28 March 2012

A Busy, Laid-back Life

Springs continues to burst into bloom in south China, and with it the pace of my life has also ramped up a notch. I'm as busy as I want to be with my usual class work (lecture prep, reading papers, office hours), guest lectures, field trips, dinners with students, and impromptu invitations.

Life here is a strange mix of being very busy and being very laid back at the same time. This hinges around the relaxed nature of university life combined with the friendliness of staff, colleagues, and students. I've easily adjusted to the constant changes in scheduling and planned activities. One student described this as "TIC" = ThisIsChina. Another, though, disputed that reading and corrected it to "TINA" = ThisIsNOTAmerica. I love it, in part for the daily lessons it provides me as someone who tends to over-plan.

PingPong: Or, how to get your ass handed to you by an 8-year old kid

I was minding my own business working on a class lecture when two students came by and asked me to come outside and play--much like the "Leave It To Beaver" days of my youth. We found an open ping-pong table and Keegan (an English teacher here), when a little boy also joined us:

The little boy quickly organized us into an impromptu tournament, where he proceeded to totally kick everyone's butt while (I'm told) talking smack. He slowed down for me, saying something to one of my students to the effect, "Geez, this guy is older than my Grandpa, I have to take it easy on him."


I continue to shoot once or twice a week with Dr. Chen Baoqiang (Professor of Wushu) and his students. Later this week, I'll also deliver a guest lecture about traditional archery in America. This is great, as it gives me a chance to use a favorite episode from Kung Fu, the 1970s TV show starring David Carradine as a Chinese frontier hero (see  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EadMQ4cnK8A ), as well as the important influence of Zen on western thought:

In the U.S., hand-crafted bamboo arrow are very expensive--c. $25 each. This made an archer who joined us laugh, as he buys these beauties from a local arrow maker for a small fraction of that price (and simply laughs when one is broken in practice):

Dinners with Students

Each week, my teaching assistants arrange dinners with students from each of my two classes. This has proven an excellent way to discuss class material (students are generally shy about speaking out in class), compare Chinese and American culture, and enjoy tasty new food:

Martyrs Tour

My class of minority pre-graduate students invited me on their field trip last week to local historical sites connected with the communist struggle against both the Kuomintang (Chiang Kai-shek's National army) and the Japanese invasion. There were striking images, such as "The Youngest Martyr"--a small boy interned with his family (note the large head in proportion to the body, indicating starvation):

And this painting emphasizing how everyone struggled and died together as equals:

We had the obligatory class photo in front of the Heroes' Wall:

As well as many other photo opps:

I especially like this photo. The Chinese guy and I bought the same model of hat from one of the vendors, and next thing you know his family and my students were insisting on a pose:

The Chinese, at least those around Chongqing, genuinely like Americans and never seem to forget to the small-but-significant role American played in providing support against the Japanese invasion. The Heroes and Martyrs Museum reinforce this with photos of the U.S. Army Air Corps soldiers that were stationed here:

Jinyun Mountain Hike II

Most of my Chinese students take a measured approach toward physical activity, and were surprised that I might want to hike Jinyun Mountain two week-ends in a row. Thus we had a largely different group (which included Keegan, an English Instructor here), which was good since it gave me a chance to talk with more students:

As we approached the top where roads branch out to various peaks, the students staged a sit down strike (instigated by Keegan, who is fluent in Chinese) to protest the admission charge (see the official guy with the badge at top left):

So down we went, with a short-cut through a peasant's farm:

Where the kindly old peasant woman posed for me with her goslings:

And where the air was perfumed with the sweet scent of many blooming fruit trees:

We came upon a village with a street cafe and ignoring the lunches we had all packed, fell in at a table for the usual overabundance of tasty food that comes with a Chinese social gathering:

Back to Work

Later that day, a Sunday, I stopped by my office to print some lecture notes. Watching out the window, I was reminded of how hard, and the long hours, many Chinese people work. These laborers (men and women)  have been rebuilding a campus wall for the past week, with no Saturday or Sunday off:


troutbirder said...

More amazing days, from EcoRover - Red Guard. :)

Selene said...

thanks for finding me...and for your kindly comment!
I absolutely love your blog!
The Decemberists are certainly included in my "no list" :)

Richard Gibson said...

I want one of those hats!!

Sylvia K said...

What an incredible experience you are having and I am enjoying your posts/photos so very much! I have traveled a lot in my life, but never made it to China, Japan, India or Australia -- four countries that I have become so fascinated with over the past five years. Thank you for sharing such a great adventure with us. Enjoy!


BLD in MT said...

Wow, another excellent snapshot into a different world. Thanks for sharing. I love that little lady and her geese. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

It is really nice to have a first hand look at life there.
I know you thought it would be interesting, but did you think you would have so much fun?

John Bardsley said...

Love the ping pong story.

Janie said...

Interesting to see how the Chinese view their history through the Martyrs' Tour.
Ping pong, archery and hiking with new friends seems like good ways to take a break from preparing and teaching classes.