Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Trip to China - Mini Reunions

Any time we go to China, reunions with relatives, old friends or former teachers are always part of the trip. What is special this year was a reunion with some of my middle school classmates after nearly 30 years.

My years at No. 15 middle school of Wuhan was a wonderful time. The teachers and classmates from that time are special to me. Obviously many classmates shared my sentiment. When our class unit's website was created a few years back, almost all classmates, now spreaded all over the world, were located by a few activists, and signed up to the class unit's website. Ever since then, there have been reunions of sorts every year, when there is a classmate going back to Wuhan, either from out of the city, out of the province, or out of the country. One time they invited our classroom teacher, Ms. Peng, who survived a stroke, and now is at her 80s. How I envy those classmates who were at the reunions.

This time when we were planing the trip, I decided to make the reunion with my middle school classmates a central activity at Wuhan.

The Reunion

The evening of June 29th, 12 of the former classmates along with my family gathered at Nine Dragons Restaurant. I asked Justin to be the photographer of the event, so he would not be bored by the middle aged man and woman and I could enjoy the reunion. The event organizer, Ms. Chen, who was a classmate of mine from elementary school all the way to high school, booked a Zhuang-Yuan (i.e. winner in a comprehensive academic exam) stand-alone Dinning Room specifically. She explained that it was because I was the valedictorian of my class.

Despite the 30 year span, I could name all classmates there thanks to the photos uploaded to our class unit's website. After exchanging pleasantry, we naturally split into smaller group conversations, laughter went up now and then, here and there. Mr. Rong, who was once my desk mate, was as considerate as ever. As we sat down for dinner, he suggested to Ms. Li, who is talkative, "Prof. Li, would you please sit with Mrs. Allan?", so that Lily could have someone to talk to during the meal and would not feel being left out.

Jokes, old and new, were flying over the huge dinning table. Mr. Rong and Mr. Dai were especially good at quipping and teasing, others chipped in from time to time. It was a light hearted, very pleasant dinner.

One-to-One Meetings

In addition to the main reunion, I had three separate one to one meetings.

I met with Ms. Mei, who was the top female student of our class, the only classmate at Shanghai, the day we arrived at Shanghai.

The meeting with Ms. Li, who happens to teach at the same university as my sister, was at my sister's office the day before the reunion. She was very talkative. We talked a long time that day - old stories, shared memories, gossips and tragedies. I was sad to know that a close friend at middle school died young from an accident. I was amused that the sister of another close friend at middle school becomes Mrs. Rong. I was glad that our classroom teacher, Ms. Peng was well at the advanced age of 80s. I was pleased and flattered to know that I was a hero of sort among my fellow students during my middle school and high school years. I did not feel special from other students at all at the time.

Lily was there that day visiting my sister's labs. So she got a chance to know more about my past. Lily and Ms. Li talked about their children, exchanged thoughts on how to educate and prepare them for the future. Lily enjoyed talking to Li as I did.

The visit with Prof. Ye, another close friend at middle school, was more colorful.

He invited me to visit his lab and office at his university two days after the reunion, a Friday. the exchange with him was more about present: status of higher education in China, the usefulness of basic research, and a bit technical discussion on a phenomenon he and his students observed in their electrical-magnetic experiments which was believed to relate to fluid structural interaction - my area of expertise.

After a lunch with a friend of mine from my college time, Ye and I walked over to the entrance to the university, where Mao's granite statue stands, we recalled briefly on what happended there on the June 4th of 1989 and its aftermath. After taking a few pictures there, he suggested that we go to have a foot massage. I was a little bit surprised. "From what I read in America, foot massage in China is just another name for prostitution." He laughed, "It is just foot maasage at the place we will go to." We went to a place he frequented, and enjoyed shoulder and foot massages.

Changes were abundant after 30 years, especially several guys' potbellies, but the chemistry remained the same.

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