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Life Is Good In Guangzhou

2007-10-01


Life Is Good In Guangzhou

MONDAY: Day 1 of 10

Today I woke up hoping to have a new bright outlook on my time here in Guangzhou…maybe in the morning light the mold would not look so black or there is suddenly an English TV station available or maybe Ming’s research building will have moved right next door to mine or maybe I will have grown a liking for Chinese food or maybe I will have developed a fascination with taking a shower over the toilet with the full size mirror looking back at me or maybe everyone in China will have learned English and be able to communicate with me easily and willingly…. Lucky for me one of the above did happen…I realized that as soon as the mirror fogs up from the shower, it is not that bad to take a shower over the toilet. It is almost like taking a shower in a giant mansion where the showers are the size of…well….whole bathrooms. Unfortunately, I did not come to this realization until much later, but I wanted to start off strong and with an upbeat tempo.

 

The day started out very badly. I almost always talk to Josh in the morning (evening for him) and this morning was no different, except that before he even answered my Skype call I was already welling up. Let me back up for a minute…the night before I had talked to Josh when Carrie (my dear friend and neighbor) came over to go to breakfast with Josh. Both of them saw me at my very worst…sobbing like a little child while trying to tell them about the TV and the mold and the rock hard bed (which I would like noted I have not complained about…yet). That night they did their best to help me see the light, but their advice was to jump ship and come home, which was only enabling me and my indulgent break down. No matter how bad it gets, I can do this for 2 weeks (I can say that now…at the time I was hoping for a mass American evacuation to occur due to some national disaster or civil upheaval…which by the way officially makes me a terrible person). So, when Josh answered the Skype call I was still a wreck. Just seeing his face and hearing him tell me that he loves me and misses me made it even worse. Luckily I managed to suck it up (sort of) just before Ming came to my door to get me for breakfast. Hua, a graduate student in the lab, was taking me Jon and Ming out for the morning to see a few sights in Guangzhou. We met her in the lobby then headed around the corner to the University “restaurant” for breakfast. No more western breakfast for me. Before coming here, I was staying at hotels that provided both Chinese and Western breakfast dishes so I was able to start the day off right with fried eggs and toast. What is going to happen to me when my body has to start each day off with only tooth paste? (I have yet to work this wrinkle out but I am still working on it.) I hate to report that throughout breakfast I was supplying the entire table with enough salt water to fill the Sea of Beijing. I was not sobbing…just tears would not stop streaming out of my eyes. I was doing everything to make them stop and they wouldn’t. I can’t imagine what Hua was thinking and poor Jon…in my head this is what he was thinking “there is no way I can leave this unstable mess of a girl here alone…I cannot be responsible for her complete mental melt down.” Or something along those lines. The great and strange part is that everyone is ignoring the fact that I am raining tears and just carried on like it was a pleasant morning with idle chit chat which for some reason just made it worse because all I kept thinking was “who are they going to talk to when the 2 rock stars who are Ming and Jon are gone??” Well, eventually someone addressed a question to me and this distracted me long enough to snap out of it and then we decided to start this freaking day of sightseeing and adventure.

 

Much to my surprise we were in for a treat…the SUBWAY!! I was fearing the worst…I have seen The Amazing Race…I know what happens on Chinese Subway trains…well…much to my surprise…they were fine. Sitting down was preferable, but even standing the whole timethe experience on the Subway bordered was uneventful and I am glad that I can put it down on my list of things I have done.

 

Our first stop was the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. This is a giant house that is now memorialized and the grounds are beautiful. They have a ton of VERY old and unique trees that are all labeled with their scientific name then lot of Chinese characters, so between the 4 of us we were able to figure out what most of them were in English. We walked about and took a few photos then moved on to the next stop which was the Chen House. It used to be a school for all of the boys that descended from the Chen lineage. This place was something to see. I took pictures but it could not be captured by the camera. Maybe Ming had better luck, in which case I will post those. It was ornate and peaceful and just beautiful. This place was packed. The longer we were there the more people poured in. They had little rooms all dedicated to a different craft. They were mostly all carvings of some sort. Wood carvings, ivory carvings, seed carving...they had little nuts that were carved into gorgeous ships and buildings and people. Like I said…the pictures just insulted the artistry of these master pieces so you are just going to have to come to Guangzhou and go to the Chen House to see this stuff…it will blow your mind!

 

After our sightseeing was over we went to a little restaurant with Hua for lunch. This was the first time that I was asked what I wanted to eat. I said “fried rice please” and Hua looked at me like I was crazy then turned to Ming and started talking to him in Cantonese. In the end I was brought a plate with beef tips in a peppery sauce on one side and a ball of white rice on the other. NOT what I had in mind...but I was liking the sauce, I know the taste a pepper…anything familiar is a GREAT thing…so I am enjoying the meal maybe for the first time since being here…THEN….they brought me out a fried egg!!! It had some sauce on it that tasted like American soy sauce (which it TOTALLY different from Chinese soy sauce by the way) and green onions AND it was piping hot (which is hard to get) so I chopped it up with my chop sticks (which I am a master at now) and mixed it in with my rice and beef. It was very good. The egg was by far the best thing I have had here. I asked Hua to remember this for me so that I can get it every time I go out to eat with her….again, I got the look…oh well, at least I had it once.

 

So, we were able to rest after lunch for about an hour. Ming got a taxi to go to his research site and Jon and I got to go to the lab for the first time. Here it is…the moment of truth…what do Chinese research laboratories look like??? I really had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be like my hotel room, dirty and musty and hot and not of this century…OR…was it going to be sleek and modern and organized and a place of massive discovery and knowledge??? Well...pictures can do it better justice than my words, but this place is pretty spectacular. The only down fall is that it is not air conditioned and in a place that gets in the 90’s and has humidity levels on average between 60%-70% that is a pretty big downfall, but other than that, this place is a Mecca of scientific excellence. It is HUGE! (But, more about that later) First we went into Dr. Pan’s office which is easily the size of my entire lab and Jon said was double the size of his office as Dean of the College of Science at Purdue. Dr. Pan said that not everyone gets such a big office…just the really good researcher (or something like that…again…filling in the gaps left due to the language barrier.) I will tell you more about the lab in my next blog since that is when my first day of research starts. After the tour, Jon gave a talk to the entire lab about GK12 and then opened it up for questions. The students (about 20 of them) were hesitant at first but soon the questions were flowing and it became clear that they respected the USA’s education system and would love to be a part of it.

 

Then dinner…for this meal, we were invited by Ming’s professor to attend a banquet that he had set up with the graduate students from his department in honor of Ming and Jon’s arrival. I came along as did Dr. Pan and his wife Mrs. Pan (who is a doll and I love her). It was a pretty good meal and conversation was good. They had a lot of questions and spoke good English. Jon sat next to a very ambitious student that had a lot of ideas. It appeared that his mission in life was to share all of those ideas with Jon while he had the chance…it was very endearing to watch. Afterward we all piled back into Dr. Pan’s car and everyone came outside to see us off. It was a good end to a day that started off very rocky.

 

I forgot to include a very important development that started Sunday night. Ming started having what we assumed was an allergic reaction. He thought they were mosquito bites at first but every hour or so he would find new ones…by the next evening (at the banquet) he had itchy red hive like bumps all over his face and arms and even one under his eye. He looked like he had chicken poks. We gave him Benadryl and he got some over the counter stuff from his cousin who is a nurse, but nothing was making them go away or stop itching. I could tell that this was worrying him a little so I tried to ease his mind, but I doubt it helped much. A little like him patting me on the head over and over again and saying “it will be okay Rye Rye (one of his nicknames for me)” in a little baby voice did not help me much when I was crying the night before. LOL. Skipping ahead in the story…a few nights later he went to his paternal grandparents’ house…when they saw his lumps the story goes like this: “My grandma saw my rashy thing and went back into the kitchen for 10 min. she came back out with some "witches brew" that was black and smelled like the bitter blood of hell. Well I drank it and it made my rash a lot better. Way better than the Western antihistamine medicine. So I guess, I'm sold on tree roots and flower parts as medicine...” So all is well with Ming which means that Hong Kong is on like…..no…I am not going to say it….that would be too cliché…but you know what I mean! :)

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