back to normal

July 23rd, 2007

Well, kind of back to normal. Don’t want to speak too soon, because as I clicked “write”, all of a sudden thins slowed down again…. But no, it seems the broadband is broad again.

So yes, I read books pretty much all day yesterday. I started with Mark Salzman’s Iron and Silk, which was pretty good. No deep insights, not even the pretence at offering any deep insights, but a series of light sketches of his life in Changsha from 1982 to 1984. And that’s what made it good, no pretence, no bollocks, just Salzman finding his way. I especially liked reading about Changsha way back then. In fact, certain aspects of Changsha had absolutely not changed one bit when I arrived there back in October 1999. The overcrowded buses, for example. I’m also impressed with how Salzman managed to get himself involved in everyday life even way back then, everything from finding wushu and calligraphy teachers to meeting a family of fishermen. Still, of all the schools I’ve worked at here, the teachers of my school in Changsha were by far the most open and friendly and willing to hang out with the foreign teachers. Actually, that book kinda made me homesick for Changsha.

Then I got started on Lin Yutang’s My Country and My People. I tried reading it years ago, but I gave up very quickly, finding it far too stuff and pretentious and generally full of shit. But I decided to give it another go, and apart from some really outdated ideas (race? racial degeneration? Quick, pass me my copy of Mein Kampf!) I’m finding it a bit easier going than the first time. And Lin was man enough to admit in the preface or prologue or one of those other endless bits tacked on the front of his book that it was only his opinion and China being China he could easily help anybody find stacks of evidence to prove the exact opposite of what he wrote. The result is that some points he makes I completely disagree with, on other things I can see his point but think reality is somewhat more complex, and some things he’s got pretty much right. And I love his description of the Old China Hand. Anyway, it’s a much more detailed, involved book than Iron and Silk, so it’s going to take a lot more reading.

And then, having seen a å…?è´¹ç?­è½¦ to the nearby Tesco passing by, going down either Xidawanglu or Wushenglu, we went out looking for it yesterday evening. And we completely failed. lzh suggested we get a taxi, but I objected. How are we supposed to get a taxi to a shopping centre when we don’t know where it is? All we know is it’s somewhere on the eastern Fourth Ring Road south of Sihui. We’ll try again later when we’ve figured out where Tesco is and how to get there.

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