Where in the world…?

Bzzzzzzzzzzz Bee
Bush-ism of the day

According to http://www.rawstory.com, president Bush has accused Democrats of trying to “legislate defeat in this vital war,” by attaching a pullout timetable to his $100 billion spending request for the Iraq occupation.

That’s almost as asinine as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement that she doesn’t favor cutting off Iraq War funds entirely because it would put U.S. troops “in harm’s way.”

The troops are already “in harm’s way,” thanks to the Bush regime. And isn’t the sensible solution to remove them from more harm by bringing them home? Besides, why do legislators never mention the Iraqi people who are being harmed, mutilated, killed, imprisoned, and forced to live without everyday necessities?

Sometimes the world seems insane. I’ll get off my high horse now. Say, that’s another good phrase to teach my students.

Red flowers against a wall

Promises, promises

If you read my last post closely, you’ll remember that I promised that today’s column would be about Sichuan cuisine. I didn’t lie; it’s just that my food writing has been postponed pending more information. You see, I’ve been practicing my lateral thinking. That’s kind of like thinking outside the box. It means coming up with creative and unusual solutions to a problem. Or unusual ways to teach English.

“Unusual” means designing a lesson plan around the U2 music video I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and then instructing students groups to design their own short music videos around verses of the song. It also means coming up with a lesson plan using Prison Break. After teaching some dialogue and showing scenes from the series, I’ll make students devise a plan to escape from the classroom building. I’ll tell them that the doors are solid metal and the windows have bars. They can only escape through the ceiling, walls, or floor. If I want to make it REALLY difficult, I’ll give them common household items that they must use in their plan: a toothbrush, a pair of scissors, an egg beater (Michael Scofield used one of these to drill through a concrete wall!).

In all my years of studying French, how much more interesting the lessons would have been if my teachers had used TV shows and music videos!

Where in the world is Chengdu, Sichuan?

Today’s geography lesson is How to Find Chengdu. It reminds me of a scene in my childhood, when my brother and I were walking with our grandmother on the farm. We went beyond the corn field to the edge of Contrary Creek. Suddenly I had the idea that we were lost. In desperation I asked, “Grandma, where are we?” Sensibly, she replied, “We’re right HERE!” Oh.

So that’s where Chengdu is. Right HERE. On this map of China, Chengdu appears to be roughly in the center, although it’s considered to be in southwestern China. About 3-4 hours away from Chengdu is its rival city Chongqing (which may or may not be China’s largest city, and used to be part of Sichuan Province).

By air (via Beijing), Chengdu is about 7,600 miles (12,230 km) from my most recent home, Los Angeles. That would make it about 9,400 miles from my birthplace, St. Joseph, Missouri. That’s a long way.

Chengdu is the provincial capital of Sichuan Province (Sichuan means “Four Rivers”). One of China’s richest agricultural regions, Sichuan is also surrounded by mountains, and Chengdu lies in a shallow “bowl,” creating an omnipresent cloud and smog cover. The city is virtually flat, which makes is easy to commute by bicycle. Just west of the Chengdu basin, the terrain rises up to the mountainous areas of western Sichuan and one of the country’s ethnic Tibetan regions.

Here’s a map of Sichuan province. Apart from one visit to western Sichuan last August, I haven’t been more than 90 minutes outside of Chengdu since coming to China. My travel lust is about to get the best of me. I need to get out more.

The last time I counted, there were about 10 million people in metropolitan Chengdu (by the way, it’s pronounced CHUNG-DOO, so get it right). On any given day, if they’re not going to school or working, the people of Chengdu are drinking tea or playing Mahjong. Or eating spicy Sichuan cuisine. I’m not kidding about the Mahjong; in the building across from mine, there are marathon games that sometimes go on all night. And that’s on weeknights. Everywhere you walk, there are Mahjong games sprouting from the sidewalks or taking place in teahouses.

In the summer it’s HOT. And humid. Some of my students blame the weather on climate change brought about by the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, the world’s largest construction project. This remains to be proved, and I haven’t found much information in English on the internet about it, although some people also blame the dam for a current drought in Sichuan.

Once you arrive in Chengdu (assuming you’re coming to visit me), take a taxi or ride a bike to the First Ring Road in the northeast part of the city. Look for UESTC (University of Electronic Science and Technology of China) My apartment building is in a university-owned complex on the other side of the winding Shahe River from campus. Walk through the iron gates, past the guard station, and the Foreign Teachers’ Residence is the newest building, on your right. Now you have to negotiate 4 flights of stairs to the fifth floor (sorry, no elevators in buildings with fewer than 7 floors) I just discovered a few weeks ago that my building has a nice rooftop terrace with some stunning views of the city. Like I said in an earlier post, I’m a slow learner.

Here’s the building where I live


By the way, the photos here were taken by me and my best friend last Sunday, sharing his camera. I won’t tell you who took which photo; use your own aesthetic judgment. Check out some of the beautiful spring foliage. We also took some stunning food photos which I’ll share with you anon.

My fingers are tired and my word count is up to 1,000. I need to get back to my Prison Break lesson plan. I’m busting out of here!

Foliage and flowers

See below for more photos of my neighborhood.

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