I am prepared to say with some certainty that the girls enjoyed day 2 of orientation much more than I did -- and I liked it pretty much! The host university arranged transportation for all the kids, with their college student escorts, and one of the Fulbright spouses, to Baiyun Mountain. The mountain is just to the south of the University, and there's a park and a nice view at the top. The girls came down from the mountain with pockets full of leaves and flowers that they picked, and stories of great fun. They actually walked back down the mountain -- about an hour's walk down a paved path! They were waiting at the restaurant we were taken to for lunch after our morning session.
The morning session began with a presentation from the Consul General on issues in Sino-American Relations, which was very interesting. He seems quite the pragmatist, not buying into the two extremes of China-inevitably-a-democracy or China-dangerous-enemy. So that was refreshing. Then the year-long Fulbrighters talked about teaching in Chinese universities, the strategies that worked and didn't work, things to look out for, things to think about. It was helpful, but it didn't really offer anything I hadn't heard before. So I think I'm as ready as I'll ever be to begin teaching.
Lunch was at a restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. It was very nice, but the girls were clearly worn out. Maya refused to eat anything, had a meltdown because I didn't put the food on her plate properly (!), finally began to eat just before we were to leave, and whined about not being finished, got mad because I didn't let her walk with Zoe and Grace who were ahead of us with Grace's parents (like they needed another child to watch!), refused to hold my hand as we walked, refused to walk, and was generally a complete brat! Upon reaching the hotel, she blithely announced she was no longer mad at me, and the tantrum was over. Sigh.
At 2:30, we boarded a bus for a tour of some tourist sites in Guangzhou. We went to the Nan Yue Wang Tomb, where a Chinese king was buried with 15 concubines and all the good he wished to carry into the afterlife. The tomb was discovered and excavated in the 1980s, and we were able to walk down into the tomb and then observe the recovered artifacts in a nearby museum. (The second picture is Maya, Zoe and Grace in the tomb).
We then went to the Chen Family Academy, the ancestral hall of the Chen family -- a very large clan in Guangdong province. It was built in the 1890s primarily as a place for the sons of the Chen family to be educated to pass the civil service exam in China, as becoming a civil servant was a most honorable profession and a sure way to power, influence and money. The academy survived the Cultural Revolution because it became a print shop where copies of Mao's red book were printed!
We visited the academy in 2005, during Maya's adoption visit, and it is just as amazing now as then. The carving and painting is truly amazing. And it is now the Guangdong Province Folk Art Museum, so there are tons of interesting artifacts. There is also statuary surrounding the building, and that was a real source of fun for the kids (See Maya, Zoe and Grace in front of warrior and horse!).
After that stop, we were supposed to go to Shamian Island, but Friday afternoon rush hour traffic made that impossible, since were were due at the Garden Hotel for dinner at 6:30. The dinner was for us Fulbrighters and family, for the waibans, for Chinese Fulbright alumni, for consular officials, for Chinese media, so it was quite crowded. The food was terrific, a mixture of Chinese and Western fare, and there was sufficient room in the banquet hall for the kids to have a large area to play (Duck, Duck, Goose being the favorite game, it seemed).
I met three professors from Xiamen University, two from the law school and one from American Studies. They are Fulbright alumni, and will be participating in tomorrow's conference -- Sino-American Dialogues. They were very friendly, very encouraging, and assured me that I would love Xiamen. They raved about the beauty of the campus, the freshness of the air, the cleanliness of the city, the friendliness of the people -- I'm definitely going to Shangri-la, it seems!
Well, that's all for now. More tomorrow!