Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Summer Time

Summer time is fast approaching. About two weeks ago I got a little peeved at some of my students, I could tell they were starting to slack. Now, I am caught in the same trap. Not that I am not doing my work on time, but the summer is fully here and I am catching myself looking out the window hoping to lay in the grass or run my fingers through warm sand. Today it was 32C and sunny, no denying reality. Most of the furniture from our apartment is gone. It has been sold off to people here or coming, just a couple things remain. We actually sold too quickly and now are missing a couple of pieces we would like to have back. We are also wrapping up all the little intricacies of life here and getting ready to move on. Today I taught my last Economics class to this year's seniors. Still underclassmen yet to teach, but that section is done. We reviewed some test stuff for the first half and then I allowed them some time to ask some questions point blank. They asked about how I got into teaching, what I thought the future held, how I met my wife, etc. As I talked with one senior boy this afternoon I told him that I was glad to see them go, but sad, but feeling free and excited in a way too. It was kind of fun to find out the questions that had been burning in their minds. As I looked into their eager faces and thought about what the next couple of months held for them I also recalled that time in my life and how freeing it was to be moving on with a world of possibility in front of me. Here I am again moving on. In one month I will move away from Shanghai. First going to Toronto for an IB conference, then on to Champaign for a summer seminar with the National Endowment for the Humanities. I was accepted to study Chinese Film and Society for the summer. I am really looking forward to it. I will see a few friends and family and run a half marathon in Chicago, but mainly be in Champaign studying. At the end of July Aya will join me and we will go to visit family in Door county. It will be the first time she meets my father and that side of the family since none of them came to the wedding. We will spend about two weeks there, then on to Penang where a whole new adventure waits.
Its an upheaval and ultimately a step into the unknown. I am taking another risk, but hoping it will ultimately lead to greener pastures in the future. So far in my life, I have been lucky to be right about that most of the time. The times I haven't weren't pleasant, but were growing experiences. I'm hoping for the former. I guess overall I feel glad to go, but sad, but feel free and excited too in a way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Suzhou to Wuhan

The past few weeks I went on two trips outside of Shanghai, to Wuhan and Suzhou. I went to Suzhou with Aya and I enjoyed my trip. It was high time I got outside of Shanghai, it had been about 4 months and I was feeling like the walls were closing in. Suzhou was a bit nicer than Shanghai in that its a bit smaller, has some older architecture, a lot more greenery. We didn't see too much, the main reason we went is so Aya could take a TOEFL test so we went Saturday, stayed over night, and then left on Sunday. As silly as it seems the most interesting thing we saw was probably when we came across a crowd gathered around a woman playing a violin. It took us about 5 seconds to realize that the woman wasn't actually playing the violin, she was just dancing around pretending to play it while a stereo in the background played violin music. Did no one else notice this or were they just so bored that they stayed to watch anyways? This is China. We did go to the Suzhou museum and the carved ivory tusk, pictured, was amazing. However, we quickly tired of the crowds and went back to our hotel. After laying around for a bit we went out for dinner. This is when I encountered the second most interesting thing about Suzhou, Guinness on tap and an Indian restaurant. It was a great dinner. The next day Aya went off to her test and I lounged around the room until I had to check out. Then I went to meet Aya. I met her at Suzhou university, a nice little place and we headed back to Shanghai. The next weekend I went to Wuhan with a couple of guy friends. The reason we went to Wuhan is that my friend Brian had lived there about 10 years ago. Just about everywhere we went in the city he had something to say about a store that had moved, a new one that had popped up, or a road that had been expanded. Wuhan has changed a lot in the past 10 years, much of China has. Wuhan is the setting for the beginning of the revolution, led by Sun Yat-sen, the deposed the emperor Qing and ended the imperial dynasty in China. We actually went to the hill where the first shots were fired from, but I can't for the life of me figure out why they would have chosen that hill. With all the trees in the way I'm not sure how they shot at anything. We also had the option to see the Yellow Crane Tower, but 80rmb a ticket dampened our spirits and we walked on. What we came upon next was a food bazaar. It was neat, turtle, rabbit, dog, crocodile, even snakes were on sale. I went with some fried rice, not much in the mood for dog. Afterwards we followed Brian around the city looking at places he used to work or that had changed since he was there. In the evenings we drank and played cards, not much else to do in Wuhan. Compared to 20th century Wuhan we no longer live in interesting times, I suppose. Or maybe they are. China is changing so fast, surely that is interesting in a good way. Listening to Brian all weekend I imagined that my friend David will sound much the same way when he returns this summer. The past 10 years has seen enormous change in China, I'm sure it will blow his mind. It certainly was nice to get out of the city, but trading one noisy, dirty, crowded place didn't do much for the senses. Riding the train back to Shanghai I couldn't help but think of how depressing some of these places are to me, but how wonderful they must seem to many Chinese people. I have one more destination before I leave China, Xi'an. Aya and I are off to see the warriors near the end of June. Maybe that trip will be a bit more interesting, but I wouldn't put it beyond grasp that we will see another fake violin player.