The past 2 weeks have been a whirlwind of activities: hustling on and off Chinese airplanes and buses, moving in and out of numerous hotel rooms, dragging luggage around, suffering in roasting heat, unpacking boxes and visiting with old friends and familiar places. Then there was the long trip back to the States where I have just arrived and am now involved in caretaker relief duties for my dad.
Good-bye, Guangxi Province!
It was a lovely send-off from my college, Longzhou. The movers came in the morning on time and began loading up the truck with my things.
Dean Liang-Ling and my waiban (foreign affairs director), Mr. Luo, came to make sure things went smoothly. My second year students appeared outside the building, waiting for their turn to say goodbye and take last-minute photos. The sun shown hotly down on all of us, causing sweat to pour off of us for our final pictures. (The heat of southern China is something I definitely won’t be missing.)
At 1 p.m., I was situated comfortably on the bus bound for Nanning, 3 hours away. This was my last bus ride through the beautiful mountain ranges of the province and I made sure to fully enjoy it.
In Nanning, I stayed for 2 days. I was also able to say farewell to the hotel staff who know me quite well, the pool cleaners and swimmers, the elderly park orchestra members and their audience who often talk to me on my city visits and nearby shopkeepers. Sunday, it was off on the plane to Chengdu and after an overnight there, Monday morning had me heading out on the bus back to my old placement, Luzhou.
Luzhou: So Much the Same and Yet So Different
It’s been 3 years since I last visited Luzhou. I’d heard reports that I might not recognize certain parts of the city due to its rapid development.
“Can Luzhou have changed that much since I last taught here?” I wondered on the 3 ½ hour busride from Chengdu.
That question was quickly answered while pulling into the brand new spanking bus station, across from a huge outlet store complex, both of which were not in existence when I was last here. The station has just opened 20 days before and was situated outside of the city limits. The huge domed front led me into a gigantic waiting room and ticket counter center which boasted several restaurants and 2 large convenience stores. I later learned 7 smaller bus stations, which I often used, had been closed and combined into this one large one. The passenger traffic was no longer crowded into dingy, dirty waiting rooms and forced to use disgusting trough toilets like in the old stations. Now we had a bright, polished public traveling place at its best.
As for the rest of the city, my 6 days there surrounded me with both the familiar and the new.
I visited my old swimming haunts, the outdoor public park pool and the indoor Number 6 Middle School.
I went furniture shopping in the old district of town with its narrow alleyways and tree-lined boulevards. I enjoyed the same downtown views as I’d remembered and stopped in at the church although no one was around at the time.
Those places remained the same but new additions made the city shine with a brighter, more modern feel.
Vast farmland along the Yangzte was now replaced by huge highrise apartment complexes that seemed to go on forever. New river front walkways with parks and squares for residents to enjoy stretched on and on. A gorgeous new city hospital had been built, replacing the old, dilapidated one which had once been the best Luzhou had to offer. And my school’s campus was graced with several new buildings and a lush, green landscape that had hardly taken shape when I left in 2009.
Looks like I’ll have a lot of exploring to do when I return in August.
My apartment is exactly the same as my previous Luzhou school housing unit but on the 3rd floor of the single teacher’s resident building. It still overlooks the wide Yangzte River but from a higher vantage point. I expected it to have the basic furnishings that are always provided for foreign teachers – TV, microwave, refrigerator, air-conditioner, telephone, ADSL Net hook-up along with necessary furniture.
Instead, I arrived to a completely empty apartment, newly painted with new toilet installed but everything filthy dirty. I immediately hired 2 cleaning ladies to take care of the mess. For $30, they scrubbed the windows, floors, toilet and balcony kithenette until it shone. This was in preparation for the arrival of my things coming in from Longzhou the next day.
There certainly was an up side to having an empty flat. First, the place was so tiny, there was no way my 100 boxes, bed and other small items would fit in there if other stuff had been added.
Secondly, I would be allowed to accompany my foreign affairs director when we did go shopping for furniture. The school would pay and I could choose what was within the price range plus what I wanted. And the last was that, since the apartment wasn’t in livable condition, the school graciously set me up in the best hotel in town. I had a gorgeous room with a river view, free breakfasts every day and a fancy environment to live in for 6 days. That truly felt like vacation!
The Resident Permit
As previously reported, the visa was causing some difficulty. When I arrived in Luzhou, Teacher Yang accompanied me to the Police Bureau to start the resident permit process. The resident permit is the in-house visa needed for me to work in China. This is given by the local city government in which the foreigner plans to live. Every city is different and Luzhou had some strict rules which was making things difficult for me.
We were denied twice until my school leaders became involved. They called in all their favors from the local authorities, made some tight connections and finally managed to have my resident permit approved. There had to be a rush placed on my permit because I had to leave so soon and I finally picked it up the day before flying to the States. That was cutting it too close for me but it’s over and done with, good for one year until we go through it again next year.
Back in America: Chauffer to and from the hospital
The trip to America had me somewhat worried all along the flight. My mother had reported my father was in the ICU at our area hospital. There were close calls with late-night phonecalls to her house from the nurses so when I landed here yesterday, I was eager to find out how my father was doing.
He has been in ICU for 6 days and most likely will be there for 5 more days. He will be having re-hab at some point before he will be allowed to return home. There are many things wrong and he won’t be very ambulatory so my mom will definitely need help at some stage during my stay.
I am just grateful that I can be the much-needed hospital chauffer and spend time with my family. Always difficult to return home to a not-so-pleasant health situation but we just do the best we can.
Until next time, Ping An (Peace)!