Life on the Other Side of the World

Nĭ hăo from Wuxi, Jiangsu China

A very sad day

April 10, 2012

I am very sad today. Last night about 10 pm the police came and began complete destruction of the alley market. They continued throughout the day. My old lady is gone.


The resiliency of some amazed me. Once all the police were gone, slowly the food cart vendors began showing back up.

But those with tents of wares were absent. Their booths destroyed; their goods dumped in the trash can. A trash pickers heaven. Many were trying to salvage what they could of their tables and tents. Most was destroyed beyond repairing.


I’ve been told it is for environmental reasons…I am skeptic.

My last gift from the old lady when I bought something from her yesterday.

Cotton insoles and a pair of socks.

The Bamboo Sea

April 4, 2012

Today is National Qingming Festival (Day of Tomb Sweeping), so we worked through Saturday, then had a couple days off for the students to travel home to be with their families. Qingming Festival is much like our Memorial Day in that the families visit the graves of their loved ones and clean the area, bringing flowers, saying prayers, and thanking their ancestors for the gift of life. After the tomb sweeping, families have picnics, play games, fly kites, and enjoy the day together.

A few of us celebrated by going to Yixing on Monday to view the beautiful Bamboo Forest, a.k.a. the Bamboo Sea. With me were Peter, Roger, Maeleen, Wisdom, and Jane. Oh, and Peter’s dogs, Coco and Aussie.


The entrance into the forest followed a stone walkway and a shaky wooden chain bridge.


The first resting stop.


Then, we walked on up to the cable cars where a very frightened Jane had to be convinced that she would be all right in the cable car.


The cable cars took us to the top of the oldest peak in Jiangsu Province, founded over 500 years ago as a part of Jiangsu.


The view was majestic.


Then we trekked down, down, down…my legs still hurt two days later.


The beauty of the forest was well worth the leg pain.


Afterward, we stopped in at a clay teapot place to window shop.


Then onward home as Peter navigated the ever illusive Chinese driving…road rules? You mean there are rules? Coulda fooled me.

Chocolate Coffee

Vikki and I took an outing to the Nanchang Temple Market on Saturday and enjoyed the beautiful sunshine. Yes, it is finally warm here!!! Woohooo! We took a chance and tried to find our way via bus instead of taxi and ended up entering the market in a familiar spot. This is the area Dave and I were at when we helped save the man who had fallen in the canal.

I actually hadn’t been back to this part of the market since that fateful night.

Later on, we stopped at a coffee bar to sit outdoors and enjoy some people watching. Unbeknownst to us, we were about to drink the best coffee I have ever had. When I showed Yan my picture, she told me the sign says chocolate café….now it all makes sense because the coffee was a delicate fusion of chocolate and coffee. Yum!


On Sunday, I had a nice lunch with Yan at her house. I met her husband, son, mother-in-law, and aunt. After lunch, we went to Suzhou, a famous city in Jiangsu Province known for its shopping. Tourists come from all over China to shop. The crowds were maddening. And the deals were good.


Three weeks almost complete and the students are doing well. We are all a bit crazy and tired of spending so much time together, but their skills are improving and they are working very hard to meet the class standards. We have a holiday coming up and I think I can safely say we are all glad for the break from each other. The only downfall, a really long week this week. To make up for the missed days, we have class this Saturday and next Saturday.

And I would be remiss if I did not mention my weekly Old Lady story. I needed a new mop and bucket. Before I left, she slipped these into my bag…


fleece shoe insoles. They are a welcome comfort on the cold days.


March 21, 2012

How to make a cup of coffee in the faculty dorm:

  1. Search the stores for ground coffee (not an easy task).
  2. “Borrow” the coffee maker from the foreign teacher’s lounge (no one uses it; everyone drinks tea).
  3. Pour in enough water to the line that you think means two cups.
  4. Put in coffee grounds for two cups of coffee.
  5. Unplug everything in the kitchen.
  6. Plug in the coffee maker.
  7. Turn on coffee maker and wait for the percolator to do its thing.
  8. Recognize that two cups is not two coffee cups; it is one small tea cup.
  9. Taste the very dark coffee just for the hell of it.
  10. Wait for the caffeine shakes to subside.
  11. Add water to the coffee in the cup.
  12. Reflect, re-plan, and adjust.

The second time around was much better. YAY! I have brewed coffee J

3rd trip to the old lady today. I needed fingernail clippers and a pillow for my computer chair. What more did she have in store?
Ear cleaners J

Finishing the First Week

March 17, 2012

On Wednesday, we celebrated the first International Evening for Wuxi Institute of Technology. We had a great time conversing with the various faculty from around the world and dancing J

The students presented their first timed speech and did well. They feel very overwhelmed, but they are working hard to do well in the classes.

It has been a very long and tiring week for all of us.

I slept most of today and woke up feeling as if the jet lag may finally be gone.

Last night, Vikki and I went out to celebrate my first week completed. We ate dinner at the Blue Bar then found a really good house band at Club 97. It was much needed relaxation.

Spice Me Up!

March 13, 2012

Two days in country and not much to report. My schedule is packed, so I’ve come home from teaching and slept most of the days. It doesn’t help that it is cold here, and I HATE cold!

I went out last night and bought some spicy potatoes and niú ròu là mein (beef and spicy noodles). They were just as delicious as I remember. And they warmed me up.

I came across the old lady vendor who always seemed to get me to buy something, and she did it again. She always welcomes me with a smile and chats away at me like I understand her. I now have ten pair of socks I didn’t even know I needed (only 20 rmb—about $3.25) but once I got back to the room I did realize I brought all knee high work socks and only one pair of lay around the apartment socks, so she actually did know what I needed before I did. Hmmmmm…..what will she talk me into next time J

Writer's Block: Bookmarks

What is the last great book you read?

View 734 Answers

Francine Rivers' Voice in the Wind. Her vivid descriptions and realistic drama create a great historical fiction.

Returning to Wuxi

March 9/10, 2012

Dear China Eastern,

Please reconsider your choice of menu items. Feeding people beans and cabbage two hours within a 14 hour flight does not make for pleasant smells in route.


So after 31 hours of traveling through airports and the sky, I finally made it to my faculty dorm at WXIT. Our 14 hour plane ride extended to 17 when our plane landed in Harbin to refuel…hmmm…at least that’s what they say. We sat long enough on the runway that the tanker had to come out and deice us. Our prize for patience, although mind you we didn’t have a choice, was a complimentary snack, some obscure pastry that I think was an attempt at a muffin but it tasted closer to angel food cake.

Never was I so glad to see Lilly. Her flight had come in from San Francisco at 6:30 pm; mine from JFK was supposed to be in at 7:45. Her daughter being watched over by a friend while she slept in the van, Lilly and her husband waited patiently with the other eager families and friends while I cleared customs and claimed my bags. Their smiles made the long day melt away.

My reentrance to WXIT is filled with less uncertainty and fear than when I came before. Seeing the guards at the gate ushering us through to the school felt familiar and welcoming. Rather than being wide-eyed, soaking in all that I saw, I began to recount recognizable routes walked throughout the campus as we wound our way to the faculty dorm.

We finally woke Mr. Chen about 1:15 am to get my keys and drag my luggage up the steps. Luckily, I’m on the second floor again.

This morning’s wake up was quite different than in November. The firecrackers, horns, and birds blended into a symphony of morning music as I logged in and began my Skype session with Doug and Trey.

After unpacking and eating some breakfast, I walked up to the fifth floor to look out to see what has changed. More buildings are in rubble as they continue to redevelop the market area, and trees have been removed from the pond path, likely replanted in the new housing areas completed since I left.

All in all, it feels good to be in familiar surroundings.

Frisbee Time!
A fun day!
We met for English class this morning and worked on the final paper. As a writing workshop, the students worked while I went around to each and gave helpful suggestions for the essays that are due tomorrow.
After class, we went to an open field across the street and had some fun together.
It was cold and windy, but this did not deter the students and myself from having a great time laughing and tossing the Frisbees to one another.

After about 40 minutes, the group came to me as a whole and said, “Okay, we go work on our papers now. We are cold.” Yes, it was very cold.
Such a wonderful end to this awesome experience with the WXIT students.

Final Speeches
Today the students gave their final speeches in class. I was impressed. The students have grown exponentially with their speaking skills and delivery in a very short time.
The top of my list of greatest improvements was actually also the best speech of the day. While one student, Johnny, has done consistently well, Alice has come a long way in respect to becoming comfortable in front of the class.
I remember her first speech. I had told the class that when it was their turn to speak, they could go up and get a feel for the front, then tell me when they wanted to begin. When her turn came, Alice stood to the side of the front, looking down, wringing her hands, saying “I’m so nervous.” When she finally began her speech, she spoke very softly and rarely looked at the students.
Today, she rarely looked at her notes, kept eye contact with the audience, and provided an excellent power point. Her topic was life before college versus college life. She spoke on a very personal subject and shared with us her fears and concerns before she came to WXIT. Her presentation mirrored the growth I have seen in her confidence in the classroom.
She spoke of being afraid and unsure of what college life meant. However, her cohort of classmates created a space for her to feel comfortable and to become more self-assured. She showed pictures of the cohort in their various activities. Then she spoke of the teachers from PCC who also helped her gain confidence. She had pictures of all the Mech. Engineering instructors from PCC and a picture of Sue Jefferson helping a student with his English work.
She ended the speech with a thank you to her classmates who helped her come out of her shell and enjoy life. She then thanked the teachers for helping her improve her skills and gain confidence in her knowledge.
Although there are other students who have grown just as much (most notably, Amy who now gives her speeches without a paper or hand in front of her face), Alice shined above the rest.
It was a very good teaching day.

Now for the final paper; I think I'm just as nervous as they are about this essay. Say a little prayer for them.

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