. I bought household things like towels and a knife. There are many unidentified foods, such as scary-looking spiky fruit. Perhaps if I tried a couple on each visit I could eat them all by the time I leave.
We are near the Tropic of Capricorn (? Cancer?) and it is hot and steamy, with occasional rain. When I ask people when it will start to cool off, they say, It already has.
I am well installed in my apartment, which is quite large for my purposesbig living room, bedroom with two twin beds, and large bathroom, small kitchen. Im on the third floor (walk-up) of a building which is part hotel, part apartments, had to sign a lease specifying how many pillows, etc. were in the apartment. I have AC, a microwave, 2 gas burners, fridge, TV (there were two English channels, but tonight one of them had mysteriously disappeared), a washing machine, internet access (finally hooked up yesterday), way too much storage space, ugly curtains. I bought a couple of hooks for the walls and want to get a few plants. I have a nice view of a courtyard on either side, and a little concrete balcony where one hangs ones clothes to dry. It has a line up high and one of those poles with a hook on the end to raise the coat hangers up to the line.
I met with my boss, Dr. Wang. Ill be teaching 4 speaking and 4 writing classes, which is better than 5 writing and 3 speaking. One teacher advised me just to assign 4 papers of 300 words. All my students will be in science and engineering; the humanities students take English in the 2nd semester.
My mechanical engineering friend, who works part-time for the English Dept., accompanied me to get my medical exam, and another student helped me open a bank account (for direct deposit), buy a cellphone, and see my classrooms. I have a work permit, and will soon have a faculty ID card and a campus intelligent card. Im about a 12 minute walk, through the beautiful campus, from Ellen and Stuarts apartment, and they had me over for dinnera saladthe other night. We went out to eat one night and it was delicious as always. They have trouble, being vegetarians. They had someone write out for them in characters their requirements, so they can show it to waitresses. Apparently vegetarianism is pretty rare in China. On Friday there was an orientation for Foreign Experts, which included teachers from Germany, Korea, New Zealand. I also met a young man from Oakland whos been teaching here a while. Two English teachers that Ive met are teaching undergraduates at the East Campus half an hour away. I wonder if I got the South campus simply by insisting on it.
Classes start tomorrow (Monday), and Ill have a total of 305 students, 144 in 4 writing classes and 161 in 4 speaking classes, each of which meets once every two weeks. All the writing students are Ph.D. candidates in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering. The speaking students are from various scientific/engineering disciplines and are first-year grad students. Its hard to imagine the amount of grading Ill have to do. I am quite anxious to actually meet the students and find out what theyre like. Ill have so little time with them, only 8 class meetings.
I was inside all day today, working on lesson plans (and procrastinating), and when I went outside at 7:45 it was still amazingly hot (it gets dark by 6:30 or so). I went up past the north gate of the campus, to a sort of river walk/square right on the Pearl River. It is filled with people, many just walking around but some dancing. One group of over 100 was being led by a guy with a headset-microphone, who led them in various modern-dance-type moves. Another group was doing a simple cha-cha. Some others were doing a sort of jitterbug/ballroom dancingone guy was dancing by himself with an invisible partner. Some young men were practicing moves with a sword. It is quite amazing to see all these people so unembarrassedly performing in public, all ages, women and men. They have various ability levels. It is a very un-ironic culture.
Ive barely been away from the campus and the huge busy street that runs along the southern edge (I live near the South Gate.) To step from the calm and green oasis of the campus into the loud, crowded street is quite a contrast. Guangzhou has banned motorcycles because of the noise, and several other cities have done the same. I did go with Ellen and Stuart to the U.S. consulate and register. When prompted, I gave permission for all categories of people to be given my contact info, including the media. The only block I didnt check was my congressional representative.
Next week I think I will join Ellen for a visit to the local uniontheres only one union in Chinawhich is receiving a delegation from Germany. Glad English is the lingua franca. There should be some tourism involved, so Ill be glad to see something different.
I dont know if I have the hang of blogging. What Ive written feels more like a letterbut not to any particular person, which is odd. When I get a camera, youll see pictures.
Posted from China:
posted Sunday September 2007