As noted in the previous blog entry, my schedule is, um, forgiving. I met with my students and taught my classes on Friday the 13th (in spite of my being a recovering triskaidekaphobe). Then MidAutumn Festival arrived: along with many mooncakes and threats of more mooncakes, school was closed Friday, so I had the day off.
My courses meet Friday the 20th, but I have to fill out some forms to establish long-term residency before my current temporary status expires. Hence, I will be off Friday afternoon to do that. But I do have to teach my morning classes! (And I think the afternoon classes will be rescheduled.)
The bureaucracy is rather unbelievable: I’ve had to get a health exam, including an ultrasound; I had to open a bank account; I had to register with the police; I had to register my short-term residency; now I have to register my long-term residency. The bank alone required me to sign what seemed to be 1,519 documents—probably closer to six—all in Chinese. I had help (Jill and Tianyu to the rescue, again!), but I did mention that I was a little uncomfortable signing things I could not read. I also mentioned that if I returned to the US to find this bank lady living in my house, that I had somehow signed over to her, I would be a bit miffed.
I admired the MidAutumn moon and walked around Suzhou. I pretty much walk around Suzhou every day. But this Sunday I actually walked with others, doing a walking tour with Stephen Koss, author of Beautiful Su: A Social and Cultural History of Suzhou, China. I’ve read about half of it; it is quite good, and Stephen knows, evidently, all there is to know about Suzhou.
He arranges relatively small, relatively informal tours during the part of the year he and his wife live in Suzhou (the rest of the time is spent in some place called “Manhattan.”) This tour took us to Yi Yuan (The Garden of Harmony), one of the many gardens of Suzhou. This particular garden is small and fairly new (middle 19th-century), and, as Stephen pointed out, it lacks the originality of the other, more famous gardens (e.g. the Humble Administrator’s Garden and the Master of Nets Garden). For these reasons, presumably, there were very few people there—always a plus, and a rarity, in China—and it was quite pleasant walking through it. It is also close to where I live, so I will return.
Otherwise, it was a relaxing week, with a fair amount of looking around and a fair amount of reading. I have started The Water Margins/Outlaws of the Marsh (水浒传) one of the (four? five? six? depends on who is doing the counting) classic novels of Imperial China. I’ve read The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Dream of the Red Chamber/Story of the Stone, and Journey to the West (all in English translation, of course). They are long, full of many names, but very, very much worth reading. After Outlaws of the Marsh, I will turn to the Plum in the Golden Vase (JinPingMei/金瓶梅)—when I tell my Chinese friends I’m going to read that one, they always laugh because it has a reputation for being somewhere between being risqué and pornography.
For the obligatory food picture: I made it to Rong’s for lunch. It may not be the best restaurant in Suzhou—it would be hard to identify the best restaurant in Suzhou, although I’m working on it—but it is pretty close to being my favorite. Excellent pho, excellent bánh mì, excellent spring rolls, and Larry Rong remembered me from almost a year ago, as well as remembering that I was there with a student and famous (well, maybe not so famous, yet) rapper “Legend.”
And for the obligatory China weirdness: I see a lot of people wearing shirts with English on them. I like to think that some of them don’t know what the English states, such as the woman working at a store in Chengdu while wearing a black shirt with enormous white letters that said, simply, “FUCK.” I have also seen a very old man, at least 85 years old, wearing a Public Enemy “Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” shirt (clearly he was OG), as well as a surprisingly-woke 10 year old Chinese boy wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt.