Monday, July 28, 2014

Will I return?
Already, my friends are asking if I’ll be returning next year.  I say I will if invited.  And then I ask myself why anyone would spend a vacation in a military dictatorship.  This place gets very spooky at times, yet part of my life is here.
But I’ve made lifelong friends, and I want to see them again. Truth to tell, I feel a bit guilty about going back to America. So many people I care for are here and cannot escape.  I am even acquiring the language, at long last. 
None of the staff in my guest house speak English, and using Chinese has been a matter of necessity. Now, I am understood when I ask for soap and towels in the guest house.  I can ask for soup, vegetables, and rice at the dining hall. This morning, I succeeded in buying wrapping paper from a shop on campus.

The words now come automatically. I don’t have to wrack my brain.  The Chinese lessons and practice with Rosetta Stone are finally kicking in.
I feel I belong here.  Of course, I’ll be back.

In 2010 and 2011, English festivals were held on this campus.  Students created exhibits and skits in English after extensive research on the Internet. To me, the young people seemed different than those I had taught in 2006, more able to explore new ideas, more willing to question their teachers. Remembering the massacre on Tiananmen Square, I wondered if China was ready for them.

 China was indeed ready, but not in the way one would hope for.  Information control, i.e., censorship, is much stronger now.  Gone are the days when Facebook was visible, and one surfed the Internet more or less freely on Google as long as one avoided search terms like “China, June 1989.” Now, one must search using Yahoo, and 80 per cent of the websites are now blocked. Officials claim this is due to “technical problems,” and many Chinese whom I talk to believe this.  There are greater restrictions on religious freedom. Soldiers patrol the Beijing Airport wielding machine guns.

The recent waves of Uighur terrorism provide the government with a ready excuse for the crackdown, but the actual reasons are more insidious.  Much of the Chinese population has become well educated and cognizant of world issues.  There is less tolerance for authoritarian rule. Not all regions and ethnic minorities participate in the current prosperity. This government remains very strong and is determined to stay in power.
I tell myself I’m helping by teaching students to reason and analyze propaganda. A Chinese colleague, a veteran of the Cultural Revolution thinks is like tilting at wind mills. “Bringing this government down will take more than critical thought,” he said. I believe in the power of ideas, and I hope he is wrong. But this man knows China far better than I.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Limited Liberty
This morning, I attended the English speaking service at the Weihai Church. The government has always preferred that only foreigners attend this service—they’ve want Chinese attending a separate service if they go to church at all.  Communist Party members may not attend worship of any kind.

 In the past though, lots of Chinese came to the English language service, and nobody seemed to care. Now, it seems clear that the government does, though I still saw some Chinese at the service.

For some reason, the government does not want foreigners and Chinese to worship together. I am told that in Beijing and Shanghai, one must show a passport to be admitted to English religious services, and that Chinese are turned away.

After the Storm
Yesterday, the weather was sunny, but the water at Golden Beach was rougher than I’ve ever seen it, and it was also very cold.  There were very few swimmers, though many people who came out and waded.

 By today, the water was calmer, but there were huge amounts of debris in the water massive amounts of seaweed.  When I walked on the shore, I felt as if I had stepped in a giant tossed salad, and after awhile, I decided to walk instead on a footpath that parallels the beach.  

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. ...