My visa finally came, and I leave Thursday for Zhengzhou, China

My visa finally came, and I leave Thursday for Zhengzhou, China
It’s finally here! Since the July 4 holiday, I had been building up the necessary documentation to apply for a Chinese work (Z) visa. Along the way, as I wrote earlier, I made a couple of mistakes, one of which slowed down the process about a week. But most of the delay was at the hands of government offices — particularly the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC — as they processed those documents. Anyway, that’s all in the past now. I have booked my tickets for Zhengzhou, Henan, China, and leave Thursday. I’ll arrive Saturday and I assume begin teaching classes on Monday. It’s a rerun of my first arriving in Jishou in 2008, when I arrived early on a Sunday and started teaching the very next day. Zhengzhou is the provincial capital of Henan, population 9.2 million — *quite* a bit larger than Jishou. It has its own airport, so transport in and out will be much easier. Judging from this Google map capture (see below), my new university — Henan University of Technology 河南工业大学 — is some distance from central Zhengzhou. HUT was founded in 1956, about two years before Jishou University was. My students will not be ...

In China’s Countryside, Poverty Is a Lifestyle, Not a Choice — Sixth Tone magazine

In China’s Countryside, Poverty Is a Lifestyle, Not a Choice -- Sixth Tone magazine
It’s not often I see stories about Xiangxi, that part of western Hunan where I lived for nine years, so I want to share this one with you. The writer is Deng ChaoChao, who works with impoverished villages in the Chinese countryside, including Mendaicun 们岱村 west of Jishou. I’ve marked it on the Google map above. Writing for Sixth Tone, an online magazine in China, she describes the cooperative ventures her NGO has helped villagers create to augment their meager incomes. She also mentions working with university students on a service project. I wonder if those students are from Jishou University. While I have never visited Mendai, I have visited Paibi, which is not far away as the crow flies. It’s on the northern edge of the map above (labeled Piabixiang). I wrote about that visit last July. I was visiting a school in a town, and not a rural village, though. I won’t reproduce Deng ChaoChao’s article here, for copyright reasons, but here is an excerpt. The village of Mendai is located in an impoverished part of western Hunan, a province in central China. Difficult to reach and suffering from a shortage of farmland and labor, it is also ...

Passport in hand, I’m ready to travel! 3

Passport in hand, I'm ready to travel!
JISHOU, HUNAN — In the eight years since I came here, the city has grown in leaps and bounds. Previously, the Public Security Bureau (PSB) was near the central business district, about 20 minutes from campus. But Jishou is included in the national development of western China (that is, west of the Beijing-Shanghai-Hong Kong corridor), so many of the government offices have moved or will move to brand spanking new quarters in QianZhou, south of Jishou proper. Really, to be completely accurate, I should say QianZhou has grown in leaps and bounds. While Jishou expanded some, it’s constrained by natural borders: a river running west to east and mountains roughly perpendicular to the river. Tearing down the CBD and erecting new buildings is not feasible, especially when it’s easier to build on land to the south. So, the PSB moved to new spacious — no, cavernous — offices on the southern perimeter of QianZhou, 10 kilometers (6 miles) from campus, roughly twice as far away as the old facilities. The area is so new that taxi drivers don’t even know where it is. I had to help him find it, since I’ve been there twice already. My passport was all ...

Comparing Jishou 2007 and Jishou 2014

Comparing Jishou 2007 and Jishou 2014
Here’s a view from atop my apartment building, taken in September 2007 by Kannan Puthuval, a previous foreign English teacher. (Source: Wikimedia Commons) Click the link below to see the full resolution. Super-duper size. And here’s same view, taken by me just yesterday. Click the image to embiggen, or the link below to see the full resolution.. Super-duper size. The two vantage points are approximately the same. I think Kannan was standing farther from the southwest corner of the roof than I was by maybe 1 meter (3 feet). We’re looking southwest to northwest. You should be able to pick out buildings common to both images. You can also see several new buildings both on the campus and just outside it, as well as new homes on the hills west of campus. The dormitory in the foreground went up just three years ago. Also the tree at far right in the 2007 image has grown tall enough to obscure the view toward the north. The tree is not visible in my shot. Jishou has grown some in seven years. For the shutterbugs reading this, I created the panorama with four separate shots stitched together with a free tool, Microsoft Image ...

Jishou’s ‘Bernie Madoff’ executed for financial crimes

JISHOU, HUNAN — During my first year here, citizens here were caught up in a big real estate scandal that cost many of them their entire life savings. Some of those people are my friends and students. The man ostensibly at the head of this scandal was Zeng Chengjie, a local real estate developer. I say was, because Zeng was executed last July. As a former reporter, I am ashamed to say I didn’t learn about it until just last week, from a French traveler of all people. But, as they say, better late than never. Jishou is normally a very calm and peaceful place. (Another way to put it is, “boring.”) The only times it gets loud and crazy here are when it’s a big holiday, like Spring Festival, or when an NBA exhibition game is at the city sports arena. But, in September 2008, there were mobs of angry people downtown, many outside the gates of the city government complex, demanding compensation for losing money in an investment scheme. For a time, there were police in riot gear and soldiers patrolling the streets. My foreign affairs officer called me on at least two different occasions to advise me ...

Another panorama of Jishou University

Another panorama of Jishou University
JISHOU, HUNAN — This is not the same panorama I posted earlier, but maybe it’s more clear. I found it on the Jishou government website, dated December 2011. It’s new enough to show the new dorm just below my apartment building. The road passing the campus is Renmin Lu 人民路 (People’s Road). Taking it to the left (north) leads to downtown Jishou, ending at the railway station. Taking it to the right (south) leads to the neighboring sister city of Qianzhou, the up-and-coming “new” Jishou. There are orange groves on the mountains above the campus, and nicely paved and well lit footpaths leading to them. From this angle, you see that my building is just about level with the top of the Premier Building (Building 6, the main classroom building), 16 stories tall. That’s my climb at least twice a day, and doesn’t include the fourth-floor walkup to my flat! The Premier Building is named for Zhu Rongji 朱镕基 (1928 – ), a former premier of the People’s Republic of China and a native of Hunan province. Most of the other white buildings clustered around the track and canteen are dormitories and faculty housing. One girls’ dorm sits left of ...

New panorama of Jishou University

New panorama of Jishou University
JISHOU, HUNAN — Here is a new view of the Jishou University campus, from the new high rise apartment complex near the southwest corner of the campus. I didn’t take this photo, and I need to track down a higher resolution image. The old panorama, which a previous foreign teacher took from the top of my apartment building, is at Wikimedia. Since it was taken in 2007, a new dorm and several new buildings outside the university have gone up.

The annual sports meeting 3

JISHOU, HUNAN — Imagine the Beijing Olympics … on a much smaller scale. This is our college’s opening performance. Look for me among the faculty, behind the teachers in the long magenta (fuschia?) dresses.

Put another nickel in the nickelodeon 1

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, I’m staying another year here. As it was last year, the decision was an easy one to make. Logically speaking, it doesn’t make too much sense. Jishou is a small city, with few (Western-style) amenities. It takes at least two hours to get to the nearest airport. And Jishou University is an also-ran in the rankings of China’s institutions of higher learning. My friends in bigger cities in China have encouraged me to look elsewhere for teaching jobs in China. One said, “The pay will be better, and the students will be more excellent.” Yes, and no. No question about the pay. If I moved to Beijing, or even Changsha, I could probably double my pay pretty easily. Of course, my expenses would also increase, and I’d have the hassles of dealing with big-city life. (Changsha has 5 million people. Beijing has 22 million, making NYC look like a small town.) Big cities have higher costs of living, so it’s questionable whether moving would increase my net income to make moving worth it. I’ve lived in small cities for the last 32 years, two that were minuscule (60,000 population each), one just a bit bigger than ...

Call Roto-Rooter! 5

JISHOU, HUNAN — Recently, we’ve had a lot of rain here, which is typical for this time of the year. When it rains heavily, some parts of campus get flooded. It happened once last year, and twice this year (so far). Basically, the storm drains can’t seem to handle the runoff, and the area around the dorms and the stadium ends up with knee-deep water. Someone took a video of the flooding last week, and uploaded it to www.youku.com, one of China’s answers to Youtube. The title, “吉首大学校园再次被淹” (Jishou Daxue Xiao Yuan Zai Ci Bei Yan), means “Jishou University Campus Flooded Once Again.” You can see the street between the stadium and the dorms, where a bus is parked, the greens near the dorms, people walking along the sidewalks, some stores, and workers setting up temporary “bridges” so the students can get out of their dorms to go eat or take their exams. My dorm is on the top of a hill, so we send all our rainwater down to the student dorms. So thoughtful we are. Incidentally, Youku is one of the best sites to watch TV and movies online. There are English language movies, too. If you visit ...

Ratta-tat-tat

Ratta-tat-tat
JISHOU, HUNAN — “Drill, baby, drill” is not just a slogan for Sarah Palin’s energy policy. Unfortunately, it’s also an apt description for what I have to listen to morning, noon and night when I am home. The university is running out of dormitory spaces, so last month the uni tore down an unused water treatment plant and started construction of a new dorm, right down the hill from my humble abode. The project has included drilling and jackhammering though the limestone for the foundations and underground whatnot. Constantly. It starts around 6:30 am and, except for meal breaks, continues all frakking day until about 11:30 at night. It’s like having Con Edison outside your apartment almost 24-7. (Sorry, that’s a New York reference, but substitute your local utility company — “dig we must” — if it makes you happier.) The jackhammers stopped about 10 days ago, thank the stars. Now we just have to listen to two of these impact drills banging away all day. I’ve been watching the construction as it progresses. Considering rate at which they are working, I am guessing that the uni wants this new dorm finished and ready to be used before the fall ...

My Winter Holiday, part deux 4

JISHOU, HUNAN — So, here I was back in China, after three weeks in the USA, and it seemed like I was stranded in Shanghai. (Or shanghaied.) When I left China, I was pretty sure my flight to Changsha was just a few hours after my arrival in Pudong Airport. No shuttle bus trips, no worries. But I had no idea what flight I would take, since my foreign affairs officer had worked out the details. So, as soon as I disembarked from United 835, I connected to China Mobile and sent him a message: “When is my flight?” His reply: “Bad news, it’s been canceled” Turns out I had to go to Shanghai Hongqiao Airport after all to catch a different flight. No biggie, I thought, Another 30 RMB bus fare with plenty of time to catch the domestic flight. Puh-lenty of time. Due to stormy weather around Changsha, my flight was delayed not one, not two, but five freaking hours! My 9 pm flight from Hongqiao Airport eventually left at 3 am! At one point, I fell completely asleep across four chairs, only to wake scared shitless I had missed my flight. I hadn’t. There were still two ...
Facebook Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com