The past week provided for a guided tour of the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, with side trips to a pearl factory and a tea house. The tour company has to receive some remuneration from the latter two, as each involved something of a soft/not-so-soft sell. Yes, at the tea house I left with a good supply of some very good Chinese teas, puer and oolong.
I will soon find out whether I’ve put this in a post already, but I don’t think so. This has to do with the vast scale of humanity here in China. The day of the tour, I found out that between 40,000 – 50,000 persons were visiting the Summer Palace the day we were there. Back in the States, only national parks, and maybe Disney World and major transport hubs have that sort of human traffic on an exceptionally busy day. Still, consider this. Even if 50,000 people were to visit the Summer Palace every day of the year, it would still take about 120 years for every current living person in China to visit it. Kind of staggering, yes? The economy here seems to move forward by sheer unstoppable inertia derived from the multitude of humanity.
This past Thursday we all went to the Beijing Ballet. The two ballets were choreographed by a cousin of mine (maybe), Roland Petit. They were good, but they also appeared to be choreographed for a Chinese audience, as they were both also very stylized, yet in a simple way. I reminded myself that ballet in China is something of a young art form. When, for instance, Martha Graham and George Balanchine were in mid career, China was undergoing the Cultural Revolution.
Friday, the new faculty here has a rain-soaked walk in the morning. The thought was to open a second account, this one needed to tie into direct deposit. The Language Barrier reared its proud head. Later in the day, a group of us went to another branch of the same bank, though this time under the tutelage of two of our Assistant Teachers, both of whom are Chinese. We succeeded this time. However. However, the logistics were great, with paper flying, stamps stamping, supervisors supervising. Then (oh, woeful moment) I made the decision to try to deposit $150.00 in Amex traveler’s checks into my account. Much more paper. Many more stamps. More consultations. This process took the better part of 45 minutes. Even my personal guide at that point, Emma Bai, was laughing at it all. I was terrified, as I felt the wrathful eyes of waiting customers searing into the back of my head. One irate Beijinger at another window was near postal at having to wait as long as she did. I didn’t exit the bank. I fled the bank. Moreover, I do not believe I will show my face there for several weeks.
Yesterday, Sunday, I went to the English 4pm mass at St. Joseph, presided over by a priest from Dublin; the other priest, logically speaking, is from Queens, NY. As you might imagine, it was a very multinational congregation. It will be a good place.
Classes begin on Thursday 1 September. Some fine tuning is required between now and then.