Settling In

plenty of roomcomputer connectionsthe Emporer came by Grand Canal

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My apartment is more than adequate in terms of space; I’ve spread myself out quite luxuriously. It’s a very typical Chinese dwelling, clustered among 20 or so apartment houses fenced off unto themselves, with a main gate on one of the large east-west drags in the western part of Hangzhou. (I guess you could call it a “gated community”, but the image that will conjure to the average American would be awfully misleading. It comes furnished, adequately, including clothes washing machine, three beds in three bedrooms, an over-stuffed Nauga-hide living room set, plus a few funny accoutrements more sloughed off by a one-child family than “furnished”.

A university shuttle bus that stops a couple of blocks away and takes me to the medical school building in less than 15 minutes. And there are lots of apartment complexes in the vicinity, so plenty of retail shops. In short, it’s well set up for the working life. Actually, the work load is light, at least this quarter. I’m conducting one 1 1/2 hour seminar a week, in the style of a “journal club”, which is to say I pick out a recent publication, the group (10 more or less graduate students) reads it in advance, and we dissect it in class. Not unexpectedly, the discussion operates more at the language clarification level than at the scientific critique level — but that’s okay. Beyond that, already one manuscript has been laid on me to “help put that into good English”; I would be inclined to drop the adjective. And then there is the “consultations” with students, which are basically friendly chats, sprinkled with lots of “how-do-say-that”‘s. But then, I don’t want work to dominate my existence here. At this point in my life I’m not on the career-make, just hoping to have fun and some interesting experiences and to fix up my Chinese a little.

The charming parts of Hangzhou are, of course, not just at my door-step. But that can be remedied as I study the bus-route map, and, to really pretend at being Chinese, purchasing a bicycle is high on my list to do. And then there is food: breakfast comes too early in the morning to think about it, so it is setting down to my American routine of peanut butter, jam, bread and coffee. For lunch I join the throngs of students in the Uni cafeteria, which certainly counts as Chinese cuisine, if not so haute. Dinner is the tricky one: whether I cook Bob-style with Chinese ingredients, or try to emulate Yan Can Cook, or just give up and rely on the neighborhood restaurants, remains to be seen. In any case, I’m not worried about starving (though I wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds.)

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