Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The guy in the flat next to mine is currently either playing Chinese classical flute music very well or Western classical flute music very badly. I'm not too sure but either way it's a bit of a racket. At some point I'd like to go to a classical Chinese opera though I've been told that it's a one time experience only.

Sheldon Glashow (who according to the itp website is a nobelist, something to which I greatly aspire!) arrived today and has been followed by eager Chinese photographers almost constantly. We were all introduced to him and then eight of us went of to Lunch in the VIP suite again (getting a bit tedious now). Another fantastic lunch, this time with beer being forced on us. Sheldon seems very friendly though the talk at the table felt a bit awkward. I don't know if the other postdocs were just shy but they didn't say much. I wasn't sure if this was ettiquete and we were supposed to let the head of department do all the talking. I asked a few questions and nobody seemed put off by this. Anyway, apart from that it's been an 11 hour day in the office and I'm now feeling pretty shattered. I have however found a source of decent coffee so my hope that being forced into a place where I couldn't obtain any would mean I'd lose my dependency seems to have failed at the first hurdle.

This evening we went for dinner at the student canteen and had two huge bowls of dumplings for about 25p. Not bad though I'm going to have to find something other than dumplings to eat for dinner soon as it appears that they don't provide sufficient ruffage for a Western stomach!

I've just come back from a quick walk around the campus and to the local shops. It's pretty cold outside but I'm struck by the number of families outside enjoying themselves. Playing games, cycling, even jogging, but all genuinly having a good time. Each morning when I walk into the department, there are large groups of people practicing Tai Chi. Stereotyped though it may be it really does seem to keep them fit and healthy. As I walked in this morning dressed in jumper, scarf, gloves, etc. I passed a group of 60+ year old women practicing Chinese Kung fu with swords. Not like the wooden kendo sticks that people seem to use in the UK, but genuine, metal, sharp-looking swords. I guess the business with families is partly to do with the history of the country that the family unit was the strongest bond and especially that even now, large gatherings are frowned upon and exercise with three family members is the best way to spend the cold evenings. The one child rule may seem very cruel to Western eyes but from what I've been reading, it has been part of the saviour of modern China. As the population hit 1.2 billion, future estimates clearly showed that the country just wouldn't manage with the trend and something had to be done. This has meant some very harsh times, especially for daughters but it has stabilised the country to a huge extent.

Even with this stabilisation, it's amazing to see what a city with 14 million people can do. I passed a barrier in the middle of the road the other day which was being painted at the time. Had this been done in England, one, perhaps two people would have done the job. Here there were thirty people and it meant that a huge stretch of fence was completed in a morning. Mao's tomb was built with a million volunteers and I'm sure such a project would have taken many years to complete in the UK but here it took just a few months. Perhaps the city really will be transformed by 2008.

1 comment:

Bibblikins said...

As well as coming back with a Chinese wife, I expect you to be a master in Muay Thai