Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hubei University of Economics: The Campus

Hubei University of Economics Library
In the middle of the school there is the library. The Library has a clock tower that is the second tallest structure on the campus. In front of the library there is a large circular area much like a public square. There is a map of the world here which, like most maps in China, places the People’s Republic in the middle of the map rather than at the far right of the map. If you’re paying attention while you’re looking at this map in front of the library and you’re aware of your geography you might notice that Japan is missing. Another foreigner pointed this out to me. I might not have noticed had he not said anything. I walked around for a bit taking photos today. While I was standing at the edge of the map and looking down on Asia a couple walked across world. The young man said something to his girlfriend. Most of it I didn't understand but I did catch the words “ri ben,” (Japan). The girl paused a moment looking down in the general area of where Japan should have been before continuing toward the library with her boyfriend. I heard them say “ri ben” again a second time as they walked away. Across the square from the library is the Student Union Building. In the early mornings you can find several circles of students here. In the middle of each circle there is a teacher wearing a microphone reading from a speech or an Article written in English. After every line the students will repeat after him.

Asia... Well, most of it.

Across the "river" from the Our Hotel
A man made river curls in circular fashion around the back side of the library. It twists and meanders a bit like all good rivers do and in the process it creates the appearance if not the reality of a couple of small islands. There is forest here. Weeping willows line the shore of the river. Pines and other trees cover the small hills. Stone or brick paths lead into these small forests. Some of the entrances to the forest areas have arches covered with vines but most of them don’t. Inside you’ll find the usual cement picnic tables scattered around along with a park bench or two. Each of these of course will be surrounded with litter just to remind you that you are in fact still in China. 

While walking through these woods may not lead to a Hawthorne-esque loss of Faith, the people you find there can be both myriad and dubious. Early mornings it is common to find lone individuals sitting in the park benches or at the tables reading to themselves aloud in other languages. Usually it is English. One morning I sat listening to a nearby student reading something which I am almost certain was German. I did not bother him to find out. By mid-afternoon and on into the early evenings you’ll find couples occupying the benches. Everyone lives in the dormitories. There are usually six people to a dorm room. The doors are locked and the lights go out at eleven. Privacy in the dormitories is non-existent so young couples will often seek a form of semi-privacy in the woods. As the evening grows darker they move out into the parking areas. In a way this can make the walk from the convenience store back to my hotel a bit awkward. On one such walk I passed a couple who were standing suspiciously close to each other in the shadows of the parking lot. I heard the girl say, “Wo lao shi,” (my teacher). Usually if a student recognizes me they will call my name. Understandably, she didn't and I was glad that she didn't.

Several bridges cross the river. Beyond the river and behind the library there are the teaching buildings. There is a wide street here. On either side of the street there are statues of famous people. Most of these statues are of economists. Milton Friedman, John Maynard Keynes and Karl Marx are all here by the river. Marx stands by the river and looks across the road at the school building that I teach in. All of my classes are in the same building.

There are four cafeterias on campus along with a few dozen dorms. I've eaten a few times at the one of the cafeterias but I usually prefer to walk across the street from the campus. There are also tennis and basketball courts, a soccer field, a track and an indoor swimming pool and gymnasium. The hotel I’m living in is between the Library and the main gate.

I haven’t actually seen the whole campus. There is a large portion that I've never had a reason or an opportunity to explore. Perhaps one day when I've nothing better to do I’ll pass through that area just to see what is there. A lot of people here have asked me why I left New Dynamic to come to this University. Many of my former co-workers including some of the people in the head office believe that I left because New Dynamic couldn't give me the pay raise that I asked for. This makes sense until you know that the University is paying me less than New Dynamic was. In the end it came down to trees.

When I explain this to a Chinese person they usually get this “far-away” expression on their face. It’s a look I see a lot here when people don’t understand something that has been said. Some of them of course do understand this right away but most of them don’t seem to get it. Zhuan Kou is a mess. It has been a mess for a long time. There is always construction. Much of this is because they’re building the subway but much of it also is because they feel the need to constantly build, destroy and rebuild. A few months ago they demolished the viaduct and now it’s a bigger mess than it had been previously.

There is construction here. New stuff is being built outside the campus. But it seems like there is less construction here than in the rest of the city. Months ago, after I’d interviewed here I’d walked around the campus a bit. Mr. Li doesn't know this but none of the things we’d talked about in the interview had any bearing on my decision. The decision had been made sitting on a park bench thirty minutes later. In front of me there was nothing but the woods. I just sat there looking at the trees. I was close enough to the water that I could hear it. I could also hear some people talking far away and sometimes laughing. There were no other sounds. There were no car horns or ringing bicycle bells. There were no passing buses rolling by pouring out exhaust fumes for everyone to choke on. There was only green and brown and a sliver of blue and there was silence. I remember Adam Stein, who taught my certification course, telling us that windows in a classroom where very important. I remember thinking then that this was a strange thing to care about but now I think I get it. Sometimes between classes or while the students are busy with some group work I've given them I’ll stand by the window and look out for a moment. From some of the windows I can see a small pond encircled with stones and cattails and covered with lily pads. Around this there are trees.

Once they do finally understand and they realize that I'm not joking some of the people here feel this whole thing about the trees and all is a bit silly. There is an Australian couple here who get it though. They came to this school from their old one because this university has a pool. 

I think trees are nice. 

But to each his own...