Welcome to my new blog space!
I’ve moved to a new school, a new apartment, so I was thinking, why not just make everything new – and make a new blog? Well actually… that’s not exactly how I happened to move here. It was more of a quickest solution when I discovered I couldn’t climb a certain ‘great wall’ anymore. It is true that I’ve chosen to move to a new school – this fall I’ll be studying Chinese full-time at another university in Harbin. I’ve also moved to a new (old) apartment that’s located between the university I used to teach at and the one I now attend. It’s actually the first time I’ve ever rented an apartment … finding the apartment was quite the adventure for both me and my roommate … and I’ll tell you about it in a later post.
Before I go on to writing more about the here and now, I want to share with you some a slideshow of my favorite photos from this last school year (and a few favorites from years past as well). If the link doesn’t work, copy and past this into your browser: http://s392.photobucket.com/albums/pp6/harbinbrown/?action=view¤t=LifeInHarbin11.mp4
When it comes to spring in Harbin, the two most beautiful places in the whole city are 林大 (the university where I teach) and the 植物园 (the botanical gardens which happens to be right next to my university). I’m not kidding, either. Check out these pictures!
Too bad the smell-o-net (smell-o-vision over the internet) has’t been invented yet…If it had, I’d capture the smell of all the lilacs around campus and post them here for you.
This semester, I’ve been teaching an intercultural communication class again, this time to sophomores with English as their 2nd major. I organized another field-trip, to the Jewish museum in Harbin, like I did last semester. 25 students came! Since we took public transportation, we ended up having to take 2 buses, but everyone made it! And they all enjoyed seeing a part of the history of Harbin many did not know even existed.
Over a period of about 100 years, 20,000 Jews lived in Harbin. Most came from Russia after 1917. The last Harbin Jew died in 1985. The museum is housed in on of the two standing synagogues near the river.
I was loath to put on my down coat this past Monday. Something about wearing a down coat in April doesn’t feel natural, but once I stepped outside into the wind and snow and pulled my hood tight over my head, I was glad I had put it on.
At least the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads, my co-teacher and I noted as we walked back home from lunch.
That afternoon, I had office hours, and running a bit late, I decided to take my bike. The roads were clear, after all… But when the doorman saw I wanted to get my bike, he quickly said “It’s snowing!” “I know,” I replied. “You’ll break your head open, the roads are slippery!” I looked out the door… “Oh!” He was right, there was 2 inches of snow on the road! I decided to walk.
That evening, after my class ended at 8 PM, two students walked me home, umbrellas in hand. By the time we reach my apartment, there was a thick layer of snow on the umbrellas.
Umbrellas in the snow … that reminds me of a story … I should have known that Harbin was under the White Witch’s curse.
Tuesday, it kept coming. It didn’t keep me from going to the pool, though, but I think trudging through drifts of snow up to my knees and walking against the wind was as much exercise as I got while swimming! I wonder how long it took for this taxi that I passed to get out…
All the locals say this snow was really abnormal – a once in 50 years kind of thing. I admit, it was bit fun to see all this snow at once, but I’m still left wondering, how much longer until Aslan comes? How much longer until Spring?
This semester I’ve been teaching one class to senior English majors called “Intercultural Communication.” We’ve been discussing the ways we can define cultures (for example: individualist or collectivist, internal locus of control or external locus of control) based off of the book Figuring Foreigners Out. We’re also comparing various worldviews such as Animism, Judaism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and we have four more to go, Daoism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam.
Harbin is a unique place in China in that you can find traces of almost all these worldviews. So, as an extension for this class I’ve been organizing field trips to related locations. The first trip was to Harbin’s Jewish History and Culture Museum, housed in an old synagogue. The second was just last Friday; three students and I went to Harbin’s Confucian Temple and Museum. I was sort of surprised to find out that none of them had ever been to a temple, even for a field trip. Actually none of them had gone on a field trip before, except for one student from Gansu Province said her middle school class would have a picnic at the great wall each year, but she didn’t consider that much of a field trip, especially since they went every year.
Though not many students have come on these optional field trips, they’ve been worthwhile since those that come are genuinely interested in learning more. It’s also been fun to get to know these three students better. They act different outside the classroom and (usually) are less afraid to speak English. I also get a chance to practice some Chinese this way, too!
At the Confucian Temple Museum there was a sign said that if you could lift the gate bar over your head you’d pass your exams. Looks like one girl isn’t going to pass… just kidding. She’s really a good student.