a transplanted life in China 

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Saturday in Shanghai

Published on December 15, 2014, by in China.

Yesterday, to celebrate the end of classes for the semester and the completion of a week of speaking exams, I spent Saturday in Shanghai, taking the 8:14 am train from Suzhou and returning the same evening. It makes a nice day trip; the express train only takes 25 minutes. The weather was cold, but the sun was out, but I still spent the whole day coughing from pollution. I just call it my “China cough.” When I returned to the USA last summer for 3 weeks, the cough disappeared after about 7 days. I explored parts of the French Concession, a section of the city filled with old villas and many older buildings ranging in style from classical to art deco. I visited a French cafe and bakery, Farine, I’d just read about online. I had my first Kouign Amann, a Breton pastry, as well as a croque monsieur and a an espresso. The sunlight streaming through the front window took away the chill, as did the atmosphere and smells of the bakery. The breads looked tempting, but were quite expensive. Nearby was a Marseille wood-fired pizza restaurant that I’ll try next time I’m in town. I next took the subway to the disappointing Tianzifang area, a traditional enclave of narrow alleys re-colonized by artists and craftspeople, but now tarted up as a tourist destination with upscale eateries, Hard Rock T-shirts, and quasi-artsy vibe. Then it was back to the central city, to walk along Fuzhou Road, one of my

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Suzhou, water town

Published on November 17, 2014, by in China, Suzhou.

 Shantang Jie 1           Shantang Jie 2          Watery view – narrow canal

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Suzhou – three months later

Published on November 11, 2014, by in China, Suzhou.

Suzhou Industrial Park scenery, near where I live   It’s now November, and already we’re in Week 10 of the semester at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou. After the headaches of the visa process, everything since has seemed like a piece of cake. The summer is gone, autumn grows colder, and life is comfortable. I live in the Lotus Flower residential community, a vast sea of 5-story apartment buildings that are all exactly the same. Fortunately, I haven’t wandered into the wrong building too many times. I am somewhat of a curiosity here, as I seem to be the only foreigner in residence. Other university personnel seem to be clustered in apartment towers nearer to campus or in more expensive locations further afield. Xiao Gou Gou and I have established a rhythm for our morning and evening walks that center mostly around a wonderful food street just across the road. In the morning we can feast on fried dumplings or on the Chinese version of flour tortillas filled with egg; the evening brings such delights as sliced spit-roasted meat sandwiches, fried noodles or rice, roasted chickens, stir-fried vegetables, or other goodies we haven’t tried yet.   Tourist boat on the canal, Suzhou   As far as teaching goes, I teach EAP (English for Academic Purposes) to 4 classes of Year 2 Math majors. Our lesson plans are prepared for us by a module coordinator, supplementing the Oxford EAP textbook, greatly lightening the class preparation load. I add my own PowerPoint presentations

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daytrip in Shanghai

Shanghai Pudong skyline     Since Shanghai is 25 minutes by express train from Suzhou, it makes a convenient day trip. I’m already starting to think of Shanghai as the Magic Kingdom – the above view across the river toward Pudong is as stunning by day as it is by night. On my most recent trip I got to sample the famous 小笼包 xiaolongbao dumplings at a tiny restaurant that always has a line out the door. I also discovered the Foreign Languages bookstore and an art bookstore. I plan to make the city my destination at least every couple of weeks.     小笼包 xiaolongbao Shanghai dumplings

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Leaving Chengdu

Published on July 8, 2014, by in China, Travel.

I’m leaving Chengdu, after 8 years, to move to Suzhou in the east of China. At least that’s the plan. I’ve been offered a job as an English Tutor at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University (西交利物浦大学 or XLTLU for short), a partnership between the two universities that began in 2006, and that grants degrees recognized both in China and in the UK. I’m tentative about the proposition because I’ve been through 2 months of visa hell – turns out that Suzhou has one of the strictest policies for granting Z working visas in China. The dreaded Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC) has been the sticking point, and getting this document from the Public Security Bureau in Chengdu ranges from difficult to impossible. My particilar hell involved 3 weeks of negotiation between the PSB and the SW University for Nationalities, where I studied Chinese for the past year and a half, which was required to provide documents in support of my application for the certificate. As a backup plan, I applied for a second non-criminal document, this one from the FBI in Washington DC, just to be on the safe side. All I had to do was to go to a private security company, pay them 800 RMP for a set of fingerprints, and mail them of with the application to the USA. Then wait for 6 weeks. That document has not arrived as of this writing.   Driving from 成都 Chengdu to 苏州 Suzhou – 1376 miles (2215 km), about 20

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