Leaving Chengdu

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.

 

Chengdu to Suzhou

Driving from 成都 Chengdu to 苏州 Suzhou – 1376 miles (2215 km), about 20 hours

 

I’ll be writing a separate post about the criminal certificate process. Apart from that, my preparations seem to be going smoothly. On Friday July 11 I will fly from Chendgu to Shanghai, then take the express train to Suzhou. I’ll spend 3 days in Suzhou, looking at apartments and aquainting myself with the XJTLU campus.

On July 15 – the very last day of my current Chinese visa – I’ll fly nostop Shanghai to Chicago, where I’ll spend a couple of weeks visiting my brother Kenton. Once my visa documents arrive from Suzhou by express mail, I’ll be able to bet my new visa at the Chinese consulate in Chicago.

At first I was resistant to the requirement that I return to my home country for the new visa, but now I’m looking forward to it. I was in Chicago in 2011, but only for 4 days, so this time I’ve compiled a much longer list of restaurants to visit for vegetarian Indian food, Mexican food, pizza, Thai food, and whatever else strikes my fancy. I may even shop for a new camera while I’m there. I will also be able to buy clothing and shoes in American sizes, something that’s been very difficult to do in China.

I will return to China around the first of August, and complete the move from Chengdu to Suzhou, hence the above map. I will hire a driver and vehicle to move me and the dog, along with our luggage and boxes, two days across China. I don’t want to subject the dog to airline procedures, baggage handlers, and carrying cages. It will be my first long-distance road trip in China, although the route above isn’t accurate; I will go in a more southerly direction through Wuhan and Nanjing.

Now that I’ve finished my classes and exams, I can enjoy my final 2 days in Chengdu. My belonings are packed, there’s a bit of cleaning left to do, and on Friday the dog-sitter arrives prior to my departure.

 

Suzhou

  Suzhou by _chrisUK on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/_chrisuk/7808322780

麻婆豆腐 mapo doufu

mapo doufupart of our lunch at a dumpling restaurant in Wenshufang, across the street from Wenshu monastery

Mápó dòufu is a popular Chinese dish from Sichuan province. It is a combination of tofu (bean curd) set in a spicy chili- and bean-based sauce, typically a thin, oily, and bright red suspension, and often cooked with fermented black beans and minced meat, usually pork or beef.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mapo_doufu

24 hours in Shanghai

 

Shanghai Pudong at night, viewed from the Bund promenade

 

My trip to Shanghai last week was incredibly rushed, and not entirely pleasant. The reason for the quick trip was to take the Cambridge DELTA Module 1 exam at the British Council office, the results of which I’ll get in February. I didn’t have a good feeling about the exam, which left me in a not-so-good mood. It also left me with about 5 hours to play tourist in the city. Much of this time was spent navigating the labyrinthine world of the city’s metro system, trying to find places using the Google maps app on my new Nokia Lumia 1020, and fending off a seemingly endless stream of people offering me “massage.” I was feeling tired, stressed, and headache-y, and a bad meal that left me with intestinal trouble didn’t help. My one attempt to sample the city’s 小笼包 xiǎolóngbāo dumplings was also disappointing.

 

The Bund, illuminated at night

 

On the plus side, I was able to see the Shanghai Bund at night, and to get a quick sampling of the city’s infinite variety of architecture. I spent the night at the rather pleasant Mingtown Etour Hostel near People’s Square, and rather enjoyed the ride to the city from the airport on the maglev train at 430 km per hour. My plan to visit a foreign-language bookstore, however, failed completely when I discovered the store had closed at 6:30 pm. The city’s frantic pace and the condescending manner of many of the people, however, left me indifferent to spending more time appreciating the city’s other charms.

All in all, I was happy to get back to Chengdu.

 

 

 Crossing a busy street with a stuffed toy, East Nanjing Road

 

Shanghai Pudong Airport ed2_opt Shanghai Pudong Airport, prior to returning to Chengdu