Now that I’ve finally arrived in Sichuan, it seems like a good time to launch this blog. I’ve been planning to start a new blog for a long time, but blogging takes a lot of space for reflection, and over the past few years reflection is the one thing that I’ve not had much room for. The dark satanic mills of UK university administration — performance management, the obsessive measurement of research outputs, mission statements, teaching evaluations — all take their toll on actual thinking. Sometimes it seems that moment you look like you about to start thinking, somebody shoves a bit of paperwork under your nose, to make sure that you don't. So when I was offered the chance of a post over here in China for a year, teaching and researching in the College of Literature and Journalism at Sichuan University, I thought that I’d grasp the opportunity, to see if the air for reflection is any clearer over here in smoggy Chengdu.
I stumbled off the plane yesterday, and found my way to the campus where I met with the charming Yang Peng, who has been put in charge of herding me for the first few days, and who has been doing a good job at making me welcome. I am now installed in my new apartment on campus, up on the twelfth floor (there’s a balcony with a nice view), and beginning to feel at home. Some time later this week, I’m off to buy a desk lamp and some other bits and pieces to make the place more liveable. But for the time being I’m just finding my bearings and getting to grips with being here.
Earlier this morning, woozy with jet-lag, I went to meet my new colleagues and to sign my contract. They all seem to be friendly and charming. We went through the contract and talked about what I might be doing this year. It is reassuring to realise that my Chinese, although rough at the edges (and pretty rough in the middle as well) can more or less survive swings in topic between discussing the signature of contracts, and the works of Gadamer. More or less.
As for what I’ll be doing here, my main duties will be a combination of some teaching — literary theory, creative writing and other things — and quite a lot of time for research. My administrative burden is light, and so I’m hoping that I’ll start to remember what it feels like to actually think. I’ve got a couple of projects in the works for the coming year. I’m not entirely sure where either of them are going, and things are very embryonic: one is more to do with writing and literature, and the other is more waywardly philosophical in nature. So when I’ve finished sorting out practical bits and pieces, I’ll be blogging more philosophically here — including saying something about the rationale for this new blog.
But for the time being, less philosophical issues are pressing upon me. Like, for example, where’s good to buy lunch. I’m off to have a forage.