April 15 – April 30, 2010
Time is really flying by these days! We have our full set of activities and there are, as in every university I have known, so many events going on at this time before the year ends. It makes for busy times, but very exciting and interesting. The weather is grudgingly warming. Occasionally it was almost warm during the last two weeks. Flowers are showing up on trees – so, we will have spring weather – later, probably much later!.
One of the reasons that it seems as though time is flying by is that our Chinese lessons are getting more challenging and the vocabulary is growing at a fast pace, so all my“spare”time is devoted to Chinese. I realize now that my brain is full, and so it is hard to add more stuff without deleting something else. So learning something new is a slow process for me – what with all the deleting and storing for information. But it is rewarding and fun, too. The frustration of being unable to remember a new word or point of grammar for more than 10 seconds is more than compensated by the progress (however slow it is) that I am making. I have finally completed the first semester course. (Those of you who have facility with higher mathematics may notice that I have taken somewhat more than one semester to do so. ) But, I wouldn’t be this far along without the help of my longsuffering, patient teacher，郑小姐, 我的老师 (Miss Zheng, my teacher, i.e., Sue）Thanks Sue! .
Well, let’s get back to the diary.
Dinner with the boys. On April 15, Zoe brought the son of one of her friends to Deb’s class. The boy, Ricky Lian, is a university student somewhere else, but he was home visiting family in Weihai, and since he wants to study in America, he wanted to try out his English listening skills with an American teacher. Anyway, the class was a typical one, and Deb thought that he was promptly returning to his university, so good-byes were said all around at the end of class. So, …, you guessed it! On Friday evening, Deb received a phone called from Zoe, explaining that Ricky and his friend wanted to take her (and me) to dinner that evening. Ricky and his friend, Xian, picked us up at the community front gate, and drove us to Hai Yue Hotel (about two blocks from our house). We appreciated the ride since the weather was cold, misty, and windy! We ate at the western restaurant, and had a fine meal — most of us had pasta, but we also had clams and jiaozi and fruit as well. We had a fun time exploring the boys’ educational aspirations and plans! It is always a pleasure for us to visit with new friends, and learn more from them. We learned that they were, indeed, leaving for their university during the weekend — but this wasn’t the last time we were to see Ricky!
Candy’s Birthday. April 19 is Eye Candy’s (Liu Liang) birthday. So, after lunch, I saw Yvonne and Lulu secretively doing something in the meeting cubicle next to mine. They whispered that it was Eye Candy’s birthday, and we would have cake! Soon, Candy came bopping in and the feasting began. After mandatory singing and well wishing, Candy starting cutting the big cake. He happily passed out large pieces (see mine) to us, and we started eating. He also got a big bunch of beautiful lavender roses — almost one for every year of age. You may be surprised to learn that Candy is a little younger than I am! A good time was had by all — while still working on our various projects!
Dinner with the founder of Jiajiayue. On April 20, Deb got a call (from Zoe) telling us that the opportunity to meet Mr. Wang, the founder of JiaJiaYue (a huge chain of department stores that began here in Weihai) had been arranged by our friend, Mr. Zhang (remember that we met him last fall after our visit to the wind turbines), the Vice Secretary-General of Weihai Municipal People’s Government and Director of the Weihai Government Investigation Research Office. So, that evening we had dinner with Mr. Wang, Mr. Zhang, Lin Li Ping (Mrs. Zhang), Zoe, and Ricky Lian. This was a magnificent dinner at the same (He) Hotel, overlooking the harbor, where we had dined after the wind turbine sightseeing trip. Mr. Wang is a modest person, who founded a huge chain of supermarkets/department stores. He has more than 400 stores at present, according to Mr. Zhang, although Mr. Wang noted that some are small! His immediate goal is to operate stores in all of China’s provinces. He explained that when he began to work, he worked at a state store in his hometown near Weihai and then, around 1980, when the central government promoted private ownership of businesses, he started a small shop. He has progressively built his business over the course of about 30 years. He is in his early 50s, and Deb and I have no doubt that he will operate his chain of stores in every province before he retires! The primary purpose of the meeting was to seek the opportunity to have Mr. Wang speak with Deb’s entrepreneurship classes about his business and his success story. We really enjoyed these discussions!
The interesting conversation wasn’t over, however! I had been noticing that Lin was serving a plate in front of the empty chair next to her, and I assumed that she was going to take home a doggie bag of food for their son, Jason, who was studying for exams. However, it turned out that the chair was for Ricky’s father, Mr. Lian. Mr. Lian arrived from another engagement a little after we began eating. Mr. Lian is the Manager of the Weihai State-Owned Assets Management Company. We all talked and visited for a good while, and it was really interesting to learn about these businesses here in Weihai! Yes, Mr. Wang will invite Deb’s class to visit his company and he will tell them his story!
As we were leaving Mr. Zhang gave us some fresh fish and paxia (the kind of shrimp I described last fall — September 28). So, we had fresh seafood at home the next night!
A little warmer weather! As I walked across campus on April 22, I noticed that quite a few trees were blooming or on the verge of blooming! I took this as a sign of spring, even though it was a little brisk. It was a beautiful day, so I enjoyed the walk. I noticed that almost everyone else was also taking photos of blooms and trees — just like I was.
The walk, while beautiful and pleasant reminded me of the fact that I haven’t written very much about the popularity of basketball! The playgrounds were alive with basketball games everywhere! I watched several different games and was impressed with the moves and plays they boys had! But this was a beautiful day and well above 0! The playgrounds were also full of basketball games during the winter as long as there wasn’t snow on the courts and when it wasn’t raining too hard! Well, truthfully, there were a couple more guys out in the warmer weather today — but not as many more as you might think!
Dinner with (some of ) the foreigner teachers. Barbara told me that a new foreign teacher, Mr. Suzuki, is a expert on delicious food of all kinds. So, it had been decided that each month the (English-speaking) foreigners would go with him to a restaurant he chose for dinner! This evening, April 22, he had chosen a Korean restaurant in a nice hotel in the downtown area near the welcome arch at the harbor. He chose well! The food was delicious — Korean barbeque of various kinds. Deb, Richard and I loved the food, but some of our group were disappointed in the quantity. It was a smidge expensive, so Deb and I will think twice about going there again, but we would go for the food in a heartbeat! Thanks Mr. Suzuki!
Model United Nations Session on Adaptation of Rising Sea Levels. Deb and I had been asked to attend the opening ceremony for the session on Saturday, April 24. This is an global activity of college students in which the students study the positions of various countries concerning some important issue facing the UN. This time, the issue was adaptation to rising sea levels. Interesting! I really am interested in this topic, and I was especially interested in how low lying nations or nations with significant regions of low-lying land and centers of population would envision adapting to the rise on the sea level. I had been asked to make a few welcoming remarks to start the session, and then after introductions, we were free to leave. However, as I said, I am interested in this topic, so I stayed for the session. As is so often the case, I was so impressed with the students. They had studied the positions of the various countries who discussed this issue in the actual UN. (The position of the United States over the past couple of decades with regard to issues relating to global warming is not a track record that we can be proud of, and I have been acutely aware of this fact. The same thing can be said for other countries, including China, but that does not make any country’s actions and lack of actions right.) The students did a fantastic job! Here is their summary video! http://baby.youku.com/v_playlist/f4482362.html
However, the session left me quite depressed because no country actually talked at all about adaptation to sea level change. What was discussed was how to get other countries to reduce emissions, and blaming every other country for causing the problems. It struck me that this is rather like closing and locking the barn door after the horses and cows have escaped. Yes, we do need to seriously decrease the human factors that are leading to sea level rise, but the data tell us that it is already too late to avert the devastation that high sea level will cause even if we could somehow manage to immediately drop emissions to zero. Sea level rise will occur. So, what are the adaptation strategies?
By the way, in the group photo, you have another challenging opportunity to find “Waldo” (Finnie) lost in the crowd!
Our English Conversations continue on Sunday afternoons! On April 25, we continued our discussion of "our hometowns" We have had quite a few presentations about participants hometowns. So, Deb and I have a growing list of new places we need to visit! We will continue until everyone has had the chance to present their hometown.
After the Conversation, Deb and I went out for dinner to the …
Beifang Jiaozi Wang. Last time, I made a big deal about this restaurant because it deserves a big deal! Deb and I ate there Sunday night April 25. We had a wonderful meal!! Sweet and sour pork fillets, fried fish, pork jiaozi, and green vegetables and mushrooms. I took a few photos (to show the cooks working in the kitchen behind a glass window), but our friends, the waitresses, sort of got captured, too!
Here’s Deb’s report!
English Speaking Contest: Shaw, a student in one of my classes, organized an English Speaking Contest about a month ago. He invited two business faculty and me to act as judges. This was the first such event held at SDUW so we were all not quite sure how it would go, but we are always willing to give it a good try. One of the other faculty is someone I had met last semester and the other judge was someone I had not met before, so I was very happy to see them both. The contest was held in a large conference room with six students competing in the contest. There were also about 20 students in the audience. Here is the amazing circumstance: this was Saturday night from 7-9PM and there were graduate and undergraduate students participating on a voluntary basis in a school function in which they would receive no credit, extra credit, certificates of attendance, or other kind of recognition other than the usual group photos taken after the event. We are continuously amazed at the dedication that both students and faculty have here toward education, refining skills, and participating in new events. Shaw was the host of the event and acted like Alex Trebin of the Jeopardy Show. Questions were asked of the contestants and their job was to answer the question in English. It is hard for a native English speaker to answer questions that they are not prepared for, and these students were using their non-native language skills to answer very difficult questions. I was impressed with every contestant! But as a judge I was asked to rate the performance of the speaker and make a comment about their performance. This was really hard for me because grades are considered a matter of privacy in the states so publicly announcing the grade seems inappropriate. However, the contestants were gracious and understanding and the non-winners from each round of questions (there were 6 rounds of questions) were asked to leave the table. The final round was between two contestants. The points were awarded and the winner was congratulated. An assessment of the contest was made (“Let’s do this again!!”) and the photos were made. Shaw had the best photo printed on coffee mugs to give as thank you gifts and I am proud to display my mug! Thank you Shaw for including me in this event – I am always impressed with the dedication of the students to organize and participate in events such as these!
Proof of Spring. In the past few days I made a photo of the same flowering tree that is now in full bloom!
On April 29, we departed for the May 1 holiday to visit Nanjing, Suzhou, and Tongli. Beautiful places where (I am writing this after we got back), we took about 1200 photos. Tune in next time for a look at each one … . … OK, maybe only half … or so…