Cheap rentals for non-locals

Shenqiaocun (沈桥村) on the edge of Suzhou is a little town caught between two highways. I like the scenery, but Eva doesn’t. We ask a guy who walks passed us what life is like: “外地人多,偷东西呀” (Lots of non-local people, steal stuff.) Lots of the house owners don’t live here anymore and rent their houses to […]

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Locked down and out again

Before getting off work last Tuesday, I was informed we have a close contact in our building and that we need to be locked down again. So I immediately bought some fresh food, and brought coffee & books from the office (as many things as I could carry), because although our compound says we just […]

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Disappearing Yangpu

Foreigners often lament the loss of old areas in Shanghai (or anywhere in China) — most notably Laoximen — but we do so with a luxury that many Chinese people don’t have. We’d like these old buildings to stay around for us to look at and understand better the China of old, and perhaps the […]

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Three smoking sticks in my hand

Recently, my friend’s mom has been gravely ill, so last Saturday I decided to burn some incense at a temple, thirty kilometers outside of Suzhou (太平禅寺 in Taiping Town). And all the time while doing this, I wasn’t sure whether I actually believed this works, but I also wasn’t sure whether that mattered or not. […]

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How to know whether you’ve found a good language teacher

I’ve done over 600 class hours learning Mandarin Chinese, the vast majority with teachers from GoEast, but also with several from other schools, freelance teachers, or simply Chinese people functioning as teacher but without the proper education for it. Throughout these lessons, I’ve been making notes about my learning observations and my relationship with teachers. […]

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River Town review

Before moving to Shanghai in 2018, I went through a dozen books about China to prepare myself. Several of those books belonged to the genre of ‘Westerners in China who write a book about their friends’, such as ‘Street of Eternal Happiness’ (Rob Schmitz), ‘Wish Lanterns’ (Alec Ash), and ‘Young China’ (Zak Dychtwald). It’s an […]

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Healing

This week, I removed all antigen test photos from my phone. For over two months, we had to do self-tests and share them in the building’s WeChat group, and cleansing my phone of them felt almost therapeutical. It’s not just our phones that are healing, so are we. Now we have our freedom back for […]

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Long distance calls while looking out of the window

I haven’t traveled to the Netherlands now for almost 3 years, hindered by 1) insane flight ticket prices 2) two or three weeks of quarantine 3) insecurity of whether I can make it back to China if I get covid abroad. Compared to if I’d be living in the Netherlands, of course this influences my […]

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A jar of stones, sand & water

There’s this famous anecdote of a professor who fills a glass with rocks, pebbles, then with sand, and then adds water, and there’s some life lesson in that. Well, I think Shanghai is such a jar as well. Everything is decomposed on the ladder of wealth. On the top people are buying mansions and supercars […]

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Buying poultry

An old guy says: “The top one, give me a big one. No no no, the one to the left”, to which an old lady yells: “C’mon it’s all the same.” The next person wants half a roasted duck: “A small one please”, but when the staff shows a tiny duck she’s: “No no no […]

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