May 29, 2008

Two Southern Cities

Filed under: China,culture — Kim @ 5:27 pm


I was down south last week. Went to Ningbo for work (to give a lecture on argument in academia) and to Suzhou for a look at some gardens and a weekend with Mr Ryan the Humanaught.

Suzhou is well known of course and having poked around for all of two days I’d say deservedly so, although the old style architecture is actually quite thin on the ground and really rather samey after a while. A while in this case being 2 days, so let’s be frank here…Suzhou doesn’t have a patch on Prague or Kyoto when it comes to architecture. Architecture aside, and sticking inside China, the overall atmosphere and character of the place is undeniably “cultured” compared to Dalian… oh if only if only we could have a Bookworm here! And Suzhou sure has an awful lot more going for it than Ningbo.

I wonder what you thought of when I mentioned Ningbo. Any associations? I’d never heard of it before I was invited to speak there and so I thought I’d ask around before I left. Well, it’s a big enough place (6 million – ah, China!) and in a good spot right next to Hangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou, but it doesn’t seem to ring any bells with anyone here up North. A couple of my students had the impression it was rich, but otherwise my questions drew a blank. Ningbo, it would appear, has no image, no reputation. It is a town of no renown.

What it does have is China’s first “foreign university”, The University of Nottingham in Ningbo and that’s where I went to lecture. And of course I asked the folk I met there what the town is like:

“there’s nothing here”
“a dump”
“there’s more culture in Newcastle high street than there is in the whole of Ningbo”
“Ningboring we call it”

Hmmm. Still, the food was good and Nottingham campus is nice, and Ningboring has a club with a Cuban band with real Cuban musicians and dancers, which is something definitely lacking in Dalian.

Also, as I was walking into a hotel I had a flyer thrust into my hand advertising a massage service. It had the obligatory enticing maidens on it, and a message in English announcing

Our aim is to think of whank your think anxious of what you worry. Thank you very much.

No, really, thank you very much! What a delightful message, and so considerate. Ningbo definitely has the best massage card flyers in China, and you can quote that next time someone asks you about Ningbo.


My itinerary ran Dalian-Ningbo, Ningbo- Suzhou, Suzhou-Hangzhou, Hangzhou- Dalian, coz I’d opted to fly back from Hangzhou on Sunday at 9.30pm. I thought I might have an afternoon’s peek at Hangzhou but Saturday night in Suzhou with Ryan proved a bit late and anyway, what’s the point in rushing, and so it was that I opted to get a 5.30 bus from Suzhou that would get me to Hangzhou airport in good time. And as usual with my trips, something went wrong and there was no buses to be had to Hangzhou that Sunday afternoon. Caramba! What to do? It turned out the only option was to get a taxi from Suzhou to Hangzhou airport…an intercity taxi! I bit the bullet and actually it only cost 700RMB (100$) and as I sat in that taxi, worries over and getting ready for a nap, I tried to imagine how much it would cost to travel a couple of hundred kilometres by taxi in England. Expat life is good sometimes.

May 15, 2008

Moving House

Filed under: blogs,Dalian — Kim @ 9:39 am

Another long spell of postlessness. Ho hum.

Excuses = My parents came for a couple of weeks and I have also been moving house. I’m happy to say I am now online again and otherwise settled into a spacious flat with a great view in the middle of downtown Dalian. Come visit!

I’ll be living with my Chinese parents for a couple of years…which ought to improve my Chinese anyway.

Moving house is a pain in the arse tho, and when my Mum was here she told me that it came out second (after divorce) in a big survey of “The most stressful experiences in life”, which rings true to me at the moment.

And here’s a random observation to end this “sorry I haven’t been posting post“…

“Those who are eager for praise should learn to deal graciously with criticism, be it fair or unfair, or else risk losing esteem in the eyes of those who do not deal out false and empty praise.”

Don’t you just love gnomic nuggets of wisdom like that? It could almost be prefaced with “Confucius he say…” If you google it though, you’ll find it was coined by liddle old me…about ten minutes ago.

And any idea what context I have in mind?