"Finding Myself in China" Now I am not going to repeat the title here, but it showed a room in which plant roots are used to grow new plants. Unfortunately, whilst the caption may have been strictly correct in an Agricultural context, the words also constituted a very vulgar idiomatic expression in English. As the particular slide lit up on the big screen, there was an audible gasp from numerous people (including Chiara and I), followed by muted laughing and serious attempts by individuals not to break into hysterics.
A New Start in Suzhou City
by R.P. BenDedek (11:56 AM 2/21/2015 Beijing Time)
This story was originally published in English at Magic City Morning Star News on Apr 10, 2007 and at the same time was published at Kingscalendar in Italian. In preparation for publication of my book 'Finding Myself in China,' this file has been transferred to Kingscalendar. Photographs from the Magic City version have been carried over. When the original article was published, I also published an additional photographs file (June of 2007) and in 2009 after visiting within HanShan Temple, I published Another Extra Photograph File. This article has been slightly edited with regard to spelling and American Grammar points.
My New Life in Suzhou City Jiangsu Province.
The other week I published a series of photographs in an article entitled: Another City: A Different Country. In that article I related how different things seem to be here in Suzhou, and I shared a little about a bike riding misadventure. Today I want to tell you a little more about my life here. Throughout this article there appear a number of photographs, most of which were taken on the one day and in the immediate vicinity of the school in which I live. I hope you enjoy them. (More and larger photos).
In 2005 I moved to Wuhan from Hong Hu, so that I could both teach English and learn Chinese. After two years in Wuhan however, I have only spent one semester in formal Chinese study. I had taken my teaching position in Wuhan at a lower salary than had been offered elsewhere so that as I learned Mandarin I could practice it in a dialectic accent with which I was familiar. When I requested the agency find me a new position for 2007, I stipulated that the salary was my prime concern.
Although the Chinese Government instructed that foreign teachers be sent home early last semester, so that they could celebrate Christmas with their families (made possible because of the earlier spring festival time) my school did not let me go. In fact, they stipulated that I must remain at the school until the very last day of my contract. This I did and am still waiting for outstanding salary. (That school cheated me and others severely).
On March 1st I flew from Wuhan to Suzhou. My coordinator Mr. Xu (Shu) met me at the airport and took me straight to my apartment. Dropping off my baggage, we went to a restaurant for lunch, subsequent to which I returned to my room and unpacked. With everything put away, and not knowing what to do, I set up my laptop, only to discover that it did not work. I had not transported it in its usual case, but had instead packed it into a backpack (padded to be sure), which was stored in the overhead luggage compartment on the plane. Obviously, or so it seemed, it had sustained damage. Whilst it did operate, the screen was black, although you could just make out the white patch where you type in your password. A few days later we took it to the computer specialist who told me that I should just buy a new one. This is a common response from the poor Chinese.
Top Left The building on the right in the central background was the building in which we lived. This whole area has now been demolished and replaced with student dormitories and other buildings. Top Right A view of the street outside the school. This too has all been modernized.
Above Left This is Chiara waiting for our bikeride Above Right A canal over the road from the school
Anyway, he told me that all he could suggest was that I turn it on, leave it for 30 minutes, turn it off, and repeat the process a few times. If it did not return to normal function then we would have to copy the hard drive to another computer so that I could access my teaching files. I went home, did what was suggested, and after two days of trying to get it to work correctly, I gave up and stowed it away. Ten days later, a different computer man arrived to copy the hard drive to the computer that the school had arranged for my use. He connected something or other to the school computer and then attached my computer. When he turned my computer on, miracle of miracles, everything was back to normal.
Apparently, the only explanation for the previous failure to operate normally, (apart from a loose wire that somehow got back into place), was that the frigid air in the overhead compartment of the plane had frozen some connections and it took many days for them to thaw. Well, that was one problem off my mind.
During my first week at the college, I spent a lot of time talking with Sue, an Australian who has been teaching here for one semester already. As I wrote in the last article, although she assured me that everything here including the students was great, I was nonetheless pleasantly surprised to find that the kids here really are happy and attentive. During my second week I was advised by Mr. Xu that a teacher was arriving from Italy to teach a one semester introductory Italian course to a group of seven male students. Furthermore he asked if I would consider increasing my teaching schedule from 20 classes per week to 24 classes, with the extra classes being devoted to these selfsame seven boys.
I gratefully agreed ($'s). A day or so later he telephoned and asked if I had a few spare moments to meet the new Italian teacher. 'Yeah Sure!' I informed him; 'Why not?' Then he told me that they would come to my apartment immediately. With just a few minutes notice of their arrival, I quickly changed clothes, tidied the place and prepared for the visit. Then Murphy's Law struck. I got sick. I don't know what caused this sudden illness, but just as I was being introduced to the Italian teacher, my knees buckled underneath me and I began to shake. I had to quickly sit down. Both my heartbeat and my breathing became erratic and I felt flushed all over. I was also overcome by an overwhelming mind numbing feeling of confusion and found that I had great difficulty uttering even one coherent sentence.
Top photographs Behind the school there is a canal which runs up into the Shan Tang Sheng Ji
The bottom photographs above were taken in the vicinity of HanShan Temple. The one on the left shows a canal empty of water while some sort of work is being carried out. The one on the right is an intersecting canal that leads into the Grand Canal
Apparently I am not the only one to experience this sudden type of illness. Something similar happened to Sue the other day while Chiara and I were talking to her and she suddenly turned and 'dry reached' in the kitchen sink. I still have no idea what causes these sudden momentary bursts of occurrences. Fortunately my symptoms passed quickly and I was able to spend time chatting with my coordinator and the new foreign teacher.
Her name is Chiara, and she speaks, Italian (of course), French, German, English, and has spent two years studying Chinese. She was a thoroughly wonderful person to meet and to talk to, and over the following days I got to know her much better. Because Sue is often tied up with friends who live outside of the school, I am the only other westerner with whom Chiara can really spend any time. This, combined with the fact that this is Chiara's first trip to China and that we are both new to this school and to this city, and that we teach the same class, naturally causes us to find it quite convenient to spend time talking together and jointly exploring the city. Finding myself working in a nicer place under better conditions and with other foreigners, has stimulated me quite significantly. I find myself getting out of the house more, exercising more, and naturally sharing all this new found joy and excitement with my family.
Chiara likewise has been writing her family, sharing with them her various experiences, many of which have involved me, (like getting lost with me while we were bike riding). Her constant references to me led her parents to believe that I was a Chinese Teacher. She corrected that impression by informing them that I was in fact Australian, but apparently they then assumed that I was a handsome young Aussie male and that she might be doing more than just exploring the city with me. She however, was not immediately apprised of this fact.
Since we have been here there have been two very special events take place. On March 24th we had a special ceremony in which a plaque relating to Sino Japanese Educational Cooperation was unveiled on campus. Many of the students here study Japanese and we have four Japanese teachers here. After the ceremony we were invited to dine with our honored guests in a very plush hotel down the street, and were presented with special friendship gifts of chocolates. They were delicious (better than Belgium chocolates) and I even scored an extra packet.
Chiara taking a photo of me taking a photo of her.
A few days later a horde of Italian students descended on the campus. I'm not going to pretend that I know what that was all about but Chiara tells me that they were high school students from several different 'sister' schools in Udine City about an hour north of Trieste by bus. One day there was a reception for them in the auditorium. Although not personally involved in whatever it was all about (everything took place in Italian and Chinese), and despite not being invited to attend, I turned up to the auditorium with my seven students who study Italian.
A day or so earlier, some students had come to my apartment and asked me to correct the speech that they were going to make in English, and while doing that, Chiara came to borrow my iron. Happy to have the assistance of someone training to be a translator, I invited Chiara to assist. An hour or so later the work was done and Chiara offered to translate the document into Italian. She later received advice that this would not be necessary as there would be an official translator with the team. Shortly before the Italian students arrived however, Prism and Hunter who were to do the only English presentation that day, asked Chiara if she would go ahead and write an Italian translation anyway. As it turned out, this was a wise decision because the official translator, a Chinese student (from somewhere), was, according to Chiara, providing a less than ideal Chinese to Italian translation.
The very first thing the Chinese Officials did that day to start off the ceremony was to present a slide show on the history and activities of our 'Agricultural' College. As anyone who has ever learned a second language knows, there are always funny stories to tell about making mistakes, and for both Chiara and Myself, and quite a few Italian students who understood English very well, the slide show contained one very big and hilarious mistake. The slideshow had been prepared in English and Chinese and was obviously a very professional piece, but in the midst of it all, a series of three or four slides showing various 'sections' of the 'agricultural' side of the college were presented, and under the circumstances, the first slide should have been shown last. At least it would have put the title on the slide into context. Now I am not going to repeat the title here, but it showed a room in which plant roots are used to grow new plants. Unfortunately, whilst the caption may have been strictly correct in an Agricultural context, the words also constituted a very vulgar idiomatic expression in English. As the particular slide lit up on the big screen, there was an audible gasp from numerous people (including Chiara and I), followed by muted laughing and serious attempts by individuals not to break into hysterics.
Top left photo of HanShan Temple as the area appeared in 2007 Top Right Looking the other direction and taken from the next bridge down/up stream.
Bottom left: Adjacent to HanShan Temple and located beside the Grand Canal Bottom right: A different vantage point
When I later explained to Mr. Xu the reason for the reaction, he apologized for the incorrect phrase. I had to explain to him that it was not exactly incorrect, it was just that it is also used in idiomatic English, and that appearing as it did without context, it caught us all off guard. Such is life! (In the photo file at KingsCalendar associated with this article, there appears at the bottom, a fine example of what happens in translation. Just be warned that it might offend you!)
Bearing in mind as stated earlier, that Chiara's parents were afraid that she was running around with a young Aussie man; during the period of the two events listed above, she managed to take a number of photographs which she emailed to her parents and friends. Amongst the photos of course, were some of yours truly. These photos prompted two different reactions, the first of which was that her friends could not believe that she was 'running around' with a fat balding old man. The second reaction, to which I take much exception because it was much worse than the first, was that her parents were relieved to know that she was 'safe' in the company of 'an old man.' I have made Chiara promise to send her parents a personal message from me to the effect that "While I may be old, I certainly am not dead!"
I do understand their reaction of course and can certainly assure them that they have no need to fear for their daughter whilst in my company. As I explained to both Chiara and Sue, "Chiara is too old for me. If I was going to get involved again, I would want it to be with a 16 year old that I could train up in the way that she ought to go." (Actually it was while saying that, that Sue had her mysterious bout of illness and 'dry reached' into the kitchen sink.)
It really is funny how people's minds work and how they can jump to conclusions. My own daughter, my youngest in fact, after receiving my email about getting lost on the bike trip with Chiara, sent me an email saying: "Father! Please remember that I am older than her!" Her sister's email was worse. She wrote me that she would love to have a 21 year old step mother. Fortunately not everyone's mind turned to such things. My sister-in-law, always concerned about my health in China, and obviously worried that I had overdone it riding for so long, sent me an email suggesting I "take a long cold shower!"
In the vicinity of HanShan Temple
The reactions that Chiara received combined with the ones I received, really makes me wonder about people! I just take people at face value. Up until being made aware of how people perceived the friendship I have with Chiara, I had assumed people like 'Hilda from Mississippi' (just over the border from Memphis), an American on vacation in Suzhou (while her son conducted some business), was constantly smiling at Chiara and I because she was a happy friendly person who was enjoying our conversation. Now I have to stop and think; "Just why was she smiling so much?" People do assume the weirdest things these days. "Hello Hilda! I'm sorry I didn't have my camera that day or I would have put a photo of your lovely face here."
Anyway, the other day Chiara and I went riding again with the specific intention of taking the photos shown here today. Almost all of them were taken in just one city block, with the rest (HanShan Park Photos), taken just two blocks over and two down. There is a lot to see in this small district. In due course, I will provide photographs of the walking street and other interesting sites within walking distance of the campus.
Top Section is of the Canal behind the school Top Left is a bridge in front of 'Xiyuan Temple' just up from the school Top Right is of a dredging operation just down from the school
Above left is of an incense shop on Fengqiao Road beside the canal. (It has relocated since a shopping center was built there) Above right is of the new Bell Tower and Tablet in front of HanShan Temple.
I do hope that you have enjoyed this little insight into my life and the sample of photographs.
Toward the end of dinner, some children spotted the foreigner and began coming to the door to say 'hello' 'hello' 'hello,' as they do, and then one little girl entered the room and handed out candy to us all. That was a first, as too was the cappuccino that I drank at a coffee house after dinner. I could swear it was an espresso. Ah! What would a foreigner know! Next morning we headed off to our next destination, the major places of interest of which (according to the 100 rmb entry ticket) are, Little Lotus Villa, Home of Zhang Shiming, Jiaye Library, Qiushuli Place, Home of Liu Tiqing and Ancient Stone Bridges. Additional Photographs
Well to cut a long story short, I walked all the bloody way to Tiger Hill. With Sweat pouring off me I finally met up with Chen Rongmei who had telephoned 'Meimei' to come and help look for me. The two of them had apparently been driving all over the place looking for me. Hot and exhausted, the three of us sat down in a little cafe, under an air conditioner, and cooled off while we ate a very nice 'overpriced' lunch. After lunch the three of us did the tour of HuQiu, and while I really loved the place, the heat of the day combined with all that walking (before and during sightseeing) gave me an awful headache. All I wanted to do was rest. I even considered booking back into my hotel! See Also:Cycling Around Tiger Hill Area SuZhouandTiger Hill Additional Photographs
Hanshan Temple Suzhou by R.P. BenDedek Various Dates
This Stele is made of Shandong Jiaxiang Blue Stone, and composed of stele cap, stele body and stele pedestal. Its facade is engraved with Zhang Ji's (Tang Dynasty) poem To Moor at Night at the Maple Bridge inscribed by Yu Yue (Qing Dynasty); while the back is engraved with The Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra in Sanskrit) handwritted by Emperor Qianlong (Qing Dynasty).
Dr. Ben-Shahar made a statement to the effect that people need to understand that it is from the journey itself that we derive pleasure, not the destination. In order to find balance in life, people must stop and take time out to look at the day's events, and see the joy that was in it. Far too often we only reflect on flaws and failures, rather than on joys and successes. True happiness is found in the many small moments in our lives, and we have to remind ourselves daily of all the things we are grateful for and appreciate.
After following the pathway around the mountain we were faced with a choice of either a path downward or a trail upward. We chose the upward trail, and hoped to find something. After climbing over boulders and headed in the direction of some boys sitting atop one, we arrived at a spectacular viewpoint. We had an almost 360 degree view of Mudu. While we were marveling at the view before us, I heard a few voices off in the distance behind us. When I turned to look, I was surprised to find that there was a ridge there, completely jam packed with people taking in the 'better view.'
The Garden of Couple's Retreat. Located on the northeastern edge of the ancient city of SuZhou, the garden was first created in the early Qing period as a pleasure garden of Baoning Prefect Lu Jingzhi. In the 13th year of Tong ZhiReign (1874 AD), Shen Bingcheng, governor of Susongtai Region, acquired it and expanded it into the present scale.The park is located by one of the major canals on the North / East side of SuZhou. It is not far from the Old Water Gate, and right behind it is the SuZhou Zoo. I have been in YanCheng now for 6 months and no longer have a map of SuZhou from which to give precise directions. The entrance looks great from the overpass, but otherwise you wouldn't know it is there. I did take some photos of it at night when I was on the canal tour. That tour leaves from 'ShiLu' which is the 'small' walking street - not Guanqian Jie which is the big walking street.
Now I am not going to repeat the title here, but it showed a room in which plant roots are used to grow new plants. Unfortunately, whilst the caption may have been strictly correct in an Agricultural context, the words also constituted a very vulgar idiomatic expression in English. As the particular slide lit up on the big screen, there was an audible gasp from numerous people (including Chiara and I), followed by muted laughing and serious attempts by individuals not to break into hysterics.
Moving to Suzhou by R.P. BenDedek February 21, 2015 (2007 Magic City Article transferred to Kingscalendar)
I had been told many times that if I could be a successful teacher in Hubei, then I would find it so easy to teach elsewhere in China. I never understood what that meant, until I came here. These kids are a joy to teach, even though their English level is no better than the kids in Hubei. It really feels like I have been transported to a different country.
Traduzione di Chiara Braccagni: Nel 2005 mi sono trasferito a Wuhan da Hong Hu, in modo da poter insegnare inglese e allo stesso tempo imparare il cinese. Tuttavia, dopo due anni a Wuhan, avevo seguito solo un semestre di studio del cinese. Avevo accettato il lavoro di insegnante a Wuhan ad uno stipendio minore rispetto a quanto mi era stato offerto da altri istituti, in modo da mettere in pratica il cinese che impraravo in un dialetto che mi fosse familiare. Quando ho richiesto all'agenzia di trovarmi un nuovo lavoro per il 2007 ho messo in chiaro che lo stipendio era la mia priorita.' Sebbene il governo cinese avesse decretato che gli insegnanti stranieri potevano ritornare a casa in anticipo lo scorso semestre, cosi' da trascorrere il Natale con le loro famiglie (decisione resa possible dalle anticipate festivita' del capodanno cinese) la mia scuola non mi ha lasciato partire. Infatti, una clausola mi obbligava a rimanere a scuola fino all'ultimo giorno del mio contratto. E cosi' ho fatto (e sto ancora aspettando lo stipendio che mi devono).
I have to say it was a great honor to meet him, an honor that might have had more significance had I only known in which of the photo ops I actually did meet him. I'm guessing it was the guy who had both an English and Japanese translator trailing him.... Turning the camera on, I raised it and began to focus the lens. Just then a wave slapped against the side of the boat and my friends and I got drenched as water spurted up and in through the open window. By the time I recovered, wiped the lens dry, got the camera working, and focused, I had little time left to do a reasonable video, and no time at all to take any more still photographs.
I can say that the new computer cost me half of what I had expected to pay, and the money saved will almost pay for a special trip I'm planning to the other side of the country in October. We had our conversation on a Tuesday at about 11.45am at the end of March, and two days later on the Thursday, I picked up my brand new computer already loaded with all my programs. It also came with a gift of some high definition movies (Mr. Kang is able to provide 1500 HD Movies on an external hard drive.) If you are coming to Suzhou and you really NEED to buy a new computer, go talk to him. Maybe you just need some repairs - he'll fix you up. Maybe you want some High Definition Movies - he's the one to talk to. -and-Computer Repairs in SuZhou City Jiangsu Province Nov 7, 2011
I ran into Jian up at Shi Lu one night, just before the Americans left town. We had a long talk about the fact that he was wasting his life; that his parents really just wanted him to apply himself equally to Chinese and Math studies, as to his English Studies. When I left him, I thought that maybe he was finally going to go home. I spoke to him about the parable of the Prodigal Son and asked him to get the Americans to explain it
One of the things you often see in China, is people washing their clothes in the nearest body of water, and living by a canal makes it just so easy to wash your clothes. Whilst the location sounds ideal, given the rather 'shaky looking' foundations to the local domiciles, I'm not sure if I would feel particularly safe. And given our western concern to control every possible negative possibility in life, I doubt that anyone with kids would be allowed to live in such a place.I would take this opportunity to point out that if I actually lived in such a place, I doubt that I would be as friendly a resident as were these locals. Can you imagine people day in and day out looking in your back door; watching you wash your clothes; and constantly taking photos of you and waving? I'm pretty sure I know what type of gesture I would be returning.
They carefully explained that the ticket office is moved, and that I must 'go over there'! I looked at the guy, looked 'over there' and said: 'There's nothing @#$%^ over there!' He laughed and said: 'Come! I'll show you!' And he did. 'Over there' was a place a couple of hundred meters 'over there where they are digging' and you could get 'over there,' by a little walkway that they had prepared. Ah! I went back and got my bicycle and headed off to go 'over there,' but when I got 'over there,' I found myself on a main road, and had to ask a policemen where to go. Finally someone who could help me. He kindly pointed out that the ticket office was 'over there'!
It is uncertain what caused the following event, but something on the pylon hit one of the windows. The people in the immediate vicinity fled their seats, and as the ship continued reversing, the window buckled and smashed, sending shards of glass everywhere. One man received a cut to his arm, and while not bleeding profusely, nevertheless was bleeding. A young boy was covered in glass, and although unhurt, had to be deftly 'de-glassed.' I felt someone's hand on my back pocket. Always cautious, I was walking with my hands in my pockets, specifically to keep the cloth on the seat of my pants tight. I tightened my grip. When this did not seem to discourage the brazen (and inept) thief, I quickly sidestepped to the left, and left him both surprised and embarrassed. He dropped his head so I could not see his face, and quickly retracted the jacket that had covered his hand to conceal his actions. He disappeared quickly.
Between September 1st and October 5th quite a number of things have happened, not the least of which is that the city Sign has disappeared. Over a period of days I saw the sign being dismantled and had assumed that they were going to 'refresh' the place so to speak. One evening on my way home from visiting Judy, the traffic at the roundabout up from the school, was stopped. The road was blocked off with a rope, and a number of people in hard hats were running around. I had no idea as to what was going on and as there were only two of us left on the bus I decided to walk the rest of the way. A very officious 'hard hat' started signaling me to go back. A student ran up to me and warned me that it was dangerous to proceed.
We were also treated to a demonstration of 'Shaolin' arts. Not only did the performer put himself through the hoops (pardon the pun) but got Sam up to 'trip the lights fantastic!' When they called for volunteers to take part, Sam eagerly volunteered. Never ones to miss an opportunity to see a foreigner make a fool of himself, the Chinese MC readily accepted Sam's offer. The tiny performer took one look at him and said: 'Whoa! How heavy is he?' Just to see if he could do what he wanted, he picked Sam up in a bear hug. That was certainly entertaining. What Sam thought when the guy grabbed him front on and lifted him, I have no idea!
Since 2004 he has been writing academic articles, social commentaries and photographic 'Stories from China' both here at KingsCalendar, and formerly as a contributing columnist at Magic City Morning Star News (Maine USA) where from 2009 to 2015 he was Stand-in Editor. He currently has a column at iPatriot.com and teaches English to Business English and Flight Attendant College Students in Suzhou City Jiangsu Province People's Republic of China.)
BenDedek originally created the site to publicize his research results into the Chronology of Ancient Israel. Those results were published under the title: 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran.' Whilst there have been many attempts to solve the chronological riddle of the Bible's synchronisms of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah and their synchronism with other Ancient Near Eastern Nations, no other research is based on a simple mathematical formula which could, if it is incorrect, be disproved easily. To date, no one has been able to dismiss the mathematical results of this research.
Free to air Academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah. Check the Chapter Precis Page to see details of each chapter and to gain access to the Four Free to Air Chapters
(The Download book does not contain a section on Seder Olam)
Definition: King's Calendar Chronological Research
The Premise: Between the 5th and 3rd centuries BCE (but continuing down to at least 104 BCE), Sectarian redactors transcribed the legitimate 'solar year' chronological records of Israel and Judah, into an artificial form, with listed years as each comprised of 12 months of 4 weeks of 7 days, or 336 days per year, thus creating a 13th artificial year where 12 solar years existed.
When the Synchronous Chronological Data provided in the Books of Kings and Chronicles for the Divided Kingdom Period are measured in years of 336 days, the synchronisms actually align. [Refer to Appendix 5. to see how it synchronises the Divided Kingdom Period]