State of the Blog; Plans and happenings, present and future

Posted in Announcements at 4:10 pm by Benjamin Ross

Hello readers.  It’s been a while since I’ve done a “state of the blog” post, and although I generally try not to convolute this blog with my own personal affairs, it’s been over two months since the last post, so I figured an update was necessary.

Being as I spent three months in Beijing last summer, this summer was my first to actually spend in Chicago.  Halfway through the summer, I also realized that it had been six years (since the summer after I graduated college) that I had actually spent a summer on American soil.  With that in mind, my goal for the past four months was to stay in one place and travel as little as possible, something I haven’t done much of since the last millennium.  Whenever possible I’ve been spending my free time exploring Chicago much in the same sense that I explore a new Chinese city whenever I first arrive:  taking public transportation to a random part of town, disembarking, exploring on foot, and sampling any strange foods which may appear along the way.  Chicago is one of the most diverse places on the planet, and my previous experience of living abroad for 3 years has served to engender in me a new found appreciation for vast depository of the world cultures which exist in the United States.

On the work front, I am still interpreting, primarily in the healthcare field, but I’m also starting to get some court gigs as well.  Interpreting has forced me to push my Chinese studies into directions I had not previously tendered with while living in China…for example thoroughly describing the process of a colonoscopy or a vaginal tissue biopsy.  Another pleasant effect is that my Chinese level has actually improved since I’ve repatriated rather than the typical attrition which comes along with not using language skills on a daily basis.

Recently, I’ve also begun a side gig as a consultant and translator for Lenovo’s soon to be rolled out design blog.  I’m going to be working with the Beijing team on brainstorming, idea management, and translating the blog into English for the international audience.  If budgets work out, I’ll hopefully also be spending a little bit of time in Beijing at some point over the next few months.

The biggest news however is that I am currently in the process of applying to Ph. D programs in sociology.  I am hoping to focus my graduate studies on the rapid urbanization of China and the incipient urban centers which are flaring up all across the country.  More specifically, some of the issues I’d like to address include urban growth patterns, suburbanization, ghettoization, social class, and migration as they relate to China’s rapid movement from an agrarian to an urban society.  I have always intended on continuing my ethnography work with Chinese migrant workers (and Chinese barbershops), and have decided a Ph. D program in sociology is the best venue in which to carry out these pursuits.

With all this going on, my blog has been noticeably lagging.  Suffice it to say, it is not easy to procure content for a blog titled “A Midwesterner in the Middle Kingdom” when in fact the author is not in the Middle Kingdom.  Therefore I have opted to change the title to the more appropriate “A Midwesterner ON the Middle Kingdom.”  However, one aspect of China with which I am becoming increasingly familiar in Chicago is the Chinese American experience.  I have been spending a fair amount of time in Chinatown and have been becoming reasonably well acquainted with various aspects of the large Chinese community here, and hope to interject some of these findings and observations into blog posts in the near future.

With all that in mind, I am looking forward to a busy fall, and hopefully a nice little shot in the arm for “A Midwesterner On the Middle Kingdom.”  Thanks to everybody who has continued reading and look forward to more content to come.


  1. mary United States said,

    October 18, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    Hi Ben,

    I’m a long-timer lurker but this talk of Chicago and grad has lured me out. I was just in Chicago for my first wedding anniversary this weekend. Crappy weather but definitely an awesome city. Good luck with your graduate school plans. I took a great Chinese soc class in college with Deborah Davis. I remember her being very knowledgeable, but also very kind and warm. You should definitely look her up as a potential adviser.

  2. Shi China said,

    October 19, 2009 at 11:33 am

    So, I came across your blog one day because I wanted to see if anyone has been blogging or writing about my hometown of Fuzhou, or more accurately, my hometown of Chang Le. I haven’t read through your whole blog yet, but I def see that you know alot about Fuzhou. We should chat and exchange our ideas of Fuzhou, of Chang Le. Of the Fujianese in America and in China. This topic fascinates me like none-other, but how many actually knows about this story? the story behind the ppl who cooks their Pork Fried Rice everyday? Being the daughter of a first generation Fujianese who came to America more than 10 years ago and coming back to Fujian for the first time 4 years ago has widened my views of my ppl, my hometown and of my family.

  3. Benjamin Ross United States said,

    October 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm


    Glad you had a nice time in Chicago. I just looked up Deborah Davis and am going to contact her. Thanks for the tip.


    I spent a year and a half in Fuqing and a year in a half in Fuzhou, so I tend to give a lot of attention to the region in my bloggings. I’d be glad to chat about Fuzhou sometime. My skype is bendross and my QQ is 601394592. If you don’t have either skype or QQ, we could probably find some other way to connect.

    There’s actually a really interesting book about Fuzhou which just came out this summer called “The Snakehead.” More specifically, it’s about the immigration racket between Fuzhou and New York City and the greater US. I wrote a review on it a few months back that you can read here if you like.


    I’d definitely recommend the book to anybody interested in Fuzhou.

  4. Anqi Dai United States said,

    October 23, 2009 at 3:42 am

    I am glad you are back!
    Anqi , Kansas City, Missouri

  5. Gil United States said,

    October 24, 2009 at 8:40 pm


    Thanks for the update, and best of luck with the new gigs (academic & otherwise).


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