What a week. I’m so excited about people and freedom right now.
My PiA boss, Alex Jones, got in around 5pm on Thursday. After dinner with all of the people who could call themselves my boss (a surprisingly large number), we had office hours. Alex is a much-beloved teacher of the Princeton in Jishou summer students and plenty of people showed up to say hello and chat. We ate those mottled green and brown mini-apple things that I still don’t know the English name for, tried to say “isthmus” with a straight face, and went over all of the cuts of meat that you can find in America (Why? Ask Dan. I’m still a little shaky on the reasoning.)
When office hours wound to a close, two ex-PiJ graduate students, Jason and Alice, took us out to a nighttime view of 矮寨大桥 (Aizhai Bridge), the longest land bridge in Asia. It’s a spectacular sight during the day, but in the darkness it was something else.
The pictures, of course, don’t do it justice. From the side and below it’s just a line of light stretching through a tall, heavy darkness that you can feel more than see. Standing atop it, all that exists is that road before you, glowing in its own soft light. Looking down to the floor of the valley, you can faintly see another world, the main street of a little town, sleeping in the orange circles of its streetlamps.
On the way back to campus, we stopped for some spice-and-garlic-drenched seafood. We sat at a low table and talked quietly about summers past, but our minds drifted elsewhere.
The next day we woke early to go visit the schools where our seniors have their internships. I’ve never under any circumstances been a celebrity before. It was strange and uncomfortable, but the kids were cute and made it fun.
They went crazy when we walked in the door. We visited 4 classrooms at one school, and 3 at another. In a typical classroom we would walk in to oohs and ahhs and applause, and introduce ourselves. “Hello!” Pause for response. “My name is Forrest. I come from America. I am their-“ indicate my students, their teachers “-foreign teacher. I like to ride my bicycle, and eat food.” A pause for thought and murmered translations: 骑自行车。。。吃饭！A raised hand.
“How tall are you?”
“Wooow. Do you like basketball?”
“Yes, but I’m not very good”
“You look like Harry Potter!”
“That’s what they tell me.” (Apparently I look exactly like Daniel Radcliffe. I would say that 70-80% of people I meet here mention the resemblance)
My favorite moment from all of this:
Once we started walking around the classroom, most students were shy, hanging back until we approached and started asking them questions. In one of the primary school classrooms, though, I was going through the routine when I heard a demanding “Hey!”
I turned to see one of the smallest boys in 5th grade (and thus one of the smallest kids in the class) staring unabashedly up at me.
“Are you a policeman?”
I didn’t know how to respond, so I paused and looked back at him, searching for any trace of a joke in his eyes. Finding none, I opted for honesty. “Nope, I’m a foreign teacher.”
He seemed happy to hear this, and without another word he walked away to relay the information to his classmates.