The Mid-Autumn Festival was this past weekend. This also combined with Teacher Day, which allowed for a three-day weekend. The Friday before Teacher Day, which was Saturday, the school hosted an amazing banquet at a hotel; I noted this earlier. Then, the evening of Teacher Day itself, the principal of the school hosted a private dinner for the teachers of the International Division. This was a truly elegant affair, in which we were treated to an assortment of wonderful food at a very large circular table, around which sat about15 or 16 individuals. There were toasts, good conversations, and, afterward, tea in a separate tea room.
That Sunday I met my friend Chang for church at 8am, and had a relaxed time with her, learning more about China and the language. She had graciously ordered me a Chinese-English, English-Chinese dictionary for me, which will be of great help as time goes on. She also helped me find a very good, and complete, version of The Dream of Red Mansions, a Chinese classic. At 2500 pages it ought to be a classic! I have not been able to start it yet.
That afternoon, another colleague of mine, David Lasson, and I were given a four-hour walking tour by a group of students. This was a tour of a very famous hutong (alley) that used to be the home of nobility and the wealthy during the some of the dynastic periods. Now it is a very, very crowded shopping street, but it still bears the marks of history. That a group of 6 students would take 4-5 hours out of their day to host an afternoon like this speaks highly of education in China, and of the students themselves.
On Monday I got together with the daughter of an old friend from the military, whom I haven’t seen in about 30 years! She is a senior at the Naval Academy, and is doing a semester here in Beijing. I had never seen her before, obviously, and it was wonderful to meet her, and through her to hear about her father.
This afternoon, I went over to observe the after-school Model U.N. organization at work. Keep in mind that this group has its own lecture hall at the school. Within about 5 minutes of being there, I had been asked to be the English adviser to the group in order to help the students with English wording and phrases as they prepare for their events. I was at once surprised, but I am also incredibly honored to be asked to do this.
While China may have its bureaucratic intricacies, they are not always at work. Tonight when I got back from school, I told Kimmy, one of the front-desk clerks, and a wonderful human being, that the sink in my kitchen was clogged. Within about 20 minutes there was a staff engineer on his way up to the apartment. In about 15 minutes it was fixed. Keep in mind, this was in the evening. I marveled. I later brought down some moon cakes, a Mid Autumn Festival treat and gift, for the front-desk staff. And there I met a gentleman who works in education through the State Department and his wife, who is from Paraguay. I have met some truly interesting people just entering and exiting the apartment. (I was reminded by this man that the Model U.N. is a very big and prestigious organization in schools throughout China.)
Beijing. It’s an amazing city. The weekend is soon upon us — and it will be cooling off!