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A Letter from James

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October 31, 2004


Most of September has slipped away, and all of October,  since I updated you on my activities..  The weather has turned from steamy, sultry summer to my favorite: Fall.  Here in Shenzhen that doesn't mean red leaves or impending snow; it just means that I can put my face-towel away and walk without leaving puddles behind me.

To give you a blow-by-blow for the past seven weeks would be more than either you or I could handle.  Instead, starting where I left off in Mid-September, I'll just give you some highlights.

School Days: It is no coincidence that my net efforts fell off just as school started.  I have been busy, both on campus and off.  One of the more interesting aspects of my classes is that freshman students have two weeks of mandatory military training.  So after a great start, I suddenly found myself with more time on my hands.  I used it to revise my website from the ground up (and gather material for future pages).

Saturday, September 25: My friend Keri turned 27 this week, and planned a birthday celebration in a park.  (You can see some pictures here.)  She asked me if I would lead a little tour of the nearby temple and old town, and the statuary within the park, which I was only too glad to do.  Anything for my pal!

Monday, September 27: I have been teaching a class of very special students.  Three seniors are supposed to go to Beijing sometime soon for an oral English competition, and I have been asked to coach them.  On this particular night, one of the kids said a friend of his would be bringing us moon cakes (see below).  It turns out that I had met his friend Michelle before.  She has since become a kind of "fourth member" of the class, being invited to all their outside-of-class activities.  You can see pictures of the kidz and me here.

Tuesday, September 28: Today was the Mid-Autumn Festival, being the first full moon after the Autumn Equinox (called the "Harvest Moon" in the west.)  It is widely celebrated in east Asia. The teachers at my college were invited to an event at which the mayor and the city's Communist Party Secretary were present, a celebration for "foreign experts" (mostly teachers and businesspeople) that filled a huge ballroom at the Wuzhou Guest House.  You can read a bit about it here.

My friend Yoko with the ballroom and stage behind her

Friday, October 1: With Keri, my buddy German George, and my 3 kidz plus Michelle, I went to Shenzhen's new Garden Expo today.  The weeather was miserable, but the company was great.  As this was the first day of the one-week "October 1st" holiday, I thought I would give the kidz several hours of English exposure, then they scattered for the week.  You can see some pictures of the event here.

Monday, October 4: As we did last spring for a day in Chiwan, a group of teachers arranged to have a school bus take us out to Da Peng fortress.  (You can read about it in the Shenzhen Daily here, or here in PDF format with pictures.  Note that the entire lead was lifted from a page by my friend Sam at Shenzhen Ren.)  This is a Ming/Qing period defensive village, which--to my surprise--is still occupied.  In the future I expect to put up a full page about the site; until then, here are a few pictures.

Tuesday, October 5: October 1st holiday, Day 4: Mission: Hong Kong.  I crossed the border with two Serbs, a Taiwanese, and a woman best described as "his daughter."  We rendezvoused with an American, an Australian, and a Brit at the target: Caramba, a "Mexican Restaurant" in Hong Kong's Soho area.  Later, we visited my beloved Man Mo Temple, then wandered down the hill.  Splitting up by ones and twos, the team was eventually whittled away until I was the only one left--and I had a fine dinner at California Pizza Kitchen before heading home.  Mission Accomplished.

Secret Agent Ben in Mission: Hong Kong

Thursday, October 7: With Keri, Eric, and Mark, The Two Serbs (Velibor and Zoran), one of my kidz named Kyle and his buddy Simon, I went to Hong Fa Temple in Fairy Lake where I acted as tour guide--and got Kyle to read some of the Chinese signs for me.  We had lunch at the vegetarian restaurant next to the temple, and walked down the hill to the front gate.  A suitable way to end the seven-day vacation.

Saturday, October 30: Today we reprised the Day in Chiwan (these are pictures from a previous trip), this time with Keri, Justin, Y2K (Yoko and Yuka from Japan), and Gloria, a new friend from Ghana.  After visiting the tomb, the temple, and the fort, we ended the day with lunch at McCawley's in Shekou.  For another picture from this trip, go here.)

Friends at the cannon

That about catches us up.  I'll do my best to write a letter each weekend, but no more empty promises!


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