Friday, April 16, 2010

Visas Are In The House!

Well, actually, they are in our passports. And they are more than we applied for....Multiple entries...Each entry good for sixty days...Valid for entries over the next year.

Now we need to put them to good use. Let's book some flights, gang!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beijing's "Ant" Problem

Desi and I have been thinking for a while now about what will happen to those millions of Chinese college graduates who do not find meaningful employment after all of those years of hard work. It turns out that we are not alone.

Huang Rixin is a retired engineer who has become concerned about the living conditions of the so-called "ant tribe" on the outskirts of Beijing. These "ants" are recent university graduates who have come to Beijing looking for work in their fields of study. Such work, they are quickly finding out, is really, really hard to come by. So many of these young men and women are taking simple retail jobs in Zhongguancun, the technology center that is right down the road from my office at Peking University. Given the low salaries that go along with these entry level positions, many ants have taken to crashing in large numbers in cramped apartments, some of which are right in the area where the four of us lived last year.

Watching these developments unfold, Huang Rixin decided to take action. Huang has rented three rooms in a local apartment building and converted them into eight units that provide private accommodations for individual occupants. Each unit comes equipped with a bed, table, chair, television, and Internet connection. As one young person put it, "Although the room is quite small, it belongs to me, like my own house. I can listen to my favorite music in it, or watch movies without any interruption. It's maybe a little cold in this small room, but I believe it will be a new fashion among the youth."

I sense a Balla "ant tribe" field trip coming on this summer...


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wish Me Luck

Tonight I packed up my biggest suitcase in preparation for my first class trip in years (maybe since I taught kindergarten). You see, after I returned from our year abroad, I was given the opportunity to expand my horizons (and boy, are they expanding!) and teach two new classes (new for me, that is) to Blair Magnet students. First semester it was Advanced Biology and a group of gifted tenth graders. This semester, Introduction to Genetics to tremendous eleventh and twelfth graders. Despite working harder than I have since student teaching, I have reaped the benefits of new knowledge and therefore new dendrites!

Along with this new gig comes a huge field trip to Wallops Island to play in the mud for a few days. (Really!) As a part of the ecology unit we are all heading to the coast for some live-event learning. Boat rides, bird watching, and trudging through the muck to collect and identify organisms and to analyze their habitats. If you know me, you know this is right up my alley...Except, of course, for the prospects of wet clothes (the mere thought makes my skin crawl). Anyways, heading out of town with 93 sixteen-year-olds (and none of them my own) for four days should be quite a learning experience...Not only for them, but for me, too...Probably in more ways than I am expecting.

If I should survive, I will post all the details...


Traces of A Championship

The charred piece of ground where we are standing is in the middle of the main quad down at Duke University. It's where the fires burned (with the permission and supervision of the fire marshal, of course!) after the final horn sounded and the Blue Devils won the national championship.

If you look closely, there are a couple of nuts and bolts on the ground. A long-standing tradition at Duke is that the student-constructed benches outside the quad's residence halls are burned during celebratory bonfires. These pieces of metal are all that remain of this year's benches...


PS: Z is now the keeper of a unique championship memento, as he snagged one of the nuts and bolts off the ground right after this picture was taken...

Monday, April 12, 2010

The View At Great Falls

Wondering what the scene is like these days at Great Falls, after all of that snow and rain? Let's just say it is pretty spectacular...