Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pajamas Are Not Street Clothes

Or so says the Shanghai government. Like many people here in the US, the Chinese have recently taken to wearing their pajamas out in public, and with the Expo in full swing, the Shanghai officials are cracking down on this less-than-elegant habit. Citizens have signed up to be "pajama squads," taking public pajama wearers back home to get some pants, for pete's sake! Once again, I find myself coming down on the side of the communist government.

Our papers came from the school and they look really beautiful with all the characters. No idea what any of it means, but the document processing service says they can handle everything with no problem, so we'll send our passports, visa applications and introduction papers when we're done with school here in June. We'll be getting a 90-day visa at first, then upgrading to a multiple-entry visa after we get there, but I'm not sure how that works. I think that's one of those things taken on faith.

I also had a little experience this week that reminded me of something that's been happening in China recently. My kids and I were involved in a lockdown at one of my schools when a robbery happened in the neighborhood and the authorities thought the robber might be in our vicinity. We had an interesting 30 minutes or so (during which I did almost nothing according to protocol except for locking the door), and then everything was fine. My colleagues in China have not been so fortunate. The rural areas (not Shanghai and certainly NOT my school) have had several incidents where individuals have broken into the school and killed both students and teachers using things as basic as a hammer, which is a real heartbreaker when you consider that these parents only get one child. How will the government respond to this?

Just the same, we're still excited and amazingly, still finding people to tell. I spoke to a couple of my former teachers, my neighbor down the street (who had already heard and was really just confirming), and even the author of the book I read this week ("Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See, a great novel about the relationships among Chinese women in the 19th century, and I highly recommend it). One thing agreed on by people in the know: Shanghai in August is "hot and humid" (Ms. See) or "hot and sultry" (Wendy, my email buddy). Ugh. A recent point of contention centers around continuing confusion about the blocking power of the Great Firewall. Beth (a recent NAU visitor to Beijing) says Facebook is fine and blogging is blocked, while Chris (the IT genius at my school) maintains just the reverse. I guess I'll find out when I get there, but I've read more opinions supporting Chris than Beth. Also, my Australian email buddy is very enthusiastic about Chinese health care and medications, so I wonder if I'm not suffering from some American bias (or is that bigotry?). Problem is, China doesn't produce any credible healthcare stats for comparative purposes. Again, something to take on faith.

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