For Payton
and Deona


Connecting Mandarin and English,
          Chinese and American,
                    people with people

A Friday of Adventures before the Long Weekend
(September 12, 2008) (return to Homepage)
     This morning we met Luanne, our foreign language teacher assistant, to tour the new campus. On the way to the bus stop we harassed the bus driver who was parked in the shade of the trees about 100 meters from the actual bus stop waiting for the appropriate moment. We've heard that he speaks some English and talks to the international teachers. There are school buses that are used for the teachers to take them to and from the two campuses and their homes in downtown Nanchang. There's clearly a preference to live in the heart of this city of almost 4 million to be close to the stores.
     At the new campus on this our first exploratory visit, we checked out our future classrooms. One of Gail's rooms was set up with an instructor computer, projector and screen. A technician from down the hall turned on the power, literally; the master switch, the computer line, the computer and the projector. After realizing that the other two classrooms were the basic chalk blackboard and all three classes were the same, and after realizing that there was no Internet, Gail decided that she wouldn't be using this equipment.
     The tour of Denvy's future classrooms revealed computers at each student's station and a highly sophisticated instructor station. It's a language lab and the student can listen to a CD, operated by the instructor. Despite the fact that this will be another 40-50 for each of the additional classes, the classes are strictly freshmen oral and should have no written assignments or final grading.
     The novel part of the day was as we walked back to the front of the campus, the freshmen dressed in their military garb, were headed the opposite direction toward lunch. They were feeling the oats and started saying "Hello," and, of course, we responded back. They'd wave and we'd wave. Some said more then "Hello" and we responded accordingly. After awhile we felt like celebrities exercising our "parade wave." I think Luanne was both a little surprised and embarrassed. We thought of it as a great big game.
     In the afternoon we ventured downtown to find Walmart to get some otherwise unfindable items as well as check out the computer store next door for some additional unfindable items. Bus 232 starts out at the university with very few riders but about two stops later it is crowded and another two stops later it is packed and the driver doesn't even stop at some of the bus stops. We started talking to a young student from another college and she aided us with regard to our proper "Walmart" bus stop. After we disembarked we found her standing behind us. She decided to help us around the stores instead of continue on to her stop which I believe was the train station to go home. She was a delightful surprise and we enjoyed Sophie, our newfound guide, very much.
     We hurried back to campus on dear old 232 which was full from the start and emptied as we traveled. On campus we attended the Mid-Autumn Festival dinner put on by the university for the international teachers. We each received another 8 moon cakes. Are you counting? Remember we had about 23 given to us earlier. The dinner revealed the drinking games that adult men play. Heros (properly misspelled), a newly arrived Japanese teacher asked why we didn't drink alcohol. We said that we did a little but it's easier to say yes later than no after you start. Most thought it was great fun downing a shot of wine which is actually 53% alcohol hard liquor.
     A driver from the university drove us downtown where we met Yiqi and headed to the railway station and Hangzhou on the overnight train.

A note about Chinese trains:
Three trips on trains in China and we're authorities, but only our perceptions of what we observed. Both train rides to and from Changsha were on the new fast trains, the "D" trains: D205 and D206. The trip to Hangzhou (pronounced more like Han Joe than hang zoe) was an overnight sleeper. The basic design has an aisle along one side and small compartments replicates American and European sleepers. A difference may be that the "compartments" have no walls or doors to the aisle. Essentially it's like sleeping in the same one big bedroom with 60 of your dearest friends. In my youth up until I was 64 would would scampered to the top bunk. As the guest we accepted the offer of the bottom bunks while strangers occuplied the nose-bleed third bunk. The train's ceiling is higher than we remember from our past experiences and the head room in bunks is certainly minimal. Conservation of space in this crowded country is an art.

     We're convinced we will not adjust or adapt to Chinese driving is a mere four months. Just about every illegal acts of driving is America has been performed and repeated on the streets in China - driving down the wrong side of the road, passing on the right in the bike lane, u-turning in the middle of traffic, using no seat belts, riding bikes without lights at night and never using helmets, cutting off other drivers and honking your horn almost constantly.

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