Tag Archives: Chengdu

Sichuan Earthquake 2013

22 Apr

My old hometown of Chengdu was rattled badly on Saturday with a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was to the west in Ya’an, which sustained the worst damage. They’re reporting over 200 deaths, 12,000 injuries, and an estimated 100,000 people have been left homeless.

 chengdu earthquake mapMap via GoChengdoo


This is the same province that was hit by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people, many of them schoolchildren. The reduction in the mortality rate this time around has been credited to an aggressive earthquake safety program enacted by the government.



21 Nov

While in the UK, I managed to head up north for a few days to see some friends of mine from China. You might remember Kate from that trip to the Leshan Buddha? University of Newcastle had sent three students to Sichuan University at the same time I was studying there, and I figured that I should go say hi, seeing as we were in the same country and all. Besides, I thought it would be nice to see more of England than just London.

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Chengdu: A Retrospective

15 Jun

I leave Chengdu tomorrow. My bags are (mostly) packed, my train ticket bought, and I leave with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

It’s been a long year here. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I was rather disappointed and depressed during my time here. While I met a lot of really cool people and learned a lot of new things, it never quite balanced out the miserable weather and Kafka-esque graduate program.

The scholarship that brought me here was a really nice opportunity, but it didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped. Instead of this being the first year of a masters, I spent a whole lot of time knitting. My classes were a joke, and it’s hard to motivate yourself to learn another insane language when you feel no real pressure to. My progress in Chinese stalled out and then plummeted. The only real bright spots were hanging out with an awesome group of kids, forays out of Chengdu proper, and watching a ton of DVDs.

I am grateful, in my own little way, that I got to come back over to China. This year off gave me the perspective necessary to realize that, no, I really don’t want to go to grad school right now. I really don’t want to continue living in China. And I really don’t want to continue with Chinese.

It sucks, since that’s what I got my degree in, but hey. Now I know and I can move on and do something different.

Life is all about the journey, right? You gotta take the good with the bad. This year wasn’t ideal, sure, but that’s life. And hey – I got to see baby pandas, Sydney, Jiuzhaigou, Bangkok, Leshan, and a whole bunch more of China than this time last year. So it wasn’t all terrible.

I don’t want to leave this on a downer note, so here are some random highlights from my last year here in Chengdu.



So long, Chengdu.



Zebra Music Festival

2 May

I went to another music festival this week. China being communist and all, we had a long weekend for May Day. Some people went on trips to locales near and far, but I stayed in town and hung out with friends. And, of course, rocked out.

Music fests here are half-picnic, half-concert. The whole ambiance is basically everyone sitting around, drinking beer and hanging out with friends, and very occasionally going over to the stage and partying. I went with my buddies Kate and Cecelia, and we ended up hanging out with a larger crowd of Cecelia’s friends.

Sitting around and drinking beer.

The tickets were thankfully cheaper than advertised – 80 kuai instead of 120 – and so we split the difference on Budweiser and baozi. The baozi was terrible. Clearly, I’ve been in China too long if the Budweiser actually tasted good.

Enjoying the sun. 

Also enjoying the gorgeously sunny day.  Kate won those speakers by being the best at a DDR-wannabe game at the Red Bull tent.

If it seems like the music was a little secondary to our outing, well, that’s because it was. I mean, yes, some of the bands were good. I wholeheartedly recommend seeing the French band Nasser if they’re ever in town. But the rest of it? Ehhh. It was more about the day in the park than the music.

Nasser’s set. Notice what everyone else in the crowd is doing? Answer: NOT DANCING. Lame.

Some Taiwanese boyband. It was, uh, choreographed well?

The end of the night.



Food Friday: Kaffestugan

27 Apr

My favorite cafe in Chengdu by far is Kaffestugan. It’s a cheery little cafe just out of little north gate. The entire shop is well lit and bright, the crowd is usually pleasant, and they have free wifi Plus, the coffee is fantastic.

A nice vanilla latte.

Kaffestugan is run by a pair of Swedish/Korean expats, so the place is very foreigner-friendly. The menu is in English and Chinese, and the food is straight up Swedish. This is a good thing because oh my god this stuff is delicious. They have a lot of Swedish delicacies, but I mostly go for anything with salmon in it because I am starving for seafood.

I spent a fair amount of time here back in November writing for NaNo. The bagel with cream cheese and lox is a nice snack.

 An open-face salmon sandwich. Mmmm.

I usually save Kaffestugan for a bit of a treat. A coffee isn’t too expensive – a cup will run you about 25 kuai, plus cheap re-fills. They have other excellent drinks, like a hot cocoa that is probably the best I’ve tasted outside of the Ghiradelli factory coffee shop in San Francisco. Cakes and other sweets are about 20 kuai a plate.

Huge cup of hot chocolate.

Apple Cake. Spongy, with just the right amount of cinnamon. The vanilla ice cream doesn’t hurt, either!

The one and only downside is the location. Kaffestugan is on the third floor, above a number of Chinese shaokao and hot pot restaurants. This means that the smoke from all these little individual barbecues starts to rise around dinnertime. It gets downright smoky inside the cafe by eight or nine and has driven me out once or twice. But Kaffestugan is a fun place to spend an afternoon and I highly recommend you visit if you’re in the area.

Chengdu Spring

23 Apr

 Well, after the longest winter ever*, it is most definitely spring. No longer must I wear five layers and coat, my leggings are firmly relegated back to the bottom of my drawers, and any scarf that I put on is firmly for aesthetic purposes only.


The local flora and fauna** seems to agree. After months of depressing gray, Chengdu is downright pretty this time of year. Sunny, occasional blue skies, warm temperate weather. This is the sort of weather that encourages people to pack up and move house. Of course, this is a cruel, cruel trick, given what the weather here is like the other eleven months of the year. But frankly, I’m enjoying Chengdu’s decent four weeks of weather while it lasts. And I swear to Odin, I actually smelled night-blooming jasmine the other day. It’s a miracle, I tell you.

Behold: greenery. And flowers! I have never been so happy to see flowers in my life.***

Okay, technically this was part of the razed community garden. But still, flowers!

A flowering tree over by the cafeteria.

I think we have these flowers in NY, actually.

The fenced-in field by the dorms.

A close up of the flowers just outside the dorm gates.

Magnolia flowers, I think?

*Not actually hyperbole; even long-time Chengdu residents were appalled at how long winter lingered on. Like a bad cold.

**Well, I’m not sure about the fauna. I haven’t seen much in the way of wildlife here outside the zoos, just stray cats and dogs, and rats. Oh, and bats.

***Somewhere in Vegas, my grandma is extremely happy for no apparent reason.

I’m Back!

13 Feb

Well, everyone, I’m back. How’ve you been? It’s been a long and busy month for me. My Dad visited. I went to Australia with my Mom. There was even a side-trip into Thailand, due to the vagaries of fate and space available airline travel as my overnight layover in Bangkok turned into a four day visit. Yeah. Wasn’t planning that one, but hey. And then, in order to get home, I had to buy a ticket on China Southern from Bangkok to Guangzhou, leading to the pressing question after I landed, “So, uh, where exactly am I? Is Guangzhou the city or the province? Maybe I should look at a map. Yeah, that would be a good idea.” Turns out that Guangzhou is in the south-east of China, just north of Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and was originally known to the West as Canton. The more you know. (Don’t give me that look. I was tired and desperate to get out of Bangkok by that point.)

For the next two weeks or so, my posts will be mostly travel centered, so if you have a pathological fear of, oh say wombats, now’s the time to click away. (And really, wombats? We’re no longer friends, internet-land stranger.)

As for right now, how about some more panda photos, courtesy of the trip Dad and I took to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Reserve last month? Since it was rather chilly out (in the low 40s, I think), the pandas were exceptionally chipper and active. Protip: go to the zoo in the cool weather and drizzles, people. The animals are way more interesting when they aren’t lying there, wishing for air conditioning.

Here’s a medium-sized one, nomming on bamboo.

This little guy kept trying to climb up the rope upside down. It was too cute for words. 

These three were pacing in circles around the entrances to the cages.  The little one kept bugging her big sister.

This was one of the fully grown males they had on site.  Very big dude, but they get fed quite well here.

You know, for someone whose only natural predator is the very
nearly extinct snow leopard, you’d think red pandas wouldn’t be so rare.

As Dad and I were wandering around the zoo, we heard a bird call.  Specifically, we heard Kevin’s birdcall, from “Up“.  Since I had just watched the movie, I freaked out.  It took a while for us to realize that the call we were hearing was a peacock (left center) wooing his lovely peahen (upper right).  You clever Pixar animators, you.