September 01, 2015
Hi all! I have decided to blog-in-haste about my experiences in China. Some of these postings may only be pictures, or very hasty impressions (with typos, alas), because I need to get up to speed with teaching here at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU) in Suzhou.
The first thing I need to say is that this is a lot less exotic than it might seem. I have often argued against the exoticization of Afghanistan. Here in China, even more so. There are differences, which are fun; but I imagine this is like being hired to teach in Germany or some other developed country where I don’t know the language. Arriving at Shanghai-Pudong international airport, I felt like alot of what I encountered was a mashup of prior experiences.
In the photo above, we are about to go through the electronic fare-collection gate, which seems to work exactly the same way as FasTrack in the Bay Area and similar systems in Chicago and New York. I was picked up by a driver from the Human Resources Dept of XJTLU. He was driving a white Buick minivan. Yep, a Buick.
We did not pass through central Shanghai. I think we passed south of the downtown on a belt highway. Suzhou is due west of Shanghai, I think about 80 km. In the photo above I managed to catch some of the character of the landscape along the highway: intensive small-plot gardens (“truck farms” was the old U.S. term for these) and middle-class housing. The housing sometimes clusters in rows along the streets with plots behind. My guess is that this is single-family housing, but I am not sure of family-structure in this area at this time.
The air is thick here on the Chinese seacoast. This is not even pollution; or mostly it is not. It is humidity. Like New York in August, the air has a pea-soup quality. At 6 pm I could look directly at the sun, as this photo indicates.
In the U.S. these big cooling-tower structures are generally associated only with nuclear power plants and a bit of anxiety. In most parts of the world (including the UK) they are a standard part of any power-plant. As we approach this bridge you get a sense of the intense degree of industrialization and development here. I only got a glance (and no photo) of the river below, and it was busy like Rotterdam.
Like the eastern span of the Bay Bridge (and the Brooklyn Bridge), suspension-cables radiate out from the tower- tops on this bridge.