Saturday, October 22, 2005

Taiwan Takes on Hawthorne

Before I get to Hawthorne, I want everyone to know that I read Kate's play a few days ago and I could not stop laughing! It is wonderfully funny, as Batman confirmed when he told me about the evening he and others spent reading it. I'm so sorry I didn't get to be there to read one of the parts; I saw several I thought I could do very well. If you want to laugh out loud, read the play; here's the address:

May Wong from AIT on the left, and the manager of the local American corner on the right.

My presentation on Hawthorne at The American Corner was yesterday and it was quite the adventure. I had prepared everything in power point, as they asked, and spent quite a bit of time on the internet finding illustrations of things because I was told the audience would not be very scholarly and would like a lot of picrures. I finished it last Sunday, a week ago, and sent it to the American Corner people. The woman in charge, May Chang, wrote me soon after, saying she couldn’t open the images and would I bring my laptop to the presentation so we could use it for the presentation, so of course I did. Then yesterday I went early in case of problems and there were plenty of those, as well. They didn’t have a cable to connect my imac laptop to the projection equipment, so I had to burn a new disc that would play on their pc. They were astonished that I could do that with my laptop, but that solved the projection problem except the images were less than wonderful. But they were at least visible.

We begin the presentation: me left, Ann right, Hawthorne far left

Then we started, actually pretty close to starting time, unusual for Asian events, only to find out the microphones they had provided for me and the interpreter (did I mention we had an interpreter?) made lots of electrical noise if we stood close together, so we fooled around with that for a while before deciding that I would use a mike and the interpreter would not. My voice has been very blinky because of the pollution in the air which makes me cough and then lose my voice in very short order, so I am still using lots of cough drops. (And I though Houston was polluted! But this is better than Taipei.)

See, the room is full!

When we were on the second or third slide, with me speaking, her translating, and then eventually the person in the back changing the slide, suddenly I noticed a woman, sitting near the front on the same side where the interpreter and I were standing, gasp and lift her legs into the air and something run past her. I thought it would be a cockroach, but much to my horror, it was a mouse. Coming right for us! Then the mouse realized people were in front of it and ran to the side under a bookcase. I was relieved and thought we were out of trouble, but alas, I was overly optimistic. A few seconds later the mouse reappeared and was about to run over Ann’s foot (the interpreter) so I stomped my foot to scare it away and touched her arm and pointed down to show her the mouse. I had visions of it running over her foot and her screaming and fainting. Or that the same thing would happen to me! ( Intellectually I am not afraid of mice, but I think I would be very upset if I had to touch a live one or it ran over my foot.) She was calm, though, and the mouse continued to run in and out of the room during the remainder of the presentation. People noticed it but didn’t seem to be horrified, so I stopped worrying about a mass panic and focused on keeping myself out of its path. It was later joined by another mouse, I’m told, though also happy to report I didn’t see the pair together. Also at one point May took a small box and chased it around trying to catch it in the box, a tactic I thought unlikely to meet with any success.

The mouse was running back and forth along the wall below the map.

What with all the excitement and the late start, I did not talk as much during the presentation as I had planned and consequently only spoke for about 35 or 40 minutes instead of an hour. I asked for questions, not really expecting anyone much to say anything because Chinese people don’t ask questions. They just don’t. It would be like asking Americans to spit on the floor or eat fried chicken with a fork—it just isn’t done. Much to my surprise, after an admittedly slow start we had questions one after another for about 45 minutes, at which point I was again losing my voice. And they were thoughtful questions about the period, Hawthorne’s religious beliefs (about which I know nothing), transcendentalism, why Hawthorne liked women, whether he was a feminist, why he wrote those scary stories and the scientists were evil, and similar things. One woman apparently didn’t like Hawthorne and kept asking why I didn’t like Emerson better. You all would have been proud of me; I didn’t say “because Emerson is an idiot,” I said "because Hawthorne writes good stories and Emerson writes sermons and I prefer stories to sermons." During this time the mouse (mice?) continued to run around dodging various ineffective attempts to either capture or scare it.

Now that I have been to several presentations and formal meetings I have learned an important rule about such gatherings in Asia: if you offer a microphone to an Asian male he will gladly take it and talk for as long as he can, in good face, keep going, So if you need to fill some time, as I thought I did on the first question from an older man in the audience, give them the mike. He talked for about five minutes, maybe more, in broken English and by the time he finished I couldn’t find the question. He had sort of made a long statement about Hawthorne’s use of psychology in his character development. But that was easy to talk about, and a good beginning, and the questions came quickly after that. Quite a few students from Providence had come (although none from my class!) and students from other colleges, as well, so the audience was more academic than I had been led to expect. Also the place was crowded, another surprise. I had thought that E-Chou, my boss, and Anna Chen, my colleague and friend, and the AIT staff and I would be most of the crowd but that was not true.

Afterwards Anna and E-Chou and and Ann, the interpreter, and Melanie Flanders (a friend from Houston who came in from Taipei to spend the evening before she returned to her job in Nanjing, China) and I went to dinner at an absolutely wonderful restaurant Anna chose. Shanghai is its name and cuisine, and the food was really good. Six of us had dinner with many many dishes and a bottle of wine and it was about $2000 NT (less than $10 US each, including tip).

So another hurdle is behind me and I need to get ready for tomorrow's classes. See you on down the road . . .


At 2:14 PM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Pat -- thanks for the shout out! Gee. And I laughed really hard at the wild adventures of your talk. Wow -- I think Hawthorne would be proud that you persevered with such good humor.

At 7:20 AM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

Kate, your play is so funny anyone would love it. Hawthorne might have liked the slide I ended with, which was a photo made this summer that I found on the internet of a ghost in the garden at the house of the 7 gables in Salem. I don't know what he would have thought about the mouse. Now Robert Burns is another matter . . . I thought about his poem when that mouse was running around.

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

Hi Ghee!
I just caught up on your blog sounds like you are having a true adventure in Taiwan! I am jealous! I love and miss you very much. I can't wait to hear more...

P.S. I can't believe Peter made it through his snake wine experience without having a complete meltdown...I remeber the Arachnophobia stories too! I am impressed...
Love you both!

Your loving granddaughter,

At 4:03 PM, Blogger anna said...

Hi, Mom. I finally caught up, too. See, sitting in a hospital room does have advantages! Sounds like you're having a wonderful time in spite of mice and snakes and such. Richard says hello (he's a little more himself tonight.) It also sounds like you now have as many friends there as you do here (as predicted!)

Love you.



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