National Geographic : 1981 Jun
doorknobs and window latches missing. In the windy season we had to teach over a ca cophony of slammings and bangings. Worst of all, there were virtually no books! Many students studied from bundles of smeared mimeographed sheets stapled to gether. They were full of mistakes because the typist didn't know English. No foreign language books had been acquired during the previous dozen years. The prize posses sion of the main university library was a 1964 Encyclopaedia Britannica kept in a reference room open only to faculty, not to students. Most of the books in the Foreign Languages Reading Room were pre-1950. Paddy and I accosted the tourist groups who were beginning to visit Kunming, tell ing them of our plight and begging for maga zines and books. At the same time, we wrote letters to America howling for help. The re sponse was overwhelming! My mother be gan collecting old NATIONAL GEOGRAPHICS and Reader's Digests from all over northern New Jersey. Friends scoured book fairs and church bazaars. Relatives simply emptied and packed up their entire bookcases. The books took three months to reach us by the proverbial slow boat to China, but once the "book lift" got started, they arrived in a steady stream. We received two brand new encyclopedias. The National Geo graphic Society sent a globe, maps, atlases, and a complete set of its illustrated books. By the time we had been there a year, every wall of our office was lined with bookcases. T FIRST it was called the Foreign Ex perts' Library. Several months ago the leaders of our department moved it to a much larger, sunnier room where there is space for a magazine rack and a seminar table. A bright young teacher, Pu Zhenwei, took charge of the 2,000 or so books, as part-time librarian. Although the main university library is now acquiring up to-date foreign books as fast as it can, this room is the intellectual and social center of the Foreign Languages Department, and nowadays the students and teachers always refer to it as "ourlibrary." At first we lived in the Kunming Hotel. We got a lot of exercise pedaling to and from Extraordinary event: The first municipal elections in more than 20 years drew a massive turnout at the cam pus ballotbox (right).Froma wide field, two candidates were elected to represent the universityin a councilfor one of the city's administrative districts. Universities were closed during the Cultural Revolu tion of the 1960s, and its lin gering effects kept admission standards low through 1976. The next year stiff entrance exams were restored. These students, lunching in their dorm (left), belong to the first new class, which we called the "Wonderful Seventy-Sevens." As a legacy of the dark era, we found books in English nearly nonexistent. Through friends at home and tourists, we began a "book lift" that brought some 2,000 volumes.