a transplanted life in China 

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Tongli water town

Published on January 15, 2015, by in Ancient towns, China.

 One of many bridges in Tongli ancient water town, Jiangsu Province     I’ve taken advantage of the winter academic break to start exploring some of the ancient towns around Suzhou. One of these, Tongli, is about 45 minutes by bus to the southeast of the city, located in what is now a seemingly endless expanse of suburban development along China’s densely-populated east coast. The day trip offered a tranquil opportunity on a warm, sunny day in January to escape somewhere different. To be absolutely honest, my main reason for making this the first of many “water towns” to explore was to visit the Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture. It was on all the tourist maps, yet after an hour of wandering around trying to find it, it wasn’t there. My discrete inquiries to local businesspeople resulted in nothing but mei you – it isn’t there. Only after returning home did I learn that, after its initial founding in Shanghai, the museum had moved to Tongli for 10 years, and only last year had been relocated to Hainan, off of China’s southeast coast. Pity. It would have been my first sex museum.      ancient lane – undisturbed quiet   What I liked about Tongli was that its ancient core hadn’t been completely tarted up for tourism or Disneyfied, as so many other Chinese ancient towns have. It is still a lived-in town, and if you want to escape the tourist crowds, a simple detour into a side street

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Shantang Street in Suzhou

A warm Sunday afternoon in January, on an ancient canal in Suzhou

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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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Logan Square corner

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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