dandong seafrontCurrently away in Dandong 丹东 doing a bit of sight-seeing and generally relaxing.  It’s good to go somewhere new and this place makes a welcome change, however if I thought Changchun was hot and humid then you have to come here!  It’s running at over 90% humidity – things just don’t dry – and the heat is constantly over 30C.  But this aside, it’s a very interesting place, somewhat poorer than Changchun yet considerably cleaner and less chaotic. 

The first thing that I noticed was the amount of bicycles on the streets and the lack of private cars; I could cross the street without having to dangerously weave in and out the oncoming traffic. 

The other thing was the bilingual signage, pretty much everything is in Korean first, Chinese second.  Of course this is because Dandong is on the North Korean frontier; only the yalu jiang separates it from the other side.

Anyway will write more later when I have more time, there is still much to see.  


I think living off campus, out in the community, is a much better way to see how things really operate. Living where I do now has enabled me to witness so many new sites that I
otherwise would have not seen.

Of course there are downs; getting woken up at 4am by the men cutting sheet metal or the guy upstairs who likes to play the trumpet, but the ups vastly outweigh them. It’s a good place to go outside and broaden your knowledge of other cultures and everyone wants to talk to me. Beyond the usual questions you can actually get some idea of how many of these people perceive foreigners and their beliefs, and some of the things I have heard are mind opening.

I don’t mean living in an upmarket, exclusive compound for the rich; though I have done this too and although very pleasant, it’s rather like being in legoland – distant and cut off from reality and I can understand why this is appealing.
Of course most foreigners live in such places or in specific buildings designated for foreigners only, and I think most westerners wouldn’t accept anything less in terms of a basic standard of accommodation, unless you have lived in China for a period of time and are accustomed to the conditions.

The government (and employers) encourage this is to protect the safety of the foreigners, as if anything happens to them the employer is vicariously liable.   But by doing this they inadvertently have created a situation where foreigners and Chinese dont mix.

Sure there are some unsafe places just like any other city but I think Changchun is significantly safer than London. I’ve heard stories of foreigners getting in fights and being hurt- but this is confined to drink related bar-brawls and this happens in any city, and is often to an extent, self-inflicted.
I think having an awareness of what is going on around you (understanding the basics of the language and the culture helps) – probably goes a long way to keeping yourself safe.
However, most people I know have had at least one phone stolen at some time or another. Petty theft and pick pocketing is a problem (as it is everywhere in China) especially so on public transport and in other public areas – but you just have to be vigilant. Also if you leave something somewhere, like forgetting to pick up your phone from the restaurant table, then it is gone. You won’t get it back. The same applies to taxis, shops, even classrooms.

When I get on a bus I adopt a common stance, I take my phone into one hand and move everything else into my other pocket and leave my hand in that pocket. Fortunately (touch wood) I’m yet to lose a phone, though someone took my keys (yes my keys!) when I left them on a table once.
Living on campus has it’s advantages in that work is convenient, I had only a 5 minute walk every morning, but keeping work separate from the rest your life is impossible.
I would find that students would ask me questions like ‘what were you doing last thursday night, I saw you walking past the library’ and other such nosy, but inquisitive questions
At first I thought that someone was following me, but I later came to realise that news spreads incredibly quickly when you are on a campus – everyone seems to know things about you and often they know things before you! Which is spooky, but you soon learn that you are the last person to know about anything that happens!

I used to think this was and example of the great Chinese eaves dropping network in operation, the idea of nothing being private. I actually believe it was more a case ‘Chinese Whispers’; the students having nothing else to do but speculate and spread rumour, and being the foreign teachers on campus makes you an interesting topic of conversation!
I sometimes got the feeling that my life was being watched, (It might well have been!)
as people would know things about my movements, but I never found out if this was true or not.


Most universities (all in Changchun) have special buildings for the Foreign Teachers to live in and these are subject to curfews (doors are locked!) which to me spells nothing but FIRE HAZARD. At least they don’t cut the power, like the Students halls.
The Chinese teachers also are expected to live in special accommodation on campus, but in recent years as home ownership has become more affordable, many can rent or live in their own place. And I don’t blame them, the Chinese Teachers’ accommodaton can be nothing more than a military style dormitory!

Film City 电影城

Added lots of new stuff to the photo gallery but you will have to quickly sign up to view them though – stops the spammers.

Had a busy few weeks and finally finished working last Sunday. I introduced the game Monopoly to the students and they loved it. Two of them even tried to buy it from me at the end of class! But I won’t sell, no way. You just can’t buy things like this in Changchun.

Took a trip down to the movie city (dian4 ying3 cheng2)on Red Flag Street the other day, if only to satisfy my own curiosity as I pass this place every day.

front of building

Well, I can tell you that a more appropriate translation would be ‘changchun film studios’ as that’s what it actually is! Just a large, red-brick glorified warehouse with a large statue of the Chairman outfront; nothing more to it.
The place is pretty old and dilapidated, a shadow of its former self, but nonetheless still quite an interesting place to visit – I managed to walk around the complex without
buying an entrance ticket (through luck more than judgment, I just happened to walk in the wrong way), and In hindsight i don’t think it’s worth an admission fee.inside the building

If you are interested in the history of Chinese film making, particularly some of the very early TV productions, then you may find this place a gold mine of information, but otherwise, miss it.

There is another place at the very edge if the city, with a similar name; Changchun Film Century City 长影世纪城 which is like a theme park based on films but It’s pretty expensive - over 100元 each. Might go there next week.

Perhaps something more worth seeing is the collection of old aeroplanes and military hardware stored in the courtyard.

Most of it is left over from WW2 and is Japanese or Russian made, also there’s an old Chinese fighter jet rusting away in the car park!

cannon old cannons jet

old plane old war-time plane


sleeping outside 

 Took this photo earlier today from my seat on the bus.  Not content with just opening the doors, this shopkeeper has gone one stage further by moving his bed and arm chair (see far left) out onto the pavement. 

Might consider doing this myself if it wasn’t that I lived on the 6th floor!  


As I sit on my bed typing this I feel really uncomfortably hot and sticky.  My apartment is disgustingly hot; the air is stale and humid. 

 The temperature during the summer in Changchun is consistently hot, it’s easy to predict, and even when it rains it still remains hot.  I think many people would consider the summer weather here perfect holiday weather-  It doesn’t drop much below 25°at night and seldom breaks 35°during the day, with nearly always blue skies.

 I have found out what it’s really like to live in a hot climate (Yes I know it isn’t that hot compared to the rest of China, but it’s still like living on the Mediterranean). It sounds great on paper; holidaying in the sunshine enjoying the warmth, but the reality of living with this everyday is actually rather miserable.  I find it difficult to cope with the hot weather – not least because there is no air-con here (I find myself walking around the expensive department stores that do have AC)  but it makes me really tired and lethargic and all I want to do is fall asleep.  But on the plus side it’s easy to know what to wear;  I have been wearing shorts and sandals since mid-May and will continue to do so until mid-September, then like flicking a switch, the weather turns. 

Changchun is geared up to cope with the cold winters, and many of the apartments are not designed to facilitate air flow or draughts flowing through.  Newer apartments are starting to deal with this problem and have larger windows that are designed with this in mind, but the older places (most of Changchun) are not.  And so I am baking.   

So having lived in  both extremes,  I actually believe it’s easier to travel and do things during the freezing winter than it is now,  and that is despite wearing 6 layers of clothes, gloves, hat, scarf etc…