Thursday, March 8, 2007

Xiada Law School

(Xiada is short for Xiamen University.)

Monday night we had dinner with the law school’s vice dean. He invited another faculty member because her area is, in his words, “women’s studies.” It turns out that that means she teaches Family Law! She tells me, though, that the university has a department of women’s studies. I’ll have to look into that. She and the vice dean both said that faculty members might be interested in sitting in on my classes, and of course I said yes! The vice dean teaches Criminal Law and Procedure, and he wants me to lecture to his class, and of course I said yes. He couldn’t tell me how many students were taking my courses, since he said they were electives. Several of the Fulbrighters at the conference said they started out will large classes, but that students dropped out as the semester progressed. I asked the vice dean about that, and he said whether that happened would be up to me – that students were lazy and don’t want to do too much work! That doesn’t seem to fit what we think of as Chinese students, does it?

I asked the Family Law teacher about Chinese adoption law, and she said she only covered it briefly in her course. She, as many others have done since we’ve been in China, told me how kind-hearted I was to adopt the girls. I assured her that I received far more from the arrangement than the girls did!

Tracy also joined us for dinner. She is a graduate of the law school, and works there as the Secretary for Foreign Studies. She also teaches undergraduate classes – Introduction to American Law and Private International Law. She also coaches the moot court teams. Xiamen law school participates in the Jessup International Moot Court Competition and an intellectual property moot court competition each year. I told her that I wanted to do some moot court-style sessions in my Constitutional Law class, and she said the students would like that very much. We’ll see.

Tuesday morning Tracy met us at our apartment to show us the way to the law school. I was told it was about a 20 minute walk. Well, that might be the case if I was doing it on my own, but with the girls having to check out every tree and flower, and skip every other step, and dawdle across streets, it took FAR longer! We left our lobby around 9, and were at the law school at 9:50! But that did include a stop at the kindergarten where Maya and Zoe will go. Zoe has been asking to see her school since we got to Xiamen, so she was happy.

We stopped by to look it over and to find out what we needed to do to get the girls enrolled. There are around 200 students there, aged 3 to 6, all the children of university faculty and staff. The school is 3 stories high, built in a rectangle around a courtyard. The kids do their exercises in the courtyard, and we saw a group of 3-year-olds “exercising.” That seemed to entail a lot of standing around while the teacher tried to get the kids to do ANYTHING! Soon the kids scampered off to their classroom. We soon saw two boys emerge into the open-air corridor outside their classroom to pound on pegs in a table right outside the door. There were racks of balls and hula hoops in the courtyard, and lots of climbing equipment and a castle in the playground to the side of the building. The school looked clean and colorful and inviting. Yea!

Zoe wanted to stay and play, but we can’t enroll until the girls get a health check at the local hospital. Apparently the health forms I brought are not sufficient. But I’ve been told it is more a formality and will involve no shots or blood tests. Good thing, because if it did, we’d have to work on Plan B! The clinic is only open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so we’ll go tomorrow. I’m told the health certification could take “a couple of days,” so I’m not sure when the girls will start school. I teach Thursday morning and Friday afternoon, and I’ve told the law school that the girls will have to come with me if they’re not enrolled in school by then!

More about the walk to the law school – it is uphill most of the way! The girls were real troupers, and I was really proud of them! There are no sidewalks most of the way, so we had to walk along the side of the road and watch for cars. This will be quite an adventure every morning. Thank goodness there is not much traffic. The road eventually – just past the kindergarten – follows the coastline. The law school is right on the coast! I have a beautiful view from my 5th-floor office.

My office is one that is usually shared by two faculty members, so there are two desks. I have a computer, printer, phone, and fax – all the comforts of home! And I have internet service! I’m still trying to get it arranged for home, but at least I have it at the office.

Tracy showed us around the law school, which consists of three buildings. One is classrooms, one is faculty offices, and one is library and administrative offices. The classrooms look very old-fashioned, with actual blackboards, and seating that looks like elementary school in the 1950’s – long rows of bolted-down chairs in front of rows of desks with small cubbies below the writing surface. But the classrooms are outfitted with full multi-media capabilities – computer, projector, DVD player, etc. Though, in typical Chinese fashion, trying to get the key to open up the multi-media toys is torturous! Tracy had to do some real maneuvering, loan me her check-out card for the key, and I’ll have to go to the bowels of the administration building before class to get the key. And, the keys are marked with Chinese characters, so I hope I remember which one opens what!

We had a chance to wander around the law school buildings by ourselves as we waited for the key to my office – the only person who had a key was off-site, and Tracy couldn’t find anyone with an extra. So we just had to wait. I was approached by one student who asked if I was his professor for American Constitutional Law, and I admitted I was. He said he was my teaching assistant, and was also taking the course. His English appeared pretty sketchy, and he told me that he had taught himself English and had not taken any courses! Yipes! I hope that is not indicative of all my students! I thought since I was teaching graduate students that their English would be better, but I’m told the undergraduates in China have higher English skills because they entered university under stricter requirements than did the older graduate students. Oh, well.

Zoe has been really reluctant to use the squat potties – in case you’re unenlightened about such things, Chinese toilets are ceramic holes in the floor where you straddle and squat to do your business. But she simply had to go, and didn’t have a choice. FINALLY we managed it without getting soaking wet! She was so proud of herself, that she loudly instructed Maya how to do it (“you need to keep your knees together and then the pee-pee will go where it’s supposed to”) and told Tracy how to do it – like she’s never done it before! Pretty funny!

We then walked home – downhill this time! We stopped at our usual restaurant – we are quite the regulars now. This time they brought me an English menu – I wonder where it has been all this time! I still needed my “Essential Guide to Mandarin,” but we had a wonderful meal of fried rice, sautéed snow peas, and duck. The duck was kind of a surprise, since we were trying for roasted chicken, were taken to see a roasted duck in a window, and I said no, it was too much food, so I thought we had cancelled the duck! But out comes the duck! Good thing, too, because Maya simply LOVED it! She must have eaten about 8 ounces of duck – I thought she’d make herself sick, but no way. We brought allof our leftovers home with us and had it for dinner, and Maya had even MORE duck. Phew!

It was a cold, rainy afternoon, so we stayed in and played Go Fish, read books, and colored. Then Chinese take-out dinner warmed in our microwave, Barbie’s Twelve Dancing Princesses DVD on my computer, and then to bed. Quite a full day!

We meet Tracy in the lobby at 8:30 to go to the Chinese hospital. That should be quite the adventure. I’ll fill you in as soon as I can!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for your fun entries. I know that you will be glad when the girls start school and you can establish a routine. I will be glad when you have internet at home so that you can upload photos. We miss them a lot.

Anonymous said...


We are enjoying your life in China. Thanks for the details. Like your Mom, we're anxious for photos. What an adventure. With all of that walking, you'll be ready for the Cowtown Marathon when you return home!! Keep the posts coming and tell the girls "Howdy" from Home! (hugs), bev and family