Images From My Morning Walk

I’ve started walking in the mornings again.  For the past couple weeks, I’d  go out one or two mornings a week and just walk in a random direction.  Not only do I get some exercise, but I explore the city a little and see what’s out there.  Yesterday, for instance, I found a small street with an Italian restaurant, a German restaurant, and a pizza joint.   I also found out that if you go all the way to the end of the riverside park, getting back to the road is a bit… interesting.  I was essentially walking through people’s driveways in the poorest part of the city I’ve ever seen.  So… no more going that far in the park.

On the 22nd, I walked 9.6km (6 mi).  Yesterday was 8.8km ( 5.5 mi).

Today I took a shorter version of the same walk; only 7km (4.3 mi).  I was exploring a different way to get out of the park I was in yesterday.  I’d like to do about 10km (6 mi) every morning.  I’m still working out the route that will get me to that point, but I’m definitely going to keep going through Riverside Park.   I’ll take my good camera one of these days when it’s not cloudy and foggy to get some good photos, but for today I pulled out my old cell phone and got the photos below (I use it as a GPS device now, it’s got a program for tracking my walks, telling me speed, calories burned, etc.).

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Turkey Day

Yes, we celebrated Thanksgiving here.

One of the American teachers invited other staff and students to his  house for Thanksgiving dinner.    We had turkey (of course!), mashed potatoes, bread, vegetables, and… I don’t know what else, because I got there late and it was all gone.  🙂

click to enlarge
click to enlarge

The New Me

Dragon Fire Heart
Dragon Fire Heart

So…  One thing I left out of my last update…

The new company I’m working for is focused on language training for businesses.  They are not just focused on teaching English to Chinese people.   They have classes to teach English, German, and Japanese (there are many foreign companies in Taicang). Those, however, are all directed at Chinese people who want to learn a foreign language.

The other thing they do is to teach foreigners how to speak Chinese.

I have started taking classes to learn Chinese.  I’ve done a lot of studying on my own, but dictionaries only go so far.   Learning a language really requires help from someone who knows the language.   I’ve only had 2 classes so far, but I’m learning a lot.

Whenever we get a new student in an English class, one of the first things we do is ask them to choose an English name. This is typical for all foreign-language classes (I was “Martín” in Lucho’s Spanish Class).  So.. I had to choose a Chinese name.  This has been an ongoing issue with me.  I have wanted to have a Chinese name for a while.  It’s polite, and helps to connect with the students and those who don’t speak English.

Here There Be Dragons

A former student suggested “dragon”.   The dragon is a respected figure in mythology, representing authority (such as emperors).  There’s one problem, however.  The Chinese word for “dragon” is “long”.

I just could not, with a straight face, say “Hi.  I’m Long”.  The sexual connotations of the name are lost on (most of) the Chinese, but I still couldn’t do it.


Everyone here knows me as “Blaze”, so I asked about names involving “fire”.  I asked… What about “fire dragon” (huo long)?  A coworker of mine laughed and said  “No.  Huo long gua”.    That means “dragon fruit”.

Okay… I didn’t want to be named for a fruit.  I’ve met people here named “Cherry” and :Chili Pepper” and “Banana” and even “Potato”.  I didn’t want to be “that fruit guy”.


When I was talking with the staff of my new company about this, they said I should choose both a “first name”[1] and a “family name”.  I did some thinking and finally asked if “Long” would be okay as a family name.  They said it’s uncommon, but acceptable.  And for a “first name”[1] I asked if “fire heart” would be okay.  It basically means “passion” (in English), and is close to the historical meaning of “Blaze” as a name.  They said it’s not a “true” Chinese name, but good enough for a foreigner.

The New Me

So… I now have my official Chinese name.  I am Long Huo Shin (龙火心) — “Fire Heart of the Dragon Family”.

[1] In China, like most of Asia, they list their family name first and their given name last.  So what we call a “first name” is actually the “last name” in China.  For example:  I would be Miskulin Marty John, and our president would be Obama Barak Husein.


Major Changes

Look, Dad! Move-a-dirts!

Yes, I’m still alive.

A lot has happened over the past 2 months, and keeping this blog up-to-date hasn’t been on the top of my list.


First  of all, I got fired.  I won’t go into details here, but the school got some new management and became more focused on “following the new plan” than serving their clients’ needs.  I put a lot of effort into making sure the clients’ (students’) needs were being met.  I didn’t spend my time filing reports and “speaking with the company’s mouth”.  So, of course, I got fired.


I’m going to avoid talking about details in public.  Suffice it to say that changing jobs in China is complicated, and the job you left has alot of power over what happens  to you next.

The Long Wait

I was fired just before a week-long national holiday.  The paperwork I needed didn’t come until the day before the holiday started.  I needed a 30-day visitor visa in order to stay in the country.  The holiday ate up a week of it. The processing time ate up almost another week.

New Employment

During all of this, I was talking with a new company that wanted to hire me.  They helped me through all of the various hassles (too long and complex to list here) required to get legal work.  Technically, I ended up working illegally for them for a couple weeks.

I’ve always been sympathetic to illegal aliens who work valid jobs in America, but I have  a completely new appreciation of what they go through.  I suggest that anyone who says “they should just come here legally” go to another country and see how difficult that actually is.

New Digs

I spent 3 weeks staying with another American teacher, until I could get my own place. Now I’m living in a new city now.  Taicang is a more modern city than Kunshan, but smaller.  I have a tiny apartment all to myself.

There’s more stuff to talk about, but for now,  I’m going to leave it.