Jane, Circa 2009

 

Al should have been there.

Most of you know Al Day as the local musician who made good.   He does more than keep a hand in, playing with his own trio around Chicago and Evanston, and he knows more about music and musicians than I know about anything.

So Al should have been there when I attended the first anniversary at MeToo Café in Hangzhou.   MeToo is an art gallery, despite the Café in the name.  It is one of dozens of show spaces for young Chinese artists, and it is a gem.   The look of New China is … new.   There is very little that is more than thirty years old.   Every hotel, every highway, every office building, every school, every store, every urban tree (almost) has that New Suburban look.   Schaumburg, circa 1970 or … anytime.   So the MeToo is a real find.

Chen Dongfan at MeToo, Fall, 2009
Chen Dongfan at MeToo, Fall, 2009

At the Alamo in Hangzhou                            Summer, 2004

One of the fun things to do in Hangzhou is attend the Romance of the Song Dynasty Show.   The Song Dynasty extended for about 300 years, ending in about 1275, with the conquest of the Mongols.   Now I don’t think there are many people in the US who would attend a show titled the Romance of the late Dark Ages, or the Romance of the Era of the Imperial and Magnificent Church.   This was the 1200’s, and we all believe in the progress of history.  But Barbara Tuchman subtitled her famous book about the 14th Century, the next century, the Calamitous 14th Century.    So this emphasis on romance just feels …. sort of misplaced, to me, the westerner. 

 

Alice                                                                        June, 2010     

 

Anybody in Chicago who has met Alice Zhou Xiaofang remembers her.  She is the number 2 government person in the urban planning department in Shaoxing, but she is a mayoral advisor and all-around whip smart, dedicated, open, public servant.  Who asks questions and tells you what she thinks.  Who is also an electrical engineer and knit me the blue scarf I wore all last winter.   I was in Shaoxing to look at another ancient town, called An Chang, which is on both sides of a narrow waterway on the outskirts of Shaoxing.   It is now surrounded by modern buildings and cars and development, but some of the old town still remains.  Old, in this case, is late Ming-early Qing dynasties, which puts the buildings at about 400 years old.   This is based on fading inscriptions in stone, and on what I am told by Alice and others. 

Health Reform                                                                                                                                        May, 2010   

Brenna and I had colds.   Not so bad, but she wanted to go to Shanghai to the Expo in a few days, so I thought we should make sure there was no serious problem developing.   No fun walking around the Expo with some hacking cough.

My cough had descended into my chest, sort of a bad sign, so I called my people at the school about a medical visit. 

 

Pay first, then see doctor ... about $0.58 ... each
Pay first, then see doctor ... about $0.58 ... each

 

Happy You and Me Party                 December, 2009   

 

Chinese people all seem to have hidden talents.  Sing, dance, do calligraphy, perform something.   For a long time, I saw this in my Chinese government friends, and I thought, well, these are the best and the brightest, so they are smart and talented people.  But the arts cultivation is wider than that.

So now I see I was wrong.   My college students- who are not yet in the government- put on a Happy You and Me Party for all the foreign students and teachers about two weeks before Christmas.   The event was sponsored by the school, and the International Chinese Students Organization.   The ICSO students serve as the go-to helpers for foreigners- take us shopping in a school bus on Saturdays, so we can buy regular American (or German) junk food, instead of Chinese junk food, and help with recharging phones with money and related problems.

This was clearly the holiday party, but it was not called a Christmas party.   I don’t think that was any cultural sensitivity to not everyone in the US or Germany or Russia or Kazakhstan being Christian.   Chinese are generally surprised to learn that Jews are not Christians.    I don’t know what they think of Muslims.   I think the sensitivity is to the Chinese government, not wanting to promote a religious event.  So, Happy You and Me Party.

One Third Coke, Two Thirds Sprite                   Spring, 2011


For the last six years before I came to China, all of my students at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago were zhonguo zhengfu guanyuan, Chinese government officials. Many have become friends, and I stay in touch with them as much as I can. This is about a wedding I attended recently. Michael, one of my government students, picked me up at school.

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