20 May 2007

Caifang-ing

I'm lazy, so I'm going to post a paragraph from a previous email...

Last Friday the school was having an all day event, so we hung around the city all day. In the morning we went to Beijing University to interview people about their perception of migrant workers, and got a very wide range of opinions. Several of the people we interviewed were migrants themselves, who had come to sell their wares on the side of the road. One of the guys was a professor from Beida and Tsinghua, who ended up preaching to us for 30 minutes during which a huge crowd of Chinese people and students gathered around to listen. This goes on my list of things that are so random they happen only in China (or some other equally random place). In addition to the general lack of inhibition when intruding on someone's personal space--personal space is really only a western notion, or an American notion, where we have enough space to actually have our own room--Chinese people also have no problem reading over your shoulder when they are interested in what you are writing, especially when it's in English.

My friend (who was doing most of the interviewing) compared interviewing people to a cold shower: each time you do it doesn't make it easier the next time. But, unlike a cold shower, unexpected things can happen in interviews, and you can end up listening to a professor lecture about the GDP and property values when all you really asked about was how he felt about migrant workers. As soon as the professor found out that I was Taiwanese (I should really stop telling people this, but everyone seems so intent on finding out when I obviously don't look Chinese OR American), he kept emphasizing the fact that China's annual birthrate is 8 million, so that "in 3 years they can easily make a Taiwan, no problem." I sense a pretty uniform opinion here that Taiwan should be part of China. It actually is an interesting topic, and I would be more willing to talk about Taiwan if people here would stop attacking me directly when they speak.

About to plunge into a week of nonstop teaching and interviewing. So far so good!

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