China Travelogue: Going By Soooo Fast!

2017-05-24 to 26
This Wednesday, 05/24, we took the same route as before to the campus and ran into the same traffic jam in the narrow road to the South Gate.  But knowing what laid ahead, we got out of the cab a little earlier and walked through the street market, kind of like a “Farmers’ Market” in Lexington, except that this is set up every day.


One shop was selling Anita’s favorite toilet seat covers, and another was selling something with some sinks, maybe the faucet or a faucet-mounted filter.  But the crowd kind of moves one along unless you stake a stand and determine that you are going to look at something specific or watch a demonstration.

Fresh vegetables, fruits of almost every type, and even fresh fish.  In America, “fresh fish” means it has not been frozen, but here, as in Hong Kong, “fresh fish” means it is still swimming until you buy it!

Several stands had hot breakfast items that I wanted to try.  We get up at 6am on these early class days and leave at 6:30, and our hotel diner does not open till 7am.  But, our LA explains we should not eat anything from the market because “our digestion” is not suited to it.  To me, if it is cooked well, it would have killed all the bacteria, but Anita agrees with the LA and so we skip eating any of the delicious looking pancakes and “you-tiao” (pronounced yau-tchau?), a long deep-fried bread, kind of like a doughnut, only not sweet.  They even had jugs of “moonshine,” homemade stuff of unknown alcoholic content!  And the jugs were very inexpensive!  Dividing by 6.8 to get the prices in USD, the big 10¥ one was $1.47!!

IMG_7759After Anita’s class, we made a short stop in to see Anita’s TA’s (Yvonne’s) class.  You may recall she is a PhD, who was a visiting scholar at the University of Montreal.  Her students are very shy, even for her, and sit far back in the class, but take careful attention to her lecture.  You may have noticed from previous pics of the classrooms, the students tend to organize the seats in groups, very unlike a Western school where students sit apart from each other.  This is very much like Mongolia International University.

Graduation is approaching and many of the seniors have already purchased their caps and gowns and almost every day, there are students with proud parents taking pictures of their “little emperors and empresses.”  This is perhaps the last generation of China’s “One-Child Policy” as now the government is recognizing that they need more children to replenish the population.  Reasonably proud of their children, one mother particularly beamed when this unknown Westerner wanted a picture of her son and his accomplishment!


IMG_7779.JPGDriving back to the main campus, the traffic moved somewhat slower than usual, but probably not because of the police car in front of us.  Chinese drivers seem to be “kings of the road” unless they specifically do something dangerous or harmful.  However, we noticed horns were particularly subdued while we were behind the police car, and we learned that the marquee over the cop was instructing people to control their horn-honking! 😀  But as soon as he turned off from our route the honking resumed to very frequent beeps and long hoooonks.

Back on the Main Campus, we made our way from the North Gate toward the Student Center for lunch, and noticed one of the tricycles I have not been able to catch a picture of on the road.  Much less common than they used to be, there are still plenty of them to elicit horns, but they usually move away so quickly, I do not have time to activate my cell phone’s camera.  While one of the goals of many students seems to be to buy a car, bicycles are still the practical way to get around campus, evidenced by the reefs of bikes set up by shops or the Student Center, with only one motorbike in the lot.


But for all the bicycles, still the majority of the 60,000 undergrads simply walk across the huge campus, creating an ocean of faces coming to the Student Center at lunch time.

IMG_7852Outside the university grounds there is a new “shopping center” with Jilin University’s name on the outside, but not really associated to the campus.  Set up like Mongolia’s malls, it is a close-quartered montage of small mom-and-pop shops where one can purchase just about anything . . . for a negotiated price.  Without prices on the items, we figured we would just shop where the prices would not get “adjusted” when the store clerk sees a Westerner.

IMG_7855Among the artifacts available are a couple of fans that Mikki would likely love to get her hands on, but the shipping from Changchun would cost 10x more than the fans!  So we will let her buy her own when she comes to visit here some January on her and Sean’s way to the Harbin Ice Festival.

IMG_7841We particularly noticed there was a shop that was a member of the JOOA, the Jilin Province Optimetric and “Optleal” Association, thinking this is one of those times someone without any English mistook the “i” for an “l” and a “c” for an “e.”  It kind of reminds me when someone gets a tattoo in America with a Chinese characters for “Power and Strength” only to find out that they have been inked with “wonton soup!” 😀

IMG_7862.JPGHeading back our hotel, some masonry tradesmen were on a break, and I took the opportunity to inspect their work.  Their skill is excellent, but they are only laying sand about four inches (10cm) deep in a region whose frost line is 36” (1M) deep!  That means after one or two winters, frost heaves will move the large stone tiles up and down and make the ground as irregular as some of the brick walkways around campus.  The men enjoyed my visit, especially when we were able to charade that I was a builder of houses in America.

IMG_7865Moments later we encountered Bob, one of Anita’s colleagues from UK, who’s LA had found a friend to loan a bicycle.  Anita posed on the rear the way we see many of the students riding, which raised Bob’s eyebrows as he was afraid she actually wanted him to let her ride!  The reason he borrowed the bike was to make traveling easier, not to carry another professor!!

IMG_8364Later, after supper, when we went back to the hotel, we saw an interesting gentleman collecting trash from the roadway.  He wisely was wearing a lighted vest whose lights blinked on and off as he walked along.  Cool idea, especially with the speeding autos that brush by him sometimes with only inches (centimeters) between them.

Sunny days and beautiful temperatures have made the last few days Heaven on earth.  Needing only a light jacket or overshirt makes walking or riding bicycles very comfortable.

IMG_4564bIMG_4567This morning I was presenting a lecture for Dr. Bruce O’Hara whose class on Entrepreneurs and Innovation will get to hear about how and why I started Alliance Builders, LLC.  I opened by comparing lecturers who wear shorts and tee shirts to those of us who wear neckties to hide the size of our brains.  I hope the laughter was genuine of students who understood the humor, and not just seeing my smile figured they should laugh at the instructor’s joke!

Even though Anita did not have class today, we headed for the Nanling campus after a light lunch as she had a presentation of UK’s 2+2 program, coordinated with Jilin University.  It was advertised on WeChat and by word of mouth around campus that she would be presenting how to apply for the program so that students could attend UK in Kentucky for up to two years.


Dr. Nancy Johnson of UK had prepared a video with testimonials from three Jilin U students currently attending UK, and Anita had a series of PP slides that presented how students could obtain scholarships, as well as views of the campus.  Over 150 students crammed into the room, most arriving early to get seats, and I noticed about 20 or 30 who gave up trying to get into the room!  One particular slide that elicited a clear response of “oohhh” was the one of the dormitory.  We have not seen inside a dormitory here yet, and I will ask a student to show us where he or she lives, to see what the dorms are like here.

The rest of the day was spent at our computers in our hotel, Anita grading homework and preparing her exam, and me working on my blogs and reading.

Today we were planning to spend the day almost entirely in our hotel, Anita working on her class and on another presentation to the Main Campus, which has been somewhat difficult to arrange.  The internet in our room was working veeerrrrry sllooowwwllly, and even when we connected through UK.  Then I thought of how slowly the Pony Express would deliver a letter from New York to Lexington back in the 1800s and realize how spoiled we are when we get annoyed that sending electrons literally half way around the world takes more than a few seconds!

But then the electricity went out.  When it came back on a few minutes later, the internet would not connect.  So Anita went to the sink to get ready to go to campus, and there was no water!!  The internet connected briefly, but was still slower even than usual.  As we got ready to head to campus to use the “office” we had discovered on the 23rd, several profs connected on WeChat to complain about the same problems we were experiencing.  The result was several of us were going to head for the campus office.

The office is actually a large high-tech room on the fifth floor in the Library.  A smaller room to the side provided a little more privacy, but “listening” to the quiet in this facility is wonderful, instead of trying to ignore the constant horn-honking outside the open window in our un-air conditioned hotel room.  Temps are still only in the 60s (~15-18C) so the hotel room is fairly comfortable, but getting warmer.  The temp in there remains about 75-80F (24-28C).

We took the open “office” separate from the main room, and settled into it in case we needed to talk, so we would not disturb other faculty gathering in the main room.  The staff seemed surprised when they discovered we were in that room, and we thought we would be “evicted,” but they gave no instructions and we sat tight.  Later, when we went to lunch, one of the other profs from Kentucky gave us the code to the entry pad, so we could leave our computers there while dining.  Funny, because yet later, one of the staff asked us for the code to the room after seeing us enter it!  She explained it is a very new facility, a fact Dr. Bu had told us, and that the staff still did not know how lots of the features of the building worked.


There is a small B&W printer there, which Anita will use for her exams, and I took advantage of it to print an old-fashioned letter to our neighbors who are without a computer or web access.  I can imagine Joe’s and Edith’s delight when they get a letter from China, with stamps covering the back of the envelope! . . . even though it will be three weeks before they get it!

Outside the “office” is the rest of the library, but the facility is so new that most of the shelves are still bare or have plants on them.  However, most of the students are tech-savvy and utilize their computers or smart phones more than paper books anyway.  Changchun being the “Detroit” of China, auto design and technology are front and center, and the fascinating models in the hall make me want to go back and build model cars. 🙂


IMG_7989.JPGOn our way to supper we noted a little girl practicing with a Segway type scooter we have seen several of on campus.  A unique feature of the Chinese version seems to be the hybridization of a Segway with a Hover Board.  The stalk in the middle makes them easier and safer to ride than a Hover Board, but frees your hands and arms, unlike the Segway.

Just after supper we went to one of the campus administration buildings, which we were surprised to find does not house classrooms, being so large.  My guess is that with 100,000 undergrads and grad students, there are probably about 3000 or more administrators, not to mention their support staffs.  One of the symbols of Jilin University we often encounter was on prominent display here.  It is a portrayal of Christopher Columbus, who is honored here because of his exploratory determination and openness to new ideas.  Of course, “all work and no play makes ‘Ching’ a dull boy,” so there is a Ping-Pong table in the open area of the Business College offices.


Our meeting was to be in the Business College offices with students from the Main Campus, like Anita held yesterday at the Nanling Campus.  The professor with whom she set this up had complained of being very busy so many times, so that she almost canceled, but I suspect that when the Nanling meeting was such a success, she received word that he would have students meet at 6:00pm here.  The building is again very impressive with polished floors and plush conference rooms, in one of which she was to meet.  The room was very nice, but I was concerned that it would not hold very many students.  There was also a celebration of the “bull market” in the room.

IMG_8031The professor had only invited some specific freshmen which made the presentation of less value, in that most of these very few students would not be able to come to Kentucky for a couple years, just to improve their TOEFL scores.  Further, he informed Anita that only two of UK’s majors were eligible for Main Campus students’ participation.  However, he seemed genuinely interested in educating the students and required each of them to ask a question about the presentation.  Further, he informed us that some older students were already on their way to UK this fall from the school.

One student asked a question the professor called “dangerous”: “If after the two years I want to stay in the US, how can this be done?”  The professor kindly informed the student that the immigration officer would eliminate him from consideration for a visa to the USA if he asked this question when applying, and to be more careful in asking such questions.


Any guesses what THIS is??  I will tell you in the next travelogue of our adventure in China! 😀

Back at our hotel, the facility was in full preparation mode for a big wedding to be held here on Saturday, May 27.



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