Stanford Center

When I got my list of classes and their teachers, or probably the list of faculty for the whole school, the Wei kids went over the list and tried to decide whether the teacher was male or female. A good lesson for me. They did not always agree, and their results were certainly not perfect (when I actually started school and met the teachers). They ranged in age from young to well matured, and it's safe to say that all came from “mainland” families. I was closest to two teachers (over the next two years), and one confided to me that I could never know how hard it was to adopt a Beijing accent (as required by the school when she started) when it was not your normal way of speaking. I think the situation would have been quite similar to one where a prospective English teacher at a private school in the States would be required to speak with a posh British accent, although she was born and grew up in Allentown PA.

The school was headed by a wonderful man named William Speidel. He might even have been some sort of specialist on Taiwan (not just, say, Chinese history), but I don't recall for sure. One thing he did ensure was that we had the opportunity to go on some trips throughout Taiwan. In the pictures below, I see some of the faculty, and I'm sure it was a voluntary assignment for them.

One of the teachers with whom I was closest exploded in our one-to-one class, one day. “You can't believe what pressure there is to go to the United States!” she exclaimed most passionately. “I don't want to go to the United States! I like it here just fine!” But many of them did. She, herself, last I heard, has spent the past 30 years teaching at Berkeley. All the teachers I see in these photos ended up in the States, even if not permanently.

My classmates

First, I want to publish the list of students from around the world who attended the Stanford Center from 1976–1978. This is the only copy of this roster I've heard of, so perhaps someone out there will find it useful: Students, Inter-University Program for Chinese (1976-1978)

Second, I want to say a word or two about my buddy John Albrecht, who died here in DC not long after I'd moved here (John Albrecht, 1947-2000). John and I were classmates in at least one class that first year, and we quickly discovered we shared many things. We both had wives on the way, but we got a few months to hang out together. We both had rural backgrounds, at least in the sense of rubes from the sticks. John actually grew up on a farm—I just saw them out my North Dakota window. His was in Minnesota. One story shows John's character. We were discussing how kids are so protected these days (and this conversation was going on in the 1970s!), and how parents are so involved in the lives of their kids. We agreed that many go overboard on this aspect of parenting. He told me that once, as a high school senior or whatever, he wanted to ask this girl to a dance. I guess he did, and she accepted. More than a little suprised, he knew he would need a car. Well, there was one sitting in the farmyard. Didn't run, but maybe with a bit of work... So, he started that weekend and worked through the week. On about Thursday, his mother poked her head out the window and asked, “John, shouldn't you be in school?” “It's OK, Mom.” “All right, dear.”

John is the first male on the left in that picture, and the teacher at right is Liang Zhuzhu, one favorite of nearly everyone. Terrific personality. I have a photograph of her filling out an application for a US school with the aid of one of my classmates, and I seem to recall that she left for that school (UPenn?) even before I finished my two years at IUP.

And here's an illustration of another story. The older gentleman in the picture is Wei Dad, father of my adoptive family. I don't recall what he did for a living, but he had a passion for raising pigeons—for the eggs. One day, when John was visiting me, Wei Dad asked whether we'd like to join him in a trip to the lumber yard. His helper (also pictured) had rigged a bicycle to carry the lumber Wei Dad needed, but we could help push. When John and I saw the ridiculously small quantity (you're seeing the whole amount right there in the picture), we laughed and said don't bother with the bicycle. The two Americans will each carry six sticks. “Oh, no!” the alarmed Wei Dad yelled. “You can't do that! Here, we'll put it on the bicycle and strap it down, and then we'll push it home.” I don't recall how much fuss we put up—this was an embarrasingly small task, even without the bicycle, for a couple Midwesterners, but we eventually gave in. Wei Dad got his pigeon coop and, we supposed, gained some face having the Americans doing a bit of manual labor for him but not too much.

John and I both loved coffee, which was still something of a rarity on Taiwan in those days. Someone sent us some beans, and we had to find a way to grind them. Just so happened, a show of industrial products had been at National Taiwan University that week, and we had the address of a firm that made (manual) grinders. We went to their office, and asked about a grinder. “I'll demonstrate,” the young female said, assuming responsibility for dealing with these foreigners. And she did. But the size of the pieces from the grind were way too big to be useful. She consulted with the production staff (none of whom had ever had a cup of coffee, of course) and another attempt was made. Not much better. By the time we left, the poor young woman was dripping with sweat, and the grind was nowhere near acceptable. Years later, I discovered that it was really our fault. With a manual grinder, you must re-grind sometimes several times, to get a grind fine enough to use. Of course, these days we use custom-crafted electric machines. Eventually, we stopped in one of the posh coffee houses (they were using a complex Japanese vacuum process in those days), and got one of the workers to grind in their electric machine. John didn't finish his PhD. Demands of a family led him to join NSA, and he had a good career there. I got to have lunch with him in late 1997. His wife told me after his death that he even realized his dream of getting to China, the year after we renewed our acquaintance.

Looking over the list of students, I recognize many names, even from the second year, but can't put faces to many. Most of my contact was with the faculty (all “classes” in that second year were one-on-one). Professor Liu Jihua dared to read the rather obscure early Chinese work I had chosen for my dissertation, and I had a notebook full of comments from our class together as I wrote that dissertation by 1985. With Ma Yihao, I read contemporary Taiwan fiction.