Monday, July 16, 2018

Rainy season

Today was rainy, often torrential. So much rain fell so quickly that roads and sidewalks became rivers, intersections lakes. Once I accepted I'd be wading it was almost fun, until I got home and found my rubber flipflops had splashed dirty water all over my back. Thank goodness the apartment has a washing machine!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Embassy of Taishan

These mountain spirits are among 100s of plaster figures attending the various "departments" of the Daoist temple complex Dongyue 东岳庙. The entire cast of the Eastern Sacred Mountain Taishan is represented, though only five of the statues are originals that survived the Cultural Revolution.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

圆明园 Yuanmingyuan

Spent much of today (more than planned!) at the old summer palace - what's left of it, after it was razed by French and British soldiers after
the second Opium War, looted for new buildings and given a final push by the cultural revolution. Long abandoned, it's recently been restored
and offers endless carefully planned vistas, some intimate and others vast (Hanzhou's West Lake is evoked), usually with the foundation of a lost pavilion created to savor each one's beauty. In this season, many a pond is brimming over with lotuses, some taller than a person. Among the few surviving ruins are the carved stone of early fusion European baroque palaces from the mid 18th century, fabulously romantic!


A first foray into the city Friday took me to the newish art district called Today 今天艺术汇, where sculptures like these command attention.

Hello again!

Not quite a week in, and everything’s fallen nicely into place. I’ve moved out of the hotel, where most of the International Summer School faculty are housed, into an apartment maintained by my host department for its foreign visitors. They put me up here once before, so it has the further advantage of being familiar - which affords me comforts from a washing machine to a kitchen which even has a toaster! The department has also given me use of an office, and the brilliant and indefatigable graduate student who is my assistant has engineered a workaround for the blockage between the university wifi and the VPN that gets my laptop over the Great Firewall! That just happened yesterday, so I’m finally able to return to this blog. Hello!

It’s my first time back in China after the year I spent in Shanghai, and it’s fun to remember and rediscover what life is like here. (Plantings tend all to be the same flower or plant, for example.) Not all fun, though. Air pollution is down, but the sky’s been one or other shade of greyish or yellowish white the whole time I’ve been here. This added to the confusion of my jetlagged consciousness; as my body told me a day was starting or ending, when in fact the day was ending or starting, the light outside was always the same. On Wednesday I confidently reported that my jetlag was subsiding... I'm doing better now (Saturday)!

The international summer school at Renmin (People's) University, of which I'm part, celebrates is tenth anniversary this year. Sixty-odd foreign professors join Renmin faculty, teaching in a variety of fields, almost all in English. (I'm in the small Humanities curriculum.) All Renmin undergraduates are required to take one of the classes in English. My thirty-one students hail from departments most of which we don't have at New School - Business, Human Relations, Statistics, Demographics, Journalism and Law. A handful are in Comparative Literature, and one in Philosophy. (I sense humanities are a little neglected at Renda.) What might the "literature of suffering" mean to them, let alone Job? I'm eager to find out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Pe(e)king over the wall

Greetings from China! Four days in I'm doing fine, jet lag subsiding steadily. The reason you haven't heard from me, and for the brevity of this post, too, is that Internet access is an ongoing headache. I hope to have something sorted out in another day or two (or three). If problems persist I'll do what I'm doing now, use my phone, which isn't having anything like the trouble my laptop is, but makes writing painfully slow.
My course, by the way, started yesterday. I'm very excited finally to have the chance to teach Chinese undergraduates, and the thirty-one intrepid souls who signed up for a summer school course called "Interpreting the Literature of Suffering" look to be excited, too. Our eight 210 minute sessions already seem like hardly enough...!

Friday, July 06, 2018

East meets West

I fly tonight for Beijing, and five weeks in China - teaching and travel.VPN permitting I'll be able to keep the blog fed but you never know...

Thursday, July 05, 2018


It's a brief visit to Southern California, but well-timed. These outrageously big blossoms - a good 15cm across - lasted only a day.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018


Horizontal and vertical

Monday, July 02, 2018

Missed your birthday

Yesterday was Leibniz' 372nd... it took a Google Doodle to remind me!

Sunday, July 01, 2018