Tuesday, July 31, 2007

it is wednesday in china

I write from the future. Yes, it is August in China.

We have had a wonderful three days so far in Shanghai. Of course it is hot and muggy and I never have a clue where I am unless I am at the Bund (along the river) or Peoples Square. We've had some interesting discussions that also are leading to further contacts. Our schedule doesn't look full, maybe two interviews per day, but we do not have much down time. We end up talking longer than we expect, and getting from one district to another in a large city of 21+ million takes time. Tuesday we had a three-hour interview over lunch. Time just flew by and was rich -- both the discussion and the lunch.

My students are absolutely wonderful. Great attitudes, fun to be with, extremely responsible -- you don't get that combination very often in one person let alone three. I am truly blessed.

They have been very caring and feel it is their job to protect me. It is really kind of cute. XC, who is in the same hotel as me, would go out in the morning and buy food to bring back to my room so I wouldn't go hungry. Last evening (Tuesday) we were in a different district of the city and about to go our separate ways. The two young women were going to head over to a fancy shopping center, when XC stopped and declared they could not go because Dr. B would go hungry. They needed to take me somewhere. Otherwise, how would I be able to buy food or even go to a McDonald's?

I assured them that I appreciated their concern, that it is quite sweet of them, but although I do not speak Chinese, I am not completely helpless. I know how to go into a store and buy things. (Cash registers show the amount to pay.) I can handle McDonald's. (They have pictures to point to, as do other restaurants, and anyway I don't want to eat at McDonald's.) They went shopping and I did not go hungry.

Yesterday we were walking around one the large universities in Shanghai and went into a building to look at classrooms and things (it was also air conditioned). We exited an elevator and I took off walking with YW following me. (She is the most serious one in the group.) I got a little ahead of her then took off running, quickly circling back around to elevators, and came up behind her with the other two. She had this panicked look on her face, looking all around, terrified she had lost Dr. B. I just acted like I had always been with the others and wondered what she was concerned about. For an instant I think she doubted her sanity. Good thing she has a sense of humor.

Still, they are helpful to this absent-minded professor. They always watch to make sure I do not leave things behind, as I am wont to do.

I try to have them make most of the decisions and it is fun to see them grow in confidence as they do so. I do intervene to confirm what I see as their consensus, or if they get off track, or to divide up responsibilities so they don't duplicate or confuse matters. Given their language skills, they make almost all our arrangements. This forces them to do things they have never done, and wouldn't otherwise think they could do.

I suspect they are beginning to wonder why I am along on this trip.

The food has been great. I am even learning to like Chinese junk food. They have this beef-jerky-type thing, only spicier and made from pork. Yesterday during an interview in a coffee shop I had one scoop each of mango, green tea, and red bean ice cream served over chunks of watermelon. Some of the drinks we pick up for treats are tasty but I couldn't begin to describe them and still have you think I am sane for liking them.

I better try to get back to sleep for an hour or so.

Be blessed!
RB

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