the weather in cq

I’m an Iowan and always will be, so I’m fairly sure an obsession with the weather is hardwired into my DNA. As a result, I found it imperative that I share a couple photos today.

First, this photo was taken on a nice day in Chongqing a few weeks ago. As you can see, the smog is pretty manageable. You can see for more than a mile.

Then you have today. It was even worse when I woke up, but you can barely see the building next to mine. Yikes.

Now, in Chongqing’s defense, this city has always been known for being foggy and cloudy. In fact, that’s part of the reason why the Kuomingtang retreated to CQ in WWII; the cloud cover made it difficult for Japanese bombers. And at least it doesn’t smell as bad as Shijiazhuang.

Oh, and I guess I can’t complain too much if today’s high will be about 60 but my hometown will be hovering near freezing. Poor West Branch.

my chongqing apartment

I moved into my new apartment complex in September, and this place is fantastic. It is a major upgrade from my place in the Shiz. Specifically my apartment is awesome and isn’t plagued with the dirt, grime and cold that I had come to assume were quintessential parts of living in China. Check it out and let me know what you think.

this place rocks – dazu rock carvings

Back in November I had the pleasure of visiting the Dazu Rock Carvings in the outskirts of Chongqing. The outing similar to was previous foreign office outings I have been able to go–aka lunch, transportation and admission was free for the foreign teachers. And free is my favorite flavor.

The carvings were similar to the Buddhist caves that I visited while in Dunhuang on my trip along the Silk Road. There were a few differences that really stood out. First, all of these carvings were carved directly out of limestone, whereas most of the statues in Dunhuang are made of plaster. Also, most of the Dazu carvings are largely exposed, only covered by outcroppings, but the Dunhuang caves are enclosed with additional walls and doors, which undoubtably aids in preservation. There are considerably more caves and works of art in Dunhuang as well, but many of the carvings at Dazu were significantly more complicated and grandiose than their sandy counterparts out west. Read more

happy (late) new year!

The Jeifangbei Clock Tower just a few minutes before midnight.

Only one month between posts? I really am turning over a new leaf this year!

New Years Eve was pretty lackluster last winter (like most things at that time), so it was refreshing to have warm weather and a cheery attitude going into that night’s partying.

It started with a little shin-dig at Miles’ apartment with the handful of ruffians not already on vacation. We ordered beer to the apartment* and proceeded enjoy a little alcohol. We played a few rounds of beer pong and flippy cup–with baijiu punishments for the losers–until about 11 p.m. We had been warned by our Chinese friends and expats “in the know” to avoid the Jeifangbei party district until after midnight because it would be too crowded or because the police start turning people away at 10 p.m. We decided to risk it, and as you can see from the photos** below, it paid off.

We arrived in Jeifangbei via overstuffed taxis with our grocery bag of refreshments at about 11:45 p.m. While the center square was busy, we were still able to navigate to within a block of the central clock tower. Then, when the clock struck midnight, the 10,000 people around us let go of what must have been 30,000+ balloons. It was incredible!

*Yep, a man will come a deliver cases of beer to your apartment if you call the local corner shop and ask politely. Yet another reason China rocks.
**Those photos come courtesy of Miles, I didn’t lug my DSLR out to Jeifangbei that night. However, if you want to see some of my latest stuff you can check out this cool Chongqing website.

Now I’m in Chongqing

Every Facebook message, email or other form of communication always starts the same way. “Where have you been? It’s like you dropped off the face of the earth.”

Well, I’m not floating somewhere in the cosmos, I am now living in Chongqing, China. I could say I never planned on ending up here, but that’s not completely true. When my former international relations advisor first put a bug in my ear about going to China after graduation, Chongqing was the city he specifically mentioned. Go figure that I would end up here after the roller coaster ride of the last few months.

But I digress, and alas I think this story of how I went from Shijiazhuang (the land of dirt and disappointment) to Chongqing (the land of hot pot and hills) is best told from the beginning. Read more

bad habits

This is my "foreign devil" face...

I’ve developed a number of bad habits in the last few months. I stay up late playing video games, watching movies or drinking with my fellow Shiz expats. I have been lackadaisical about learning new Chinese vocab and putting it into practice. I neglect this blog and I take forever to respond to personal emails. My apartment is disgusting and I have a pile of dirty laundry knee high piled in my bedroom corner. I grew a beard. While all these things aren’t good, perhaps my most disturbing new habit is that I scare children… for fun. Read more

HEBUST is looking good

This is yet another find from my perusing of hard drive. These are photos of Hebei University of Science and Technology (HEBUST, the university I teach English at). These photos are deceiving; I took these pictures on a beautiful, pollution-free day in September. The campus doesn’t look quite as nice with the usual overcast skies and mid-winter foliage.

the shiz exploded

I’ve been having a bit of a hate/really hate relationship with the Shiz lately, but this dirty little metro went a long way in reclaiming my favor on Monday. On Monday, Shijiazhuang exploded.

It wasn’t a nuclear accident or anything cataclysmic, but rather it was the official end of Spring Festival, and this one city celebrated with more fireworks than than I think the entire state of Iowa uses on the Fourth of July. Read more

starbucks in the shiz

Dear Starbucks,

First off, thank you for opening one of your glorious consulates of coffee in Shijiazhuang. The Shiz should feel honored that you chose her to join the ranks of the two-dozen or so Starbucks-equipped cities in the Middle Kingdom. In theory, you are doing something to make the butthole of China just a little more livable.

With that being said, I do have some suggested improvements. Read more

back in the shiz

I knew the Shiz had a bad smell but I forgot that it smelled ALL THE TIME.
- Emily Krustlic

After an overnight bus and a miraculous purchase of train tickets (despite the largest annual human migration in the world) we arrived back in Shijiazhuang yesterday. Now I have that mix of emotions one always feels at the end of a vacation: it’s nice to be done with the stress of traveling but man, that tropical island was a hell of a lot nicer than this place.

Those negative feelings are especially potent when you return to a city like the Shiz, a place we characterized as “the butthole of China” when describing our city to other travelers over the last few weeks.

But, despite the smog and smells, the Shiz is a little nicer right now because of one wonderful reason: FIREWORKS!! The early morning honks and engine roar that I came to hate over the last five months has been replaced by the sweet, sweet sounds of firecrackers and mortars exploding in the morning. Actually, it is a little creepy how this city has essentially fallen silent except for the occasional faraway boom or string of pops. And I think I might add to the din in the silence by blowing another 100 RMB on fireworks at one of the hundreds of pyrotechnic stands set up around the city…