2/21 Go to Redding and discover I have made plane reservations for the wrong month!! March! So they set me up for the next day. Luckily I was able to stay at a friend's apartment in town. Dunsmuir is an hour drive away. I had gone to China with my friend in November 2010. Although I have a boarding pass for RDD, I am standby for SFO to PEK. Hopefully, I'll be able to get on ok. Had to email Tsinghua University to change the interview date.
2/24 Today I have lunch with some of the people from the Tsinghua University media office. We drink chrysanthemum tea with serving plates of bamboo shoots, lotus root, smoked fish, rice noodles, eggplant and rice. They seem to really like me and are full of questions. How did I lean how to use chopsticks? How long have I been studying Chinese from a cd? They seem amazed at the tiny amount I can speak Mandarin and think my accent is very good. Out of twenty-five applicants, I am rising to the top of the list. The weather is pleasantly cool and sunny.
2/26 This morning I awake to fresh snow, delicate as powdered sugar, lining the branches and covering the brown dirt of yesterday's winter landscape. Hurriedly I dress and go out with my camera to capture the magical morning, my first day staying on campus at the Jiasuo Guest House in the old part of the campus. The school president's office is catty corner to Jiasuo and is housed in a Qing Dynasty era compound, once the residence of a prince. The architecture is exactly the same as the Summer Palace building adjacent to the large Tsinghua campus.
Tsinghua was named one of the most beautiful campuses in the world by Forbes magazine in 2010 and is the only university in Asia on the list.
The sound of a flute draws me toward the frozen lily pond in a darling grotto setting surrounded by rockery and trees. Finally I spy a dark figure on the edge of the ice under a dark cypress playing an ancient ode or modern composition, I wouldn't know.
The Jiasuo breakfast buffet is all Asian, starting with delicious sweet and juicy watermelon slices, fried eggs all perfectly round, scrambled eggs with slivered zucchini and bokchoy, delicately spiced with anise, and puffy, fried flat bread. Incongruously, the tea and coffee service has a jar of coffeemate with a little spoon too short to reach the bottom without putting your hand into the jar. Darling serving girls stand in pairs, chatting, dressed in short black jackets and long red skirts. Subtle music plays "Hotel California" in the background.
Most of the guests of this posh campus hotel are Asian and as I breakfast by myself at a big, round table with an ivory damask tablecloth, I can glance surreptitiously around as the handful of men come and go. I'm surprised when one sits at my table. The university men are very shy and well mannered, but we manage to star a conversation. He is here on a one day symposium on architecture.
My legs are sore from a meridian massage I got yesterday at the previous hotel. I thought I would faint from the burning pain as the masseuse's expert fingers slid over the meridian points. I clearly have some chi blockage. The next day little bruises appear in lines on the inside and outside of my calf. I am fascinated by Chinese massage, and I've never had the same type twice. There must me an infinite variety.
2/28 Today my informal (because I am not officially hired yet) assignment is to review an old 2007 promotional video of the university and make suggestions on impreovement for a new one. Oh joy! I hope this leads to more video and in combination with the school website.