What I believe to be one of the best places to view Shanghai from above is the Lupu Bridge Climb. Originally built as a tourist stop during the 2010 World Expo for views over the Expo ground it remains in operation but for most intents and purposes is a forgotten destination. Most signs and displays at the “Climb” entrance echo the Expo, but once you find yourself atop the bridge on a clear day the city really opens up and provides a dramatic view. How it differs from popular observation decks in Pudong (Jin Mao and the World Finance Center) is that it is completely open air including the climb. What I also find of interest is that the views of Shanghai are a bit different from the standard Shanghai skyline photos seen all over the web. On a really clear day the landmarks of Pudong can be seen in the distance while the China Expo Pavilion is at the bridge’s feet. The other common view are really dramatic but the Lupu Bridge just offers a different perspective. The only down side I see is that the bridge closes just before sundown so no night photography, which would be awesome.
Here are some recent snaps from atop the Lupu Bridge, including some panoramas. Enjoy!
Here are a couple of quick shots of flowers during a recent walk and bike ride around Century Park in Shanghai. I’ve always avoided the park on the weekends but during the week the park is very empty. The pigeon house is unique and worth checking out. You know you are in the right area when you begin to hear this massive warbling. This area proves a third use for umbrellas in China: rain, sun, and now bird bombs. The 10 RMB entry fee is kinda ridiculous and bike rentals are way overpriced but the overall atmosphere of the place makes is good for portrait photos and picnics. Soon you will forget all about the entry fee.
Thought I would share what I have been experiencing over the past week. Thirteen stories down and eight hundred meters toward the river is a fairly large apartment construction site. It’s a normal construction the majority of the time, but last week they brought in the noise with cement hammers to break up a temporary on site road. For a week, from 7 AM until 6 PM, the ratt-a-tatt-tatt of those machines reigned over the neighborhood. On Friday I stuck my camera out the window for about a half hour, capturing 600 images, to bring you this short 20 second time-lapse clip. I hope you enjoy it more than I have.
NOTE: the audio is a reenactment.
Youku below (quality not as good as YouTube, but available in China)
In this video we travel around the Puxi side of China. The tour begins at Peoples Square facing the Nanjing Walking Street and makes a quick loop around the square before heading out towards the Huangpu River where we catch a glimpse of the Pearl TV Tower. After a daring u-turn we travel down the extent of the Bund before we take another u-turn and travel through Old Town near the Yu Gardens. Finally we head back towards People’s Square through Xintiandi.
I have been working on a larger project recently involving time-lapse photography. There is still a lot of shooting and work to be done but here is a little teaser. Let me know what you think.
YouTube version above.
Youku version below.
Last weekend brought to town the first major outdoor summer music festivals here in Shanghai. The MIDI Music Festival took place in the southeast corner of Century Park, which provided great access to us metro riders. Was not able to make it over on Saturday as my day was booked solid with baseball practice and a playoff basketball game but was able to sneak over for the afternoon and evening sets on Sunday. The festival included two stages; a smaller electronic stage close to a sponsor organization interaction area and a main rock stage settled in front of a Tiger Beer VIP Pavilion and Jägermeister inflatable party house. As one walked between the two stages there was a smattering of folks hawking goods from small gas masks (in line with the festivals PM 2.5 air quality awareness program) to eye shades to personal festival sized shade tents. The festival grounds were very easy to navigate and a perfect fit for the crowd size. It was easy to scope out an area and find a spot among the picnicers.
Due to the late start on the day I only saw two Chinese bands (Brain Failure and Hao Yun), UK’s Little Fish, and a festival French outfit named La Souris Deglingue. Overall the music was not the best but the weather and festival atmosphere was perfect for a recovering live music fiend living in China.
Here are a few snaps from the day.
Something of great interest to me is how cultures/people experience and interpret items from a much different place. Take for instance sport, in Japan the live baseball game is basically the same as in the United States, but the trained eye will see minor nuances in the ceremony around the action on the field. It is within these slight changes that a person can actually undergo a whole new experience from something they thought so familiar. The same is true for music. A sound or style can be created in a far off land, yet when it reaches new populations this new culture will interpret it with a new filter. This is where something interesting happens and for those willing and interested to partake the freshness of the experience is extant.
This weekend Rock Tiger served up some delicious Rockabilly music with a dash of Korean energy and flare to satiate a hungry Shanghai crowd.
What is a Rock Tiger you say? Well let me show you.
Being my first year in Shanghai I am not too sure of the seasons but what I gather is spring is April/May, monsoon season is May/June, a terribly hot summer follows during July/August and a pleasant fall in September/October. More evidence of a short spring is that all the music festivals are crammed into two - three weekends here at the end of April. The inclusion of experiencing a Chinese music festival is totally filling up my weekend schedule between baseball practice, basketball (our team made the playoffs), general walking around, walking backward (a popular exercise with China’s elderly), metro rides, and fried dumpling eating. In spite of all the ballyhoo I was able to walk about and snap some photos of the Shanghai Spring. Enjoy.
I was going through some older photos and realized I had yet to post any photos from the top tourist destination in Wuhan, the Yellow Crane tower. During one of my last weekends in Wuhan I visited the refurbed grand tower which sits upon Snake “Mountain”. The tower is a tourist spot, with a bunch of little kitch shops inside selling miniature replicas of the tower and Mr. Miagi rhythm drums, but overall not a bad way to spend a nice afternoon.
Between the Yellow Crane Tower and the Yangtze River is the Hu Bu Xiang snack street. Which I have posted about here. Pop out the other end of Hu Bu Xiang and you will find yourself at the base of the First Bridge and the great Yangtze River. Following are some images of this colossal structure designed by the Soviet Union.
With spring comes baseball, even in Shanghai. The sports field at East China Normal University (ECNU) is packed with activities and teams during the weekend. On a typical Sunday the field holds an American Football team practice, a cricket game, a Taiwanese Baseball Club practice, the ECNU Baseball Club practice and a Shanghai Baseball Club. Couple this with the nearby basketball courts and the random soccer play and there are balls flying around the complex. Here is a little sneak peak at some of the action. Would have liked to take more snaps but was busy pitching for one side of the intrasquad game. More to come in the following months.
You can say a lot of negative things about Wuhan’s pollution, traffic congestion, and weather but when it comes to street snack food it ranks up there with the best. The crown jewel of the Wuhan street snack food has to be at Hu Bu Xiang Snack Street. This little street, the length of half a standard block and the width of two people at times, is all part of the tourist experience of Wuhan and will probably be featured in any travel writing about the city. I figure Wuhan only offers about one, maybe two days worth of standard tourist excitement and this is a perennial destination. Because of its central location, transportation options, proximity to the Three Gorges area and lack of most things interesting, Wuhan is basically a pit-stop for most travelers. If Anthony Bordain was to film an episode of Layover here he would basically spend his first morning by walking up to view Yellow Crane Tower from the street (no real reason to pay admission and go inside) so the video crew could grab their b-roll, walk a few meters to the famous Hu Bu Xiang snack street for an assortment of goodies, spend the day at Wuhan University or East Lake (China’s largest urban lake), and take in a music show at Vox followed by more street food at a night market and more drinks at ex-pat / local hangout Wuhan Prison. You could consume the next 24-hours basically by sleeping in and trying to take a bus from one side of the city to the other, which I’ve been told could take upwards of six hours.
Let’s not get hung up on the faults of Wuhan, and instead partake in the greasy goodness it has to offer. Anybody will tell you Wuhan is known for its breakfast street food, and in my opinion Hu Bu Xiang is the epicenter of the magic. Yes there are plenty of fantastic noodle and re-gan mian (hot dry noodle) shops all over town. But, even if locals say Hu Bu is not what it used to be, there is no better collection of street food energy in Wuhan than this little strip just east of the Yangtze River. They say it’s breakfast food but go there anytime during the day and you will not be disappointed.
Some snaps from my last visit.
Spent some time in Shenzhen over the Chinese New Year and was intrigued about these amusement parks featuring miniatures from all over the world. There are two major parks featuring these minis: Windows of the World showcasing famous icons from around the globe and Splendid Village highlighting Chinese landmarks. The original plan was to see Windows of the World but upon arrival I was more interested in China showing China than randoms from all over. And to see both is not too difficult, there is a monorail joining the two, plus other touristy places I declines to visit.
Splendid Village is basically split into two areas: on the left are the minis and adjacent is China Folk Culture Village. The Folk Village is a maze of domiciles and local living environments reproduced to reflect the many ethnic groups of China. Most of the place was a ghost town, especially the Folk Village, as everyone was preparing for the Chinese New Year the following day. The lack of people makes it easier to take the photos I wanted and is one of the reasons I like to visit Chinese Tourist attractions over the Chinese New Year. Below are some snaps from the visit.
For more photos visit here.
A popular route for Wuhan expats replenishing their visa is the high-speed train from Wuhan to Guangzhou, bus transfer to Shenzhen, and walk across the border to Hong Kong. Last Chinese New Year was spent up north (Beijing and Harbin), this year I took my second trip south to Shenzhen/Hong Kong.
The high-speed train process is pretty easy and I would say a much better travel experience than any modern day commercial air service can provide. You arrive at the station just a half hour till boarding (buy you 250 RMB ticket in advance or at the station if it is not a heavy travel day). Yes that is about $40 for the four hour 625 mile trip. There is no major security line, no baggage fees (actually you get to keep all you bags with you, and you can bring on all the water and/or cup noodle (hot water available on the train) you want. The ride is smooth and scenic. The only complaints anyone could have is the mass crowding to get onto the train (typical of any Chinese mainland transportation) or the strange smells from others food choices.
If one is continuing on to Hong Kong from Guangzhou all you need to do is take a 75 RMB train or 50 RMB ($8) bus to Shenzhen. The bus takes about one hour but has been very empty both times I’ve taken this option. Once in Shenzhen, depending where you are, just take the subway to one of the border crossing and walk on over to Hong Kong. Entry points take around one half hour to cross (depending on traffic that day) and another half hour subway ride into Kowloon or Causeway Bay.
Here are some quick snaps (some from my phone) of the high-speed train ride.
I have been busy in China taking care of many things, some of which come fully feathered. Check out my latest companions at the salad bar. These guys were extremely suspicious of the clicking camera and would not go near the roughage with the camera nearby. So I tried a few different locations until finally they began to hammer away at the greens. Luckily this timed out perfectly with the Muppets audio.
This is my first real attempt at time lapse but I hope to do more in the near future. Just looking for those perfect scenes… here in China they should not be hard to find.
Prize to those who can think of the best name for these chickens.
Below is the Youku version for all those in China without access to YouTube.
This time last year I was spending my time at the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education. The fairly large university (7,000+ students) located in the capitol city of Hubei Province, China is dedicated to sports training and sports education. Students can major in basketball, ping-pong, dance, journalism, business, English and many other fields. The majority of the students study sports which makes for a pocket of larger sized Chinese. I can walk around Wuhan and be noticeably taller than most people, but here on campus I comfortably fit in with the sizable student body. The school is also host to China’s national rowing team and some young gymnasts in training. Let me tell you, these guys are all about quantity when it comes to training. The crew team is up with the sun and trains all day. Even the “universities basketball team” (which I cannot really figure out because they never play other teams, only inter-squad) runs and scrimmages all day. From my viewpoint they could really conduct a more effective and efficient practice, but I understand this is the way they like to do it China. In all sports in all levels, the theory is to get better you just train harder, not necessarily smarter. Obviously it has produced some good results in international competition (the school has training many Olympic gold metal winner, including Yang Wei) but it seems there are better ways. It was interesting to see how vastly different their basketball practices are compared to what I remember. In China the team practices together instead of doing individual drills. Most drills just seem to be a type of war of attrition, running up and down the court until you are completely exhausted. General wisdom would say this actually produces and practices poor technique, as the athletes tire, but they seem to just bulldog through it.
Anyway, I had fun playing basketball with the students and by the end of my time there I was getting my game senses back and was able to shoot a little better (it had probably been about eight years since I played a game before coming to China) and they taught me a fair amount of Chinese profanities. At the beginning of summer I filmed a walking tour of campus, which I will attach below. The video is way too long for one download so I cut them into three segments. I know the camera is really shaky and not the best quality, but it might be interesting to some of you to see the campus of a Chinese sports university. It has only been a few months since this video was shot, but by the time you view it the campus will have changed a lot. That is the way things are in Chinese cities nowadays. Cranes are up everywhere and the old cities are being erased while a new image is being penciled in its place.
Can you see these videos? Leave me a comment, I think there might be a problem.
Here is the Youku version (not as high resolution) because YouTube does not like my music choice and has disabled the audio.
HERE is a link to Part 2 of 3 Youku version for all you Chinese viewers without access to Youtube.
HERE is a link to Part 3 of 3 Youku version for all you Chinese viewers without access to Youtube.
And some photos.
Stop number one on most tourist trips to Beijing… the Forbidden City. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is located almost smack-dab in the middle of the Middle Kingdom’s capitol city. Usually the place is crawling with tourists but during the Spring Festival holiday most locals, and Chinese tourists, return home. This creates a relatively good nice opportunity to take in some of the sites without the swarms of tourists who flock here on most weekends.
Give yourself a few hours to walk around the grounds, the place is massive. If you are toting a camera I suggest an additional hour. And if you have the extra time stay longer to explore the nooks and crannies. Trust me, it will be worth it.
It’s been a long time since my last post. Too long. Too busy.
Even now I only have a little time to post some photos from the Spring Festival trip to Beijing. Here are some of my favorites from Tiananmen Square. Over the following week(s) I will post some more photos from Beijing. Do enjoy!
This week we had a surprise snow here in Wuhan. In my opinion the winter has been relatively mild. I say that now, but I did have a minor case of frostbite on my thumb through December and January. This sort of thing is pretty common here because it does get rather cold (many days below freezing) and most building do not have insulation nor good heating, my apartment being one of those places. So I developed a little red bump below the knuckle which quickly grew to cover most of my thumb. The healing process begins when it begins to itch like crazy. My entire thumb began to itch and and peel while in Harbin and Beijing. Sure Harbin and Beijing are much colder outside. But inside most places have radiators and stay quite snug. I could wear only jeans and a shirt inside and be totally fine. In Wuhan I creep around the house in thick quilted pajamas with a Chanel and metal chain design. They are pretty ghetto and pretty awesome, plus they keep me super warm and make me feel like one of the locals. People have told me they call this the mahjong suit because old men wear this all night while playing mahjong with the neighbors. Me… I call it my everyday suit. Too bad it did not come with a thumb mitt to protect my big digit. This reminds me (sorry about the tangent), yesterday I was walking around and this older man was wearing ear mittens. Not ear muffs, ear mittens. They only covered his ears. At first I thought it could have been some cosplay thing. But they guy was too old and conservatively dress so I dismissed the idea. But they did look like some kind of costume bear ears or something he grabbed from his teenage daughter.
I digress. Back to the reason for the post. I just wanted you to see a little snow here in Wuhan. It will probably be our last for the season as the temperatures are starting to creep upward. So here you go…
Here is a video from the Harbin (China) Ice and Snow World. The park is quite amazing. All structures are made completely of ice from the Songhua River in Harbin. The crowds come at night when they turn on the lights. Some buildings resemble famous Chinese sites, while others are fairly random. This year they had a windmill, a whale, and plenty of slides. There is even a zip line and bungee ride. All free with paid admission.
Keep watching and you can ride down the slide with me.
All apologies for the music choice. It’s not my personal choice but fitting because the park had this song on repeat for most of the night. It was ingrained into my memory of this place.
Below is the Youku version for fans in China.
Have you ever tried to buy a train ticket out of China’s capitol city during Spring Festival? I have.
Have you ever been on a bus for more than 12 hours? I have.
Have you ever been so cold that your nose started bleeding? I have.
Why do I ask these questions? Because they set the groundwork for my trip to Harbin.
My goal was to get to Harbin for their much lauded Ice and Snow sculptures/festivals/worlds and what not. And while in the neighborhood, I could stop by Beijing during the Chinese New Year. See… flying from Wuhan to Harbin was going to be expensive… something like $450 USD and did not provide the flexibility of stopping in Beijing on the way up to and back from Harbin. Flying from Wuhan to Beijing is super cheap… something like $70 USD each way. So I can get to Beijing no problem. But what about Harbin?
Plane tickets were too much out of the capital. So I was willing to resort to the standard Chinese mode of New Year transportation, the train. We’ve all seen images of people herded into train platforms and cars on the news in the west. We’ve seen people sitting on luggage and climbing in and out of windows to beat the long queues for the doors. Luckily, or not, I avoided this whole scene. No I did not buy a first class train ticket (SOLD OUT), no I did not buy a ticket for a hard or soft sleeper (SOLD OUT), no I did not buy a standing room only ticket (which seems to never sell out - these are the scenes you see of people jammed onto trains like toes into a shoe two sizes too small - I was actually too scared to gamble with the standing room only ticket for a nine hour train ride). Of course you don’t have to “stand” with the standing ticket, you can buy one of these little folding chairs for sale all around the station for about a buck. The legs look to be made from paint stirs and seat of three thin colorful seat belt straps. So, somewhat reluctantly, I had to walk away from the “standing” ticket and my Chinese New Year train experience. And walk right into my Chinese New Year bus experience.
You might be thinking the bus station is a seedy place, and the outside environs and the people kinda were. But once inside it was actually fairly well ordered and clean (by Chinese transportation standards) and even better than the train station. I even saw my first Subway sandwich shop in the bus station and treated myself to a deli club. You see… “standing” train tickets are super cheap. This attracts the derelicts of derelicts. But bus tickets around the New Year were selling for the same price as air tickets. Sure the flight takes two hours, the train nine and the bus fourteen. But an overnight train or bus can save a night’s hotel cost. And when pinching pennies as I was it mattered. So I broke it down like this: the plane is the expensive quick option (tickets were super high and a hotel would be required on the other end), “standing” train tickets were cheap with the potential to be extremely uncomfortable for nine hours, the bus was moderately priced (saving the expense of a hotel night) and moderately comfortable (you had a seat assignment but did have the potential of smokers on board) and moderately safe (well maybe not… this is basically Siberian-like roads in a bus for fourteen hours). Ultimately I was at the bus station, they had tickets available and I wanted to get to Harbin as soon as possible. I was on a bus leaving Beijing at four o’clock. Or at least that is what I thought.
Actually the four o’clock bus boards at four an just sits outside for about an hour before it actually leaves. And remember those seat assignments? Total bullocks. Seating was first come first serve. AKA don’t get stuck in the back row. Not sure why we are waiting so long. Bus reps come on the bus and count and check our tickets a few time. Passengers get antsy and try to get off to use the rest room. I eat my Subway sandwich. So the four o’clock bus leaves at five (just in time for Beijing rush hour, though it was not as hellish as advertised). At this point the sun has set and there is no scenery and everyone has decided not to use their reading lights (I think Chinese people fear reading while in anything moving or maybe just reading itself) and we sit in total darkness for the first two hours.
As we reach the outskirts of town the bus stops for gas and everybody gets off for the restroom, food and smokes (of the forty mean on the bus it seems like fifty of them smoke - yes I know the math and logic is off, it’s all for effect). All aboard and we are rolling back down the highway. This time we have some entertainment. No not just the guys on the bus eating boiled eggs and drinking baijiu, but the bus entertainment system has some to life and is showing a 1980s Hong Kong comedy about gambling and ghosts. From this I learn that Chinese zombies like to jump and bounce instead of walk and you can wear a talisman (or piece of paper with some characters written on it) hanging down from your forehead to keep away evil spirits. The film had some good laughs and was well received by the passengers. Not so well received were the next two entertainment choices.
First, they tried to show the same movie again. The people moaned and complained. Before a protest was organized the entertainment box went silent. Then after an hour or so it sparked back to life with a new film. This time the choice was a French thriller about mice taking over the Paris after city employees went on strike and refused to clean away the garbage. The movie began with little in the way of conversation, we just followed a mouse around the city from his viewpoint. The bus seemed to be slightly entertained, especially during the gratuitous girls’ locker room shower scene. The story was easy enough to follow in the beginning but soon the plot needed to advance and the actors began to speak. Speak in French they did, with English subtitles only. The movie tried to advance the plot even further by bringing in some scientific explanation to situation. This the passengers could not take any longer. The bus grew restless and lost total interest in the movie. I, an advanced English reader compared to others around me, was completely uninterested in the film after the locker scene. So I could imagine the others discouragement. By the time I returned to the bus at the next gas/smoke stop the movie was turned off and never to be heard from again. I thought maybe they would try the gambling ghost comedy again but they thought better of it. The rest of the night would be uneventful with an occasional passenger filling the enclosed area with his smoking habit and the temperature swinging from swamp ass hot to first degree frost bite growing on my thumb.
By six in the morning the bus was illuminated in a cold winter morning blue. We pulled the curtains open but the windows where covered in a layer of ice a few millimeters thick. Makeshift ice scrappers made from bottle tops and transportation cards were soon scratching at the windows to make peepholes to see the sun break.
The bus made one more stop to let people stretch their legs and bladders. But I think it was more of an opportunity for the bus drivers to coordinate a rendezvous point with some van drivers on the other end. It seems the lucky spot was somewhere not exactly in Harbin and not exactly in the middle of nowhere, but closer to nowhere than to Harbin. So when the bus pulled into “Harbin” we stopped on the side of the road, where conveniently there were some small vans offering rides into the city. The bus population hurried off and split into different directions. Some went towards the vans others the opposite direction. I stepped off the bus, looked left and looked right. And that was about the last thing I saw.
As soon as I jumped off the bus I realized this is the coldest I’ve ever been. I pulled my scarf up over my mouth and nose to protect my lungs and face from the icy morning air. This resulted in a rush of warm air breathing up under my glasses creating a fog which quickly froze. This resulted in a lack of vision and further disoriented me. But I had seen enough. I did not want to go with the tourists into the overpriced vans. So I went in the direction of those who looked more local heading into the other direction. There was a large red rolling luggage I could still see through my icy glasses. The ground was also a solid sheet of ice and packed snow. Slippery and dangerous under my boots. I needed my vision back so I removed the scarf from my face and cleared the ice from my glasses. The decision to follow the “locals” was accurate enough to find a bus stop which headed to town. Most Harbin buses lack a heater so the windows are covered in a think layer of ice, making it impossible to see outside. The floor has a wet black oily look to it which makes it tricky to talk and dirty as hell if it gets on your pants. The same black oily liquid can be found in taxi cabs and under your shoes when they thaw in the hotel room.
As he bus arrived into downtown I knew I had to get warm. So I stopped at the first sign of something warm and familiar. KFC (as it often does for foreign travelers) served as the right place. I went to the washroom to check my vitals and to see if everything was still attached (I had not felt my hands, feet or face for the last hour). The mirror showed that my nose was not only runny but also bleeding. Yes, it was so cold that it caused my nose to bleed. With blood smeared under my nose I looked like Grover Dill from the Christmas Story after Ralphie has beat his face. I laughed and cleaned up my appearance. After a hot soy milk drink and a pork tortilla pocket thingy I was ready to explore Harbin.
Over the next couple of days I was able to adjust fairly well to the cold and visited some really cool places: the Harbin Ice and Snow World, a snow sculpture park with pieces as big as football fields, underground Russian restaurants and a Siberian Tiger Park to name a few.
Today I leave you with photos from the main destination motivation for the trip… the Harbin Ice and Snow World.
Not far from my place is a “National Park” called Moshan “Mountain”. Notice the use of parentheses here? Think of them as indications of my skepticism of their contents.
First, “National Park”. Many signs inside the park are written only with Chinese characters. Some of these signs have an official looking logo stamped and painted into them. The logo looks very similar to that of the US National Park system and the English on the Chinese version even states that this is a “National Park of China”. While very scenic for an urban setting like Wuhan, I’m not sure Moshan has, in my opinion, what it takes to be stamped as an official National Park. At first I thought it was just another Chinese rouge. Upon some further investigation I found that it is more a first degree National Park and not in itself a national park.
Moshan is a member of a family of “National Parks” under the East Lake National Park title (aka Wuhan Donghu National Park). I’m not really sure what constitutes a “National Park” and what does not. For instance, is the free public swimming area in East Lake a National Park? How about the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education (yes, WIPE)? It is located on East Lake. Not sure? Neither am I. While the scenery is nice, it does fall a little short of such a grand title. But Moshan has the signs to prove it.
The second use of parentheses has to do with the title “Mountain”. The title Moshan Mountain sounds odd to me for two reasons. First, the name Moshan (磨山) implies mountain. Shan (山) is the pronunciation for mountain. So Moshan Mountain is like saying Mo Mountain Mountain. But I have seen it referred to as Moshan Mountain in a few places and I even find myself calling it Moshan Moutain. My acceptance must be because in China you often hear the same thing repeated twice. Many nicknames are just the same word repeated (bao bao - means baby and is also the name of my neighbor’s cat) or doubling a word for emphasis is a popular practice (yi dian dian - means only very little of something). So when I first physically saw Moshan “Mountain” I thought to myself, “I want to see more mountain mountain”, or Mo Mountain Mountain if your from the city. See my reasoning?
Let’s get back to the characters making up Moshan (磨山). See the shan (山)? It kinda looks like a mountain. But 山 is very very liberally used in China. It can represent something the size of a pitchers mound to a base camp in Nepal (see how I refrain from using the T word to keep sensors at bay) (see how I spelled sensors with an s to keep sensors at bay) (see how I just want to put in another parenthetical statement). So if the Chinese are going to liberally use some thing like the word mountain, one of mother nature’s greatest creations, then it’s easy to slap the National Park title on every Tom, Dick and Harry Hill in the land.
The park was was a nice day out and a good way to get away from the hum of the city. Below are a few more photos from the day.
I just published the below article on Sports Business Digest (where I sometimes post) and because it’s just too fun a topic that I had to post it again.
A recent Wall Street Journal essay by Amy Chua titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” has created quite a stir. Spinoff articles and editorial reactions have popped up on NPR and other news outlets over the past week. It seems everyone has an opinion about the topic. Comments on the article have reached over 6,500 and continue to grow. They range from the annoyed casual reader to the ever present anonymous racist commenteur, the now guilt ridden insecure American mom who didn’t do enough to the agreeing throngs of Chinese bandwagon riders, and a number of finger pointers beget finger pointers.
For those who have not read the article let me break it down: according to Mrs. Chua, raising children the “Chinese way” requires parents to enforce punishingly hard work and expect nothing but the best in return from the child. In other words, if children do not excel at school then there is a problem and parents were not doing their job. Anything short of straight A marks or a gold medal is simply not tolerated. Below is an excerpt from here article.
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun.
As I continued to read the commentary surrounding this topic I began to think that a big difference between the “Chinese Parent” model described by Mrs. Chua and the “Western Parent” is that the West prefers to hire out this role of disciplined enforcer. Home is designed to be safe zone, a retreat from the punishing outside world. For children, discipline, hard work, and perseverance are learned and practiced on the playing fields and at camps and educational institutions. Coaches and teachers have been assigned the role of “Chinese Parent” while the “Western Parent” plays a complicated balancing act of mentor/advisor/supporter/enforcer.
The more I read and thought about it the more I shaped the opinion that it is not so much the technique that produces the result as much as it is the talent and knowledge of the participants. Sure Mrs. Chua has a daughter playing piano at Carnegie Hall. She also probably had access to some pretty valuable resources. Finding a piano teacher around Yale, where she teaches, is probably not too difficult. There are numerous examples of sports families cranking out elite athletes (Manning in football, Andretti in auto sports, Boone in baseball, and Gracie in MMA). What do these “sport families” have in common? They have access to the highest level of sport education which is reinforced with practice and they have witnessed first-hand that success was possible.
As it does so many times, to the point of cliché, sport mirrors real life. How we develop our children is in part the same as developing athletes. Our ability to offer the best opportunity for success is contingent on providing adequate resources to gain the necessary knowledge, reinforce what is learned with focused discipline and work ethic, and belief that success is attainable. Failure to execute in any of these three categories would seriously jeopardize the opportunity.
The current debate is misguided. It is not so much which method produces the better result but more about what we value. In certain circles the ends justify the means. In others the journey is the prize. Some groups are hungry for the opportunities available today and they are not about to miss their chance while others are sitting around fat on their past laurels. Our cultural background plays an important role in shaping these views and as our complex world continues to rub up against each other we will continue to have such debates.
As we rush to find the quickest way to success, whether it’s a seat in the London Symphony Orchestra or qualifying for the Olympic team, I just hope it produces a world that is entertaining to observe. I have a good feeling I won’t be disappointed.
Yesterday I took a few photos wondering around Wuhan University. By night I told myself that I’ll return during the next snow. I didn’t have to wait long…. today we had or second snow of the season. I thought I might as well get out while I can, even though I suspect it won’t be out last. It was also a good test to be out in the cold. In less than a month I’ll be up in Beijing and Harbin (for the ice and snow festival). Should be extremely cold and extremely cool (if you catch what I’m saying).
Happy New Year to all you celebrating!
A few weekends ago I joined my Wuhan University (武汉大学) Baseball Club teammates for a good old fashioned game of ball. We are actually a baseball club, organized by the students, but the only game in town is softball with some local Japanese auto manufacturer teams. We gathered at the main gate of Wuhan University around 6:30 AM and traveled to another university (Wuhan has about 35 of these things) out in the burbs for an 8:30 AM start time. The schedule had us playing two games before lunch and two games following.
The first game was basically a disaster. Poor defense and a dew covered field had us mounting up a laundry list of errors while their scoreboard looked like a jackpot. After the first inning we were basically out of the game. Game Two we tied, I think. It wasn’t until the third game that I noticed there was a scoreboard. The first game I just knew we didn’t win. In Game Three we continued playing solid defense and the bats came alive. It finished as a decisive win against a team wearing the Japanese Hanshin Tiger’s uniform. Our final game wound up being a rematch of the first morning game and a great contest… winner taking third place in the five team tournament. Since that fiasco in the morning, we made a 180 degree improvement and solid pitching and defense held the other team scoreless in the first four innings. As the intensity grew so did the size of the crowd. The game on the other end of the field had finished, bringing their players and fans over to ours, and some local soccer teams, who had the field after us, crowded around to watch our game. Our offense responded to the crowd with a bevy of runs in the forth inning (games where only five innings in length). We headed into the final inning with a mountain of momentum, a six run cushion and the bottom of their line-up due to the plate. Recipe for a great finish to the day, right? Well… their bats started connecting and our defense started to crumble. They put a few runners on base and our team was shook. Instead of concentrating on getting one out at a time we began dropping balls and worrying about lead runners. A few hits later and our moment of restoring pride in Wuhan Univ baseball was washed away. When the third out was finally made the score read 7-6… bad guys. Instead of being fueled with anger from the events from the top of the inning our bats looked more like wet noodles. You could see it happen before it actually did. Three up… three down and third place was no more.
So the day was sandwiched between two terrible innings: the first of Game One and the last of Game Four. And in the game of baseball that is just enough to swing the whole day in the other direction, yet so little to make hard to shake from your mind. But actually the meat of the “sandwich” was pretty tasty. Some big pluses to take away from the day was how our defense and hitting improved in the latter games. With such a young and inexperienced team it was a good learning experience and challenge to face at the end of the day. And for me it was just good to get out and fell the sun, smell the glove, feel ball connect with bat, and run around the bases.
Here is a video collection from the games.
YouTube video with soundtrack removed by YouTube. If you can match up the YouTube and Youku versions you can watch the better quality YouTube video with the Youku soundtrack. Special points if you can guess the first song.
Youku Video containing complete audio soundtrack (for my Chinese viewers).
A few weeks ago I needed to make the Hong Kong visa trip. Like many expats working legally (yes there are a number of people working/English teaching in China illegally) I had to make a run to Hong Kong to convert my travel visa to a working visa. See… you cannot just mosey on down to the local Public Security Bureau or Consulate to change you visa. You have to officially exit the country and return with the correct paperwork completed.
So instead of boarding a plane I decided to take advantage of Wuhan’s new $2.2M train station and take the bullet train on down to Guangzhou South Station, bus to Guangzhou East, train to Shenzhen and then walk across the border to Hong Kong. Sounds easy right? Right?
The new Wuhan Train Station is big, impress and empty. Sorry no photos… it was like 6AM and my camera was secretly and securely packed away. Once inside there was quick stop at one of the few shops for some cup noodle (all the water fountain areas in China’s train stations and airports have convenient little machines dispensing hot or super hot water for you tea , noodles or you confusion). The announcements for the train arrival began. Because I was there (the only white person in the station) the poor girl giving the announcements had to use her poor English to repeat the announcement. I think I understood more of the Chinese version. Soon the train cars where sparsely full of passengers. Not the images I have seen of Chinese trains (most of which I believe are over dramatic visuals of holiday travel). So I chose a seat on my favorite side (today West, as the sun would be pouring into the windows on the other side). We zoomed along, passing small villages and farmers who probably cursed the damn train for splitting their acreage. We made a stop in a neighboring Province. A few folks and a lot more people boarded. One of the new passengers approached my aisle and motioned that he wanted my seat. Sure he did… it was a damn good seat (no sun, clean window free from hair oil smears, decorated with my drink and snacks). But he insisted and handed me his ticket. Yes I see… your ticket is a different color (blue). But mine is red and this is China. Red always wins. After quickly reviewing his ticket I realize he had a seat assignment… my seat. And now I realize my ticket also had a seat assignment. The print on my ticket was off track (text over text, characters over characters) but sure enough I had a seat on the East side of the train. So I gathered my things and moved east.
The remainder of the trip was uneventful and soon we arrived in Guangzhou (home of the Asian Games this November and an NBA game Rockets vs. Nets in October). My poor Chinese language skills were enough to get me a $2 bus ticket to Guangzhou East, which is where the train for Shenzhen departs. This is more than I can say for me return trip as I could not for the life of me find the bus from Guangzhou East to South, which ended up costing me about $30 (all my cash) for a cab to travel the same distance.
The rest of the journey to Hong Kong was pretty simple. The border crossing in Shenzhen was basically a big shopping area. Much nicer on the Hong Kong side of course. Once in Hong Kong I purchased a subway token with my Canadian (left over from the Olympics and which the Chinese banks would not take because someone wrote “Ben” on it) money exchanged and headed towards the bay.
My hotel was the YMCA Hong Kong, not your standard YMCA hostel, near the subway and near great view of the harbor. This is the perfect hotel in a great location at a great price (about $95 a night) for first time tourists. Check out the reviews on TripAdvisors, its top notch.
The visa switching process was a matter of taking a number, filling out some paperwork, paying extra money for expedited service and returning in two days (next day if you want to pay even more) to pick up the new visa. Over the next couple days I did some sightseeing, visiting about every night market in Hong Kong, walked the many hills of Hong Kong Island, ate some good food, explored a real English language book store for hours (we don’t have this kind of thing in Wuhan) and took some pictures of the amazing harbor.
Soon enough I was back in Wuhan eating noodles.