By Rob Vlosky
Repurposed from the Grand Forks...and Knives blog.
So, I made it safely to China on Saturday evening after about twenty hours of airport waiting and actual flying. Landed at Weihai airport at about 9:30pm and luckily there was transport there for the RIT faculty that took us to our new apartments in Nanhai – New District.
The two bedroom apartment is quite nice, modern and reasonably comfortable and on the sixth floor of eight buildings. I have a nice view of a large apartment complex on one side and a “water view” of the Yellow Sea on the other. The small kitchen is kitted out rather sparingly, but there is a refrigerator/freezer, microwave, toaster oven, large steamer pot, pressure cooker, wok, and a few pots and pans. Very limited storage space below and none above but I can make it wok…er, work. There is no heat control in the apartment, or any apartments for that matter, but rather radiant heating in the floors, all except the kitchen and bathroom, which is puzzling.
On Sunday I went over to the RIT campus in a cold rainstorm and managed to find my way around the bus routes from “home” to the school. Stopped into a bun shop and bought ten nice pork-filled buns and a bowl of congee for about $1.50USD. If you’ve never had congee, don’t worry, it’s basically rice gruel that is tasteless but filling – serves a purpose at breakfast time.
Saturday I went shopping at a local market and got some sauces, garlic, onions, Chinese chives, and a hunk of pork belly that I marinated for a few hours before trying out the wok. The stove has two burners – one for the wok and one for the steamer or another pot. The heat they generate puts most American stoves to shame – it blasts out the therms! Luckily, the kitchen fan is vented to the outside and has two speeds: fast and supersonic! I flash fried the pork belly, onions, garlic, and chives and to accompany the bowl, I tried to make rice in the pressure-cooker, with moderate success. t was definitely rice, but the texture was questionable.
First day of classes on Monday – 100 students of RIT and Beijing Jiaotung University who are taking my Business Communications course. The Chinese have thousands of years head start on the U.S. in terms of culture, technology, science, navigation, etc. and the Confucian system of learning where the teacher talks and the students listen. I have eight weeks to break them of the habit of being too shy and embarrassed to raise their hands in class, speak out in class, be noticed in class, and respectfully challenge the instructor in class. This is going to be interesting.
Along with about 1.8 billion people, I’m only drinking bottled water here. Everyone says that the agricultural industry is rife with bacterial contamination and people die from infections fairly frequently. Shandong province is a very heavy agricultural region so the food is very high quality, as far as it goes, but needs to be washed, peeled, or cooked before consuming. There is a purified water dispenser outside my apartment building that gives eight liters for about ten cents, so I need to go get some large plastic bottles.
TV is pretty sparse. Well, there are a hundred channels in Chinese and two in English: China General TV News, and a movie channel with Mandarin subtitles. Luckily, I brought my external HDD with a load of movies and TV shows and can get Netflix through the VPN here. Unfortunately, the VPN throttles data speeds but I can watch online shows at lower resolution….when the router is behaving itself!
Also – this week is the Chinese national party congress meeting and they’re voting to let Xi Jinping be president for life. Dissidents are dissident so the government has cut internet speeds significantly and that affects us all. Slower download speeds, crappy in-country connections, and a slower VPN to the states. They also prohibited the letter “N” from being used on the net because the complex mathematical formula N<2 is the rallying cry of those who do not want the president to serve more than two terms. Simple yet effective.
More to follow…………………