Archive for May, 2014

23
May
14

Preparations

Today’s my last day in the office prior to departure — trying to remember everything we’ll need from here! We’ll be on our way soon!

Benedictine U China Pollination Project

Six members of our seven-person team are one week from departure. We still have bags to pack, decisions to make (do I need another shirt?), plans to make (what should we see first?). But, we’re also preparing for the work we’ll be doing when we get there: making observations of flowers, looking for pollinators, as well as making non-destructive measurements of the nectar content and quality of the flowers. For example, today we went out to the Morton Arboretum, which is only about ten minutes from our campus, and found crabapple trees in bloom.

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Everyone got to work the the tools we’ll be bringing with us (as simple as capillary tubes, and as complex as a refractometer)

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There were lots of bees on this tree, and a sugar concentration above 30% (the max one can find is only about 45%) helped explain why, even though each flower only had a few…

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21
May
14

Open-air polyglot karaoke

Open-air polyglot karaoke

Harjot Sangha performs a Punjabi song and dance for the group touring Nankai University.

21
May
14

Nankai University Group Photo

Nankai University Group Photo

With Nankai’s most famous alumnus, Zhou Enlai.

21
May
14

Tianjin and Nankai University

Monday 19 May, we traveled from Beijing to Tianjin 天津 by high-speed rail. The 120 kilometer journey took us only 40 minutes, as the G-2017 reached speeds of nearly 300/kph. Total price: $9 US.

While in Tianjin, China’s fourth-largest city (and one of four municipalities not under any provincial control) we were treated most hospitably by Nankai University 南开大学 (est. 1919), which is one of the top schools in China. Students from the translation program gave us a campus tour, which included a sharing of songs by the lake. We enjoyed two songs sung in Chinese by one of our guides, Sofia, a number is Spanish by Monica Echeverria (Alvernia), a song in English by Ericka Robinson, one in Arabic by Hanan Salim, and a Punjabi song and dance routine by Harjot Sangha. Wow. We have some talented students musically and linguistically.

Because my dissertation research was on wartime Chinese literature (1937-1949), I was especially interested in the Nankai bell, which was cast to commemorate the destruction of the campus by the Japanese in 1937, and the Southwest United University 西南联合大学 stele. Southwest United was made up of three top-tier schools (Peking University 北京大学, Tsinghua University 清华大学, and Nankai University) that had to relocate during the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945). SWU finally settled in Kunming 昆明, Yunnan Province 云南 in the far southwest of the country. According to writer WANG Zengqi 汪曾祺 (1920-1997), the environment there was vibrant intellectually and offered opportunities for scholarly and artistic undertakings that probably would not have been possible had the three schools remained separate back in Beijing and Tianjin.

After a delicious lunch with an abundance of dishes, Professor LIU Ming delivered a lecture on globalization and the current world economic situation. Later in the afternoon, we visited “Old Culture Street,” which is a 1980s reconstruction of an old hutong (alleys) area of the city. It is now a commercial district selling souvenirs from contemporary edifices built in a mock style of late-imperial architecture. Tim shared with me our former Fulbright FLTA, Helen Feng’s, story about growing up in this area. Upon returning to her old neighborhood, which had been razed to make way for this Disnified “Main Street” with Chinese characteristics, the only vestige of Helen’s home was an old tree that she used to climb as a child.

The day concluded with a evening stroll around the old Italian district. In the 19th century, Tianjin was also a treaty port city. After the second Opium war and ratification of the Treaty of Tianjin (1860), the city was opened to foreign trade. The Italians came late to the imperialist party, around the end of the 19th century. They did not miss the Boxer Rebellion, however. The Boxers controlled much of the city around the beginning of the twentieth century. In the 1920s, the Japanese concession area was the refuge of Puyi, the last Chinese emperor. Today, the Italy concession is one of the best preserved of all the former concession areas in the city.

From Tianjin, we took an overnight sleeper train to Dalian, where we are now enjoying some cooler weather. Tomorrow, we’re off on a tour of the port, the Jinshitan campus of Dalian Nationalities University, our host in Dalian, and an American joint venture company here. Douglas (GUO Jiulin 郭九林) will be our guide for the day. We look forward to having Douglas on campus this fall as a visiting professor and artist in residence (calligraphy). As always, Mark (ZHANG Zhigang 张志刚) has been most helpful in arranging things for Benedictine University.

Steven

20
May
14

Tiananmen Square

Tiananmen Square

Group Photo

20
May
14

Great Wall at Mutianyu

Great Wall at Mutianyu

Group Photo

18
May
14

Wake up call

After a three-hour delay at O’Hare caused by a fire at the Aurora air-traffic control tower and problems soon after at the Elgin tower, we finally arrived safely in Beijing 14 May, only an hour or so late. Our delightful guide in China, Andy, met us at the airport and shepherded a tired group efficiently to a waiting coach. After dinner, we settled into our hotel, which is not far from Tiananmen Square. From my room window, I can actually see Mao’s Mausoleum and the National Theater (“The Egg”) peeking above the surrounding rooftops of Qianmen and Dashilan street.

In part because of jet lag and in part because the sun rises a little before 5:00 AM here (with the air quality in Beijing, the East is indeed red now with the sunrise), I have been getting up much earlier than normal. For those sleeping in, there is always the morning wake up call. Not just the hotel’s automated system mind you (One student was somewhat disappointed after trying out a “ni hao” 你好 only to learn that nobody was on the other end). No, we have another wake up call, too. At 5:00 AM sharp every morning, the Chinese national anthem, March of the Volunteers, can be heard coming from the speakers at Tiananmen Square. Just the instrumental version. But the lyrics at the very beginning of the anthem still run through my mind nonetheless. In the context of the anthem’s origins, the opening lyrics, “qilai” 起来,mean something like “arise” in a political sense. But “qilai” also means to “get up,” as in “get out of bed.”

These days, however, I hardly need such exhortations. Since arriving, we’ve all been looking forward everyday to the daily schedule of events. So, it is not difficult at all to “qilai.” In addition to the usual tourist destinations, such as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, and Tiananmen Square, we’ve also been fortunate to experience other things not on the usual travel itinerary. On Friday 16 May, Matthew HU of the Courtyard Institute 四合书院 provided us with warm hospitality and a wonderful home-cooked meal in a “siheyuan” 四合院, or traditional courtyard residence, in the central part of old Beijing. The lunch was followed by an informative lecture on the history of Beijing and some of the challenges of cultural preservation. Matthew then treated us to an interesting walking tour of the nearby hutong 胡同, or alleyways, of Beijing. The day concluded with a visit to Houhai 后海. I am happy to report no mishaps on land or lake by the bikers or boaters while circumnavigating Houhai and Qianhai 前海.

Saturday 17 May, we visited a migrant workers’ village on the outskirts of Beijing. We were invited to a school there that addressed the educational needs of the children of migrant workers. My colleague, Professor Wilson Chen, deserves credit for introducing me to the village, which he visited last year after our China Faculty Seminar concluded in late May (see earlier posts on this blog). School visits are always enjoyable and allow for the greatest degree of people-to-people contact that such experiences abroad can offer. After Tony Gonzalez (高老师) had us introduce ourselves with name cards to the students, Ericka Robinson (罗晓东), taught them “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” At some point during the lesson, the tables were turned, and the students, who were very young, reciprocated by teaching us some games. I am quite confident that Hanan Salim, Albert Rementer, Richard Singletary, Jacob Kennedy, and Ryan Le, will always remember how to say “strawberry,” “litchi,” “durian,” and “banana” in Chinese. Albert, can we go through those fruits again?

Tomorrow, we will be leaving Beijing and heading to Tianjin, where we will visit Nankai University and the city before catching the overnight train to Dalian. It is late here now. So, I will rest, await my wake up call and, of course, the adventures that come with every new day.

Steven
Beijing 5.18.2014 11:15 PM