Snapshots from Xi’ an

May 14, 2010 § 2 Comments

I had a week off for Qing Ming festival, and spent it in Xi’ an, otherwise known as the home of the Terra-cotta warriors. Because I can have anti-social tendencies, I did not go with anyone that I know. The intention being that I could use some quiet alone time to do some writing and soul searching. Instead, on the train, I just so luckily happened to bunk with three very rowdy girls who liked to talk about boys and shopping. And lets be real, I am so not above talking about boys and shopping. So much for the writing and soul searching. I spent the week exploring Xi’ an, and getting to know three very dynamic individuals. Here are some photos from the trip. Hope you enjoy!

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What the Stark Expo and China’s World Expo Have in Common

May 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Stark Expo

China's World Expo, opening ceremony

There is a scene in Iron Man 2 that only my friend (and fellow American) Leila and I seemed to chuckle at. “Pepper” Potts was scolding Tony Stark for wasting time and money on the Starks Expo, a year-long event showcasing Stark’s technological innovations—or as Pepper calls it, an extension of Iron Man’s ego. Watching the movie from here in Shanghai, the domain of the World Expo, the irony is hard to miss.

Here are some news and perspectives on the World Expo selected by yours truly:

  • Adam Minter, author of the blog Shanghai Scrap, describes the Expo as, “a sprawling 5 square kilometer metaphor for China’s soft power initiative and ambitions.” [Sinica]
  • For people unfamiliar with the Expo, a short Q+A about what it is, and why it’s taking place in Shanghai [Reuters]
  • The Expo in photos [The Big Picture]
  • NPR reporter accuses Shanghai World Expo mascot of being a plagiarized version of Gumby [China Hush
  • Shady financial dealings shadow the US Pavilion [Shanghai Scrap]

Boy crisis? No job too big for the Hardy Boys, says Kristof

April 1, 2010 § 1 Comment

There’s a crisis in boys’ education, and the Hardy boys can solve it, according to the New York Time’s Nicholas Kristof.

In a recent column, Kristof argues that it is so passé to fuss over girls’ lack of advancement in mathematics; instead, the new and most pressing gender gap issue in education is the boy crisis. In recent years, girls have pulled ahead of boys in reading in every state, according to a new report by the Center on Education Policy.
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Snapshots from Xi Tang

March 24, 2010 § 3 Comments

I took a day trip to Xi Tang, a water town south of the Yangtze River. Nine river converges in Xi Tang, dividing the town into eight sections.The town is connected by over one hundred bridges built during the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Xi Tang is a historic cultural preserve. According to UNESCO,”The road and water system, ally and lane layout, architectural style, building materials and techniques…all appear exactly the same as their original state…thus possessing great historical authenticity.”

Travel blogs and websites boasts of the town’s tranquility. Tranquil is how I would describe the architecture and landscape, but I went on a Saturday, and the place was bustling with tourists from different parts of China. (The shooting of Mission Impossible 3 in Xi Tang probably played a role in popularizing the town.)  But no matter, I was not going in search for a peace of mind anyway.

There are many small eateries and food stands in Xi Tang. You can find all sorts of zong zis in different shapes and sizes. I can’t give you an assessment of the food there. I was hoping to eat and sample more, but after discovering a dead bug in one my lunch dishes, my appetite waned. I did try the local bai si fish, pork zong zi, and cabbage hearts. I also ate stinky tofu for the first time there, though you can find stinky tofu all over China. You know, I always thought it would be stinkier…

Anyway, I wanted to share some of my photos with you. I hope you enjoy!

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World Expo Threatens Shanghai Pajama Culture

March 8, 2010 § 3 Comments

Wouldn't want to be the cop that has to take this lady in. (Image from Steven Chow's Kung Fu Hustle)

Apparently wearing PJs out on the streets at any hour of the day has long been a part of Shanghai culture. That I haven’t at all noticed this trend during the two weeks that I have been here is probably a sign that the government’s anti-pajama campaign is working. In preparation for the World Expo, starting here in May, the government launched an anti-pajama campaign that parades the slogan “No pajamas in public–Be civilized for the Expo”.

According to BoingBoing.com:
The South China Morning Post reports that the city’s Qiba neighborhood “has mobilized neighborhood committee officials and volunteers since July to talk people out of the habit of wearing pajamas in public.”
The government is concerned that the sight of Shanghai residents–particularly the grown-ups and elderly-dressed in colorful, patterned PJs in broad daylight jeopardizes the desired image China wants to present during the Expo. As host nation, China understandably and predictably wants to come off to its visitors from across the globe as sophisticated, modern, powerful. But they’re approaching this matter in the wrong way. Don’t fault the pajama people. Here’s where it would have been politically beneficial to exercise some national hubris: Hell yeah, we wear pajamas here without giving jack about what time of the day it is. We do things differently here. And if you got a problem with it, you better learn to deal because we aren’t changing.

If China took that attitude toward Shanghai’s pajama culture, people would return to their home countries with stories about how unique, practical and smart Shanghai and Chinese culture is: It’s okay to wear your pajamas out in public there! They look so comfortable, and free. Not to mention, their pajamas are so cute. How come we don’t do stuff like that here? Shanghai’s pajama culture would be the envy of the people of the world. But by policing what people wear in public, China missed an opportunity to be a trendsetter.

Justin Guariglia, author of the photography book Planet Shanghai, laments the death of Shanghai’s pajama culture:
“…Shanghai has moved one step closer to looking like every other major city in the world. In the process, it has lost a really unique and fun slice of culture which put a badly needed face on China, which the West primarily knows only for cheap labor, cheap manufacturing, pollution, and, recently, being their creditor.”
Shanghai pajama culture is dead, but not lost. It has been documented by photographers both professional and amateur. See Flickr, National Geographic, and Guariglia’s photos from Planet Shanghai.

Gamers Strike Back

March 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Screenshot from The War of Internet Addiction

Fed up with Internet censorship in China, World of Warcraft players are fighting back online.

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Happy Lunar New Year/ Black History Month/ Valentine’s Day!

February 14, 2010 § 5 Comments

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind. First let me wish you a happy lunar new year and sweet and spicy Valentine’s Day! 祝你 新年快樂,課 課 拿 “A”, 辣味情人節! Lots of things happened to (fortuitously) fall on this month. The lunar new year and Valentine’s Day converges on the same day. It’s Black History Month. A dear friend of mine got into the graduate program of her choice. February 19th is the day I make the journey to the motherland (Shanghai, China). With so many reasons to share meals and conversations with loved ones, its been a crazy–crazy beautiful–month.

(From left to right) 1. Tomato and eggs, a traditional and simple Cantonese dish that my Grandma used to make « Read the rest of this entry »