Monday, August 8, 2011


I’m in Shenzhen. It’s pretty cool. I’ve started work. I have some interesting administration-related assignments, and I have to help the summer program students with English and with information about the USA.

I’ve spent most of the weekend wandering about the city to get my bearings, and settling in. Thus, I’ll give a quick rundown of what’s been happening here since I arrived.


Shenzhen is a bit of a strange city. It’s like Detroit, LA, Shanghai and Hong Kong all had a baby together.
Thirty years ago, Shenzhen was a collection of motley villages. Then Deng Xiaoping made this area, on the Hong Kong-Mainland border, into a free trade zone, and industry and investment bloomed. Now it’s a city of 9-10 million.

Downtown Shenzhen: Corporate wet-dream
Like Hong Kong, it’s very hilly. This is the view from my room, to give you an idea.

I'm reasonably far from the CBD (more details below). That mountain is 750m tall.
The city is massively cleaned up at the moment for the Universiade – sort of a college-student Olympic Games. I might be attending one of the soccer games with my colleagues next week.

Shenzhen is also a giant exhibit of China’s growing social inequalities. It is the wealthiest city in the country by per capita GDP, but there’s a very big divide between the haves and the have-nots. 

A janitor in a building downtown (it's standard janitor dress here), riding her bike by a very expensive car. Importing cars like that into China cost US$50,000 in tax alone. I think that car costs twice that.
It’s not historical, like Beijing or Shanghai, but it’s pretty interesting. On Sunday I’m going to go to a 600-year old temple by the sea.


I’m working on Peking University’s satellite campus here in Shenzhen. Peking University is the UChicago of China, if you will: prestigious, nerdy and very academic. The satellite campus here is for graduate students, the law school/think tank I’m working for is centered here. The campus itself is located in what can only be described as a city of graduate campuses, about 15 kilometers north of the Hong Kong border. It’s pretty impressive.

I’m staying in a dorm-apartment. I have a common room, a bedroom, a balcony, and a bathroom. It’s pretty nice, although I’m next to a construction site. I’ll have a roommate in the other bedroom at the end of August. He’s a professor.

My bedroom. Yes, my bed is unmade. 

I’m having more trouble than on past trips to China with getting used to the air here. I’ve had to use my inhaler a few times. I’m taking medicine, but even then it’s really hard to get used to it. I think I still need a few more days.

Tonight is Tisha B’Av – though I’m not fasting, I did ask to skip the first welcome dinner for the summer program’s students – I’d feel bad going to a big banquet on Tisha B’Av. I’ll just do prayers in my room tonight. My view of the day is really liberal and even a bit New Age-y, but I’m still going to follow the tradition as I see fit. Tisha B'Av is not necessarily a day just for mourning the five things the old-school interpretation cites, but also a day for mourning modern tragedies.

I’m going to post a bit about my work and about religion here on Wednesday or Thursday. Saturday I’m going to go check out Macau and see a friend.

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