Three years ago this month, I was living in the international student dorms at Yangzhou University, Yangzhou, China. By the time June hit, I had been in a selection of other Chinese cities for three weeks, and so I had adjusted to the country and its food. A bit of the novelty had worn off, and those of us who were on the joint program felt like old pros when our anxious classmates showed up weary with travel fatigue and looking to sustain their picky diets. My roommate Stacey even bought some additional clothing from a Chinese store, whose clerk complained publicly of the difficulty in fitting her size (and she was about 5'4," much shorter than me...). We had our favorite tea thermoses, knew our favorite dishes to order at restaurants, and were thrilled to finally have internet access hooked up in our dorm rooms (which had not been the case for the first part of the trip, in Zhengzhou). We stocked our bookcases with the snacks we'd tried out and approved by this time.
The city itself is much smaller than Zhengzhou, our previous locale, with half as many residents, and the university is nestled right in the middle of everything, so we could just wander around and explore. Again, this had not been the case in Zhengzhou because the university's newly-built campus was positioned far outside the city, requiring a twenty-minute cab ride, and with limited language skills, there were only so many places we could tell the driver to go without getting totally lost. In Yangzhou, I loved the way I could walk through campus, out into the city, across to my favorite noodle shop or to the park where people actually roller skated in the outdoor roller rink. There was charm in this city that I hadn't seen yet elsewhere in China, and didn't really see again. (Although Suzhou was a contender, with its misty and romantic traditional gardens--and its TGI Friday's). Since we stayed there a full four weeks, it felt like a home, a community to which I belonged, for however short a time. I can only imagine the additional joy and engagement had I been better at speaking Chinese. Guess that's what the next trip will be for.
This month, I will honor the city with some of my favorite pictures from my time there. Most will have stories, but some may not. All will be representative of my experience there, of my perceptions as an outsider.