The blog below was written by UWTSD Associate Professor Thomas Jansen, Director of the Confucius Institute, who is currently visiting Beijing Union University, one of UWTSD’s partner institutions.
Beijing, Saturday 7th May
This is my second day in Beijing visiting Lampeter’s partner institution Beijing Union University (BUU). Coming back from breakfast at the university canteen at around 9am, I wondered why the pavement is filling up with small parcels that are tossed at the ground by young lads arriving in motorised tricycles with a big box attached on the back.
The answer is: The porter’s at BUU—they are not exactly called that here—have found an ingenious and low-cost way to keep their reception clutter free. They simply don’t accept any packages for students. More precisely, courier services are not even allowed to enter the campus.
That’s why they line up at the surrounding wall of the university, near the canteen, transforming the space in front of the wall into an open air post office in the mornings.
Each parcel is tossed over a distance of 2-3 metres to its designated place at the wall, some hitting the concrete before dropping to the ground (they are all exceedingly well wrapped).
Since it’s the privilege of foreigners to ask stupid questions, I thought I find out how this works: Each package has the mobile telephone number of its recipient printed on the address label.
A package is placed under the first digit of the mobile number to which it belongs. The digits are written on the wall. The students are notified by text message that a parcel is waiting, so that they can pick it up on their way to or from campus.
Don’t ask me what happens if it rains—that doesn’t happen very often anyway. No mobile probably means no package.
By the way, I’ve got my work cut out here: coming from a British university (being German is no excuse) I not only have to deliver lectures; I also received the honourable task to revise the English translations on some of the signs in the hall of residence.
In return BUU keeps me healthy with extremely painful foot massage, where I came across more interesting signs: “Yellow, gambling, and drugs are strictly forbidden” (sign top on the right).
I better leave you wondering what ‘yellow’ means. In the Humanities we can appreciate the value of a literal translation.
Best wishes from the other end of the Eurasian landmass.