Saturday, July 05, 2014

Gifts of information and language

It's easiest to know what to bring for people I know well. One of my friends likes the varied news magazines one finds in America-- things like Time and Newsweek. The Chinese government keeps tight control over information, keeping the choices of reading material narrow. The Patriot Act notwithstanding, Americans can read what they want.
For the children of colleagues, I bring games and toys which will help them with English: an interactive alphabet busy box for a two year old, a Scrabble game for a girl in her early teens, a book of Shel Silverstein's poems for a child entering 6th grade.

Not made in China

China’s is a gift giving culture. Those we visit offer us gifts representing their culture, and good manners we give gifts in return. It’s important to follow this protocol when discussing exchanges with university officials, which it now seems I shall be doing. Such things aren’t covered in a university budget, and I had expected to eat the cost. However, my new chair, Dr. Norma Hogan graciously said she’d go halves with me.
For the men, we bought pen sets and key chains at the ETSU book store. Then yesterday, I went over to JC Penney's to get gifts for the Chinese ladies. Thought I’d but scented soap, but couldn't find any. Then I remembered how Chinese women love luxury cosmetics, but this isn’t something I'm accustomed to buying. Years of Methodist stewardship lectures have made me feel guilty about spending money on makeup in a world plagued by hunger. I compromise by buying makeup on sale at Walgreens. An international project is different, however; so I consulted a cosmetologist about products to complement Asian skin tones.
I bought eight boxes of shadow whose lovely packages proclaimed they were made in California. This is a plus. Most of the chachkas have labels which read “made in China.”

Friday, July 04, 2014

Sudden change

I'm going to spend a few days in Beijing before going on to Weihai, where I'll be teaching at the University of Shandong. I had planned a relaxed time where I'd take walks, practice my Chinese, stay in a budget hotel and visit old friends. I expected to see some people from North China University of Technology in Beijing or NCUT where I'd taught there in the past. I thought we might possibly discuss university exchanges between NCUT and ETSU where I'm on faculty, if people wanted to. On this, I had the blessing of Norma Hogan, my chair, and Angela Lewis, my Dean; nevertheless the trip was unofficial. The plan has changed. Li Jing, who was supposed to pick me up at the airport, contacted me yesterday evening. Personnel at NCUT had learned would be in Beijing, and their international office decided I ought to stay on their campus. My hotel reservation would be cancelled. A university car would be meeting me. The international office will plan my time in Beijing, though though visits with friends will be part of my schedule. I gather that there will be meetings, though I've no idea what the agendas will be. This is turning into a more structured visit than I'd anticipated, but it's very generous of NCUT, and I'm sure I'll have fun. In China, women faculty wear feminine clothing on formal occasions, and sometimes even the nicest slacks will not do. I'd already bought a new dress; today, I went back to the mall and purchased another skirt. Below: North China University of Technology, front gate

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...