Thursday, February 26, 2004
Sorry, I am once again blogging on the fly, as I am getting ready to
meet Justin, his Yochan, and some new friends for some Japanese food.
However, I felt an obligation to my readers--and Justin's--to fill them in
on an important fact:
JUSTIN IS A BIG FAKE!
Yeah, he whines and moans about this and that, but the fact is the guy
just loves experience as much as I do. We went to Splendid China; you have to read Justin's
blog about this; then this will all make sense.
(Scroll down to Feb. 25 on his page if you read this after subsequent
So he's all snide and sarcastic, scoffing at the whole thing. But
I've got the pictures to prove that he was lovin' it!
The horizontal stripe you see above the waterfall is
Justin flying across a lake on a cableway. It's as primitive as fun
gets (yet still more advanced than the alleged prototype, used by mountain
tribes for transportation). Nevertheless, Justin was effusive in
Here we see either a crazed Ewok on the attack, or Justin
dressed up in an "authentic" Mongolian costume. The girl
asked 20 RMB for the experience; Justin offered 10, she refused, and we
walked away. She called us back, agreed to 10, and dressed him up.
After he was on the horse, and I had taken my
pictures--including this one--she asked 20 for a Polaroid. "But
you said 10!" cried Justin.
Ah, yes, the old Genghis Con.
Yet he was clearly pleased by his brief stint in the
Finally, here we see Justin-zilla attacking the Great
Wall. Not only was this photo his idea--he insisted on it!
Now, have you ever seen a middle-aged guy who "hates
theme parks" having this much fun at one?
Posted 2/26/2004 at 5:15 PM
Monday, February 23, 2004
One of Buddhism's (and Taoism's, and finally all
religions') toughest lessons is that, sooner or later, "There is
nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so." So good news/bad
news statements are decidedly earth-bound. Nevertheless, on this
side of the moon, that's how we often see things.
So let me give you some good and bad news:
Good: Within hours of whining about not having my ADSL
connection in my room, I had it. So I'm typing this at my own little
Bad: After working on my blog for over two hours, I
experienced a computer crash, and lost everything I had written.
Good and bad, right? Or are they?
Because, had I saved all of that stuff, you'd have a lot to read. So
my "bad" is your "good." And now that I have
access in my room, I can blog away, and you'll have to slog through it.
So my "good" is your "bad."
But of course, you don't have to read it, so is
it really so bad? Or good?
I just don't have it in me to start that mega-entry all
over again. Maybe another day. Certain SZPT employees who have
complained that they have been left out (you know who you are, Pancho)
featured prominently in "The Lost Entry," but they'll just have
to wait to see their names scintillate on my page.
Posted 2/23/2004 at 8:10 PM
I'm sorry for the infrequency of my entries. You
see, it's like this...
I was hoping to have an ADSL line in my room by last
Friday. But, as I've often heard, "T.I.C."--This Is China,
so it hasn't happened--yet.
But that's no excuse for not blogging, you say. Why
not use the public computers as usual?
Well, this server is cranky. For example, from the
time I decided to make this entry until now, over 50 minutes have passed
as I waited for the pages to open up. It can be up to 30 minutes
just to get a single page in Hotmail. (So my mailing
frequency is down, too.)
Add to that this little problem: Early in my blogging
career (that is, six weeks ago) I found a way to "outsmart" the
Trellix system and install a comment system into a program that wasn't
made for it. And now I'm paying the price, with "Error on
page" on every page. So I will soon be eliminating my comment
links (sorry Prince and Princess, and the occasional other commentator).
I will seek out and install a new, Trellix-compatible system when I can.
In the meantime, use the mail link at the bottom of the page--or my
"private" e-mail address--to register your thoughts. Those
that might be interesting to others will be posted to the site
Now, as for my update since Saturday, Feb. 14...well,
actually, I'm out of time. I have been in front of this computer for
nearly three hours, and in that time have accomplished:
3 short e-mails
and this one entry.
I'm out of time. But I promise to bring you
something soon; I'll write it on my computer in my room, and hand-carry it
on disc to enter here.
One teaser: I visited a very
interesting temple yesterday dedicated to the "Queen of
Heaven." Once Hailan returns from Oz and I can get her to
translate part of the pamphlet, I'll do a picture page with some info.
Posted 2/23/2004 at 12:50 PM
Saturday, February 14, 2004
Well, for the past couple of days I've been livin' the Good Life.
I'm sure it's just the calm before the storm--see below--but nevertheless,
it has been good.
Yesterday (Friday), I took care of some local shopping, then
Justin came over and saw my room and the campus. He was generally
impressed, and had truly high praise for the 3 RMB lunch in the Dining
Hall. It was gratifying to hear confirmation of what I had already
decided: I've got it good.
We then jumped a bus down to Shekou, the trendy foreigner-ridden port
area of Shenzhen. We drank a few beers on the patio of a stylish bar
next to the beach, then I shopped for some food for the Valentine's dinner
I planned to prepare for Hailan.
Note to self: learn to be happy with Chinese product. I had
this bright idea that, after spending so much on her birthday dinner,
cooking for Hailan might (a) be impressive and (b) save me some dough.
Right on point (a), wrong on point (b). Had I shopped for local
goods, I would have spent less than half of what I spent on spaghetti,
some American-made prepared sauce, Catalina dressing, etc.
Admittedly, the real dent in the budget resulted from buying all
the fixin's for Cadillac margueritas, as well as some tortillas and
cheddar and refried beans--not for her but for me. I won't
do that again--yeah, right. Comfort food is an essential, and the
occasional trip to Shekou will certainly pay dividends, no matter what the
After Shekou, we bussed back to his place, then off to dinner with
Hailan and another friend for really good Japanese food. It
took me back to Tokyo, sitting at a low table with my legs in a hole in
the floor, shoes off and good Japanese stuff in front of me. What a
special treat to be able to share this experience not only with good
friends, but with my honey as well.
Afterward, Justin and I went back to his place and listened to
music, and had friendly arguments over where some songs came from (the
"Hotel California" legend in particular); we also took a first
crack at those Cadillac margueritas (that's right, the makin's didn't make
it home before they were pressed into service. Enough left for a few
more such evenings, though.) Justin's most brilliant suggestion of
the evening: the invention of an East/West greeting, "NiHowdy."
(The bilinguals out there can skip this explanation: that's "Nihao"--Mandarin
greeting--plus "Howdy"--far Western greeting.)
That brings us to this morning--well, that plus a 2 a.m., 50 RMB cab
I awoke with only the mildest of headaches, and went shopping.
Despite yesterday's expenditures, I still didn't have pots, pans, etc.
I also needed bread and wine--not for communion, but to make the Italian
dinner complete. After once again spending nearly twice my budget, I
came back to my room and started preparing to cook--washing the new
utensils, chopping and washing salad ingredients, etc. Hailan
arrived around 3:30, and we ran into Mr. Long on the way back to my room.
This was not just small talk. The encounter with Mr. Long was an
important one, as these idyllic days are nearly over. In fact,
tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. (that's right, Sunday morning) I have my first
department meeting. Mr. Long requested some basic documents--a copy
of my passport, for example; and copies of my degrees (which I foolishly
forgot to bring. I've asked my old boss to send me copies from her
files.) In other words, from tomorrow I'm a teacher.
And it's about time. The last nine days have been great, a time
to acclimate, consolidate relationships, etc. But I came here to
teach, and I can't wait to get back in the saddle. (Somebody remind
me of this when I start whining about my workload.)
Anyway, dinner went off without a hitch. I walked Hailan out to
the bus stop and came here to make this entry.
And that's when another pleasant surprise
happened. Mr. Long is here in the office, and in between tasks, the
two of us have discussed religion, linguistics, politics, economics,
history--damned near every aspect of culture. I feel we have
established a more human relationship than we had before. And that
can't be anything but good.
Posted 2/14/2004 11:00 PM
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Not much happened yesterday, so I think I'll take you back in time to
my trans-Pacific flight on Feb. 3-5. This was the first time I had
flown EVA Air--and I hope it's the last. Anyone can make mistakes;
anyone can have a bad day; and certainly EVA did their best to deal with
circumstances beyond their control. But "Once burned, twice
shy"--I do not want to run the risk of such a debacle again.
It started as I was waiting in line to check in. (This was after the
unavoidable one-hour delay to have my bags opened and searched by airport
security.) A very nervous young lady was working her way down the
line, informing passengers in good Mandarin or bad English--as
necessary--of a slight problem. It seems that there were strong
headwinds, and it took a lot of fuel to push our 747 against them.
So we would be landing in Anchorage, Alaska, to refuel, "for our
passengers' safety." OK, I'll buy that. But between the
headwinds and the refueling stop, we could expect to arrive in Taipei three
hours behind schedule.
Now, I had anticipated a two-hour layover in Taipei before I caught my
connecting flight to Hong Kong. So a three-hour delay meant I would
miss my flight.
Being at the start of the journey, I cheerfully assured Miss Li that
this would be no problem.
Then I got to check-in, where I discovered that the airline had failed
to note my vegetarian meal request.
This bugged me. And it's not just EVA Air. Almost every
time I fly, I make a request for vegetarian meals. And almost every
time, it fails to happen. I have eaten leftover rolls and salads
brought to me by flight attendants more times than I can count.
It's better, though, than a story my buddy Pey once told me. One
of the nuns we know had been, by her own choosing, a vegetarian since
early childhood. (This could be taken as a sign of a very advanced
development or "cultivation" in the reborn child.) Well,
last year she was served a dish including chicken on a plane, by sheer
mistake. When informed, she cheerfully comforted the distraught
flight attendant, then went into the lavatory and induced vomiting!
I'm no nun. I want my meal right, and I want it to stay put.
So I insisted at check-in that Ms Chu do her best to rectify the matter.
And sure enough, on the plane I got a meatful meal. So I politely
informed the flight attendant that I had requested a vegetarian meal, and
she responded quite directly: "No you didn't." I have a
high boiling point, but this was pushing the temperature up.
"Actually," I said as calmly as possible, "I did.
Would you mind checking?" And she came back with a vegetarian
meal--which was probably spit in.
MUCH later, when breakfast came, it was scrambled eggs, a potato patty,
a single link of sausage, and a fruit cup. I moved the sausage and
ate. After the connection in Taipei, we had lunch, and I just
scraped the beef off the top of the rice. I'm sure I had quite a few
beef molecules in the remaining juice, but at least I avoided the chunks.
I just don't understand why airlines can't get this
simple-but-important detail right.
What follows is absolutely true: I couldn't have made this up.
When I was still at check-in, Ms Chu had offered me an "exit-row
seat." This is generally a good deal, involving a lot
more leg room. The only down side is if there's a disaster, you may be
responsible for opening the door. But that's not so bad. I
mean, (a) in a disaster, this would seem like a minor detail, and (b) at
least I'd be the first one out!
So I was about to say yes when Ms Chu paused. "Oh," she
said, "it's not a regular exit-row seat. It's right next to the
door, and the door has a bulge, leaving no room for your right leg."
What would I do with my right leg, I asked? "Well," she
laughed, "you could rest it on the bulge!" Anticipating an
overly-long flight, I politely declined the offer.
So after a few hours in the air, it was time to visit the lavatory,
which took me near the afore-mentioned exit-row. As I stood there
stretching and waiting my turn, I looked at the bulge in the door, and was
glad I wasn't sitting there. The three gents in the row were all
wrapped in blankets, so it took me a moment to realize what I was looking
at, but I swear to God: The guy in "my" seat had a
prosthetic right leg, which he had removed to accommodate the bulge in the
door! I'M NOT KIDDING! I guess there's a perfect match for
On to the entertainment: I saw four movies in-flight (one of the
few benefits of being in transit for sixteen hours; there was a fifth, in
Chinese, but I slept through it):
Hope Springs: A quirky little thing with Colin Firth, Heather
Graham, and Minnie Driver. A few great moments, but mostly just a
time-filler. Oliver Platt, though, completely cracked me up.
Master and Commander: Masterful. I never would have paid
to see this film in a theater, or even to rent it. But I'm so glad I
Radio: A bit schmaltzy, but Ed Harris' character was worth
Runaway Jury: Fabulous! Hackman as a bad guy always gets
to me (remember Unforgiven?) And a pleasing twist when the
manipulators' motives become clear. (I'm trying not to spoil it
And that's it for the good part of the trip. We reached Taipei an
hour after my connection left, and I waited one more hour for another.
Total delay, then, was two hours net, and I arrived Hong Kong about 12:15
pm local time, having expected to be there at 10:20 am.
But there are two things worth noting before we landed.
The first is a form I had to fill out on the plane. I run a
diurnal temperature, so I was a little worried about getting past the
"temperature cam," which shows your heat/color on a monitor.
That was no problem. But that form: I didn't know whether to laugh
"Please mark (check) before the items of following symptoms or
illness if you have any now:
Psychosis? Hmmm... Let me think...
This item was regarding customs regulations, and asked whether I was
carrying, among other things,
"Animal carcasses and
Well, I had just managed to avoid eating animal carcasses on the plane,
and other than the "human tissues" and "biological
products" of which I was composed, I was pretty sure I hadn't brought
The second event worth noting before we landed was the "EVA Air
Bow," which I saw on both planes. Two flight attendants
positioned themselves at the front of each section, and after an
announcement thanking us for our participation, they bowed profoundly.
This did not surprise me.
What surprised me was the spontaneous, enthusiastic, and prolonged
applause of the "audience." I have been to virtuoso music
performances where the audience seemed lukewarm by comparison.
What the hell?
I got used to inappropriate clapping in Japan. I actually had to
discourage teachers from perpetuating this nonsense in their classrooms by
applauding students' answers. But the EVA Air applause was clearly expected.
Well, I guess I'd better learn to stop unexpecting the expected.
I took a bus from the airport to Huanggang border crossing, where I
transferred to a mini-van bound for the Hotel Shangri-La. Got there
and called Mr. Long, with no answer (as noted in my Feb. 7 entry).
Then I called Hailan--only to learn that she was over at Huanggang, hoping
to catch my arrival! I had somehow missed her. What a sweetie,
Anyway, she came back to the Shangri-La, where we decided that I would
stay at the Empire Hotel near her place, the hotel I had stayed in last
spring. We had a nice dinner, and she headed home. I tossed
and turned all night, straightened everything out in the morning, and the
rest is history.
Oh, yeah: Happy Birthday, Abe.
Posted 2/12/2004 2:30 PM
February 11, 2004
the second continuous day--probably the first of many--the sun is shining, and
it's warmer outside of my room than inside. I'm sure that in a few months
I'll be wishing it were cold again. (By the way: Hailan says yesterday's
fine weather can be directly attributed to the fact that it was her birthday.
those of you who never click on the "Comments" links: You will be
doing yourselves a disservice if you don't check Justin's Feb. 9 response to my
assertion that "no conclusions were reached" in the "Great Toilet
now for today's entry--well, actually, entries, as they come in three discreet
reason I'm here is that it is the Motherland of the kind of Buddhism I know
best, the Mahayana. Although the Mahayana, or "Great Vehicle,"
actually originated in India, and the original documents were largely written in
Sanskrit, there are two reasons that China holds pride of place:
The Buddhist tradition died out in India; and
China adopted the Sanskrit materials, translated them, and elaborated on them to
develop the Mahayana into something virtually "new." Those
responsible were often Indians or Central Asians who had relocated to China
while the Sanskrit Mahayana tradition was still alive in India; others were
Chinese who studied in Indian Buddhist "universities." So the
developments were an authentic outgrowth of the schools of India.
expression "Chinese Buddhism," then, clearly defines an approach
different from that found in Southern Asia, the so-called "Hinayana"
or Theravada schools, and this Chinese Buddhism can be found in living
traditions in Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and other countries influenced by the
Chinese cultural matrix.
the idea many Westerners have of a dynamic Buddhist culture in China probably
hasn't been the reality here since the Tang Dynasty. There was a
"Great Persecution" centered around the year 804; since then, Buddhism
has never been quite as vital a force. (Latter-day revivals in Taiwan,
however, are another story; the temple in which I learned much about Chinese
Buddhism is an outgrowth of this 20th-century Buddhist Renaissance.)
I have been warned repeatedly that "there's not much Buddhism in
China" and that "less than 1% of the population is Buddhist."
Furthermore, Shenzhen being a less-than-25-year-old boomtown, there are few
relics here of earlier times (at least some temples and monuments survived the
Cultural Revolution in other cities). Such warnings, however, come from a
rather different perspective than the one I've learned to adopt.
belaboring it too much, the idea that there is "Buddhism" vs
"Non-Buddhism" is a very either/or, Aristotelian way of seeing things.
Another way to look at religion is that it is not something separated from the
rest of a culture, but rather that it is part of culture's "warp and
woof." So we should be looking for religion not in, say, Sunday
morning church attendance, but in the daily lives of the people.
in that regard, I must say that "Buddhism" is alive and well.
However, it is virtually indistinguishable from what has been called the Sanjiao,
the "Three Teachings," which include--besides Buddhism--Taoism
and Confucianism. Stephen Teiser, in a
article, also brings in what we might call a "Fourth
Teaching," that of popular or "folk" religion.
is where I find Buddhism. Two examples will suffice for now, but I hope to
give further evidence as time goes by.
first is this picture, from a package of tea:
"Guan Yin" Tea
it we see Guan Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion. We will discuss the
iconography another day, but it must be said here that she has attained a
popularity far beyond the confines of "Buddhist Religion," showing up
in popular stories with great frequency. One thinks of non-Catholic, even
non-Christian, surfers wearing St. Christopher medals back in the '60s, or of
the popularity of St. Francis. Guan Yin surpasses these by far, having
become firmly embedded in Chinese culture.
speaking of culture, behold:
Master Hsing Yun's
saw this my second day in Shenzhen, on regular television. The Fo Guang
Shan choir had made a "cultural tour" of the mainland, and founder
Master Hsing Yun spoke to the audience. I don't know what he was saying,
but chances are it was more than "Have a nice day" and "Do your
best." So here again was Buddhism-cum-culture. The two cannot
ultimately be separated.
religion and culture are separate in the West is a tragedy. "Uncle
Joe" Campbell said something about how we live in Prometheus' world of
telling the gods where to get off six days a week, then enter Saint Paul's world
for a few hours on Sunday--then hit the therapist's couch on Monday, as these
two world views are virtually irreconcilable!
more on the Buddhism/Culture watch as things develop.
Can Be Deceiving
of the challenges of living in another culture is what it does to your
assumptions. The stereotypes that we bring with us, and the conclusions
that they cause us to draw, can be real barriers to "seeing things as they
are." In Buddhist terms, such categories are another source of
Ignorance, which, along with Greed and Anger, constitutes the "Three
Poisons" keeping us from Enlightenment.
present two examples, both of which happened within minutes of each other on
as I left the library building, I greeted the guard at the front door. I always
greet the guards--and the gardeners, and the dining-room-cleaners, and everyone
who makes eye contact with me. Now, these guards are a bit intimidating,
wearing their military uniforms with berets. And this particular guard is
the scariest of the lot: stern face with Mongol features, pock-marked by acne--like
many a movie villain. Nevertheless, I greeted him and walked on.
I moved west along the front of the building, I heard the most unearthly,
beautiful sound--a high tenor singing a plaintive song. Turning and
looking back, I saw Ming the Merciless in his beret, neck craned and
"cruel" face raised
to the sky, taking advantage of the acoustics of the library's external foyer.
out the south gate and across to a small market, I had my next sinister
encounter. Six students--four male, two female--were acting in a boisterous
manner I had not seen here in China. "Hoodlums," I thought, and
endeavored to avoid them in the market's small aisles. Then I heard them
speaking to each other, and recognized the sound: they were Japanese!
Their body language and use of personal space was different from what I was used
to, so I had assumed them to be "rogue Chinese."
we spoke--in Japanese--and I learned that they had just arrived that day, and
were here to study Chinese for a semester. They were all from Tokyo, my
"second" (or fourth) hometown.
the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna, "It just goes to show ya, it's
always something." (God, I miss her.)
Second Real Adventure
First Real Adventure was the day of my arrival, when I couldn't reach my contact
person at the university. After a night in a hotel, everything resolved
Second Real Adventure was more interesting, though less crucial. It was
generated, not by my being in China, but by being in a new city of any sort.
Pop quiz: Are you familiar with the bus system--routes, schedules, etc.--even in
your own hometown? If you're from L.A., I'll bet the answer is
"NO." Anyway, this Adventure had a safety net--for the right
price, it would all go away. But I was determined to find a better way.
Prelude: I took Hailan to dinner at Henry J. Bean's, a "Western" style
bar in the Shangri-La Hotel. "Hank's" is alleged to be one of
"Asia's Best Bars." I know this because there is an article from
Newsweek in 1996, framed and conveniently posted in the men's room right over
the pissers, where it can't be missed. Also on the list was Tokyo's Blue
either things have changed since '96, or "Best" is Newsweek's word for
"Most Expensive." I never went to the Blue Note, daunted by the
price (high even by Tokyo standards); and though this was my second visit to
Henry J. Bean's, I only returned because it was the Boss's birthday and
I wanted to do something splashy for her. Four drinks, a fried tofu
appetizer, a hamburger, a veggie burger, a side salad, and a mandatory 15%
"service charge" (but no tipping!) came to over 400 RMB--$50.00!
Now, fifty bucks for your sweetie's birthday in L.A. would be no big deal, but
my (admittedly much simpler rice-and-veggies) dinner in the SZPT Dining Hall
comes to--wait for it--THREE RMB! About thirty-eight cents! But
nothing's too good for my Hailan. I will, however, try to find a place
where the quality is commensurate with the price before her next
one of "Asia's Best Bars" at about 9:30, we walked across to the large
bus plaza in front of the Luohu train station. Hailan showed me to the
stop for the 101, where my bus was parked, and she went off to take her bus
when the Adventure began.
parked bus would not be leaving until tomorrow. After waiting
around for 10 minutes, I discovered this through my excellent sign language in a
drivers' waiting room.
my dilemma, I thought, "Yeah, a cab's a possibility, but not if I can help
it." It wasn't just the 400 RMB tab I had just paid; it was
the principle of the thing.
first I caught any old bus (the 215: flat rate of 1.5 RMB) up to Shennan Dadao.
This means something like "Shenzhen South Boulevard," and it runs most
of the length of Shenzhen. Remember that one of Asia's Best Bars is about
one and a half hours from my university's front gate at rush hour; but about one
hour of that is on Shennan. So I figured I would get as far west as
possible, then take a cab (if necessary) north to the university, saving a good
part of the cab fare.
my first hope was to find a bus other than the 101 that went "all the
way." I had a list of bus numbers that I had written down at the stop
in front of the university; so I stood at a stop on Shennan (Cai Wu Wei, in
front of BookCity), and watched the numbers for a while. None of them
matched my list, and every time one passed I felt like a perpetual loser at
next, I compared the ones that I had seen to a map I had purchased
earlier that day. The one that seemed to go the farthest west was the 204,
so I jumped on the next one that arrived.
was when my plan hit a bump in the road: Most Shenzhen buses have conductors (yes, conductors)
who collect the fare. Naturally, the rider has to tell them how far he is
going. Well, I didn't know where I was actually going to leave that bus.
It would be at the last possible point before the bus left Shennan, but I didn't
know where that was.
to mime my needs on a crowded "late-night" bus proved impossible.
Fortunately, the plucky little conductress was resourceful, and called out for
any English speaker to come to my aid. A man right in front of me was
quite fluent, and, after looking at my map, announced that this bus would go
beyond the point where I would need to turn north, at Shahe West Road. He
then recommended that I take a cab from there for "about 20 RMB."
After I paid the conductor (4 RMB), my savior also offered to tell me when we
had reached my transfer point.
he did. And I got off. Thinking I might take a cab, I suddenly
remembered that Rick, one of my new colleagues, had on the previous day quite
generously discussed local buses with me, and had told me the numbers of some of
the "mini-buses" that run from Shennan up to the university. I
pulled out my notes, and HERE ONE CAME. I flagged it, got on, and in my
best Chinese said, "Gao Zhi Yuan"--the name of my stop. Some guy
sitting near the driver--whom I later gathered was his friend, or perhaps an
off-duty mini-bus driver, gestured "NO" rather wildly.
Crestfallen, I squeaked out, "Xili Hu?"--the name of the resort lake
just a kilometer from my stop. "Ah, ah, Xili Hu, Xili Hu, dui, dui," he gesticulated just as wildly, with a huge smile. He (not the
driver) instructed me to deposit 3 RMB in a coin box, and we were off.
mini bus is an experience in itself. Although it has a regular route, it
has no regular stops. It picks up anyone who flags it anywhere, and stops
anytime someone announces that "this is it." I was delivered safe and
sound to my uni's gate at about 11:20, nearly two hours after leaving the
restaurant, and damned happy to be there--for only 8.5 RMB, 1.5 more than I had
paid for a single bus into town, and about 61.5 less than I had expected to pay
for a cab from the starting point.
If they ever do
"Survivor: Shenzhen," I wanna be on it!
Posted 2/11/2004 2:20 PM
Birthday, Dear Hailan!
is a special day in so many ways. It is special because it's the day you
came into the world. But it is also the first "big day" we have
you know, I am a man of many words. And yet there are no words to
tell you how happy I am to be here with you on a special day, and how proud I am
to have you as my love, and how blessed I feel that all the
"causes and conditions" have co-operated to bring us together.
hope this will be the first of a hundred birthdays we have together. And I
thank you for being mine.
more thing: I have put a small tribute to our love on the Internet. You
can see it here:
the World with Hailan
I hope you enjoy it!
Posted 2/10/2004 1:30 PM
"The Price is
you see some of the purchases I made at a local shop on Saturday. See if
you can guess how much I paid. When you're ready, float your cursor over
the picture to see the answer. Did you guess too high?
now, the news:
was great. Hailan and I did a lot of shopping, buying some warm things
(hat and scarf) and some healthy things (juicer/blenders for both of us--about
$12.50 US apiece!). After we shopped and shopped, we met my friend Justin
Zen for the first time. Returning to his
apartment, we drank beer and BSed for several hours. Topics included:
merits and demerits of Western and Chinese-style toilets
differences between American and Chinese journalism
the Universe, and Everything
conclusions were reached; I'll keep you posted on further developments.
The Tsing Tao beer, by the way, was good. Thanks, Justin, and I
look forward to many more such evenings.
being anywhere near the bus I had taken into town, I took a cab home--only 45
RMB (about $6.00 US). Not too bad, but it can't become a habit!
now, for what I've been doing today:
have been putting up lots and lots of pictures. Remember that these pages
will load slowly; once I'm using my own computer, I will experiment with
reducing the file sizes of the pictures, both to speed up the loading time and
to reduce the disk space used. Here's what I've done so far:
Parties: Some pictures from the
gatherings at Cal-America and Chameli
My Room: Views of my living space
Campus: The architectural environment
of Shenzhen Polytechnic; utilitarian, but not bad at all
Technical Note: I
think I may have fixed the link problem--by manually inputting code!
Comment links have become unreliable, though: sometimes they appear, and
sometimes they don't. This page has become increasingly buggy since I
started cheating in the comment code, using a technique not especially
recommended by Haloscan. "Error on page" is now the standard
Updated 2/10/2004 1:20 PM
February 8, 2004
When I changed the date heading for today's post, it changed the date on all the
previous posts as well. Just read the hand-entered line at the bottom of
each post if you want to know when it was actually written.
Life as Usual
in China has become thoroughly routine. Lunch in the Dining Hall, check my
mail in the lab, off to meet Hailan and Justin later this afternoon, a movie on
TV tonight...ho hum.
surreality remains. I am in limbo regarding work--first meeting next
Friday, and first classes on Monday the 19th. So I am living a relatively
unstructured life. No jetlag--I seem to get sleepy at a reasonable
bedtime, and wake between 7 and 10 am. So basically, I'm ready for
whatever life brings at this point. (That reminds me of a scene I saw on
MadTV my last Saturday in L.A.: An old lady has a stroke as she hosts the
morning Condo News on a closed-circuit system; her face scrunched up, she
insists to her co-anchor that she's fine, then looks up at the ceiling and,
shaking her fist, yells: "Is that all you got, God? Bring it
on!!!" Well, I thought it was funny.)
You will note that with this post, I have adjusted my headings to China time;
the post I put up yesterday (Saturday) turned up with a "Friday"
heading, and I left it; but now we should be on track. Left-coast
Americans: Subtract 16 hours (during PST) to see what time it was where you are.
But as the jetlag is non-existent, I choose to be where I am, rather than try to
keep thinking in California Time.
2/8/2004 12:55 PM
February 7, 2004
Fool Has Landed
indeed, I am firmly ensconced in my new home:
so glad I'm livin' in the PRC..."
am currently seated in the "Foreign Faculty Offices" in the
open-24-hours-a-day Shenzhen Polytechnic University Library. (Well, the building
is open, but on this rainy Saturday morning between school terms, I see no sign
of actual "library" activity.)
is my first effort at making entries on a public computer, and I have some
shopping to do (especially for TOILET PAPER) so I will keep this one relatively
brief. However, I have extensive notes for details concerning the trip and
my "intake" here at SZPT, so in days to come we will revisit much of
the information here, with greater depth. Once I have an Internet
connection in my room, entries will come fast and furiously, as I have no work
obligations until Feb. 13.
then, is a re-cap of recent days:
long-time buddy Kerstine picked me up from work and I had my last dinner on
Olvera Street for a while. I'll write more about Kerstine later, but about
Olvera Street: It's next to the plaza where Los Angeles was founded (sort of),
and whenever I came home from Japan it was our first destination when leaving
the airport. To me, it is L.A. So this was a poignant
moment, shared with a dear friend.
work at Cal-America. If you teach ESL, and live near Koreatown in L.A., I
highly recommend that you apply
They really know how to treat a teacher. Dinner that night in Pasadena
with my former boss and good friend Mike. (Thanks, Mike!)
the afternoon I taught my last Cal-America student, a 4-hour private lesson.
At 7 that evening, around 35 people gathered at Chameli in Rosemead for a
Farewell Party. There will be a picture page added in the near future.
with my advisor, mentor, and friend Dr. Bruce Long from
again at Chameli. Also that day, a massive shopping spree: New glasses,
essential books, sports coat and tie, shirts, shorts, some gift T-shirts (more
on those later), etc. Things I should have bought: a hat, a scarf, some
gloves, and a warm jacket. It's cold here--about 11 degrees C (52
degrees F) and raining.
preparations, and off to the airport. A long wait to get through
all the "security measures" (read "PR efforts")--about 2-1/2
hours from curbside to boarding area. (Question: Why did they search us
with fine-tooth combs, then give us metal forks and knives with our meals?)
We were also informed that we would be landing in Anchorage, Alaska, for
re-fueling due to headwinds, meaning I would almost surely miss my connection in
my connection in Taipei. I was to arrive at 6:30 am, and board a flight
for Hong Kong at 8:30 am. As it happened, I arrived at 9:20 am and took a
10:20 flight. Arrived Hong Kong about 12:30. Bus to Huanggang crossing and mini-bus to Hotel Shangri-La at Luohu. Called Mr. Long (no
relation to Dr. Long above), my Shenzhen Polytechnic contact, and got no answer.
Long story short: Stayed in a hotel Thursday night, uncertain of my future.
But all was well, because I had dinner with my lovely Hailan, who helped me book
a room at the place I stayed when I came to visit last spring.
For those who think I skipped Wednesday, Feb. 4 in this
account: It passed in a flash sometime as I winged westward to the Orient.
calls in the morning, and reached someone who had other numbers for Mr. Long
than the one I had. Reached Mr. Long, took a taxi to SZPT, where I arrived
at noon. Was taken straight to my room, which will be featured in a photo
page soon. In a word: much better than I expected, but colder
than the heart of a glacier. Mr. Long has been extremely helpful; one
reason for the mis-connect: He sent an e-mail I never received, AND this is
actually 10 days before the start of term. (I thought--based on a mail he
sent last December--that classes began on the 9th; instead they begin on the
16th. Hence my week with nothing to do but blog!) Went snack
shopping--no cooking ability in my kitchen until I buy certain basics: utensils,
etc., and gas for the stove. Dinner in the dining hall--rice and delicious
vegetables, 3.6 RMB (less than 50 cents). Re-arranged my room, unpacked,
slept early (the only warm place is under the quilt).
to Hailan; we decided it's too cold to meet today. Talked with Justin of
Shenzhen Zen; we'll hook up soon. Called my folks from a pay phone (no international
calls from my room--yet) and they'll be calling me back in my
room in about 45 minutes, so I'll wrap this up soon. Lunch in the dining
hall: same as last night, but today only 3 RMB. Then here.
things for you to look forward to: photo pages of my party and my room; my first
impressions of China; a few additional features to be added to this homepage.
Also, an interesting surprise for my friends connected with
Lai Temple. All coming later this
Posted 2/7/2004 1:30 PM (China time)