Bob Goes To College
My friend Robert Lio came to Liuzhou earlier in the week to visit for a few days. Bob is a Montreal based importer who makes a couple of trips to China each year. He is also a fantastic photographer and we met last year through Flickr. I spent some time with Bob in Shenzhen and Hong Kong last month and we had planned to hang out here in Liuzhou until Thursday, then head over to Guilin and Yangshuo Friday, Saturday and Sunday. My dog-sitter fell through so Bob went on ahead without me but we did have a couple of nice days here before he left.
While he was here, Robert spoke to a couple of hundred of my Business English majors. It was fun to watch him totally out of his element while still winging it with his usual flair and humor. He was a big hit with all the girls (94% of the Foreign Language Department students are female). Afterward, the Canadian had to suffer the indignity of posing with hundreds of young, beautiful, peace sign-flashing students. A real sport, he somehow managed to make it through the ordeal.
Daisy & Bob
Earlier in the day we took a walk through the countryside surrounding the campus. The area is mostly rural farmland where the locals scratch out a hard-scrabble existence in a harsh environment. Many houses in the area have no running water and very few have air conditioning or heating. Of course they grow rice, as well as sugarcane, corn and all the other staples you can think of. We even saw a little cotton, which was a first for Bob. This kid was in the paddy with his family as they cut rice. Even though he was too small to help he was there none the less. Bob said that after I left the field he somehow managed to make the kid cry!
Little Boy Blue
We walked for a few hours, in and out of small villages, through fields and down country roads. Some of the locals were wary, glaring suspiciously as we walked by. Most, however, were great. Some elderly folks in a country store gave us some hot steamed corn on the cob and refused to let us pay for it. We didn’t talk with them much but a smile goes along way in that situation, a smile and appreciative grunts as we chewed our corn. The hi-lite of the day for me was stumbling across a rural primary school. The students were in the school yard having recess and they went nuts when we came inside the gate. Within minutes of our arrival about 50, screaming, filthy, adorable children were all over us, circling us as a shark would circle it’s prey!
Schoolyard – Coming After Me!
Schoolyard – Gotcha!
You can see more photos of the kids in the schoolyard on the Flickr site, just click the link on the right of the page. Again, hanging out with the kids, even for a short time, was the best part of my day. I was struck by how difficult their young lives must be, how cold they must be in the winter, how difficult it must be for them even to bathe, to attend class in the cold when there is no heat in the building. Yet, here they are, jubilant children, with the promise of a better China life ahead. We saw a number of older folks working difficult physical jobs, well past the age when most of us Americans have retired to our Barcaloungers. I am pretty sure I couldn’t work in the fields next to this woman all day. Well, maybe I could for one day, but then it would take me a week to recover.
Headed Home From The Office
I’ll make a trip out this way again. I would like to stop by the school and bring along Lily or one of my students to help me with communication. I would like to befriend some of the locals, get to know them and perhaps do something that may lighten their load somehow. I don’t know what it might be but, I won’t know until I give it a shot. For three days a week I live not 3 kilometers away from here. In the past I have complained (often) about my on-campus accommodations, even bestowing the moniker “Chateau De Cancrelat” (cockroach) on the worn out old apartment. Yeah I have roaches. Big nasty ones. I also have hot running water and a western toilet. I have heat and AC. I have clean bottled water to drink and and a refrigerator and a microwave. I have (slow and intermittent) Internet and cable TV with a DVD player. My bed is hard as a rock but I saw a bed today that was nothing more than a few blankets on the ground. What’s more, is that for four days a week, I go home to an ultra-modern hi-rise in Liuzhou. I promise I’ll do my best not to complain anymore.
Liuzhou Teachers Colege is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this Sunday. Since I didn’t make it over to Guilin and Yangshuo I’ll be able to attend the big shindig. The school has spent what looks to be an obscene amount of money on decorations and T-shirts and programs and the like. There are balloons, flowers, banners and posters everywhere. I gather thousands of people will attend, including government officials from all over the country. There will be tours and music and dancing with speeches and slogans with themes of harmony abounding. If you come, look for me and say hello. I’ll be the laowai show pony taking photographs.