This is National Week in China, marking the 58th birthday of the People’s Republic. On October 1st, 1949 Mao declared the founding of the most recent incarnation of this country, although if he were alive today I don’t know that he’d recognize it.

The Chinese have a week holiday, during which millions travel and go sightseeing. Many of the students at the campus where we live have gone home to be with their families. We welcome the time off, and have been relaxing and studying. Towards the middle of the week we’ll take a bus seven hours to Kangding, where Tibet begins at its eastern extreme, site of Daxue Shan, the Great Snowy Mountains.

On Friday we attended a Gala Dinner, presented by the Chengdu Provincial Government to mark National Day. It was held in a fancy hotel, and featured a buffet and the requisite speeches, delivered in Chinese, then translated into English for the many Westerners in attendance. Most of the Consular Generals from various countries were there, including those from Pakistan, Korea, Germany, and the US. The invitation, which we were handed by the head of the Foreign Studies Department of Sichuan Normal University on our way in, suggested “Lounge Suit or National Dress” as appropriate attire. The dinner was held in a large banquet hall, with a ring of chairs around the outside, and the food in the middle.

After the speeches, the Chinese national anthem was played while everyone stood, and a toast was made to the People’s Republic. While people ate and mingled, a group of musicians played traditional Chinese music. We had a late lunch, and weren’t that hungry. I finally went and got a plate of food. On my way back to my seat, I encountered the US Consular General, who I had met the previous week at a dinner held in Lara and several Fulbright Scholars’ honor. He introduced me to an Asian gentleman in a grey suit as “one of our citizens, who is an acupuncturist and is here studying Chinese medicine.” He then introduced the gentleman as the Consular General of Korea. I didn’t ask which one. The Korean Consular General – turns out he was from North Korea – was fairly incredulous that any non-Chinese would or could possibly practice acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I assured him that no, in fact, acupuncture was increasingly popular in the US, and also in France and England. That there are thousands of practitioners, and many schools. No, he repeated, How can this be? Non-Chinese practicing acupuncture? I assured him again, explaining its popularity. This back and forth went on for a while. Finally, I pointed to my newly acquired plate of food, and excused myself to go eat.

Almost an hour exactly after it began, an announcement was made, Thank you for attending the National Day commemoration, Good Night. And that was it. It was over.

Tomorrow we’re going with a couple of friends to the main square in the center of the city, site of the Mao statue, McDonalds, and Starbucks, to check out the National Day celebration. I’m expecting some sort of military parade. Should be interesting.