China Diary:
Hello, Debbie ... Goodbye, Debbie

[Returning to Shanghai] [Spring Festival] [Chinese New Year] [Fulbright Mid-Year Conference] [Back to School] [Back Online] [Into the Heartland] [Ancient Capitals] [Judeo-Christian Holidays] [From Albany to Zurich] [Yellow Mountain] [Loose Ends] [Hello, Debbie ... Goodbye, Debbie] [Southern Capital] [Tropical Tour] [Unwinding] [Farewell Banquets] [Winding Down] [Good Bye, Shanghai]

May 9: Return to Shanghai – When I arrived in Zurich, the taxi driver to my hotel was Serbian. A week later (on China’s May Day) I was on the train where I met a refugee from Kosovo and we discussed the situation from his perspective. Then, a couple of days before I depart, the U.S.-led NATO forces drop a few bombs on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. (Coincidentally, I was in Belgrade one year ago where everyone seemed to be discussing Kosovo.) On my flight from Zurich to Amsterdam I meet Danja, a Swissair flight attendant on her way to a North American vacation. A world traveler and adventurer, turns out she is one of the eleven survivors of the Uganda kidnapping last March. Pretty traumatic stuff which I hope to never witness. We part after a Heineken in the airport bar. Then reality returns when I go to board my flight to Beijing. The Chinese passengers crowding around, pushing, shoving, ignoring requests for order and courtesy. Welcome to China! I manage to get onto an earlier flight to Shanghai than booked and am home before noon. While I am straightening things out Debbie comes home for lunch. She is finishing her English class today and will leave for the U.S. on Friday. In the afternoon I take a brief nap and catch up on my snail mail and e-mail and receive a file from one of last year’s Zurich MBA students who is writing a thesis under my supervision. I spent my first week in Shanghai reviewing and revising it, and now I get the final version. Small world. Turning on the TV I find our only English-language station is now gone, not counting the sports (NBA playoffs) and music ones. Maybe it’s not such a small world after all? Welcome to China! For dinner, several residents are worried about student demonstrations over the Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade. Several of us have received official warnings from the U.S. consulate here. I considered China the safest country in the world. After spending nearly a year here for world peace and understanding, is it to end this way? We make it to dinner but are cautious.

May 10: Sick Day – I spend the day in bed except for when I heave. My plans to get caught up on work evaporate. There is no TV station to watch so I stay in my bed and nap. Ouch, my aching head, neck, back, and shoulders. Perhaps jet lag, perhaps fatigue of going non-stop for two weeks, perhaps catching a twenty-four hour virus, or perhaps anxiety about Debbie’s departure (followed by my own in a month!). I gradually recover but my vocal cords are very sore and I can hardly speak. Not good for a lecturer.

May 11: Farewell Party – In class, there are some no-shows perhaps because of the continuing protests and demonstrations. I push on. After an opening statement on the Chinese Embassy incident, we go through some administrative announcements. I plug in my laptop only to discover the projector colors are not working properly. I push on. After class, Kathleen, Linda, and I go to the Red Wall for dinner. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing notified Kathleen she must cancel her trip to Harbin tomorrow. Linda is hosting Debbie’s farewell party tonight so she leaves a bit earlier. The gang starts arriving shortly after 8:00 and some stay late. I do not.

May 12: Farewell Party II – I do not sleep all night. In the morning I go downtown to run some errands. I stop at the KLM/Northwest office to claim my frequent flyer miles. My Zurich trip would have put me over the top for a free round-trip ticket between Asia and North America, but the computer now does not show it. The clerk photocopies my ticket stub and boarding pass, and assures me it will be in order in a couple of months. I would like to use it to go home. Later in class, there are a few no-shows again but this time the case discussion has a decidedly hostile tone from a couple of the students in the back. Tension runs high because of the recent bomb incident. After class, a bunch of us go to the Blue Joy for dinner. Afterward, most go back to my place where eventually some others join us. We have a few drinks then head downtown to Malone’s. Some of us continue to Shanghai Sally’s where Debbie and I dance until 2:00 a.m.

May 13: Waiban Dinner – I do not sleep (again!) all night. Debbie finishes packing while I go to the Waiban office to pick up my last official airplane ticket for an upcoming lecture visit. On the way I stop at the campus souvenir shop and chat with the owner, a UCLA graduate who returned to Shanghai to open a chain of small university souvenir shops around the city. He is barely breaking even because, so he claims, Chinese do not like to stand out with boastful logos on their clothing. ("You are what you wear" the sixties slogan used to go.) Not being Chinese, I buy a yellow polo shirt with the Fudan logo on it. Summer clothes replace winter clothes as the weather gets noticeably warmer. Clothes dry within a day now, and the locals have once again taken to the streets wearing only their pajamas. I even washed off the rocking chair I bought last fall which sat on the balcony all winter collecting dirt, dust, and soot. Later, the Waiban hosts a dinner in our residence dining hall. He is a nuclear physicist specializing in arms control. He is decidedly perplexed over the bombing incident. The University officials want to assure us of our safety during these tense times and give us the standard party position. But there is also an opportunity to express with deep emotion the very personal agony of this tragedy. With the semester coming to an end, everyone begins to plan their inevitable departure. Jackie and Amy would like to study in the U.S., perhaps in Albany, and they stop by to give Debbie a going away present and exchange farewells.

May 14: Debbie Leaves – The residence will be completely renovated this summer so everyone must vacate by July 1. Debbie does not wait that long. Visas are initially given for two months, with a one month extension common and under special circumstances two months is possible. Debbie’s four months run out tomorrow. Besides, she will begin summer school next week to try to catch up to her lost spring school semester. So after four months of bonding and bickering, it is a sad day for me as I bring Debbie to the airport. Some of her friends stop by and she gives them those things she does not take back. We pile three overstuffed suitcases and one overstuffed backpack in the taxi as well as a couple of carry-ons. At the airport we get a luggage cart but the smart security folks do not let me accompany Debbie so she must lug her luggage on her own and pay the extra baggage charge with my credit card. She returns after getting her boarding pass and we say our farewells. It is empty in the apartment when I return. In the evening, I meet my friend Akif the Turkish Counsel General and we hop a few bars. One of his Turkish businessmen friends meets us at the Paulaner, a Bavarian-style beerhouse, and we keep hopping. All the while I wonder where Debbie is at the moment.

May 15: Packing it in – I get a couple of hours sleep (nightly average for this week), then begin packing my winter clothes and other items I won’t need this last month. I give the housing staff some Swiss chocolates and for their kids coloring books. I catch up on some odds and ends, like reading student papers and writing letters of recommendation. I begin taking books off of shelves, putting some in boxes and donating others to the School of Management library. Luckily there are fewer dishes to wash in the sink but unluckily I eat more leftovers now. I miss Debbie.

May 16: U.S.-Sino Relations – I meet a couple of MBA students for lunch and discuss U.S.-Sino relations. Francisco took both of my classes last fall as one of the few full-time students and we played basketball before. Leslie is a current part-time student working for Siemens, so he picks up the tab. We then play some hoops. It is my first time on the courts since leaving for Zurich, and the first time since last fall I do not wear my sweats. Later, Terry, who works at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, hosts a dinner for Karen, a Fulbrighter at Jiao Tong University; Glenn, a Fulbrighter in Hong Kong who is passing through Shanghai; Tony, in charge of the consulate’s cultural and press relations who was also Glenn’s former professor, and his wife who is responsible for U.S. citizen services (they are returning to DC in a couple of weeks); and some policy experts attending a USIS conference on East Asia security issues held at Fudan University. I did not know about the conference, which was by invitation only (it was about security, after all). We discuss U.S.-Sino relations. I am tired and go to bed early, but again wake up after only a few hours. I check my e-mail and receive a message from Debbie.

[Returning to Shanghai] [Spring Festival] [Chinese New Year] [Fulbright Mid-Year Conference] [Back to School] [Back Online] [Into the Heartland] [Ancient Capitals] [Judeo-Christian Holidays] [From Albany to Zurich] [Yellow Mountain] [Loose Ends] [Hello, Debbie ... Goodbye, Debbie] [Southern Capital] [Tropical Tour] [Unwinding] [Farewell Banquets] [Winding Down] [Good Bye, Shanghai]


Copyright 1999 Paul Miesing. All rights reserved. Please do not use without permission unless in the People’s Republic of China which does not enforce intellectual property rights. Revised on January 17, 2001.