Our schedule is officially full. When we were planning the trip is felt like 2 weeks in Guangzhou was going to be plenty of time. As it turns out, we have blocked out all our time for lectures, meetings and getting together with friends and we have no more time to give. The kids have kindergarten during the day. We have no more free dinners. I suppose I could squeeze some folks in on Thursday and Friday morning but that is it.
Tomorrow at 3 in the afternoon I am giving a lecture in the Sociology Department, “Using Cultural Sociology to study minority relations, migrants and immigration.” I didn’t really prep the lecture before leaving the US because I did that last time and they changed the subject on me at the last minute. I have got some of the 90 minute talk done but was planning to really finish it this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Then I got an email from two friends on the faculty who want to have tea this afternoon. I shifted my plans – work on it tonight after we return from our banquet with the law school faculty and put the finishing touches on it in the morning. Then, when we dropped the kids off at kindergarten this morning we are told that tomorrow is a New Year Celebration and parents are supposed to come from 9 – 11 am. It is going to be a long night.
This morning Wang Shu Li and I walked through the market. It is always really nice to do that with someone who speaks Cantonese and has a better grasp of the value and quality of merchandise than I. I didn’t shop. Instead I took her around to things I have questions about. First I had her show me all the varieties of tofu and explain how they are different and what each is used for. We looked at the dried goods. She told me that I should add gojii berries to my chrysanthemum tea – good for the eyes. Then we walked through the fruits and vegetables and we talked about which we had tried and which we liked. We skipped the meat area which is good since I really do not enjoy all the butchering. Wang Shi Li made me an embroidered picture (which is framed quite nicely) to bring back and she said she would like to do another one and send it to me. I tried to refuse enough to be polite but she insisted. We walked to an apartment door near the marketplace. There was an old woman sitting outside doing piece work (gluing beads on children’s hair clips – bet you thought they had a machine to do that, right? Nope, it’s all done by hand on the streets of Guangzhou where people get paid pennies). Wang Shi Li spoke with her and she got up and opened the door. Inside was a dingy room with a bed, a television and an electric water kettle – her home. The woman walked inside and came out with a large cardboard box of embroidery patterns. We sifted through and finally settled on one that has the character “tranquility” with a nice design behind it. One of the things that I like about spending time with Wang Shu Li is that she comprehends me quite well despite my limited chinese vocabulary, poor pronunciation and consistent failures in structuring my sentences correctly. Sometimes she will tell me how to say things right but usually she gets it and I get her well enough that it feels like actual conversation.