Three summers

A suitable period of mourning for its being over having passed, I can now safely mention the summer holidays without letting slip too deep a sigh. Here’s what three friends got up to:

  • Marie, home in Yunnan after a tough term – she studied up to 10 hours a day at Beida – spent about the same amount of time, almost everyday day of her much deserved break … helping her little brother prepare for his college entrance exam (the high-pressured gaokao). Did she begrudge her brother for eating her holiday like this? Was this a duty imposed on her by her parents? No and no, she says. She offered to help herself, and for something like this would have happily sacrificed more (this exam will in many respects decide her brother’s future).
  • Matilda wasn’t idle either, and used her summer more creatively: she was working on the novel which she’s been writing for some time now. It’s set in the 1940s, right at the end of the war of Resistance against Japan, mostly on university campus in Kunming – where Beida relocated to during the war. It’s a love story between a professor and his pupil … more she wouldn’t say. Nor would she tell me if this pupil who falls in love with her dashing literature professor is in any way based on herself. She did blush though.
  • William was finishing his final few months of full-time work at an online environmental magazine, before going back to school. He dropped out of university two years ago to widen his horizons, but is now going to finish the final year of his degree (he’s then thinking of aiming high and applying to graduate school at Beida), while still working part time. The cold hard reality he came to appreciate in those horizon-widening years was that to get any attractive job in China you need the record of schooling more than the work experience itself.

Well, summer is over and lately I’ve been feeling the first bite of winter in the Beijing air. Isn’t this still autumn? Not for the first time, and not for the last, I wish humans hibernated.