A Jersey Guy's Excellent Adventure in China

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After a Remarkable Year, No Longer a Stranger in a Strange Land

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June 19, 2014

When I started this blog a year ago, I envisioned it as a convenient way to keep my family and friends updated on my adventure in China. It turned out to be something far more meaningful. Writing almost daily about what it’s like to live and teach in China connected me with thousands of readers… Read More ›

Think U.S. Bureaucracy is Bad? Try China

If you think U.S. bureaucracy is bad, don’t ever live in China. China has a rule or regulation for everything. Opening a bank account can take hours. Getting a visa extension can take months. Getting a drivers’ license can take years. Tons of paperwork. Long lines. Endless instructions. It’s a libertarian’s nightmare. I got another… Read More ›

China Enforces Silence on 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the most important political event in China’s post-Mao era. But you’d hardly know it from watching or reading the state-run media, walking around my university’s campus or talking to the man in the street. That’s because the ruling Communist Party has banned any discussion of… Read More ›

Pesky Mosquitoes Circle Like Vultures, Turn Skin Into Mass of Itchy Bumps

It’s mosquito season in Zhengzhou, which means a never-ending battle to keep the pesky insects from turning you into a mass of itchy bumps. We’ve got mosquitoes back in New Jersey, but not like the ones here. Chinese mosquitoes seem to be made of indestructible material that makes it almost impossible to repel or kill… Read More ›

Notes on Taiwan: Spotless Streets, Japanese Influence, Baseball Mania

  Some random thoughts about Taiwan following a short visit: The Taiwanese are cleaner, quieter, more polite and more orderly than the mainland Chinese. The streets are spotless, people don’t shout into their cell phones, riders wait patiently in line to board a subway, and drivers don’t try to run you down if you cross… Read More ›

The “Headless Houseman” Is One Scary Dude

On their midterm exam, my American Literature students were asked to discuss the importance of legends in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Here are some of my favorite answers: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a fear story about a headless houseman. When we read the story, there are many difficult words for us… Read More ›

China’s Rushmore, Naked Computer Man Highlight Yellow River Park

Henan Province has its own version of Mount Rushmore, a pair of 59-foot-tall head carvings of two legendary Chinese figures at the Yellow River Scenic Area about 20 miles northwest of Zhengzhou. I saw them over the weekend during a group outing with five of my teaching colleagues and five students from Henan University of… Read More ›

Discovering Buddhaland, Headless Statues, “Auld Lang Syne” in China

    After living in Henan Province for almost seven months, I finally got around to visiting one of the region’s biggest attractions: the Longmen Caves near Luoyang, capital of 13 Chinese dynasties. Located about 85 miles west of Zhengzhou, the grottoes are a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring ancient Buddhist rock carvings. Lining both… Read More ›

Trivia Contest Covers Three Musketeers, Windshield Wipers, Bats, Charge of Light Brigade

Which Asian river reverses course when it floods during the rainy season? What automobile part did Mary Anderson invent in 1903? How did the Battle of Balaclava end? What unit is used to measure torque? Athos and Porthos are two of the “Three Musketeers’’ in Alexandre Dumas’ novel. Who is the third musketeer? If you… Read More ›

Feels Strange To Drink Tap Water, Drive Car Again

I’ve been home for two weeks now after spending five months in China, and I’m still readjusting to life in the U.S. It feels strange driving a car, drinking tap water and sleeping on a bed that doesn’t feel like concrete — all things that I never did in China. It took a couple of days… Read More ›

Activist Jailed for Pushing Peaceful Change

We just got another reminder that China, despite its enormous economic progress, is still a one-party state that doesn’t tolerate political dissent. Xu Zhiyong, a prominent human rights activist, was sentenced to four years in prison for such unspeakable crimes as fighting government corruption and opposing a policy that prevents children of migrant laborers from… Read More ›

I Almost Had a Great Fall on the Great Wall

  My first steps on the Great Wall at Mutianyu were almost my last. After taking a cable car up to the start of the ancient wall – you can also walk to that point, a climb that takes about 30 minutes — Pat and I started descending some steep brick steps. It was a… Read More ›

Dancing, Singing in Beijing’s Heavenly Park

On a bone-chilling morning in Beijing, the Temple of Heaven Park was bustling with activity. Elderly couples were dancing to traditional Chinese music, groups of amateur crooners were singing Peking Opera songs, early risers were practicing tai chi and others were playing jianzi, a game in which you kick a weighted shuttlecock. The 660-acre park… Read More ›

Mao’s Wax Museum Body Needs Nip and Tuck

Chairman Mao is showing his age. Lying in an open crystal casket encased in an airtight chamber at his massive mausoleum in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, China’s former supreme ruler looks like a figure from Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Surrounded by a bed of lilies, his body is dressed in his usual drab gray suit and draped… Read More ›

Monk’s 16-Year Odyssey Ended at Wild Goose Pagoda

I was feeling a little travel weary until I read about Xuanzang, a 7th-century Chinese monk who went on a 16-year, 100-plus country pilgrimage and returned home with one of the greatest collections of Buddhist scriptures in history. I learned more about Xuanzang at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, part of the Da… Read More ›

Terracotta Warriors Protect Emperor in Afterlife

When I first saw the Terracotta Army during a national holiday in October, the place was so crowded you could hardly move. The 25-mile bus ride from Xi’an took 3½ hours and, once we got there, my friend Damian and I had to wait an hour in line to see the main exhibition. My second… Read More ›

Pandas Chew Bamboo, Climb Trees, Excrete in Chengdu

When Pat and I walked into our hotel room in Chengdu, the first thing we noticed was the stuffed panda doll sitting on your bed. Nothing could be more fitting in this ultramodern central China megalopolis that’s home to a leading panda breeding and research center and omnipresent images of the cuddly, black-and-white bears.

Will Donald Trump Build Golf Course in Flute Cave?

While searching for new experiences abroad, spontaneity usually trumps planning. Pat and I were scheduled to spend the morning in Yangshuo before heading back to Guilin to catch a late-afternoon flight to Chengdu, home of a renowned panda-breeding center. At the last minute, however, we decided to return to Guilin early so we could check… Read More ›

My Tai Chi Looks Like a One-Legged Chicken

Tai chi may never be the same following my public exhibition of the Zen-like martial art yesterday morning at Yangshuo Park. When I see Chinese people doing tai chi, I think of a graceful swan. I looked more like a one-legged chicken.

Spotting Hidden Horses, Bats, Buddhas on Karst Peaks

Pat and I took a 4½-hour boat cruise on the Lu River from Guilin to Yangshuo, a bustling tourist town surrounded by majestic karst peaks that are so close you can practically touch them. The riverbanks are lined with peaks whose unusual shapes have inspired colorful names: Painted Hill of Nine Horses, Snail Hill, Bat… Read More ›