Sunday, October 1, 2017

One month in Guangzhou

It is Sunday, October 1st, China's National Day. This is the day in 1949 when Mao stood before throngs at Tian'anmen Square beginning his stint as Supreme Leader of the People's Republic of China.

Chiang Kai-shek was in Taiwan with his trainload of national treasures and archives. Major General Claire Chennault was home in Texas, fomenting hatred of communism and Truman. Uncle George was finishing up at Harvard, unaware that he would be dead just over three years later, from the Korean War. My father was a sophomore at Milton Academy and my mother, just a five year-old girl in Hingham, MA.

We will also celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival on St. Francis' Feast Day (October 4), gobbling high-calorie mooncakes and enjoying another mandatory day of vacation.

Today is also the day, since my arrival on September 1, on which I have made my fourth trip to IKEA. I am getting settled. I have a desk now. I have placed it looking out the window. If I look to the left, I can see the Canton Tower from the sliding glass doors to my balcony. If I peered over the edge of the windows in front of me and looked down at the hoop-less basketball courts below, I would see a group of middle-aged (and older!) women dancing to the same horrible music that they blast every night. I am wondering how long that will last.

My building is 26 stories tall and has a 27th floor, which is a roof deck. I went up there today and imagined the possibilities, with its great view of the Pearl River (Zhujiang). If it was not always about 96-degrees Fahrenheit, it would be a fun place to hang out. I also descended into the bowels of the building, where a parking garage will soon open. Like most urban communities in China, the complex is gated and we are no longer allowed to bring Mobikes and Ofo bikes onto the premises. That said, there has been a flat-tire derelict Ofo at the gate to my building for days and I have sent Ofo three messages about it. There is a small store with wilted vegetables and other businesses are springing up on the first floor, which is designed with big glass storefronts for residential commerce.

I have a gym membership and seem to go when almost nobody is there, which suits me since my moobs still jiggle when I use the elliptical, spin bike, or treadmill. Getting on top of my weight has become a priority, because I sweat incessantly all day long. The weather is unbearable, but I came in with my eyes wide open about that, which means that they sting from the sweat dripping into them.

I have made a lot of new acquaintances. Tomorrow I will go to a birthday party for the owner of the home where my own birthday spread was held, but first I will lead an Oklahoman colleague and her husband to the Chen Clan Ancestral Home. We will meet at 10 AM at the Canton Tower Subway stop. I went to a movie a couple weeks ago with a sculptor friend. I see a lot of YaYa (丫丫), whose marble showroom is still being constructed.

I have been reading a lot. May I recommend the story just published in the Nikkei Asia Review, Xi Digs in for the Long Haul, for a close look at Chinese politics? Also, let me recommend Sinocism, which is the work of a fellow Middlebury College alumnus.

Democrats Abroad hosted a conference call with Elizabeth Warren a couple weeks ago, whilst she was sitting on her balcony in Cambridge, MA. I participated in that and have begun some outreach to American Democrats in the Pearl River Delta (PRD). Not surprisingly, there seems to be quite a bit of activity in Hong Kong and not much in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, or the other big cities nearby. ("The nine largest cities of PRD had a combined population of 57.15 million at the end of 2013, comprising 53.69% of the provincial population." Wikipedia.)

I am also the newly appointed co-consul of the InterNations Guangzhou Coffee and Tea Group, which will mean that I need to work to organize monthly tea gatherings.

Work has me teaching 2.5 year-olds and 40 year-olds with zero English, high school history to one boy, English to the tri-lingual and engaging seven yer-old daughter of an American, and running about eight Phenomena-Based Learning activities in the coming days. Still trying to figure out how the place works.

Yesterday, I went for my medical check and got my chest X-rayed, which no American doctor would have done. They took blood in one room, looked in my ears in another, had me do an eye chart in another room, then I shuffled down the hall to have an ECG. The results will come on October 11.

Other trips have included a visit to the Flower Market and yesterday's trip to Hey Tea, which is a popular new "fashion drink" outlet with epic lines.

This is a rambling laundry list of different tidbits since my arrival. Whether I continue in this format will be based on how many people read it to the end...so if you have made it this far, please leave a quick comment. If you follow me in other mediums, some of the content is redundant. My apologies.