April 22, 2009

Day 2

There is nothing quite like an evening snack of fresh green beans from the market to finish off the day.  They are super cheap, extremely crunchy and fresh and refreshing.  The boys and I are munching away.

I've been reading a lot despite limited time since we've arrived.  Amidst all the studying and general  crazyness I have so far finished ROOTS and Wild Swans.  I am currently working on three others: a biography of Mao Zedong, The Jungle and another called The China Road.  James, for some reason, seems to be irritated by the fact that I never read one book at a time.  I guess I just like having a good mix of fiction/non-fiction, lighthearted/serious etc.

ROOTS was excellent despite the controversy surrounding Alex Haley's possible plagiarism.   

Wild Swans is the true story of three generations of Chinese women from 1909 to 1979.  It is written by the third generation woman and the story spans the overthrow of imperialism, the rise and fall of the Kuomintang, the Communist reforms, the famine, the Cultural Revolution and the death of Mao.  I feel very privileged to read it while being among the people whose lives these events impacted.  I find myself studying people on the bus wondering who they are.  There is a an old man who regularly sits on the side walk close by.  He looks like Confucious, but very, very old with dark leathery skin and a thin, wispy, white beard.  He alternately plays a Chinese instrument that looks like a violin coming out of a tin can (sorry James, I'm sure you know what it is called!) or sleeps.  I want to know who he is.

I haven't had any moments of hating our transition, by contrast I find myself becoming more and more fascinated by such a dynamic country.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of China than just Beijing.  I've read nutritional reports from rural Chinese provinces where mothers are selling their highly nutritious eggs so that they can buy chocolate for their children because they think it is better for them.  I want to meet those mothers.  James really wants to get out west and see the herders and the Gobi Desert.  

The China Road is written by a British journalist who lived in China for many years and wrote about his experiences traveling from one end of the country to the other.  His intent was to see from all angles of the country what modern China is like.  So far its very interesting.

I'm sure you didn't check in for a book review, but the point is, I'm really enjoying educating myself about our home for the next three years.  I've always loved history, but there is something even more fascinating about it when you are on location.  I'm sure those who are more widely traveled than I am have an even greater appreciation for it.  



derrydown said...

I was just checking in for a book review, and yours was great! I loved Wild Swans and Roots. Such wonderful stories of generations, esp. Wild Swans, since it was factual. I read a good one a few years ago called Cathay by Fergus Bordewich, a non-fiction book of his travels along the Silk Road from west to east. Very good. Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama, and The Language of Threads are wonderful books. They follow a girl around WWII.

I always read a few books at once, because I never know what I'll be in the mood for. I'm praying for you every day! Love, "Ma"

The Freys said...

Thanks Ma! The MCC library here seems to be well stocked with all sorts of good China books so there is a good chance the ones you suggested might be in there. There is one in particular that I can't wait to get my hands on. It is about Chinese shopgirls who have come from remote parts of the country to the cities to make money (ofcourse). It sounds extremely interesting.

Dustin said...

Hey Jess, just thought I would let you know the instrument you described is an erhu and can both sound lovely or sound like something beating a cat, depending on the person playing it.

Laura said...

Hey Jess,

I saw the book similar to what you are talking about at the U of M bookstore and thought it looked really interesting. Is it called Factory Girls: From Village To City In a Changing China. I am glad to hear that you are taking a little bit of time for your own enjoyment out of your busy life. You need it!

The Freys said...

Thanks Dustin. This particular erhu looks like it really was made out a of a tin can (a rusty one at that). So while it sounds like the man does have talent, the instrument itself has more of the sound you are describing.

That is the book Laura. You should grab it if you can, I've heard really great things from others who have read it.