Thursday, July 10, 2008

Last Day This Trip

Yesterday’s meeting with the government officials is still on my mind. The officials are concerned that everything must follow government guidelines. Well, this is the city, Beijing, and the country that will momentarily (within three weeks) be the focus of the world. The Olympics are coming, the bird’s nest stadium is right near our hotel, and everywhere there are signs that remind the public to clean up for the games and take pride.

The television host whom I mentioned yesterday as the public official who is using her celebrity status to support our earthquake relief project is named Shen Bing, known as the “face of China Central Television (CCTV) programs. " She will emcee the Olympic games, because she can do it all: sports, finance, current affairs. Versatile, intelligent, graceful, she has won many awards including "Best TV Host for News Commentary and Business" in 2005. She was also honored as one of the Top 10 Most Influential Media Figures of the Year (2002) and Glamour 50 of the Year (2005).

But more than that, she is a philanthropist, donating much money to schools, libraries, and funds for needy children.

After I leave, I write her a thank you note for including me in this project. She answers immediately, inviting me to write her with my thoughts and ideas, asking for my continuing support, hoping to see me again, and also saying, “Your trip to China has been of great value to the Chinese people, and I really appreciate your efforts and contribution.” So gracious.

My friend Planaria is an expert in teaching English as a second language. She says there is a theory about conversations in different cultures—I hope I’ve got this right, on the web there’s something about this from The Seabright Group—that uses sports analogies to show the styles and who gets the conversational ball, so to speak. Some cultures are like Ping Pong, in that each person takes a turn hitting the ball when it comes his/her way. If you don’t have the ball, you have to wait until it’s your turn again. Some are like basketball, in that you have the conversational ball only as long as you can hold onto it, but someone can snap it up and then it’s their turn. And some are like soccer—you can hardly tell who’s got the ball at any given moment. The Middle East conversations are soccer. In the U.S., we’re kind of basketball. And China is definitely ping pong. So it involves waiting until it is your turn to speak. The more so when you don’t know the language.

Although the group I’m with is a little rowdy-er and there’s often so much laughter you can’t tell who’s got the ball.

We go to a vegetarian restaurant after the meeting, for my sake, and everyone finds the food delicious. Helena is certain she’s becoming a veggie, hanging out with me, and losing her taste for meat. The words for “I’m so full,” and “You are so wonderful” are almost the same, and there are apparently puns or jokes confusing the two. Can you see where they might cross over, with a feeling of being so content.

Which reminds me that after I did my demonstration of therapy at the university the other day, a beautiful young woman whose “English name” was Lotus came up to speak with me and try her language skills. I understood what she was saying easily, and was most moved when, in telling me how much she loved what I had done, she said, “My heart is so …com-fort-able.” She made it a juicy four syllables, and I felt full, myself.

The last day here, Helena and I awaken early and pack. Too much laundry. We stop for a quick breakfast and I don’t have my beloved morning coffee, hoping to be able to sleep on the plane. We say our good byes to the sweet Mr. Wei who gets us to the airport early, we check in and soon we’re on the 11-plus hour flight, which is cold and unpleasant enough to help me understand why the other Americans who left early all upgraded. Helena sleeps about three hours all together, I sleep about two.

We part in San Francisco—it has been so amenable and productive, we’re all hugs and plans. Which reminds me that she’s off to Seattle to see her daughter, who is there, and who has said to her ,“Mommy, I think I’m going to have to limit the number of kisses you can give me.” What did she decide the maximum number would be? “Twenty thousand.”

By the time Harry picks me up at the airport, his big warm hug is like a soft, favorite bed. We go home, catch a nap, and then head for UCLA where we teach our writing course from 7-10. Then home at 11 PM, I take a melatonin and am in bed by midnight. When I awaken at 9 AM, I’m back on Los Angeles time.

As always happens, once I’m back on familiar turf, doing what I always do, it’s as if I dreamed the whole trip. I’m grateful for this blog, so that I could preserve the memories and highlights and receive all your gorgeous feedback, support, and love.

Thank you. I am so full. You are so wonderful. Twenty thousand kisses.


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