Once upon a time I was invited by a university in Beijing to teach a course for four weeks in July. I had mixed feelings about the opportunity. First, I would be teaching--and if you know a teacher then you know the summer vacation is quite sacred; there is to be no teaching during that time. But it seemed it would not inconvenience me too much. I thought it would be four days a week, a couple hours per day, like we do at my university here. I planned accordingly with regard to my flight schedule and my visa. By the time I was flying there, I had learned that I would only be teaching the course three hours a day on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
So I desperately wondered what I would do with a four-day weekend. I had visited Beijing twice before so I had already done the tourist thing with the major sites like the Forbidden City (aka Imperial Palace [aka Palace Museum]), the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and so on. I had visited the new sights, too, all the "weird" modern architecture in the central business district. I had hit the well-known shopping avenues, as well. So I decided there must be some smaller sites to see. I could make it work. I refused to let myself be bored. (More on that later.)
|View from my hotel window on first morning; sun trying to shine through pollution haze.|
The buildings are dormitories of the university, across the street from hotel.
Usually it was a pleasant walk to school, trying to get there a little before the 8 am start. It was not so hot or humid at that early hour. I dressed professionally but without coat and tie yet the 10 minute walk in the often oppressive humidity, locked in under a lid of brown haze, produced a flood of perspiration which began about the time I arrived in the air conditioned classroom and continued for much of the next hour. Luck of the genes.
In four weeks, I failed to scientifically explain the phenomena. The cold of the a/c unit in the classroom caused a reaction to my overly heated skin and with so many pores opening condensation resulted. Any meteorologists here? I tried different shirts; some breathed and some did not. Same result: an unsightly mess for much of the class period. Fortunately, my students did not seem to mind. I should mention that I employed proper hygiene every day so, while perhaps unsightly, I was not unpleasant to be beside.
|The Bird's Nest at the start of my visit.|
|The Bird's Nest an hour later when the haze left.|
|Me at Lama Temple. No alpacas!|
|Inside is the big Buddha carved from a single huge tree trunk.|
On the Monday of the last week, I presented the final lesson and collected final projects. On the Tuesday, I went out sightseeing and souvenir shopping. On Wednesday was the final exam. After that Wednesday class, I again went out sightseeing. I went to the 2008 Olympic facilities which were only under construction during my previous visit in December 2007. I then visited the famous Lama Temple, home to a really huge Buddha carved from a single huge tree trunk (no photography allowed). So I saw the modern and the ancient, the new and the old in the same day. I also got some ice cream.
Next time: More on that later.
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