Saturday, June 14, 2014


The Chinese are fond of erecting ornate gates. They're cultural markers. The word 'men' means gate in Chinese, and Tiananmen, as in Tiananmen Square, means 'Gate of Heaven.' This is an ironic moniker, given recent history.
The visa process is likewise a kind of gate. As time goes on, the paperwork becomes more onerous-- this time I had to provide the names and occupations of my children in addition to mine and Joe's. I am told the US process is worse, and our visas cost more. Chinese visas cost about $200 when you count processing fees, and I've been told a US visa costs $800.

Going back

Summers awaken my wanderlust. I avoid teaching summer school, for fhis is the time of year when professors have time to write books, walk the Appalachian Trail, or explore educational bureaucracies on the other side of the world. I actually like my job at ETSU, but staying in one small corner of earth is a confining. I like to get out and see what's happening elsewhere. I haven't been invited to China the past two summers and wasn't sure I'd be going back. In 2012 and 2013, I helped put together an ESL center for the English Speaking United Methodist Church in Prague. They're going through a leadership transition now, and meanwhile my old friend Zhang Dianyu, pictured below with his wife, daughter and colleague, arranged an invitation.
I'll be doing a course on the American education system at the University of Shandong, the school where I taught for a full semester in 2006 and to which I periodically return. I have a lot of good friends there. Shandong Province was the birthplace of Kongzi, whom Westerners call Confucius, so statues of him abound all over the region. This one stands in front of the English building at the university.
Alas! Joe isn't coming this time. My expenses are paid by our Chinese partners, and I'd set the money aside for Joe to come, but in April we learned there was black mold growing in our crawl space, and it took $8,000 to clear it out.

What does tomorrow mean? It is 5:30 pm here, but at home it’s 5:00 in the morning. I leave Weihai tomorrow and make a stop in Beijing. ...