Geniuses and lunatics By Hongzhou Wu

Geniuses and lunatics By Hongzhou Wu 
This is a MOSTLY true account of my time at CTY.

※Chapter One: The coming 
※Chapter Two: The arriving 
※Chapter Three: The introduction 

  The day was a stormy one. Rain clouds quickly scurried over Shenzhen Baoan(宝安) Airport, 
fleeing from the wind howling in the skies above. Rain pattered heavily on the oval windows of the airplane,
washing the dust of 3,000 feet from them. Rain splashed onto the already sodden ground, forming little 
flowers that blossomed in one instant and withered the next. However, none of this was noticeable to the 
girl in aisle 46, seat A, completely absorbed in her book. She read on, totally captivated by the book. 
Above her, a passenger announcement blared to life. “Ladies and gentlemen, this plane is 
about to take off. Please check your seat belts … We are about to take off.” 
  This last sentence caught her attention. She put a bookmark in the book and closed it. 
As she did so, the plane, an Air China Boeing-767 turned a wide curve into the runway, paused a moment, 
and began to take off. She craned forward to see the runway disappear in her window as 
the churning wheels of the Boeing ate up the ground. The plane thrummed as though it were alive, then engines roaring, ran straight 
and true up the runway. 
The pressure on her spine was increasing steadily, and suddenly they were airborne. She felt 
the familiar thrill of seeing the ground drop away suddenly, the cars becoming tinier than ants in 
a few seconds. The plane dipped suddenly, pounded down by the rain, and its passengers felt 
a temporary weightlessness which made their stomachs lurch in a strange way. Then they 
were going up again, flying into the dark clouds packed with raindrops. 
There was a moment’s darkness, as they were engulfed by the cloud, but then they had burst
free and was climbing still higher. 
  It felt as though they were suspended between the dark clouds and the clear sky, flying 
towards the sun, a moment endless in time, seeing the dove gray carpet of clouds below 
and the clear blue sky above, the sun to the direct East, a point so bright that she could not 
even look at it.
  She returned to her book. With it she did not need to eat, did not need to drink, and did
not even need to rest. Anyone who disturbed her peace was likely to encounter her wrath. 
She read for 14 hours straight, pausing only to take a little refreshment and to go to 
the restroom. 
  Only the plane touching down in Newark Airport retrieved her from her coma, as some 

medical personages would call it. The touchdown was exciting too, in a different way. 
They had dived under spotlessly white clouds, and she had seen the airport, a large 
building complex on the ground but so tiny from her vantage point that she could blot
it out with her thumb. They had flown past it into the open ocean, and then circled back, 
like a yoyo doing the jump. The airport was 2 or 3 times larger. Suddenly, they had 
taken a nosedive, going almost straight down it seemed, and imperceptibly they had
come almost to ground level, before the jolt had told her that she was officially on 
American soil. The plane had glided for a while, and then the passengers had been 
disgorged into the terminal building. 


  Escorted by a pretty and smiling airline stewardess, “They’re all pretty and smiling," 

she observed to herself dryly, she had gone through the checking in and everything. Now, 
she was at the arranged spot with a few other students, ready to be picked up by somebody 
from CTY. How she wished that she was back at home, and not about to face 3 weeks at 
Lafayette College, somewhere in Easton, PA. 
  A large black van-like car pulled up in front of her. The driver stuck her head out and 
asked: “Is everybody here going to attend a CTY course at Lafayette College?” She and 
the others murmured their confirmation. Although she wasn’t exactly a car expert, she 
could see that this van or car or whatever it was could not even be remotely considered 
as a shuttle. The driver’s name was Tania. Tania helped them install their luggage in 
the back and opened the door for them. The inside of the car was very hot, and the floor 
was littered with grass. Still, she supposed that wasn’t too bad, considering the numerous 
hiking and camping trips all Americans seem to have been on.  She settled in the right of
the car, at the very back, just in front of the luggage. Tania climbed in, surveyed the 
students, gave a nod, and shut the door. As the car drove away, Tania inquired politely 
what their names were. Everybody started babbling at once. She felt that she should 
make some contribution. Her sharp voice cut through the clamor instantly, and she 
heard herself say: “My name is Hongzhou Wu. I’m Chinese.” The driver said hi to her. 
Soon, everybody introduced themselves. Tania told them that she was one of the 
nurses, and that she would probably see them again later. The stifling heat combined 
with the buzz of voices quickly made her bored of making small talk, and she pressed 
her head against the cool windowpane, watching the country side go by. 
  Sometime later, they passed a sign bearing in white letters on a dark green background, 
the words Lafayette College, 1 mile. Hongzhou perked up immediately. She was near 
her campus at last. By this time, most of the people in the car were drowsing. She 
thought sarcastically, what a grand entrance to go to your new home-for-three-weeks 
  As the bus rounded a last curve, she glimpsed a rounded lane with a flowerbed full of 
blossoming flowers in the middle. Bright red, neon pink, a rich vibrant purple, made even 
more colorful by the frame of green, oh so green leaves surrounding them. It was as 
though a riot of color had exploded in the flowerbed, leaving everything brightly colored. 
She wondered greatly, at this wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, wondered if they 
had grown wild or was planted and cared for by a loving hand. The latter was more likely, 
she decided, returning to her former state of unruffled calm, for it was already July and 
would be too cold at night.
  The buildings were of the 18th or 19th century by look, and they had a sort of stately 

grandeur about them, with their stone walkways and high halls and a tower or two perched 
on the very top like some eccentric nightcap, giving them a slight impression of jolly 
bravado. Hongzhou liked them at first sight, and stared approvingly and unblinkingly 
at the square white pillars and the green bronze roof of Farinon College center, as the 
sign outside proclaimed proudly in foot-high gold letters. Then her steady gaze shifted 
to a respectable 5-story rusty-red building on her left, coming with its own tall tower 
outfitted with bell and clock.
  The van stopped just outside Farinon College Center, and the heated van disgorged its 

students and suitcases into the cool, shady interior of the grand hall, furnished with plain 
but undoubtedly comfortable armchairs. From there, they went up a flight of stairs to 
the Marlo Room, filled with people checking in their kids. They went around in a circuit, 
from the right wall where students were given their purple lanyards stamped with 2017 
JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER for TALENTED YOUTH, to the left wall where students 
T-shirts and lunch tickets were handed out. 
  She found that she had to journey to South College where the main office was, since 
she was an international student. She also had her medicines confiscated to the medical 
office, a safety procedure, no doubt to prevent people from harming themselves and 
others. She thought that this was hardly necessary, for death from an overdose would 
likely be painful, while taking a high dive would be both cool and painless. (Most 
medicines contain minute doses of allergy inducing substances and overdoses usually 
are painful, resulting in rashes of the skin and swollen glands which disfigure the corpse.)
The windows were unlikely to be barred, at any rate. She would remember that in case 
she became desperate. 
  At South College she met the site director, who completed her check-in, gave her a 
room key, and sent her up to room 426 on the 4th floor. Hongzhou raised her eyebrows 
at the room&floor arrangement. How come the boys get 2 floors and the girls only 1? 
And how come the more languid girls get the 4th floor and much climbing of stairs 
while the robust boys get 2nd and 3rd. With this question perplexing her mind, she 
lugged her overloaded suitcase to the staircase. 
  Surprise! There was actually an elevator here. She supposed that American schools 
probably could afford this, but she doubted that she would be allowed to use it in the 
future. Anyway, the future was distant and unpredictable, and she would use it now as 
a faster and more convenient means of transportation between floors. She hit the up 
button. The elevator came down. The suitcase was hauled into it with due effort, and 
she looked around for the buttons. Another surprise! The elevators had two doors. 
Taking a chance, Hongzhou hit the 4A button. Most of the time, A was better than B. 
The door opened. She was in a wide hallway with whitewashed walls and all the usual 
doors opening to the sides. Room 426 was the third on the left. There were two fishes 
with fake plastic jewels for eyes. (Actually, they were mermaid tails, but how was she 
to know then? Anna’s drawing skills are passable, but there isn’t that big a difference 
between fish and mermaid tails, and others, namely Evelyn and Madison have made 
the same mistake.) Her name was written on the one at the right in capitals with a 
black Sharpie. The other was inscribed with the name UMA. Hongzhou raised her 
eyebrows, what kind of name was that? She didn’t even know how to pronounce it. 
  Hongzhou unlocked her door and slipped in. he room was about the same size as her 
bedroom, with bare uncarpeted floors and wooden furniture. The room was divided 
with an invisible line across the middle, presumably as the border across two separate 
people. There was a medium sized closet, a desk with drawers, a chest of drawers, and 
a bed on each side. The only thing shared was the air conditioning. Her roommate 
hadn’t arrived yet. She chose the right side and relieved her bulging purple suitcase by 
unpacking her stuff. Hongzhou knew that she should go and eat lunch, but she wasn’t 
really hungry. Her stomach seemed to have shrunk on the flight. Anyway, she could 
go without a meal but she wasn’t going to walk back to Farinon. She turned on the 
air conditioning to the lowest and settled down to some quiet reading in the closet, 
which was dark and cozy and smelled nicely of wood. 


  While the honorable Hongzhou was thus occupied in her closet (I say honorable because 

she had been top of her grade in Math and English since 2nd grade), the RA Anna Warner 
made a routine inspection of the rooms. This was because it was her first time here, and 
she was very anxious (if such a word could be used to describe such a sunny personality) 
to make a good first impression. 
  In due course, Anna opened the door of room 426 and was met by a blast of frigid air 

from inside. “Is anybody in here?” She didn’t expect an answer.
  However, a seemingly disembodied voice came floating through the air. “Well, I, 

Hongzhou Wu, am here. I’m pleased to make your acquaintance, whoever you are.”
  Anna started, but she remained calm and said: “Hi, I’m the RA Anna. Pleased to meet you.”
  The voice stated calmly: “Unfortunately for you, this is not how to talk to a phantom 

or ghost. However, as I am not dead yet, I think we can let that issue slide.”
  It continued talking in that emotionless voice: “I suppose you are my Ra Anna Warner, 
whose name has been so thoughtfully imprinted on my yellow folder. And I must tell 
you that it is not impolite to meet another person while in a closet. Therefore, I’d better 
get out of here. Just close the door, won’t you. It’s getting too hot. As soon as she had 
done so, the closet door slammed open and Hongzhou emerged, kindle in hand. They 
shook hands. Hongzhou was so surprised by Anna’s appearance that she couldn’t help 
lifting her eyebrows a little. (Anna looks like the spitting image of her 4th grade English 
teacher Ava, minus the fake pearly nails.) However, Hongzhou was spared the rather 
embarrassing task of talking to someone who just found you in a closet by the entrance 
of her new roommate Uma and her family. She then retired to her bed and leaned on it 
while the others unpacked. Hongzhou and Uma’s dad managed to keep up a conversation. 
He was delighted to know that she was Chinese, and told her that she should try to teach 
Uma a bit of that useful language, just for future use.

(To be continued,


  1. Great story, Hongzhou. I look forward to the upcoming chapter wherein she meets her crazy instructor!

  2. Thanks, MR. R, but as I’m preparing for an important test, I cannot post any more of my CTY story right now. As amends, I have written with very funny limerick about Christian Yu.

    All about Chrissy, be he sissy or not

    There once was a boy named Christian,
    Who wanted to learn levitation.
    So he stood on a chair,
    And jumped in the air,
    In Writing & Imagination.

    Chrissy landed with a crash,
    And a bang and a smash.
    He said: “It’s all your fault that my spells are rotten,
    For they are not from the misbegotten.”(Abbreviation of his plums poem)
    That quote was a total bash.

    Everybody quoted Chrissy,
    But it was not because he was a sissy,
    The quote was simply too good,
    Everybody thought he even better than Robinhood.
    And he became so very prissy.

    Then Chrissy laid a tax,
    But he was too lax,
    He should have got a tenner,
    But he was charmed by a tenor,
    So I made him eat some wax. (Actually, I didn't, but it rhymes this way.)

    And that is what happened to Chrissy,
    Be he a brave or a sissy.
    During the 2017 CTY Lafayette WRIT course,
    This came from a reliable source,
    For I am a reliable missy.


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