Personal history

Week from Hell

Chengdu-Wenjiang Expressway


Right now I feel like I’ve been lying in the middle of this expressway, feeling tires roll over me as I sink into the pavement.

It’s been the week from hell. Actually, two weeks. First there was the moving process – 7 trips by bus, taxi, and bicycle, then up 6 flights of stairs to my new home at Sichuan University. Then there was the dirt, and the musty smells, and the crud, and the streaked walls. I felt so, well, unclean whenever I was at home. Then Xiao Gou Gou was diagnosed with distemper. For 5 days now he’s spent all day at the pet hospital, locked in a cage with an IV drip in his leg. At 320 yuan ($45) a visit, the bills are adding up. He’ll live.

Then there’s the internet situation. There is none. I had to pay 1,000 yuan in advance for a year of internet, with the possibility that it’ll be hooked up in about 2 weeks. At the moment, I’m in an internet cafe, staring at an oversize Great Wall monitor designed for the computer games that all the kids around me are playing as if their lives depended on it.

Then, there are the classes – 6 of them. Doesn’t sound like much, but 4 of them are 2 hours 40 minutes, which is forever when you’re trapped in a classroom with 18-year-olds who don’t pay attention and can’t focus. And talk when I’m talking. And don’t have books, paper, or pens.

It hasn’t all been bad – OK, yes it has, who am I fooling? This too will pass. Maybe. Look for my next blog post in about 2 weeks, with any luck.

Free at last


smile for the camera – Wuhou Temple, Chengdu

At last, Flickr is back again. Not so Blogger, which still can’t penetrate the Great Firewall of China. If you’re wondering what the fuss was all about, it was the government’s paranoia over the 20th anniversary of the Tianmen Square massacre.

In the week or so since I last posted, I completed my student scores and submitted them, picked up my very last salary from UESTC, watched LOTS of movies, and found popcorn. Real popcorn, as in Jolly Time yellow popcorn in a huge plastic bag (Sabrina’s Country Store, South Kehua Bei Lu). This may not seem like a big deal, but for someone who has lived for 3 years with nothing but the microwave variety, which for some reason usually comes in sweetened flavors such as strawberry or chocolate (yes, really), it was a godsend. Now I can pop to my heart’s delight (the Chinese wok is perfect for this), using real olive oil, finished off with a liberal dousing of sea salt. So you see, with all this popcorn I HAVE to watch movies.

I’ve also been documenting, over the past few weeks, the slow destruction of what remains of the Shuijingfang neighborhood. Today’s photo is from a narrow street, and the boards are usually used to close up shopfronts at night. Now, many shopfronts are sealed off forever behind new brick walls, which will eventually enclose the whole area like a belt, preventing any buildings from escaping before the mass slaughter. As each small building is vacated, a new segment of wall sprouts in front of it. Very orderly, very systematic, very deadly, and very heart-wrenching. In all this time, I’ve only seen one resident’s face that bore a look of anger, injustice, or just helpless rage.

Generic post for a Thursday evening

It was another sunny day today, but it didn’t get that way until I was already on my bike and headed for downtown, camera-less. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are collectively a busy and stressful stretch of time, so by the time Thursday hits I’m in decompression mode. I didn’t want to stay at home, so I went to Xinhua bookstore to buy a new book, then headed to the basement-level grocery store at Isetan. For the first time, it was insanely crowded, probably because there was a sale. I picked up some olive oil for 50 RMB, Ferrero Rocher chocolates, and ground pork for dog and people food. Then I returned home and planned my business English class for this evening. Now that’s finished, and my work week is finally ended.

Only it really isn’t. I agreed to work this Sunday as a judge for the UESTC debate competition, which means hopping on the bus at the ungodly hour of 7:20 AM on Sunday morning. Oh, the sacrifices we make for the language arts.

For lack of a better common denominator, I’ll call today’s images “ordinary photos of ordinary places.” How’s that for unbridled creativity?