I arrived in Nanjing late last night after a journey that took me from Indianapolis to Dallas to Tokyo to Shanghai and finally Nanjing some 36 hours later. The trip was long and exhausting, but for the most part went off without a hitch. The 13-hour leg from Dallas to Tokyo was the longest flight I’d ever been on and now that I know I can do that without much problem my future itineraries will know no boundaries. We arrived in darkness and mist. The temperature was in the mid-seventies and a balmy breeze blowing. It felt wonderful—womb weather—as I call it. Made me think of Hawaii. Of course I was reminded that it is the monsoon season and the temperate climate will soon give way to much hotter and hence much muggier weather. Despite this gentle meteorological welcome, I’m expecting a New Orleans-style summer here. That means dodging from one air-conditioned haven to the next, walking at a poetically slow pace and an ever present do-rag wrapped artfully around my steaming skull.
My guide, Teaching Assistant and new best friend is Haoyang Yu. He is an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh, planning a law career. So we will have much to learn from one another as the days go by. He came by this morning to give me a tour of the campus. He’s Manchurian, so he does not know Nanjing very well. He’s very friendly and I am enjoying the courtesies he extends; holding an umbrella over me while I open mine, wanting to carry my backpack for me, etc., concern for my comfort and needs. The campus is very old and some very pretty gardens. Good places to meditate. Haoyang explains that the Nanjing classrooms are not very up to date. Most of the building was done in the 1980s, so many things need upgraded. But hey, no problem for me. I teach in the oldest building on Purdue’s campus and if you hadn’t heard . . . no phone or window in my office!
It is a rainy day here, so we stopped for a late breakfast/lunch. We had traditional breakfast. Haoyang had porridge (rice, broth, some veggies) and I had cold soy milk with a crispy bread to dip in the milk. Very, very good. We also shared a basket of bao (rhymes with wow) which aresteamed buns with meat in side. Yum! Thank goodness they have pictures of food on all the menus. That way I can just point and eat! Should be interesting.
One more quick note. Haoyang told me that my three classes are the most popular. They are maxed out, seats filled. He said “You are the most popular professor here!” I asked him to explain how that could be . . . he said students find out about professors. “Chinese students at Purdue checked you out and spread the word.” Well, this should prove to be interesting. My reputation precedes me. Who knew there was a Purdue Chinese Underground!
Till the next time.
Dr. Dawn Marsh
Department of History