Chicago Theater It’s over. Three weeks of indulging in food fantasies, hanging out with my dear brother, exploring Chicago, went by very quickly. Oh, the clothes and shoes I bought. In China it’s virtually impossible to find “western” sizes, so I had a good excuse to go slightly mad in Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, Old Navy, and an incredible shoe store called Altman’s, where they won’t let you leave the store unless the shoes fit perfectly. It was old-fashioned service, actually measuring both feet, bringing stacks of shoe boxes for inspection, and fitting my hard-to-fit feet. Wabash Avenue, El steps, pigeons I even took a stab at riding a bike along the lake front. In my college days, I could easily make the 25-mile round trip from Evanston south to McCormick Place, but this time I was winded after just 45 minutes or so. 8 years of China smog, lack of exercise, and laziness have caught up with me (OK, age has something to do with it too). My brother and I visited the Art Institute on a (free) Thursday evening, to catch the Magritte exhibition. We explored Chicago neighborhoods I’d never visited before, and I experienced the reverse culture shock of returning to my home country only the second time in 8 years. Most surprising, I guess, was the friendliness of the people. I’m a native midwesterner, and lived in Chicago in my youth, but I simply didn’t remember this kind of friendliness. It was a
I have been in Chicago for a litle over two weeks now. I’m here for two main reasons: to spend time with my brother Kenton, who moved here a month ago from Sioux City, Iowa, and to apply for my Z Visa at the Chinese Consulate, for my new teaching job in Suzhou. Among other things, Chicago is notable for its architecture, and for being a great food city. I also spent portions of my young life here, as a college student, and later during a transitional period in my mid-20s. The city had always held fond memories for me, and is one of those places that keeps calling me back again. To recap my journey thus far, from Chengdu I flew to Shanghai, taking the express train the next day to Suzhou, where I’ll start a new teaching job in a couple of weeks at Xian Jiaotong-Liverpool University. During 2 1/2 days in Suzhou I had just enough time, in between rainstorms that alternated with sticky, hot weather, to spend an afternoon looking at apartments. I chose a semi-furnished 2-bedroom unit about 10 minutes from my new university, paid the deposit and first 3 months’ rent, then returned to Shanghai for my 13-hour direct flight to Chicago. I had originally scheduled my stay in Chicago for 10 days, but had to change it to 3 weeks, due to yet more delays in my Chinese visa process. It’s been a long, hard process that
On a recent Tomb-Sweeping Day holiday weekend, I took a badly needed day trip to 青城山 Qingcheng Mountain, northwest of Chengdu. The mountain is one of the most important centers of Daoism (道教) in China, as well as being a relaxing, beautiful spot to get away fromt he noise and pollution of the city. I’d visited the mountain once before, just after my arrival in China in 2006, during a hot, sticky summer when the cicadas were buzzing so loudly I imagined their deep, echoing sounds were coming from some otherworldly gigantic insects. I was with a group of teachers, but instead of climbing the mountainside steps, I took a cable car to near the top. This time I came by myself, taking the high-speed elevated train from the Chengdu North station about 40 minutes to the Qingcheng Shan station. A word of advice: on leaving the station and heading left to the bus area, don’t take the big city-bus type bus that costs 2 RMB; take the mini-bus, which will drop you off right at the ticket office for the mountain. As I found out the hard way, the big bus lets you off in a parking lot about 2.5 kilometers from the entrance to the mountain proper. It’s a pretty walk if you feel like it (or you can pay extra for the “sightseeing” tram the rest of the way), but since I was planning on
Noodle shop, Jiefangbei, Chongqing
Qincheng Mountain, Sichuan, a couple of days ago.