It’s Father’s Day back in the States and I already called to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day, but sadly I cannot be there with him to celebrate the day.  So I can do the second best thing and heed his wishes by posting some pictures of Linyi to give a sense of how sprawling this city is.


Blue Sky in Linyi

That’s the view facing east from the bridge on Tongda Road (通达路) heading back from the gym last Friday.  The right side of the picture is the southern part of Linyi and heading in the direction of most of the commercial activity in the city.  The left side is north of the river and the new part of the city where the only real tenant is the city government and lots of new apartments.


This view is facing west towards the university and where my hotel is.  As you can see, there are some cranes in the sky and lots of open space.  The university and bus station are the main anchors in this direction, but a lot of ground has been broken for new housing and in a few years there should also be some commercial development to support the population in this part of the city.  Right now though there is nothing to really talk to from the hotel except for the bus station across the street.


This hole in the ground is on the north side of People’s Square (人民广成) and is part of a new shopping center that is called Osca.  I tried to make out the meaning of the name from the Chinese, but was unable to initially.  Right now there is not much in the way of development except for Linyi’s first Subway and a new Korean restaurant, but the mall is supposed to be the home of other foreign retailers from Hong Kong and further afield.  Of course there will also be a residential component to this development.  I guess this would be considered prime real estate in Linyi because People’s Square really is the center of town and on the weekends is filled with people. It’s also where you can find the city’s Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Watsons, the soon-to-be-coming Tesco, and maybe the city’s first Starbucks (this last one is still wishful thinking at this point).  I think of People’s Square as downtown because there are also lots of office towers in the area.


And the Osca mystery is solved – the complex is named after the Oscars, the awards ceremony in the States.  A bit random, but no more random than a local residential development named Chianti Mansion, like the wine.  Though I did not know the Oscars were such a part of the local culture.  But the Chinese word is Aosika (奥斯卡), so it’s not that far off in its Romanized form.  One other thing that I have been thinking about lately are the artist’s renderings of all of the new construction taking place.  That image above is the completed version of the previous picture.  The artist’s renderings always look so opulent and full of life with grand visions of wealth, happiness, and prosperity.  I know these renderings are supposed to be somewhat aspirational, but the Chinese renderings are off the charts in their optimism for the future.  All of the housing developments look absolutely amazing, to the point where I am staring at the dirt field in front of me and wondering how the developers plan to go from nothing to the most amazing and buzzy mixed-use development complex ever.  I saw a lot of this on the bus ride to Qufu in towns much smaller than Linyi, including Feixian, Sishui, and Pingyi.

So those are some recent pictures of Linyi.  I wish I had taken a picture of dinner tonight while we’re on the subject of pictures.  Lu and I went for Sichuan hot pot (火锅) and it was amazing.  I have not had good hot pot since I left GZ many years ago.  This time we went to Little Swan instead of Little Sheep, our GZ go-to.  Little Swan (小天鹅) is a Chongqing-based chain.  Yes, Chongqing is the same city where Bo Xilai, the disgraced party official was mayor.  This meal was perfection – spicy broth cooking a variety of meat and vegetables. as well as noodles and rice cakes.  I don’t think a picture would have done it justice.  I came back to the hotel and looked up the name of the chain and of course Sequoia Capital, a U.S. private equity firm has taken a stake in the company.  I guess the good news is that perhaps it’s only a matter of time until we get one in New York.  There is already a Little Sheep (小肥羊) in Flushing, Queens, so why not a Little Swan somewhere in Manhattan?

On that note, I leave you all to gear up for week two of class.  Happy Father’s Day, dad.  Until next time . . .



Back in the PRC

February 19, 2009

You know you’re back in China when in the same day your water inexplicably stops running in your apartment, you’re asked by the membership guys at your gym why you are not using your remaining four months in China to find a Chinese girlfriend, and you’re shoved out of the way by a grandmother as you’re trying to board the metro.  

Some people have brought it to my attention that I have been lax in my posting, but that’s because for the past six and a half weeks I have been traveling around the States, Thailand and Hong Kong.  I just arrived back in GZ and I received the aforementioned very Chinese welcome.  My second and last semester at the university begins Monday and it’s hard to believe that I am more than halfway through my time here on the mainland.  

When I was home in the States many people asked me about the state of the Chinese economy and I really did not have much to say on the subject because I told them I lived a pretty insulated life on a university campus as a foreign teacher.  Plus, all of the factories closing in my province are not in the city proper, but out in the suburbs and countryside.  Furthermore, it’s not as if the factory workers leave the gated grounds of their factories to come into GZ on the weekends and hang out at migrant bars or other venues.  Most factories have strict curfews and other movement limitations placed upon their workers, so it would be hard to notice any effects from the recent spate of factory closings.

However, I did go over the new Tesco , a British grocery chain,  that opened over by the 西门口 (Ximenkou) metro stop.  It is a nice store and everything is brand new, but I still think Carrefour has a better imported food section.  What I did notice both at Tesco and Carrefour was the significant number of price reductions and sales that were not at prevalent before I left in December.  Some of the markdowns may be due to the post-Chinese New Year sales that might mimic post-Christmas sales in the US.  However, there were many items on the shelves with prices that were simply crossed out and reduced.  Perhaps these reductions of emblematic of the slowing down of the Chinese economy and the belt-tightening that may be taking place here, similarly to what is going on the States.  I will be keeping my eyes and ears open to get more information about how the global economic slowdown is affecting China and blog about it when I hear it, as well as blogging about all the crazy and random incidents waiting for me this semester.

With that said, it’s good to be back, but it’s also strange knowing that I am going to be finished in a little less than four months.  I guess that is the problem with one-year fellowships; just as you get used to a city and your job, it’s time to think about the next thing and thus begins the unavoidable dilemma of one foot here in China and one foot moving towards the next thing.