August 27th, 2007

We arrived in Chengdu yesterday afternoon, via a short flight from Beijing. This has been a study in contrasts. Chengdu is more tropical, greener, with more insect and bird sounds. It’s also more humid, rainy, overcast and, like Beijing, hot in the afternoon. It’s definitely more rundown than Beijing, everything we’ve seen so far resembles 14th Street in Manhattan. Little shops selling junk at cheap prices. Very few, if any, of the signs are in English. Unlike Beijing there are more parks here, more green space. It’s very much more like being in China, despite the best efforts of globalization.

We spent our first night in an on-campus apartment, but we didn’t like it that much and they let us move upstairs. Our new place is ten times better. We have a bedroom, and a large living room, with a balcony, and a nice kitchen that also has it’s own balcony. We have a washing machine in the bathroom. And internet service in the apartment. We’re actually living on campus, and the students all look like high schoolers to us. About 80% of them are girls.

The complete lack of English language is forcing us to learn Mandarin. It’s funny just going to the store to get something to wash the floors with, pantomiming mopping, to get the right thing. We went out to eat this afternoon with our Guide books, pointing to the Chinese characters for Tofu, Rice, and vegetables. It was fairly comical, but we got what we wanted, had a nice lunch despite the pork mixed in with the tofu, and it all cost less than $3 for both of us.

Well, Beijing was fun, now it’s time to get down to business. In the next couple of days we’ll get bikes, and register with the local Chinese authorities, and at the US Consulate, get some more shots. Lara will start teaching in the next couple of days, and we’ll be looking into Chinese language lessons, probably here at the university.