The last couple of days have really been nice. Not because of any big sightseeing trips or anything, but because of the connection I have received from colleagues and students alike. It is really a refreshing change from the previous week when I felt a bit isolated. Unfortunately, it all has to end in 3 days before we head back to the United States.
Tuesday, June 2
This day was certainly one full of rest in relaxation. After hanging out with colleagues and students the night before I felt refreshed and invigorated. I got back to a normal routine, woke up about 6am and for the first time in a week took a stroll in the warm air in the morning. It was nice to see people doing Tai Chi, getting ready for the day, or getting an early game of ping pong or basketball in.
Apparently, the university I am at is in the midst of exams and you can just feel the tension from the students.
I basically just took a stroll for a couple of hours walking around the neighborhood. I have become familiar enough with things that I don’t get too lost where the university is. I came back to campus had some fresh fruit and juice for breakfast and prepared for my afternoon class.
My class that afternoon was actually one of my best. Because of the exams there weren’t as many students as I would’ve liked, but for the first time we had a much more in-depth conversation about material, about their fears after college, about potential opportunities in China and abroad.
My colleague Wing-kai came to my course for the last half an hour or so. And we proceeded to join my other colleague Jabbar and his wife in a professor’s night out. We headed down to the Central Business District and I can tell you just why every talks about China on the move. There are cranes everywhere, new high-rises are going up, and buildings that are too old or not being used enough or even don’t look good enough are being torn-down. I joked that if Beijing owned an American football team they would tear it down every 10 years because it looked out of date.
My colleague Jabbar took a number of photos of the CCTV building (Chinese Cable TV). It is a really cool form of architecture. After just strolling and talking we went to a Chinese restaurant that specialized in cuisine from Northwest China, which is primarily a region where Chinese Muslims live. Whatever Wing-kai ordered was fantastic. It was the first time all-trip where I was literally busting at the seams. Now I had been fed well, but this was just beyond that. I had to finally say uncle and call it a night.
The biggest drama of the night was trying to find a cab. Apparently, we caught them between shifts because we could not find a cab at all. I mean there were plenty around, but they either had people in them or they were done with their shifts and going home. So after about 1/2 and hour we took the subway to our main train station and took a motorized bicycle, a tuk tuk, home. Now these tuk-tuks would never be allowed in the U.S. for safety reasons. There are no seat belts, helmets, etc. If you get hit by a car both the driver and passenger are in deep trouble. But they are extremely cheap, they are everywhere, and it is a lot fun to be a passenger.
Got back to campus and called it a night. I had an early morning class to teach.
Wednesday, June 3rd
So today was my last day of teaching. Unfortunately, I received an 8am slot so I only had a handful of students and a couple of professors. But one of the professors that was there was someone I had met at another university when I went to a lecture last week. Apparently, he was told by a colleague that if he didn’t come over and see us that we would be gone.
So this morning I decided to offer a lecture in one of my favorite subjects: political advertising. I like it because not only is it fun, but you get to watch TV in-class. Considering it was 8am, not a lot of students, I thought why not. So we spent the next two hours looking at a number of political ads from the U.S. and across the world. Students seemed to really enjoy it and so did the professors who attended.
After my class one of the professors asked me to coffee and lunch and we spent the next four hours just talking about research, expectations of professors in China vs. the United States, our family, collaborating together. It was probably the best conversation I have had in the time I have been here. He took me to a lovely little restaurant not far from campus.
In the process of eating, I learned that when Chinese eat fish they eat the whole thing, including the bones. That was a bit of getting used too, but it wasn’t bad.
The only problem was that I think I have started to get a bit sick. A few months ago, I basically had laryngitis brought on by a cold. I think it is back because my voice is slowly, but surely going. Good thing I taught this morning for the final time.
Tomorrow, we get a chance to tour Baidu, the Google of China, which I think will be a lot of fun. We have our final farewell dinner before we all go to the Great Wall on China. More about that in my final post from China.
Lessons Learned/Observations–These lessons are primarily about things I learned about China and professors here.
1) When you eat fish apparently you eat everything. Don’t worry it is edible.
2) Chinese professors have a tremendous pressure to publish, similar to the U.S., but it seems that pressure is across the board, no matter what university you are at.
3) After talking with my colleague at lunch I learned the bureaucracy for tracking grant money in China is more obtrusive than the U.S. I mean you have to have everything documented, receipts stamped, etc.
4) The way that Chinese professors, at least some of them, calculate their publications are a bit different. I could be wrong, but even if you just review some research from other scholars or compare different legal systems or whatever this can constitute some major research. In the U.S., we often make some more subtle distinctions between research. Now I am NOT saying that Chinese professors don’t do research, but what counts in terms of promotion, publicity, etc, does seem to be a bit different.
5) Apparently, there are four levels of being a professor in China–Assistant Professor, Lecturer, Associate Professor, and Professor. In the U.S. there is typically only three.
6) Depending on your research record you can apply to be an Associate Professor in China after two years. In the U.S. it is typically six.
7) According to my new colleague, because the cost of housing is so high in Beijing, a number of professors, because they don’t make a lot money (they don’t do too bad I guess) get help from the government, in terms of subsidies, to buy houses/apartments. A lot of professors live very close to their campuses.
8) I have to come to love Chinese broccoli. I don’t know what they do, but it is delicious. I could eat that for dinner and that would be enough for me.