净月潭 Jingyuetan

Spent most of yesterday at Jingyuetan 净月潭 to checkout the place during the summer months. I’ve been there many times during the winter, to go skiing and do other winter activities but haven’t really been there during the summer. It’s totally different, completely unrecognisable from the winter when the lake is frozen over and covered in snow.
It’s a big place, too big really to explore on foot so hiring a bike is a must. For me, what I liked most about this place, is that first times in ages I was somewhere where I could see no other people, hear no traffic noise and not breath fumes! Well worth it if only for this.
You’re meant to pay to go in, but as some local friends told me, don’t do this. 30 yuan is a little expensive, It’s much easier to find a well trodden path and climb through one of the many holes in the fence. 🙂

lake In terms of scenery it’s nice but compared to other places I have been not so spectacular, It’s a little like a poor man’s Scottish loch. It is man made, and designated a national forest park, apparently the largest man made forest in Asia. I can believe this as it stretches as far as the eye can see but you can still see cranes and construction going on in the distance.
It may be considered a national park but that doesn’t mean people can’t build here, it just means they have to pay off more people, and so even here there is construction of real estate going on. I hope that as the city develops, this area isn’t destroyed or over commercialised – like the rest of Changchun.

towerThere is one very strange looking tower perched on a hill in the park. It’s 11 floors high and looks like something out of star trek, very modern and alien looking – I was half expecting to see alien spaceships landing docking on the roof!
From here you can go to the top and get a very good vantage point over the lake and the city, cost 5 yuan but worth it.

What I like about China is that there are huge freedoms here to do what ever you please that do not exist in the UK, this may sound strange as many outside think China is not a free country. Compared to the UK, in terms of getting on with my life, doing what I want to do there is no contest. The state does not intervene with anything I do, It has a very hands off approach – Just don’t touch politics. On this strange tower there were a few people who climbed over a very low railing and were walking around the outside of the building. In the UK, if they fell and died, there would be all sorts of legal trouble – the owners of the building would prbably be liable despite the people clearly knowing what they were dong.

Here, the attitiude is more along the lines of using common sense. If you really want to risk your life, it’s your choice, If you hurt yourself it’s your fault for being idiots in the first place so don’t try and pin blame on somebody else!

The lake is much easier to get to than before, as that the light rail now goes all the waylight rail station there. The whole Jingyue zone is being rapidly developed, It’s changed so much since the last time I was down there. The local govenment has made the area an economic development zone, which basically means there are tax incentives for things to relocate out there. There’s so much construction, especially of apartments and houses for the super well-off. Some really nice places, though to realistically live out here you’d need your own transport – especially during the winter as it’s a good 40 mins from the centre of town.

In common with other cities in China, many of the universities in Changchun have also relocated out of town (to jingyue) where there is more space and room for expansion. They’re trying to create a ‘college town’ where all of the unis are close to one another, the idea being they can create a good environment for academia- the downside being there’s nothing much to do in terms of entertainment and it’s so far from anywhere.

I must change my number…

It’s one of those things about being in Changchun that sometimes you experience things that would never happen in other places.

If I was staying here longer, I think I’m at that stage where I need to change my number again!
I got woken up the other night several times by texts messages sent to my phone, telling me happy Father’s day! 😕 The Chinese have a special day for something practically every month, they range from Children’s day to Army day to Tree Planting Day, not to mention the various lunar holidays that also crop up. The days vary in importance, but there seems to be a special day for almost everyone at some time or another!

Then there’s the random people that call my phone for a few seconds then hang up, this is pretty common and annoying, though I guess it’s harmless. Previously I was a little worried about such things, being in red China, I thought It might be something to do with the authorities. But now I know this is of course totally wrong, it’s almost always people trying to make friends, or just being overly curious wanting to chat with a foreigner.

It proliferates to the point where I’m getting so many calls and messages from people I don’t even know. People who don’t know me. People whom have never even met me!

I get messages from people in other provinces, who say things like they would like to meet me – they got my number from a friend. Or from people wanting me to work in someplace the other side of the country, from people asking advice on all sorts of things that I really am not qualified to answer! 🙂 Often I can only say I honestly dont know. I’m sorry I can’t help you. And how did you get this number!!!!

This became such a problem for me that I actually changed my phone number once. The situation was that I think every person on the campus knew my number- how they got this I still don’t know, though I suspect someone in the department gave it out.
Now I’m very careful about whom I give my phone number to, previously I didn’t have such reservations as it is a good way of meeting new people and getting into other things, especially the friend of a friend job thing, making connections etc….

Overall though, It’s flattering in a way to recieve such attention and there is a part of me that enjoys it all, however, sometimes it becomes really annoying. For example, not wanting to answer the phone if you don’t know what the number is!

There are also other sorts of Chinese messages that get sent to me pretty often. People offering various interesting personal services, selling fake IDs/documents, the black market lottery, even selling guns!


I’ve finished giving mock job interviews to all of my students as part of their final exam, took two weeks, 202 in total! It’s been a good opportunity for them to get some experience as they really don’t know much about these things and also It gives me some useful knowledge, being the other side of the table for once. 🙂

I gave them the choice to choose their dream job, they had to arrange a time with me, sort it out themselves, those that didn’t do this will inevitably get a poor mark. Of all those interviewed, I would say that less than 10% would have actually got the job. I wasn’t being particuarly strict, it’s just most of them were pretty clueless and unable to sell themselves without jumping back to a memorised self introduction, that I explicity said was not allowed!

I’m teaching students in their 3rd year (out or 7) all of whom are studying to be doctors or dentists. Even though they are only about 2/3 years younger than me, they are very much still kids in many ways, quite immature, especially the boys who are more like 16 year olds. Don’t get me wrong, the students here are very hardworking, but they are compelled to do this, how much they actually learn is debatable. Sunday is their only day off, from 8-5 Monday to Friday they’re busy, Saturday is for practical experiments.Then there is my class which is in the evening.

So in all, over 40 hours a week of classroom time, not to mention homework! 🙁

I’ve taught at many different universities and my general observation is that the single biggest difference between the students here and at other universities is their provenance, not their ability.I would say totally, 85-90% of my students are from Changchun, most (if not all) have parents and or family relation that is a doctor or in the medical profession. Which will of course, in the future enable them to get a medical job upon graduation! Is this the same in the UK? Yes i’m sure it is but not quite to the same extent that it is in China.

Something I’ve noticed over the last year of teaching at this univerisity, is that students from smaller cities or towns, outside of the province almost always are better students. They are faster, more interested and much more likely to question things. One of my favourite techniques in the classroom to encourage debate, is to deliberately say a statement that will try to provoke a reaction; i.e something they disagree with – If only to get them to express their own opinions on things.

They are the few students that have the ability to critically analyse something, to use independent thought not just to blindly follow what other people think. I think this is partly due to their upbringing -because they have to have been very astute, motivated and diligent to have been able to have got this far – afterall the university entrace system blantently descrimates against those who don’t have access to the best high schools and thus the coaching for the crucial entrance exam.

However, more often than not in China, if you’re unfortunate to be born into poverty there basically is no chance whatsoever. Here you could be the next Motzart or Einstein but if you’re born into a poor family in the countryside you will probably never have the opportunity to show your talents. In this sense, It’s a nation of unfairness, a nation of real extremes, haves a have nots.

I think the big difference is that, for all its faults, in the west there you still have a chance, allbeit slim. Whether this is due to the education system, system of government, or the simple fact that the gap between rich and poor is not as big, I’m not so sure. 😕

Fortunately there are exceptions, take one of my students from a very small town in southern China, his dream to be a doctor. Or the Chinese korean students that are very, very quick. They have the added advantage of being trilingual – when you’ve already mastered two languages a third one is so much easier to grasp. The girl from a very remote part of northern China, bordering Russia, who brought up on a farm with no access to education as we know it – family used all of their savings (and borrow) to pay for her to go to high school and have a chance at getting into university.

On the other hand, the advantages to this system are that it preserves the status quo, keeps those rich people rich while allowing those who are not so poor a very limited shot. Which is what I think the system is trying to achieve i.e perpetuating the class system.

It’s sometimes easy being a foreigner looking at things in China, from my comfortable postion things may seem interesting or curious where in reality they are tough and not really very nice. I just wonder what I would be like if I was Chinese, born into such an environment, where the best and brightest or the richest and most lucky want to go abroad and most likely not return permananty.


hot!Rather suddenly it’s got really hot, too hot actually, can’t do anything without sweating buckets and/or getting fried – going outside is a chaw. I’m lucky though, as my apartment is air conditioned because it can be miserable living in a place that has little or no ventilation – especially during the summer months.

Being so far inland means that the weather stays pretty contant during this time of the year, but it also means you don’t have the advantage of a fresh sea breeze so at times the air gets a little dusty.

Short Trip

ghengis khan's homeBack from a short trip to see Ghengis Kahn’s 成吉思汗 hometown, was interesting but not a place I would travel to again. There just isn’t anything left of what used to be here and it’s just very hard to imagine what things would have been like many years ago when this was the centre of one of the most expansive empires there ever was.

The buildings that were once here have gone, there is now a temple sandy landscapebuilt in its place, and to be direct, once you’ve seen a temple you’ve seen them all. The town itself, 呼兰浩特 Helanhete, could be any small Chinese city. Non descript, bland and like a thousand other places in China- bereft of any originality. Also couldn’t find any Mongolian food and compared to Changchun prices were a little more than expected. At least I can say I’ve to Mongolia, allbeit Inner Mongolia which is now part of the PRC of course.
If I could use one word to describe things I would say ‘neglected’.

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我去内蒙古呼兰浩特看成吉思汗的故乡。 但是那个地方和我想像中的不一样。 只剩下了一点点的文化古迹。

我们在呼兰浩特吃羊肉串和啤酒。 那个地方的士是小面包真有意思啊, 然后我们去了齐齐哈尔。 在齐齐哈尔那天晚上我们刚进旅店就下起了大雨。 我们顶大雨去超市

第二天回家因为我有课。 如果我有时间我想往北走的更远些


我住在长春两年多可是有那么多的地方我还没有去过。 这个是在吉塔照的照片,登上吉塔看长春觉得长春非常小。