Jiasuo Guest House has a beauty salon on the ground floor. I open the door and walk into a cozy room with two chairs and walk out several hours later with a bouncy do, colored dark, dark drown!!! It's shocking to see myself in the mirror, but my co-workers love it. So I guess I'm going into deep cover here, merging with millions of modern Chinese.
Friday of last week, I left my AC converter at the internet office housed in the big, old, Soviet style Main Building. This morning I think I will swing by and get it before meeting Ms. Chen, my boss, at 9:30am.
Over the weekend, the campus works department has been busy. The main boulevard is swept clean and tidy, the trees and bushes have been trimmed and the winter dormant mondo grass has been raked. The ornate urns at the beautiful, white Main Gate have been planted with purple and gold flowers. The closer I get, I notice more campus police looking smart in gray uniforms. The light standards at the grassy area in front of the Main Building have new Centennial banners. I stop there to get a picture in the morning sun. I try parking my bike, but I'm shoved off to the side by officious guards. Walking up the broad, curved walk to the front doors, I see more police cars and vans. In front are parked a couple black cars with tinted windows. A young woman is washing windows. The broad stone porch looks scrubbed and buffed.
People are being funneled through one of the deco frosted glass doors. About six men, all dressed in black and wearing ear pieces, are checking IDs. Naturally, I don't have one yet, so they won't let me into the internet office which is on the ground floor.
While I wait for a man who spoke a little English to go into the internet office for me, I get a good look at the hubub and at the same time the Chinese secret service men stalk around the lobby, looking serious and keeping an eye on me. I just keep smiling and nodding, "Ni hau," to everyone.
By the time I have the converter in my hands and have left the building, more black cars have arrived and are parked across the front. Back at the media office, no one knows anything about it.
Ms. Chen has a compact car which we cram into. Chen weaves around campus as more blockades sprout by the minute. After the interview at the Art Department, one of their professors had designed the New Year's postal stamp, on the east side of the campus, I walk back to the office with Yang.
We pass a black van with the back doors open. I could see a double row of strapping men inside, dressed in black uniforms. I call out, "Nihau," and get a friendly but serious nod from the man closest to the door. Yang is about to pass out, walking stiffly and not looking, he hisses at me, "Don't look at them." I try not to stare as we pass the van, but see the emblem on the door: Beijing SWAT.
As it turns out, the People's Republic of China Vice President Xi Jinping is visiting Tsinghua and is an alum. He is the presumed next president. How exciting!!
My office is ready to move into today. It's a corner office with a south facing window on the third floor, down the hall from several more offices in our Overseas Promotion Department. A conference style work table and double, glass faced hutches, desk and computer station, all new and modern. They are really treating me well, wouldn't you say? I start building a Power Point presentation for the Centennial. So from no own I'll be an eight to five gal with one hour lunch.
I run into my friend's Venezuelan husband on his new mountain bike, it cost 300Y or $50. He tells me that his wife's office is in the building directly north of mine. He offers to show me a cool, little internet cafe in the hutong near my apartment.
It's a real hole in the wall. I never would have seen it. We bring our bicycles inside an ornate iron gate and park them in a tiny courtyard with one tree. Inside is a cozy couple of rooms with pillowed couches. A young couple blink at us as we come in from the bright outside. For 10Y $1.50 we got fabulous, sweet coffee, topped with a dollop of whipped cream. He wants to lounge, but I leave him there and go back to my office. I have a website critique to finish for Ms. Chen.
Hui tou jian