A couple things have gone brilliantly well recently here in Wuhan. My capable assistants gathered more than 200 sketchmaps for my research project in little more than a week; I was allowed to keep score at last week’s badminton game; and we have successfully armed and deployed chemical weapons against night-time mosquitoes.
Not all is wine and roses though. Our new houseguest missed her connection in Beijing, making her a half day late to arrive in Wuhan. Not a big deal, our hosts rescheduled the airport pickup with only a couple text messages to clear up things lost in translation. But unfortunately on the way to campus from the airport (a trip that takes 90 minutes with traffic) we had an unfortunate merge in a construction zone and a cement truck decided to kiss our car. Poor Mr. Qiu! At certain points during the ensuing hilarity he looked like he would cry. But the worst never came. No crowd gathered. The policeman did not stick his head in the car. I had some indication that things would be alright when the cement truck driver’s boss arrived and he beckoned Mr. Qiu slightly offstage (Ms Chimene and I did not leave the back seat of the car) by calling him 大哥 (big brother). It sounded sincere rather than solicitous, so I had a feeling everything would be ok.
The police arrived; the mixer was disengaged from my door; the safety glass remained intact (of all the days to go outside in my sandals for the first time!); and we headed off towards campus. And Mr. Qiu only smoked about 8 cigarettes during that 90 minutes.
Ms. Chimene is taking all things Chinese in stride, although I was a little saddened today when her arrival at my office was delayed because she doubted that I actually worked in that abandoned looking building.
Abandoned? Really? Of course, now that the surrounding gardens have been bulldozed, perhaps things look a bit more desolate.
In recent weeks all of the terrain around the building has been transformed–in such a complete and striking way that I wish I had documented things a bit more carefully. Apparently the mountain in back of the building was construction debris from two nearby new buildings. Now a third is being started and they seem to have decided that the rest of the area near the gate was ready to be graded. So huts were removed, gardens flattened, and the hill has been reshaped–stone wall and all. Trees have been planted on its side and things look like that have now stabilized for at least a while.
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