16 May 2012

May Comes to South China

How is it possible -- teaching only two classes -- to be so busy? The answer: two classes of 30-some students, none who have ever been taught to use primary sources, yet most want to learn. At the end of class I say, innocently enough, "If you want to discuss your research/final paper proposal, stop my office or email me for an appointment." [At my home university, I could safely make plans to go fishing the next day knowing that no students would come by.] Next day I've booked 15 1-hour appointments, plus follow up emails about additional sources, how-to info on citing sources, etc. Add to that the many students that want to take us sight-seeing, accompany us on a hike, or stop by the apartment for a social visit. Wow.

Mrs Rover's Birthday

April (ah, the cruelest month, indeed!) ended with a birthday celebration of Mrs Rover's birthday. A few students heard about it, and next thing you know we've got students at the door with flowers and a cake, singing "Happy Birthday" in Chinese, English, German, Korean, and Japanese:

A New Pet

Spring has activated the critters. Ah, melodious birdsong waking us each morning. Bats flitting through the twilight sky. Five-inch long centipedes in the shower... YIKES:

I killed the centipede (they can deliver a seriously nasty bite), but we accepted another pet on the advice of the locals. These guys (gals?) eat the other insects, keep their distance from humans, and anyway are too quick to catch. We named this one "Dave" after a friend who lost an arm in Vietnam:

Jinyun Mountain

I would hike Jinyun Mountain each week, if only I had the time. A well developed culture has existed in this area for many thousands of years. I wonder how many times the stone blocks in this farm building have been used, and for what purposes?:

We could ask the peasant who owns and cares for this land, but they might merely reply, "Same as it ever was.":

This bronze statue commemorates a Shui-mo (水墨)  painter who worked here about 1,000 years ago:

Nearby is a well he took water from to mix his paints and clean his brushes. At the edge of the well, we saw a dragonfly. Who is to say that on the great karmic wheel that one form of life is "higher" than another? The life of a simple animal, though brief, may well be as happy and spiritually fulfilling as the life of a painter or philosopher. I prefer to believe that this lovely dragonfly was the reincarnation of old Shui-mo:

My colleague Dr. Wang Yong plunked down a 10 Yuan note (about $2) for me to shoot 10 arrows. The prizes being unnecessary plastic objects, I asked the vendor, "How many arrows do I need in the bullseye to get Yong's money back?" "Six," he says. After six, a small crowd gathered around to cheer me on, and they vendor quit handing me his crappiest arrows. Fun stuff (though to be honest a c. 10-inch bullseye at 10 meters is not so difficult!):

For lunch, we ate at a little farmhouse restaurant where the History Department hosted last year's party. The owner woman told Yong she would give him a discount for this year's party if I posed with her. Tough duty. Here I am with my new girlfriend (on the right; pssst--don't tell Mrs R):

Things you learn on a hike: For example, it's nice to know that even Superman likes help from Grandma when he needs a drink of cool water from a spring:

Another day, another hike. This time, with a group of students, we did not eat so well. Still, the bowl of noodles cooked on the spot by the vendor and given to me by this student were as tasty as any King's feast:

For this hike, we once again became semi-lost and took a less traveled by route. It included sneaking through this hole in the fence to avoid paying the 20 Yuan per person entrance fee to access the peak area:

Getting off the busy path has its advantages for seeing wildlife such as this beauty--a skink well over 12-inches long (the tail is half of that or more):

Happy hikers on a cool little arch bridge:

Back to Xiamen City

With a little paperwork and an invitation, the Fulbright program encourages scholars to deliver guest lectures at other universities. This gave a perfect means for me to show Mrs R the lovely city on the coast and for us to visit with our old friend ShengJia (from graduate schools days in the late 1980s at Cornell). Here we are at his lovely home on the small nearby, car-free island of Gulangyu:

The visit of course included a few beers at a waterfront pub:

A walk on the beach (note to Montana Tech administrators: EVERY COLLEGE NEEDS A BEACH!):

And two lectures to Professor ShengJia's colleagues and graduate students:

If I lived in Xiamen, I would definitely own a boat. Bear with me for this series of photos. First, several pretty boats lying at anchor:

Second, the fisherman uses a styro-foam raft to reach and board his vessel:

Meanwhile, his patient wife waits on the shore:

Last, he runs his boat up on the strand to pick up his mate:

May 4th Festival

 May Fourth is a big holiday celebrating the students who led the revolution on that date in 1919. It's celebrated with what other than a student mega-production. The boring political speeches and award ceremony were tedious (had we not receive prominent, front section seats, we probably would have ducked out after the first hour!):

But then the fireworks went off, waking us up:

And the Revolution began:

It was good to know the Tibetans supported the Revolution too:

As did the Uyghurs:

Lei Fung, the image projected in the background below, is a Communist Party manufactured populist hero. He's an icon of the selfless hero, sort of like 'at George Washington and the cherry tree etc:

No celebration of the People's Revolution can be complete without a fashion show:

And all's well that ends with a ribbon dance:

Say what you will, Chinese students are enormously talented and put on one hell of a good show.

Ciqikou, the Old Chongqing

Like Chinatowns in American cities, the entrance to Ciqikou is marked by a gate:

I usually do NOT enjoy shopping, but here it was low key (no pressure to buy) and full of traditional fun sights like these guys pounding a day's worth of sesame candy being beaten into submission:

For Mrs R, there were more lovely handcrafted items than you can wave a fan at:

My eyes watered and mouth watered just walking past this shop:

A Few Gifts for Mrs R

One afternoon, students DingKedan"Betty" and MaLinJuan"Judy" stopped by with some gifts made by their respective Grandmas back in their hometowns--including hand-embroidered innersoles, a batik head cloth, and these intricate paper cutouts for hanging in a window:

Another day, a designated student representative stopped by with this awesome calligraphy banner scroll. It is for "the honored professor" and includes the names of a core group of students:

So I do not complain about 15-hours of meetings helping students with research papers, or a dozen long emails each day about historical questions. I have never felt so honored as in teaching here.