Friday, December 7, 2007

***

I was keeping track of the days, so please read on. More to be posted shortly, as well as pictures. Just landed in Seattle this morning.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

happy birthday oldie

This morning I state that I want to see something historical. A bi decides us to take us off to a little island from the city, the first inhabitated area of Kaohsiung. We had been there earlier in the week to eat seafood, and the last time I will ever eat the inner workings of mammals. We get to the island and of course, all the locals are touring the island, eating! I can’t explain to you how much Taiwanese people eat. You would actually be surprised if you have never experienced it firsthand. I thought Jason was all talk but it’s strange. Most people imagine Asians being tiny and petite, but there are definitely a fair amount of overweight people here.
A bi reassures me that where we are going, these people don’t want to go. We finally park and Dune jumps out of the car – for the first time – and heads down the road leading the way. “Wow, he is speedy”. We get to a demolished old brick and stone structure, very Eastern in design and architecture. Dune points to a front room and explains that this is where he was born. The main room and structure was constructed during the Tsing (spelling?) (Pronounced Ching) dynasty and then during the Japanese occupation more was added on. You can see the separation of the two from the outside wall.
His old neighbors come out and his childhood friend. They take us around back to show us another structure. There are also 3 additional older women sitting in the shade and 1 or 2 additional men approach and speak to us. One of the women looks like Jabba the Hut and is a bit scary, the other has the most beautiful skin and face but she must be in her early eighties. I mean, her skin, it was almost like a natural Botox and I wanted to use whatever she has been using to keep that beautiful texture of skin. Dune Dune sat down and they were all chatting about something, while those under the age of 50 were listening to the history of this block. One of the buildings roofs was demolished when the Japanese bombed Taiwan and when the current residents (still living there) returned, they had to put a new roof on – obviously if they are still living there. Dune Dune finishes singing an old Japanese song, in Japanese, and we head along to the ocean. There are old bunkers in the bottom of the mountain you have to walk through to get to the water. Jason explains that I want to get some pictures of dune dune before we leave in his birth house so we head back over. Happy 77th birthday you crazy old man.
We have dinner, which I have a hard time eating the fish. It’s one of those bloody fishes and the texture is weird and is very reminiscent in shape to a snake. I just can’t do this anymore.
Tomorrow we leave for Taipei in the early evening after having a buffet breakfast with some of Jason’s family again.

Friday, November 30, 2007

sugar cane

I wake up to the newscast, as I call it, where I open my eyes from the sun shining directly into them and hearing ‘A bi’ talk in the other room. I rarely hear Jason, that’s why I call it the newscast. Maybe I am mean, but you know, I have to make jokes at these sort of things because what would getting sour about it do? Or course its a little tongue in cheek, but I make up all kinds of things in Taiwan to entertain myself, like these kind of moments.
Today we ventured to see the only all wood train station in Taiwan, it was okay. Old Kung Fu movies use to use the train station for authenticity. Speaking of Kung Fu movies, Taiwan use to be where they were filmed because of the vast amount of land untouched. But the immense amount of power lines are found everywhere, and the fighters after be very aware of their movements to avoid the lines in the shots.
We then took a walk to see an old sugar factory. Jason and I decided to climb over the fences to get a better look at things. It was definitely worth the risk to get rid of the tourists and explore on our own. We even met back up with Dune Dune and A Bi and continued to look around until we were told that we had to leave that area.
When we were at home earlier in the evening, Dune Dune was wandering about the apartment changing the calendars and stating that tomorrow is December first, “tomorrow is my birthday”. Whoa old man, “Really???!”
Jason and I went to the night market again and the arcade, like we do almost every night. We jump on the scooter, I hand on behind as Jason speeds along the streets, and usually ride around and shoot the shit until about midnight. This evening we got back around 12:45 and Dune Dune was still awake on his little couch with his weird knit stocking cap on and I say, “Happy Birthday Dune Dune” – Jason echoes and D is surprised, Jason explains to him that its now December first and it’s his birthday.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

i hate car rides

Breakfast, a walk on the beach, and then back into the car…really? We have to leave…I am seriously bummed that we can just meander around. We are taken to the most southern point of Taiwan and other points of interest. A rocky shoreline and the grasslands, where the wind on the cliff was enough to push you over the edge. I walked close to the ground and was sure not to lose footing. Another amazing site to see.
Driving back, again, as usual, discouraging. Sites…so many things, I just want to see up close and check out and photograph. Bad mood, sun sets, I sleep in the car – I can’t dare to be taunted like this any longer.
There is discussion of when we are to leave for Taipei. It seems that since Jason and I have so much luggage, that we can’t take the fast train and will have to take the bus. Sure, that’s fine, sounds kind of cool to me. ‘A bi’ thinks we should leave Tuesday morning so I can see the sites from bus window. Oh my god man, you are killing me! No, I want to get out of Kaohsiung; I want to quit feeling like I am a 15 year old on vacation. I am so very grateful for everything, but I can’t continue overeating 3 times a day and walk and venture out at this pace. It’s making me bonkers. I don’t want to watch the country whiz by my eyes during the daylight, just saying to me, “You can’t get out and take a look…” What would make me the happiest is if you just dropped me out in the middle of nowhere and said you would come and pick me up at the same place at sunset. Oh, it would be a dream comes true. Jason insists that we leave Monday night and there is no reason to leave Tuesday morning.
My patience is shortening, and I have been sleeping in a little in the mornings, just to have some time by myself. Jason thinks it leaves a bad impression about being a lauwei, but he also doesn’t understand what it’s like to spend every single day from waking up til 10 pm with your significant other’s family. Even more so when I am involved in about 2 percent of the conversation. It’s been rough, emotionally and mentally, but I am really trying to make the best of it.
This evening, Jason decides we will just ride the scooter around on Saturday and I can take some pictures. Cool, just what I want.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

kenting national park

To Kenting National Park, the Southernmost tip of Taiwan. I guess it will be about a 3 hour drive there, I am beginning to go a little crazy from the amount of time I am spending in a car, staring out the window, only understanding about 5 words of Taiwanese. It’s awful being an explorer/photographer staring out of a window, looking at all the things you want to photograph. Just passing you by, as if just a tease. Luckily, I am a pro at capturing imaginary photographs – you should see the album in my memory! ‘A bi’ tells Jason that if I want to stop to just say the word. I do a couple of times but it’s difficult on so many levels. Traveling in a car, kind of fast, with 3 other people. So, I know they will get out and they have to stop and find a place to pull over. Second, I have learned on this trip that locals don’t see the same things I see, and sometimes are very perplexed at what I want to photograph and why. I got it a fair amount in China, “Why are photographing that, there is nothing there!” It’s just a hassle…I make up my plans for my next visit to Taiwan – on a scooter – and when I can speak for myself…and no oldies mc’oldie. Not that I mind ‘Dune Dune’ being old – it’s him being so senile.
On one stop of mine, of some Beetle nut trees, there was a pack of wild dogs taking in the sunshine. I was forewarned that they approach women a lot sooner than a man. I was told to crouch down and put one hand on the ground. I did, they ran away – the motion is symbolic of picking up a rock to hit it with.
The beach is beautiful – big surprise, right? The water is blue and clear – the first time I have ever seen clear water, where I can see my feet through the water. It’s Thanksgiving right now in the states, and I am wearing shorts and a tank top hanging out on the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen. That’s what I am thankful for, this opportunity to travel half way across the world.
We walk down to the night market and have dinner. At the hotel, we catch the last hour and a half of the spa. After dressing, Jason and I make it to the arcade before “A bi” and “Dune Dune” – it’s 10 pm and all the games have been shut off but there are still 2 pool tables and 2 ping pong tables as well. Jason and I start a game and I have to interrupt…quietly, trying not to alarm him too much…”Jason…Dune Dune…” and signal to look with my eyes. Here he comes, completely dressed, except without pants. Jason rushes up to him and escorts him back to the showers at the spa. Jason reports when he gets back that he couldn’t find his pants so he just went ahead without ‘A bi’. This is so sad.
The four of us play ping pong and pool and we cut out around 11 to check out the “town”. We end up walking about 2 miles until we hit something going on. But the night market has closed, so has the cart with the homemade light up “BAR” that was camped outside. So………………………..Jason and I travel to the end of the area with places and we see a little female black dog. He goes inside to buy a hot dog to feed to her. She gobbles it down but now she has 2 additional friends along. 1 of the new friends was sleeping in front of the 711 door and has a nice, apparently new, battle wound on his rear. A little blood from probably a fight for food. Jason buys 2 more hot dogs, and feeds them to her. You can tell by her belly she has given birth to a fairly recent litter. I cannot explain to you the amount of wild dogs in this country. Not that they are wild, but more abandoned pets or run always. She is such a cute dog and I want to take her home so badly. We have to leave because it’s making Jason and me so sad. I believe there is one more purchase by Jason at 7 11 for the dogs, but this time it was fish ball skewers. The dog in front of the police station was an asshole and snubbed his nose at it so we went back and found a litter of kittens and through it between the buildings. These dogs hang out in front of convenient stores, and I was actually approached by one inside of one here as well. I was a Yellow Lab that just decided to see what magazines I was checking out.
At this point we have travelled from the hotel about 2 miles to point A. Then returning towards the motel. Then we walk back towards point A, where Jason looks at me, “here, go get something, I can’t keep going in there and buying hot dogs”. At this point, it was after we saw a tiny, scrawny, white, very young female dog watching a man eat his noodles in front of 7 11. Jason bought a hot dog and we walked a few steps away to feed it. I walk into the 7 11, I go to the canned food because hot dogs can’t be that satisfying to this visually starving dog. She has a buddy out on the stoop too, which is a fairly larger dog with a gimp hind leg. I eye the sardines, no, the canned meat, no….there has to be pet food here. There it is, a large can of dog food for 30 NT (exchange rate here, about 36 NT = 1 USD). I buy 2. I figure the cashier can’t say anything to me like, “you can’t feed the wild dogs”, because, shit, it’s obvious that I can’t speak Taiwanese. I am going to use my stupid American stigma to the fullest extent for the wellbeing of these dogs. I walk out and Jason looks at me like I have just won the ultimate prize in the ring toss from the night markets. We feed the 2 dogs and now here comes 2 more. One is definitely a pure Alpha male…and has been in his fare share of fights.
Jason now buys 2 cans and we go into an alley and slam the down on the ground to empty them out. We try to split it up between the 4 dogs. The first 2 original dogs stay behind and the Alpha and his BFF follow us for awhile. We try not to look and we think we lose them at one point, but we can hear their little toenails approach us from behind. Okay, 2 more cans, and that’s it. We empty them out and the BFF of Alpha literally swallows his can in one gulp. Jason is explaining, “Oh my god, my dog at that whole can at once, I can’t believe it”.
We head back to the hotel, walking along the edge of the coast, around 1 am, after spending close to 2 hours feeding wild dogs, and Jason drinking his Taiwan Beer. I wish something really stupid and Jason wishes “that all the dogs have a home”. I look up at the stars in the black sky and think how much I absolutely love him. This may be one of the most wonderful times we have shared.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

along the shipyard

We headed over to “A koo”, “A kim”, and ellie’s apartment today where we had breakfast. There is one item on the table that I keep looking at. It looks like toast with sliced mushrooms and melted cheese on top. Since I try everything here (including the on Saturday with ox intestine – which by the way is much better than the pig intestine I tried tonight), I bit into it – taking out of my mind any preconceived idea of what it may taste like. You know, how when you think something is going to be sweet, and it’s not at all and totally messes up your palate. Well, here in Asia, you have to erase all your sense of taste before biting into something. Anyhow, I was extremely delighted! A koo” is Jason’s mom’s brother, and he “invented” this…it was cranberry bread, with sliced banana’s on top with melted mozzarella cheese – I had 3 pieces…it wasn’t like Chinese food at all, so I HAD to get my fill when I could. To be quite honest…sometimes I get a little burned out and I crave that awful, bland, American style food.
From there, we go to “a bee”s where I can answer my mom’s worried emails, ride the horse machine (that’s all the $700 USD rage here in Taiwan), and “a bee” give us gifts. We haven’t gone over there yet, because supposedly his wife is a real pill. I met her and she seems fine to me. My own personal opinion is that it’s none of my business, and as a female, sometimes I don’t think it’s fair that he air’s their personal affairs to the family, and me ( a complete stranger ). She is not there to defend herself, and we don’t know the whole story…no one is always innocent in relationship strife’s. My assumption is that she feels less loved that his parents. Probably a little neglected and overlooked. Anyways……………….
From there to the warehouse where Jason’s uncle has a beer warehouse. I meet the 2 other sister’s of Ping Ping who work there. Jason and I hop on the scooter to get a bite to eat and a cup of coffee later. I get to look through some Taiwanese fashion magazines – which I absolutely love, a tie with Hong Kong. We also walk by the Film Archives, where they have 2 film projectors on display that are using Carbon Arc Lamps for the light…a Japanese design.
Back at the warehouse…we spend some time with the sisters, and now Ping Ping and her daughter, and Ping Ping’s daughter and some employees. “A bee” is supposed to pick us up at 5 but Ping Ping called him to tell him that Jason and I were doing stuff. Wow, how awesome of her…a couple of hours on our own, “a bee” has been so kind and I am so grateful, but I also wanted some time to just roam and do as we did for a little bit in China. We go around the Ports, I get to take some pictures, see some Taiwanese graffiti, go to an arcade – where we played some of our favorite games, and road around this carts that have an animal covering on them.
We head back a little after dark and then go to the office for some congee. From there, we get on to the scooters’, 4 total, 3 little kids doubling up with adults, sometimes 3 to a scooter. The gang of 4 head to the ferry to go across the island for seafood. How awesome it is to be winding through the streets on scooters like a local, feeling completely welcome to this wonderful country. Once on the island we are shown with wind power park and then on to dinner. I make faces and play with the 3 kids, even still communication is difficult. Mae Mae – Ping Ping’s daughter – is about 4 and is absolutely cute. She has a friend there around the same age and I can’t help but watch them the whole time…just too adorable for words. Head back, Jason takes a stop at the dentist at nearly 10 and “a bee” takes me home because we don’t know how long it will take. “A bee” drives MUCH faster than Jason does.
*sigh* now I feel like I am kind of up to date with this thing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

tribes

The rain lets up and we move up to the mountains to see and learn about the tribes that lived – and still live, on the island of Taiwan. Both sides of Jason’s family come from the Southern Taiwan tribes. I try to find his resemblances in the faces that are shown from photographs from the 1900’s. I learn that 45 percent of the island is still untouched by globalization, and 85 percent of Taiwanese can trace their roots to one of these 10 or so tribes. The government here in Taiwan, the Left, has been trying to instate laws to help protect and preserve these tribes and genealogy. Recently, I have read myself that many of these tribes are leaving areas like this I am at…to retreat back into the mountains and give up trying to make a buck from tourism. Taiwan may still be one of the only countries left with as many aborigines still in active practice.
This area we are at is absolutely beautiful, but there have been some recent landslides that are in the process of being cleaned up. There is a school there as well. Jason and I pass them in one of the museum huts and they all say “Hello”. Oh, sometimes I hate being white.
At the dance, Jason and his cousin made me take some pictures with the dancers. You would be surprised how tall the boys are that I posed with.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

rain

It’s raining…a day of food and batting cages.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

favorite old man ever

Jason has to visit his grandma and grandpa on his father’s side today. We get dropped off at his uncle’s where gramma lives. The place is nice, and I take some family pictures for them – I can tell Jason feels extremely awkward around them. The backyard use to house a dog and a pet monkey – they both are long gone now. That is where MRT Design comes from, Monkey Rides ‘Tiger’. After about 30 minutes, a half a banana, some citrus fruit, and Taiwanese tea we travel without gramma to visit grandpa. It’s about a 30 minute drive out and can’t believe my eyes of the sites. Fields and fields of tropical vegetation, with slight smog hovering above. A few old factories, some still in use, others not.
When we get to grandpa’s, Jason is re-introduced and some awkward time, I am introduced and the tiny, shriveling, old man looks at me under his cloth baseball cap and says, “Hello, It’s nice to see you”…and everyone smiled and laugh. What a wonderful way to be greeted by the oldest Taiwanese man I have yet to meet. I step up and shake his hand with a gentle touch and a big ol’ American smile. We stand around, I listen and watch grandpa, always, like usual, completely overwhelmed by the language. I get a few endearing pictures of grandpa, hopefully some good one’s as well. I am told that he was recruited into the Japanese military during WWII, not by will. Taiwan has a long history with Japan, and I plan on researching this all much more when returning home. I am sorry to say farewell to grandpa, and he says, “See you soon”. I smile and hope to do the same.
His generation was taught English by the Japanese, my parent’s generation was taught by the Right Wing China party…the second of the two taught poor English because of worries of people communicating too much. Oh, good ‘ol China.
We drive to a very large temple. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the weather couldn’t be any better…shorts and t-shirts. There is a “cave” explaining Buddhism with statues and such. Much of it is electronic, with motion sensors to activate music, motion, or the giant rainbow behind the Buddha’s head. After walking through this cave, I realize my mom has been probably following the wrong way of thought. Perhaps when I am in Ohio, we can find a temple to visit – she would probably feel at home with the ideas of this Eastern thought.
Lunch and some other random stuff…you know…just driving around.

Friday, November 23, 2007

a day at the taiwan "spa"

We get up fairly early for breakfast, and are greeted by cousin, auntie, and uncle. It turns out that “Dune Dune” – uncle – was a translator during the Japanese occupation at a hotel and knows some English – and SPANISH!! He is 72 and has a couple screws loosening up – do people begin to act like a child when they are treated like a child? – and we exchange sentences in Spanish. Then he begins singing The Star Spangled Banner and that song about going to Louisiana with a banjo on his knee. Not only once or twice, but continuously, I am humored, and I humor him throughout the day with this routine.
Headed for the “spa” – really not wanting to go because of that stupid Chinese character tattoo on the top of my back. I am able to hide it with the cris cross of the suit. But first we have to go to the gym to be shown our “future”. “A bee guh guh” – cousin - wants to show us “dune dune” and “I e” workout routine. Quite impressive for a 72 and 73 year olds, though we are made to get on the treadmills barefoot and I get an awful blister on my heel about an inch and a half long. We finally make it to the water…spa – more like WATER PARK!!! There are pools for swimming, things that massage your body with heavy force water, hot tubs, one with medicine, water slides, and there is an outdoor area as well with slides. It’s Saturday morning and nearly dead…Jason and I try all of it and after 4 hours we are ready to leave. We get some food and then we get to go back to the lake. Where there are a couple of Temple’s, Taiwan is filled with Buddhist temples – everywhere. And a way of worship is burning “money” to send it to the gods. There are metal containers all over the city, where people are throwing in “money” – the smell is very distinct –similar of fire crackers. It’s Saturday – and I noticed it when on all day Saturday and Sunday – fires lit everywhere. Anyhow, the temples are amazing, but what’s more amazing is that I can see through windows and open doors, that there must be at least 1 alter on each block we pass. Some an entire room, some an alter in a living room of sorts.
The weather is still very warm, and plants, bonsai trees everywhere – oh and I haven’t told you about the dogs. There are random, “wild dogs”, running the streets. Not the kind you run up too wanting to hug, and they roam in gangs. Taiwan is kind of what I expected China to be, at least this part. The people all seem to mind their own business, I don’t get stares, and if anything – complete politeness. The 3 children loved competing against me at the spa too. I can’t get over how wonderful this country seems to be, the food, the people, the environment.
Taiwanese do not look like Mainlanders to me; the men/boys are absolutely gorgeous, often tall and stylish. The females are normal – in the sense they are not emaciated, or all short. Even tall girls. Everyone seems to live a very modest, simple, enjoyable life.
Dinner at the pier’s. This is the area that had major problems with addiction during the Opium Wars. It’s also the area where Jason’s side lived, as there were major rail lines coming to the water for trade. It’s very similar to the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Fran, but less touristy, and more affordable. Much of the current buildings still standing, again, were constructed during WWII.
We have dinner with the family and more family. Ellie, Jason’s 20 year old cousin, knows some English, so it’s nice to have 2 translators now. After dinner we get an Ice – this is a dessert only found in Taiwan. Its shaved ice, and its put in a shallow bowl, and under the ice you get sweetened beans, taro, tapioca, coconut milk stuff, and all kinds of deliciousness. I had 2 in Shanghai, and I thought they were great…but this one beats it hands down. I am so in love with Taiwan.
Jason and I go to a night market down the street from auntie’s to see what’s going on. We stroll through and take note of everything being sold, the food, the accessories and clothes, the games for kids, and adults. Jason buys some cream filled pastry things. We also get some underwear with random comics on it, I a pair of earrings, and we play a shooting game apiece, ring toss – where we one like 5 items (Jason won 2 apple drinks and I some toys). We also try our hand at the baseball pitching game. I love Taiwan even more…and they have clothes that fit me!!! This has to be the best country yet. We have to head home at midnight because we have a day with the other side of Jason’s family. His dad’s. His gramma lives with his uncle (and his wife and son) and grandpa lives at a caretaker’s. Jason says it’s really weird…I will give you an idea of what it was like…it was very sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taiwan

(I have not had internet since leaving Shanghai, or much computer time, so I am trying to recall much of this from memory- it’s now November 28th and the days have been filled with activities)
Early we rise to catch our plane from Hong Kong to Taiwan. I am getting excited, anticipating the weather that will greet us on this island. Taiwan is NOT a part of China – and was occupied by the Japanese during WWII. Everyone tells me that Taiwan is beautiful and that the food is delicious and the people are gorgeous. I stock up on 3 Hong Kong magazines – enjoyable for the photographs and load up on the plane for about a 2 hour ride. Though, we did go back to get all of our luggage, and once again – all our belongings strewn everywhere as we repack.
Our descent into Taiwan, I can see mountains, oceans, shipping docks, tropical trees, a different type of architecture – it looks amazing. We are landing in Kaohsiung, its located in the very Southeaster part of Taiwan. You can drive west to East, vice versa; in about 5 hours…it’s a small and independent country in Southeast Asia. It’s warm out and a little humid – perhaps this is because of the typhoon heading in from the West. The temperature at 7 pm is probably around the lower 80’s – I love it. This particular airport is fairly small, similar to a small town in the US. We wait about 45 minutes until Jason’s family arrives.
His uncle, auntie, and cousin arrive. There is not enough space, but the uncle heads out silently to ride the bus. This is one of us pastimes…Jason says he is a little weird.
Heading to get something to eat before heading home, I look out the window and what I can see is fabulous (as the sun has set), the building exteriors are mostly tile, there are shacks, there are apartments, there are complexes still standing from Japanese occupation. No bicycles, all scooters – “twist n go’s” – everywhere. After eating an oyster omelet and fish ball soup we head home, going around the famous lake and there is a KTV shack on the side of the road – Jason: “See, Taiwanese people love trying to make money.” We do stop at a grocery store…a real grocery store – it’s been over 2 months since I have stepped into one of those. Excluding Carrefour’s. These shopping centers mostly resemble Meijer’s (for you Midwesterner’s) or Super Wal Mart. I can’t wait to see what the 2 weeks will bring.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Shanghai to Macau

My last day in Shanghai – it has been raining/drizzling all of last weekend and the temperature has dropped a fair amount.
On Saturday night, Jason, James, Yeun Yeun, and I went to a bowling alley and pool hall. It was fairly western, especially after eating (them – not I) McDonalds down the street earlier. We played one game of bowling and 3 games of pool…couple vs. couple – Jason and I won all games.
Sunday, we went to shoot a location for Bill. We were waiting for some business to be taken care of so Jason and I walked down the street to a small village. We walked through it, and I took some last photographs of the Shanghai area.
Monday was my last full day in the city before going on to Hong Kong / Macau Tuesday morning. It was a day of mostly last minute errands and me saying my goodbyes to all the wonderful things.
“Goodbye - Bill’s apt – Julu Lu – Fruit stand – Dvd man – MRT/TPA office – Fuming Lu –bicycle people – bicycle carts with bell ringers – public service announcement man – Muslim noodle place – Chinese wearing pj’s in the middle of the day (like fleece ones ranging from flannel to cartoons– rmb money – skyline – shipping yard –the city of construction “
The city constantly under construction – day through night. I saw at least 2 businesses completed in my 6 weeks there, close to 10 basically completed – complex size, and one skyscraper. If you watched, or are familiar with The Fraggles, it’s like the Dozers. I realize that the city I view today will not be the same tomorrow, and if I return in a couple months even more so.
Shanghai is taking over the outskirts of the city, taking away the farmlands. The city has placed an ordinance to decongest the center of the metropolitan area. If you look at any picture of the skyline of Shanghai – taken within the past couple of years – it use to be farmland. This is Pudong, we were staying in Puxi, kind of like the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The stay has been long, wonderful, sometimes hard, others mind-blowing. Every day is something new – something to make me smile and remind myself – I f&$king LOVE Asia!!!!
Leave at noon for Macau. If you are not familiar with this country/town – it made more money than Vegas last year. It’s an island off of Hong Kong, a separate, very small country…of a Portuguese descent. We arrive in Hong Kong and take the ferry across the water to Macau – where we will stay for 3 nights, one of those days devoted to photographing Orient Golf course…..until then – goodbye Shanghai. I am preparing for 2 very different places – considering Hong Kong is megatropolis and under British rule until 1997 – and up to the present, from my understand, is treated like China’s red headed step child.

Tuesday evening, November 20th
The flight from the Shanghai airport to Hong Kong was about 2 hours. Right before landing, I look out to see mountains, green trees, and can’t imagine what kind of climate this is going to be. I was forewarned that the Hong Kong airport is “humongous”. Well, it is, it’s massive and the structure is absolutely amazing…the ceiling is reminiscent of fish gills with undulating lines from one end to the other. Stores ranging from selling magazines to LV handbags to souvenirs for Disneyland Hong Kong to a Burger King.
Jason and I picked up a cart (for free, unlike the US) to cart our luggage. If we had planned more accordingly, we could have taken a ferry straight to Macau, but since we didn’t know, we have 3 LARGE suitcases, my camera bag, purse, duffel bag, tripod, and Jason’s very large bike courier backpack to take to Hong Kong proper to catch the ferry to Macau. On our way to mass transit, we spotted lockers, we took a second look – exchanged a glance and a verbally agreed that it would be a great thing to do with all this stuff. We rented a large locker for 3 days, rearranged our luggage – with everything from my underwear, toiletries, and film spread out among the floor. Now, there are only 2 backpacks, a tripod, a purse, and a small duffel bag. Kudos.
Out to the buses, double decker, and the traffic runs opposite to US – it’s like those Euro people. Shanghai was beginning to get very chilly, stepping outside I have to take off my sweatshirt, to only a t-shirt…it’s absolutely amazing! It must be close to the mid 80’s, there are palm trees, sunshine, green everywhere, mountains…am I even in China??? No bikes, no babies pooping anywhere, no spitting. Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997 – it’s not even really China.
Jason and I head up to the top deck of the bus – front row. I get a wonderful, hour tour of Hong Kong…not through the city, but of the very large shipping port. There is smog; this seems to come along with any metro area of China. I am told that it’s even more expensive to live in Hong Kong than NYC…I believe this later in my visit. Also, Hong Kongnese import Philipeno’s for EVERYTHING! More on this later as well.
At the ferry port, when I thought of ferry, I imagined that it would be like the ferries in Texas that I remembered as a child…where you are in a car and pull up on an open air boat. It’s not. We could take a helicopter to Macau as well, but the Turbo Jet is under $70 USD and the Helicopter is around $400 USD. The ferry seats just like a plane, assigned seating, food and beverage and duty free items are also sold. The ride is almost 2 hours. Jason and I are making mental notes of the casino’s being advertised and our tentative schedule.
I can’t believe my eyes when we get to Macau – surprise after surprise. We had just missed the Macau Grand Prix, which was our greeting upon exiting the ferry port. The sun has set and I can see the casino lights all around. Catch a taxi, head to our hotel, and then head out to check out the scene.
The area reminds me of vacations as a child to the beach – just the feeling in the air, shops selling electronics, jewelry, and food. Not much more than that. We check out a couple of casinos and then stay at the Sands for awhile – at the bar. Jason likes watching the white dancing girls, and the cover band, we buy some very affordable beers and also head upstairs to get a salad. I play 20 HK dollars of slot machines – I am scared, I have never gambled in my life. I lose it all. Most of the casinos have Baccquerat – all the Chinese love that shit – Jason is on the search for Craps. Our final destination is the Venetian – recently built, USA owned. We stay there for a little bit, notice the time, and head home as I have to work the next day.
Upon waking up, we head to the golf course, I do what needs to be done and we head back to the hotel. Rest, shower, eat, and head back out to try our luck. We again, just end up roaming from casino to casino to casino – spending a lot of time at the Sands watching the shows. We finally go to the Wynn and decide to try our luck at Black Jack, Jason refreshes my memory of the game and we pick a table with no one else and the dealer is kind enough to help us start out. Jason got 1600 HK $ and we split it. Well, I won enough to give Jason his 800 back and walk away from the table with 1600 HK dollars…a little of 200 US dollars. I was close to 300 USD but started losing so I walked away. We head back to the Sands for me to buy a round of beers then head home.
Next day, I want to see Hong Kong – we get to the ferry, Jason forgot his passport, I board the ferry without him, and then upon realizing my phone battery is dead and I get no service anyhow. I get to HK and just roam…it’s so hilly, so not China, it reminds me San Fran, even more wonderful. In the middle of the city there is a botanical garden where there are all kinds of monkeys. The smell of the flowers stop me in my tracks, and I look past the luscious green surroundings – onto the skyline and think that what wonderful weather this is – taking note that its Thanksgiving in the US. Thankful for this life experience. I just roam the streets, going into shops, just taking in sunshine. Passing another single, foreigner, a dude about my age, both of us have a camera strapped around our neck…we exchange a look. Solo travelers are not spotted that often. I spend some of my time shopping as well, and spending some of my loot.
I head back at sunset to try and figure out my phone and get completely upset and frustrated after purchasing a new sim card that doesn’t work. Jason finally arrives back at the hotel about 2 hours later – we found a craps table the night before and he blew $100 USD there while I was out. We eat Portuguese restaurant to take advantage of the location in China. We go back out – he plays craps, I watch. We go play Black Jack – not a good night for either of us. I cashed in 1000 HK $ and lost 300. Jason goes home, I play some slots. I actually win money at it – and then I gamble it away. I have close to 400 HK $ left, I go to Black Jack table, buy 3 100 chips, lose, and walk away. I go home and give my left over’s to Jason.
I wish we could have had longer in Macau…I have to come back with my uncle, as he is the relative that loves taking people to Vegas. And there are plenty of nearly naked white girls for all the foreigner’s to stare at as well.

Friday, November 16, 2007

not expected

this trip has been a lot of work, not a lot of personal photography - not as much as I had hoped for. mostly shooting for people, editing for people, and watching jason work across the table as i just try to pass the time staring at iTunes and downloading albums off of the iTunes stores because Oink got shut down. the internet connection here really sucks too, it takes 5 refreshes to just get a page to load.

checking my email about every 15 minutes, hoping for communication from the world way over there. sending little notes to some, posting on lame websites, no avail - no response.

can't really go shopping - nothing fits, worried about being taken advantage of. even more so, not looking forward to the prices of dear ol' america. f*$k if i can walk into any store upon returning and not be completely disgusted about the high price for something made in China.

not wanting to leave China, but missing communication. phone calls are very difficult, loneliness is not a stranger to me. life in nyc, it is my closest friend and confidant. i am beginning to understand, and deal with the fact that this is life, a solo flight - and mine is to the top. this must be the price to pay for wanting to achieve at anything. sacrifice, nothing comes easy.

we went to a production company the other day, they are always looking for photographers. the place is awesome, a complete complex. two large studios for shooting cars, another complex for makeup, the party room, accounting, just all amazing.

you can read, and if you know me personally, that i am having one of those days.

Monday, November 12, 2007

zipping through the communist countryside





we board the last train from shanghai to beijing in evening
the ride is approximately 12 hours
each car has two bathrooms at one end
the rooms have two bunks a piece
one small table to separate the two bottom seats/bed
you arrive to your room after walking through the narrow corridor
with hot water, newspapers, slippers, folded blankets, and fluffed pillows
there is a slight scent of the bathroom aroma
but you begin to get use to it after about 30 minutes
you can hear your neighbors, speaking mandarin, making very little sense to me
i imagine it being an ancient song, speaking secrets and special stories
in all the traveling through this country, i have realized there are few, if any,
children on public transportation - no crying, no screaming,
though i had the luck of being 6 rows behind a crying infant on the 13 hr flight over the Pacific
everyone is preparing there bunk for sleep, as the working class chinese go to bed so early
tiny, walking people, in the pajamas, with fresh steaming tea
most have metal or clear canisters, that contain your tea leaves at the top
when you are ready for your tea, you just put it in the hot water and they settle to the bottom
from shanghai to beijing:
bunk mate plays with his cellphone, writing and receiving text messages
the other finds a room where he can share with his buddy
train leaves around 7:30, the sun is setting and i am watching the world speed up before my eyes
the train become quiet and dark, we are smiling and laughing, because its all such a simple excitement of this long trip
the hum and the rocking of the train makes my eyelids heavy,
i refuse to sleep, propping my pillows up and lie on my tummy to watch my Chinese movie - whiz by.
the countryside, shacks, huts, wheat, harvesting, factories, dormitories of the factories, men and women on bicycles
whiz by a city center, neon lights, KTV's, and spotlights
back to the views of the barely touched countryside
grey buildings, spaced out into the horizon, with only one light on in each building
dimly lit landscape, if any
its complete darkness, the horizon separates the lighter grey from the black
an occasional light, a small factory, sometimes headlights traveling down a dark road
with nothing to visually see, my mind begins to take over, creating images and thoughts
am i really here, seeing all this, its only been a couple of weeks, nearly a month
it feels as if its been a lifetime
recalling thoughts, ideas, emotions, from the moment of entering this world
flying over the country, for the first time, staring out my plane window
anticipating what was to come
the time is nearly over, and its still difficult to fathom
every evening i think, about how that day may have been the last of new experiences
but the next morning never fails to add something to my memory
i pray that these images remain in my mind, forever
time is all of our enemies, as it will fade this experience every day
step outside of my conscious, is this all really happening
did i really experience all of this...what is the future going to hold for me
once the plane arrives to the country that lies across the pacific from my new loved land?
waking up numerous times throughout the night, every time, peering out the window
hoping for something wonderful to gaze out - complete darkness
except for the passing of another train, in the opposite direction
a bright stream of lights, a pushing of the train to the right, the clicking of the tracks, and the loud noise of the air rushing between the cars
only imagining the life going in the opposite direction
its morning, we receive congee, with a pickles and pickled cabbage, all 3 some of my favorites.
we will be arriving in bejing in just a matter of minutes
our bunkmate silently joins us for his breakfast as well.
out the window, at 6:45 am, its foggy - though i was forewarned - its smog
on the side of the roads, i can see the bicycles on their way to delivering their rider to work.
intersections filled with people and their bikes, so early, so eager, all necessary.
the train slows down, i see the grey platform with the grey air hovering above
there is a return trip.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

work

you can see some of my handy work at www.mrt-design.com - i think that link will work.

i ate

mouldy tofu (stinky tofu), sea urchin, centipede, starfish, octopus (more than a couple of times), fried banana, and this delicious fresh fruit with a light, sweet, perhaps honey, glaze in Beijing.

You see, it's all about playing the game with these street vendors. This was the only 2nd night market I have been too, the other one in Hanzhou which wasn't really the food type of vendors. This place, currently pictured, is in Beijing, and was established over a decade ago. The vendors know some English, to tempt the tourists, as it is on a street downtown. One cutie told he would see me "tomorrow" and giving me bedroom eyes, after he was offering me all kinds of different foods. Jason continually gets asked if I am his wife, and I have caught on to the dialogue in Mandarin and now I can play along asking them if they see a ring. It's all about the jokes, and more jokes. For some reason, I can play the whole charade with the men, younger men, the women don't seem to be too fond of me. Except the one that witnessed my mustache down in the Bund. I take notice of the other laowei's and they aren't really getting in on the fun. I am all smiles, and laughs, and really up for trying pretty much anything. So, towards the end, we had decided we would get some of the fruit. Jason is finishing his beer, as you can purchase it and drink it on the street, and I am gazing at the fruit vendors. One is waving me over and the other 6-7 guys notice I am looking over in their direction. The next thing I know I have nearly 10 guys reaching for me, advertising and shaking these skewers of fruit. I am laughing hysterically, but you can't see from these pictures, there is one on the far left that is screaming, "I LOVE YOU" in English. After the 3rd time, he wins.There was plenty of garbage diving there as well. I caught one man digging through the trash barrels for left overs, the others wait over your shoulder for the empty beer cans. The worst was the older man digging the skewers out, wiping his hand along them to "clean them" and then eating. Though these pictures show a lot of fun and laughs, China is not that hysterical of a place. There is a lot of sadness, a lot of poverty, and just a lot to make you stand back and think about your own life, meaning, and happiness.
The other day, this little girl, with a smaller boy were playing in a busy intersection. They saw my big giant white face and come running over. They shake there cup at my window, jumping up and down laughing, and screaming "HELLO MONEY!!!" Yes, I am white, yes, I come from the land of the rich. But I do believe China has a misconception of America. Over and over again, I hear how everyone is rich in America and we all have cars. Everyone has to work, and there is rich and poor everywhere. But China, I don't know...every day is another awakening - to whatever I may see. I laugh, I humor myself, because that is your initial response...because if you took it all for what its worth, you would become depressed and realize your life is shit. I consider my life at home, in New York...how we all struggle to be something great. Ha, New York?! In the big world, in the entire world, it's really nothing. Honestly, really...nothing.
In the US, I can barely find photo work, here, I have been working non stop - and have been offered to freelance for a very big production company. Why? Because I am an outsider, a white foreigner. Wait, I can't give away all the goodness of this country, because you all would move here too - and the novelty of young american female would no longer hold as much value as it does now.

PS - The art scene here is budding - and opportunities everywhere. If you haven't heard already, the word on the streets is the artists are leaving NY. I know where I will be going.

halloweenie









jason loves all 3 different costumes

Friday, November 9, 2007

beijing - the most horrible place to photograph


and you say you don't "believe" in global warming?
this is a picture of Beijing at 8:00 am - that's the sun in the background. the smog, or as the locals call it: "fog", doesn't get any better than this. one of the main problems for Beijing is because the desert sand blows into the city. there is a new plan in construction for re forestation to help keep the sand down. but in all honesty - thats what the chinese gov't says, and i didn't find any sand in my eyes, only a nasty cough that lasted for 3 days.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

video game arcade after touring


dude, right on! we got a lot of tokens for the Sega room!
video

I am a novelty item...



Jason was asked if I would take a picture with a very large chinese family in front of the Forbidden City, across the street from Tienanmen Square. What? We don't understand.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Hanzhou


A little off the beaten path, a little noodle shop in a little back alley, in a little "village".

Friday, November 2, 2007

Tai Chi


Jason practicing his form.

im sick and hamsters.

i haven't been keeping up with this during the week, because i caught an awful cold. right now, my eyeballs feel like they are going to bust out of my head and my skull blow open.

besides that, we went to a market today and there was a man selling something (like circuitry, batteries, plugs, etc), and to prove to the crowd watching that it works, he would connect two wires to a tiny metal cage with 2 hamsters. not enough voltage to kill - just to make 'em act a little crazy.

the trip has been extended and i won't be flying back into Seattle until Dec. 7h - my arrival date.

we are leaving for Beijing on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

not NYC


...but the new new york - Shanghai!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

continue

ill continue Hangzou story later.

as my dad use to say, "sh*t eating grin"

friday evening we went to get a drink at the old British Consulate in Shanghai. its now a bar/restaurant and where events and weddings go on. the yard and entire area is absolutely gorgeous. the man that now owns the place brought in old architecture and interiors/exteriors from around China and set it up around the large yard. it has bonsai's, chinese maples, weeping willows...def. one of the most beautiful places i have ever seen.

On our way home, in an entrance to a neighborhood, there were a couple of men and they were laughing because one was trying to hula hoop. and this isn't a regular hula hoop - its one of those crazy weight loss hoops. ah, good ol China - as Bill says, "China has no lack of irony".

we got up early saturday morning, to run a fair amount of errands.

first we headed to an eyeglass shop, where we all tried on glasses for about an hour. i pick up two pairs, with lens, for a little over 700 RMB.

next, to the most wonderful photo place ever. its about 5 floors, with the fifth being all used equipment. i was racking up a $10000 USD bill in my head from all the things i needed and wanted. and its all private stands, so there is some haggling, and not a monopoly like dear ol' B & H in dear ol' NYC.

strangely enough, the point and shoot camera i wanted, didn't shoot RAW in the Chinese model. weird. but again, T I C - This is China.

there is a costume party this evening, so we need to go to a costume shop with Bill. its a shop that sells costumes for the Chinese Opera. They had a lot of beards, that it takes over 10 years to grow the cow's tail that long. They had embroidered pieces of clothing, all hand done, taking more than a century to complete.

i spotted mustaches in the display case. the Ox tail is wound around a piece of metal resembling a septum ring. great pieces...i must purchase more than i have a nose for it to fit. 15RMB a piece. the man that had been making them for years had recently died, and the quality of these were perhaps the last of the kind.

after a long day of walking, haggling, roaming, and making strange purchases here and there, Bill decided to take motorcycles home. yes, Motorcycle taxis!!!!! These are not scooters, they are not electric bikes, they are motorcycles that all americans are familiar with.

"Bill, where will I hold on"
Bill points to two men on a bike - "If those 2 grown men can ride bareback like that, so can you!

The one man on the corner waves down 2 more bikes and we put on our helmets and hop on.
Can I tell you that this was one of most crazy, exciting, and at moments scary experiences of my life. We weave through traffic, while the leader of the pack honks his horn through the streets constantly. More than often we don't get over 20/km an hour but at a few times we get to 40. There were moments I was worried about my long ass leg getting ripped off my a taxi or a bus.

At a light, we pull up with other bikes, scooters, carts. And one driver looks at me, laughs, and then turns to his right and points at the other random white girl on the back of a cart. She and i are about the same age. He gestures and I am assuming that he thinks its funny that she and I look alike. The girl catches on to the whole situation and so does her chinese friend. We all start smiling and some gentle laughter, but I don't know if we were all humored by the same thing. I am just thinking that its a strange situation.

There are times, when we would go through intersections, or turn corners, we would be weaving through oncoming traffic of bikes, scooters, and other motorcycles. Remember, these guys are professionals...they know what they are doing. The ride was about 20 minutes and we go through back streets and alleys. Bill has the daredevil driver, and honestly a quite handsome one. Jason's looks like he may have been in the Village People, maybe because his head protection is a hard hat, and mine is a round middle aged man with a quasi houndstooth dress jacket on.

There are moments when there is no traffic on the streets besides the 3 motorcycles with 2 per and I watch the speedometer try to go over 40 km/h while they honk through the streets. Going down the middle of the road, with buses on my right and oncoming taxis and cars on the left.

When we get to our destination, mine asked me in Chinese "one more time", still laughing at the situation (i think?) I thanked them all with a great smile and waved goodbye. If only I could speak, I imagine hanging with these dudes, riding around on motorcycles and throwing back some beers. Hey, a girl can dream......

Outside, after we get home and style our new mustaches, my favorite pan handler approaches us, "mr. miagi" (sp?). He is about 5' 3", I would say in his 70's, he wears sandals, slacks with cuffs, and sometimes has one of those hobo bags on a stick (or maybe thats just in my imagination). The first time I ran into him, he stuck out his cup and says in English "Hey young lady" - while an eery chuckle at the same time. The second time, he approaches us, and he is laughing. We give him some change...he is just too cute. He has thinning grey hair and a grey gotee (beard) that goes down to his chest - looks identical to those cartoons of chinese men and their facial hair. This third time, he looks at the 3 of us with our mustaches and just starts laughing. He loves mine, I can just tell because he gives me a big smile and and gives me a thumbs up. Bill asks him how long it took for his to grow, 20 years. He continues to laugh, and we all wave goodbye and he is on his way. No cup for change this time....I love that dude!

We go to a costume party with a wonderful view of the city. Lots of American dudes. Lots of Chinese girls. Sandwiches!!! Such a rare food here. I eat 2 halves, along with Cucumber Lays chips, and some Skittles and a snack size Snickers. God, I am a fatty. A couple of chinese beers and then to some bar in the Bund.

Yeah, its weird. We make a couple of friends. One of the girls throwing the party demands on pouring 2 secs worth of champagne in our mouths. I learn how to say "I know" and "I don't know".

You know, I am not much of the party goer, as I did enough of that in my early early 20's...so I am ready to go home and take off my new awesome fake mustache. Though, throughout the night, the locals loved me and my mustache. Lots of smiles and waves, like the bus of chinese men that were waving at us. Maybe I need to wear this thing around more often...because I really enjoy these stairs and laughter, much more than what I encounter a lot of time.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

not like it use to be

i have a lot of insomnia here...not really if i can put it into words. thinking a lot of the past, present, and sliver of the future. its kind of a compare and contrast every night...and then a lot of anxiety - A LOT.

its difficult not being able to fit into a lot of the clothes here. its even more difficult when you feel like a beached whale everywhere you go until you are around your own race. i find pictures of when i was at VCU and right before I got a real job. you know, back in the day, when i blogged a lot about my hopes, dreams, nightmares, and all the mess i got myself into. i guess you can say that was a crazy time in my life. i wonder what happened to make every thing i eat stick right to my things and butt. why? is it because i quit smoking. probably. i am tempted to pick up the nasty habit again just to be able to fit into my clothes the way i use to. i look at my face and moles, some brown and some missing their pigment, more and more are appearing. the faint lines around my eyes, "fish tails".

thinking how i was such a dreamer and looking forward to the future and all the unexpected surprises. well, here i am, nearly 5 years later, in China, after living in NYC for 3 years. some say, and others know well, this was the route i always dreamed of.

missing my friends, missing that social life, missing a community. though many have moved, and are still moving away from richmond, some even to the other side of the country. but here I am right now, on the other side of the world.

jason doesn't lie awake with me at night, as soon as that boy lays down, he passes out...he is sawing logs right at this very moment. its 12:22 am oct 26 here...its noon on the east coast, on oct 25th.........more than times than not, i wish he would wake up and talk to me about what is racing through my mind. perhaps a couple words of encouragement...maybe some soothing thoughts, just to know he hears, knows, tries to understands, and just helps. i know i am a pain and he has been my personal translator for nearly a month now. i owe him so much, more than i could ever explain to you my reader.

i kick myself in the ass a lot for not traveling before this. i mean, only a year and a half ago i went to the West Coast for the very first time. this is the most amazing experience of my entire life and i plan on making more and more...forever.

should i leave NY............when i get back........oh dear oh dear.......i wish i had some close friends - here, with me now. we could talk over some beers and dream dreams and talk of the future and the exciting things that could, and would probably happen.

a couple days ago, a friend from high school, one of my best friends - sent me pictures of her newborn baby girl. how weird is this...i am staring at the face of a girl i have known for like 15 years and there she is, holding her baby. wait, life, hold on...weren't she and i waiting for our first kiss like yesterday, talking about potential boyfriends, passing notes during class, life....really, hold up for a minute...i am trying to catch my damn breathe.

in china, currently, there is a tree with flowers in bloom. these flowers smell like the perfume RUSH...i think of Kaycie, her favorite perfume. then that leads me to remember my very VERY early 20's and how amazingly retarded we were. and these are my nights..........

these instances, these moments, where i am reminded of something and then i begin spiraling down through my past, remembering, missing, and simultaneously trying to hold onto the present because i know before i know it this will all be the past.

its past my bedtime...and my mind is already in a whirlwind of all kinds of sorts.

goodnight, i will tell you all about Huangzou tomorrow.

ah shucks...

i am really bad at falling behind this thing...i wish i could blog every day but if you haven't caught on, i try to re-iterate the days happenings like 2 or 3 days after the fact. and it kind of sucks because i forget things or i just adjust to all the weirdness.

monday's posting, i forgot to add about my diet. well, you should see my speed with chopsticks...i would put 98 percent of you to shame. last week i had to run from the MRT office because i got really bad stomach cramps after eating from the Muslim/Chinese soup/noodle place around the corner. 6RMB per bowl, and they pull their noodles right then and there. i eat there often but this time, about an hour after eating i had to run to the border - if you know what i mean.

well, monday night, jason and i tried tried a different place. its on the corner, not the most hygienic place around. if you have never been to asia you probably have a slight difficulty understanding the little food shops. they cook it right there, in the open air, often there are folding tables on the sidewalk, the USA would crap themselves if they saw the state of these eating establishments....anyhow. this place, you go to one side and you choose skewers of meats vegetables and what not, like noodles too. then you go to the other side, by exiting out the opening (where a roll gate goes) and you hand your basket of skewers to a lady. now this woman uses no gloves and handles your money and food all in one scoop. so they cook up our food and i know the chinese love MSG and i am watching this other woman just scoop it over all the dishes...oh my. in the mean time i am counting the roaches on the back wall, and they ask jason if we want it spicy..sure!

so our soup comes and it looks delicious, besides the fact that the soup is black. its so spicy...it hurts. i love spicy food but this is just too much.
time #2 i have an upset stomach from the food here China.

besides a lot of noodles and such...i eat a pomello a day. this is like a giant grapefruit with a really thick rind. you have to cut the rind a little bit and then you peel it away. and unlike oranges and grapefruit, you have to break the inside skin pieces and pick out the meat. i usually have one a day, its basically my addiction.

i eat a lot here...its so cheap...and its so good. chinese take out when i get back is really going to be awful in all comparison.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

lack of sleep from insomnia...and i am off to hanzhou

we awoke around 7:30 to catch the 9:30 bullet train. after a long night of tossing and turning...anxiety ranging from what to do after this trip, to grad school, to arranging a trip to see parents in different states, to paying my credit cards on time.

taking the subway in shanghai during rush hour sucks. worst than ny because no one has the idea to get out of the way of the doors or to step out. and since i am a human giant here, with lack of sleep, and just bulldoze through without a care or worry. lugging a large canvas bag, a backpack of photo equipment, and a tripod. it was about a 15 minute subway ride to the train station, we were coming very close to missing our train.

the train station is about 4 levels high, resembles a nice airport, like JFK's JetBlue station. lots of glass and steel, what shanghai loves - right?

we run to our train and get our seats. jason translates to me that the loudspeaker asks that you do not sleep in the overhead luggage compartments. in the aisle over from me a young man pulls down his shade. the man behind him, taps him on his head to let him know he wants to watch the scenery out the window. so, for about 10 minutes they struggle with the damn curtain, trying to balance it on these silver nubs. of course all i can think is, "you damn morons, have you ever used a window shade before" - yes, lack of sleep, cranky. jason and i consult later how ridiculous this spectacle was.

the bullet train was introduced to shanghai only this April, and is designed to run at a top speed of 200 km per hour. the train leaves on time, its clean, and has amazing leg room...for 54 RMB - though it was different on the way back.

the scenery just upon leaving the station was breathtaking once again. the chinese country side. harvesting, homes, huts, shacks, pagodas, the apartment buildings, trash piles on fire...some sites are so warm and wonderful and others sad and depressing.

apartment buildings are all grey, khaki, and the occasional blue. you really feel and get the sense of communist rule. completely utilitarian, drab, blending all into one another. closer to shanghai, the sites are a bit more depressing, more piles of trash, more fires, more shacks/huts, and the country side sometimes resembles small garbage dumps. you see housing around the piles of garbage, and even closer are fathers with their children - this is life. lots of plastics...lots and lots of plastic.

the train in only minutes hits 160 km/hr and the ride is extremely smooth. i feel myself being rocked to sleep almost instantaneously - must stay awake, must enjoy the view. jason is out.

about 15-20 minutes out things get a bit more appealing to a sensitive american. the apartment complexes are clean, though all buildings remain there greyish/khaki color but now their are streams, and small stone bridges, with dam's (that resemble large guillotine) in the small waterways. the ones closer to shanghai, had the dams blocking garbage and somtimes you would see someone with a large fish net catching the garbage out.

further into the countryside, we are traveling southwest, things are greener, i begin to see mountains in the far distance. there are flowers, i can see harvesting in the fields...men and women. occassionally the lonely bicycle in the middle of a green field. at one moment, i see a man walking in front of a group of children, over a small foot bridge towards their clean yards and clean grey buildings, the children are hopping and give me the impression they are very happy. this man appears to be an elder. i see pagodas, temples, waiting to see the buddha himself. beautiful, i close my eyes to rest for the rest of the way.

hangzou is the #1 tourist city of China. there are wetlands nearby, a very large lake, many many monuments and national treasures, and beautiful scenery.

we awake at the station. the station reminds me of the train we have to take to the beach in NY - whatever that line is...LIRR i believe - the one that takes you to the Hampton's or whatever. either way, its simple, old, and there is a lot of noise and commotion. i can see the other trains in the station, not as modern at all, and mostly all colored of a red rust - i think, "old timey".

walk down the platform, people lugging their belongings, girls making boys carry all the bags and such. we get downstairs, and there is a very large man in a green uniform shouting...jeeez, did they get me tickets to the concentration camps...

upon exiting the station we walk outside and there are hundreds of people sitting around, eating, watching over children, napping on their duffel bags, children in wicker baskets strapped to womens backs. it all reminds me of a chinese version of images from the FSA, i.e. Dorthea Lange's migrant workers...you know, the dust bowl, workers in there orchards towards the west...you must know what I am talking about - the Farm Security Administration - look it up on Wikipedia if you must.

the sky is hazing, foggy? i don't know, we have no idea whats going on. we step inside to try to call someone about getting to the hotel i am suppose to photograph and we are to stay in for the next 2 days.

there is some arguing between jason and i. his phone won't charge, we can't figure out how to call a number, and i am directed to talk to the women at this fancy hotel lobby. wait, i can't speak chinese..."they speak english, they have too" and on and on. still, after all this, we can't get a hold of whoever we are suppose to call when we get there. we catch a taxi, after trying to grab one off the road, no, we have to go get one at the taxi stand. we manage to get down there, where we just were, and we hop into a cab. jason directs him to just take us to the lake, we will have to figure out something there.

as we approach, bill calls, and through discussion, the taxi driver knows where the "99 RMB" hotel is. we go.

it's a bit further out than the main part of the city. we pass some older areas, typical chinese, we head towards an area of construction and there in the distance is a hotel about 20 floors high, resembles a gian Lego Block building, with large "99 (symbol for RMB)" on the top of the building. it is blocks of Yellow, White, Green, and Black..........

Monday, October 22, 2007

you notice how the title says "and back"

jason and i went to the wholesale market today with annie. it was large, very large, and overwhelming. plenty of knock off clothing, too much to deal with. anyone that knows me - knows i am not a big fan of shopping, especially when it comes to browsing through sizes that are too small and the shoes might make it onto a half a foot. we were there for 3 hours, it was interesting, the smells were weird though. one corner would smell horribly of piss and the other like fake handbags or really awful cheap clothing. this place is more on the outskirts of town and its exhausting to try and find something
1 I want
2 that will fit
3 that won't fall apart
4 hoping that i am not too lazy to pull money out of my pocket.
why is it so difficult for me to actually pull myself together to want to spend money on clothing. i wish i could just hire someone to do it all for me. i know what i like, don't like, i just can't put the shit together.

we got some octopus on skewers and annie some dumplings. they accidentally squirted on herself and i - though i was impressed by her english of "im sorry" and we both laughed at the situation...laughter is universally understood.

later we go to photograph annie/bills shop: boutique. nothing special for me...just working, ya know...what all jet setters do

bill offers jason and i to stay for a year in shanghai...first thought: "oh shit" second thought: "neptune" third thought: those were a lot of thoughts, about 2 hours worth to keep me from sleeping.........................................

tomorrow, we leave for Hangzou.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

i need some alone time

i spent most of today lounging around and just kind of napping and thinking and getting stressed and feeling a whole lot of anxiety. trying to figure out what to do with my life once i get back to the states...oh dear. i am at this extremely crucial point and any major move or decision will be stuck with me for quite awhile. it's not like i am 19 and can just drop everything and move from city to city, nevertheless - country to country.

it's affordable here, people are nice, and for the most part all the expat's are really great to be around. a lot of opportunities exist, whereas NY you have at least 8 people ahead of you that have all paid their "dues" to the city.

i have always been a rule breaker, traveled along to my own drummer..."oh, you have to assist to be a photographer!" really? are you sure. i am just dropped into a strange city and i am dividing my time photographing what i want to, photographing for work, and editing images of the wedding i shot in SF. maybe this wasn't the easiest route, but i know what i want to be and said heck, just jump in. "Assume clout" as i was directed by a mentor/photographer/friend. that is what i do, along with my smile, and respect to all those around me.

i feel at home here, though its a bit lonely at times...and very very far from "home".

we went to ride go carts tonight. about 7 US Dollars for 8 mins for the ones that go 80 km/h (you do the math to get to miles). i knocked james off course a couple of times and the course was awesome in comparison to the indoor ones in Richmond. its just got tires along the grass course and its pretty big. it was awesome, fun, COMPLETELY!

the 6 of us went to get Korean food - this all going on the outskirts of town and our bill was 210 RMB - remember: 7 RMB to 1 US Dollar (approximate). and it was damn good. especially the octopus at the end. i love food here. and jason and i usually get an ice cream once a day - and we didn't pass it up on our little walk around the neighborhood after dinner.

go carts and cheap food - what more could you ask for?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

saturday is a workday


i spent most of the day working, and shooting some more interiors for MRT and TPA. this is their lobby and where i have been spending most of last week at, well, in one of the work rooms.

Friday, October 19, 2007

source party/art stuff and free beer

after work today, we went with a group of people to a source party. it's a hip boutique store with a gallery (that also looks like people skateboard on). There was free tiger beer and I was amazed at how many white people were there. It was nice to see myself within a similar race, because it reminded me that I am not a beached whale - just in comparison, its all relativity right?

it was a show of fliers/posters for some DJ's in Shanghai. after walking around a little while, i realized that I may be the only American there. lots of Brits and Germans, and of course French - as its located in the French Quarter. i love listening to all the accents and such but I was repulsed when I heard a non American accent telling a chinese girl all about America. don't front...

though, there was a major difference of this event in comparison to those similar in NYC - the pompous, self righteous, and indifferent attitude was not present. no "so what do you do?". so much more low key - though I was not involved in any of the conversations there because Jason and I end up just talking to each other as 2 awkward, social retarded, sober monkey's would do.

we leave with a group of 11 or so and we travel down the street for hot pot. the conversation was wonderful, ranging from traveling through China, history of US and Chinese, The American South - which surprisingly over half the group had lived there at some point, to keyboards, and all kinds of techy stuff to make a girls head explode.

towards midnight we leave, and Jason and I go off with 2 other ladies to a "hat party". this is at gabriel's (a swedish architectect) and "yo" sp??? who we had met earlier that week at dinner who was a student from Norway.

we didn't stay long as according to jason was no reason because there was no more beer and it seemed to be mostly spoiled white kids. it was a bit reminiscent of a frat party.

goodnight.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

apartment photography

Just another day of photographing an apartment. I swear, we should start a cleaning service where we move all your stuff around and then move it all back, so its just ever so slightly different.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Crocs

Mostly a day filled with editing images, a short walk into the city where we bought a chocolate ice cream on the way there and on the way back. We went to Cyber Mart - 5 floors - of all wonderful technology things...computers, phones, ect - you get the idea.

I had to purchase a new eye cup for my digital camera and a something to clean that damn dirty sensor of my the same camera mentioned.

Tonight, I photographed the interior of the Shanhai Crocs office. You know Crocs, thos hideous spongey shoes. Except they have some great new styles coming out this winter. This was a really great opportunity to photograph and Jason makes an excellent assistant. Though, in my free time I cram my brain with books of Architecture - some filled with fabulous images and other that make me cringe my face - yuck - puffing up and knowing i am better. More work this week to come....

Monday, October 15, 2007

working in Shanghai




I have been asked to photograph some interiors and architecture for MRT design. Today we traveled to a residence in the city. Not much excitement here in the sense of tourism, but it always feels great to work.

working in Shanghai

I have been asked to photograph some interiors and architecture for MRT design. Today we traveled to a residence in the city. Not much excitement here in the sense of tourism, but it always feels great to work.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

tiny bikes through shanghai

Jason purchased 2 of those tiny, foldable bikes...I always picture myself as a monkey or a bear riding around on one of these at the circus.

We took them to little old "bike man" on the corner and pumped up our tires for 2 RMB. They were purchased when we first got here for a little under 300 RMB each. Today was the first day we have decided to take them out for a ride. Riding them through the city is absolute insane. We made the poor choice of going on our adventure at the beginning of rush hour.

You just keep your lane and follow the pack. Our seats kept falling down and before you know it we were pedaling and our knees nearly reaching our chins.

Earlier today, we walked down to the tourist areas of the giant skyscrapers and those ball buildings. We also took some crazy underground tunnel that was basically decorated with Christmas tree lights and had cheezy decorations. The cars were imported from France - I suppose thats where they spent that money.

Also, we walked through the Bund - beautiful shops, beautiful clothes, high dollar everything. The fashion here is spectacular - as you have more opportunities to see and purchase styles and designers from Europe and Japan. But we do not stop, shopping is not a priority.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

the most strange place i have ever seen

Thursday, October 11th :

The flight was short, and very stereotypical - all the young to middle aged Asian men, I look down the row and over their head to see black haired heads with every single face peering into a newspaper that I can only recognize one or two symbols of. China Eastern's meals are awful as well, so I was digging into trail mix most of the time - feeling ultra awesome using my chopsticks from breakfast to pick through it. I always manage to get a couple of double takes when I am chomping away with two wooden sticks...crazy lauwei!

We are flying into the airport and I can see mountains and corn...not an unfamiliar site from the air when flying through the States. (Yes, now I am now one of those people that refers to the US as the states). The mountains are very reminiscent of Southwest Virginia, while the corn fields are much like wherever they grow corn. We touch down to a tiny runway surrounded by nothing but empty fields and mountains. As I exit the plane I can feel the cold bite my face and it's drastically different than in Shanghai, and it's around 17:00 so the sun is setting fast.

This must be the smallest airport I have ever seen in my life. We walk into the waiting area and the luggage pickup is a belt that runs from outside to inside, looping over and over again. It would been as easy just to throw the luggage off and have them pick it up plane side. We are greeted by a small group of men and women that escort us to a van. I am traveling with Bill, Jason, and another Jason - one of Bill's employee's. Let me remind that I don't understand anything being discussed, except for some small gestures - such as them thinking Jason and Bill do not look like brothers. I notice the small building in the parking lot and seem to think it is very familiar to Russian style architecture. Where exactly are we? How close are we to Russia - and more importantly...could I walk to the North Korean border?

Headed towards the city, I see fields and fields of corn - and currently there are people throughout the fields harvesting the corn. I see mechanical contraptions on the road that look like nothing I have ever seen before. They seem hand welded with an open engine in the front or some have one in the back. There are donkey and horse drawn carts, always stacked high with something, I often see lettuce or cabbage draped in cloth with a round woman sitting atop. My mouth is dropped open for the entire ride and Jason and I exchange looks ever so often - trying to just fathom what we are seeing. He says, " I have NEVER seen corn in China". I just nod, trying to figure out how to get out here to photograph. The engines in the carts, or whatever they are, leave a black smoke and I can only assume they are all still powered by coal. The "homes" and communities littered within the fields are shacks, some more than others...some reminding me of West Virginia - if you ever decide to drive through the mountains and bypass the interstate. Outside walls built with patches of whatever, huts built with plastic and perhaps corn stalks. I can only be humble and have the utmost respect for these hard working laborers, where I can see smoke stacks and a few tall building with neon coming upon us from the inner city. The faces of these people are worn, tough, and have a different complexion and facial structure than those of Shanghai. Thick hats, and coats, and gloves are worn. All the bicycle carriages have a drab green plastic covering, because here it gets much colder. The images I captured in my mind on this drive will remain with me for the rest of my life - I could never describe them accurately to anyone that has not seen it for themselves.

We are driving to a job site that MRT has designed that was suppose to be complete that day. It is not, though I am thoroughly impressed of the amount of work that has been done in only a matter of 3 months. From nothing to what I am now seeing. Jason explains to me that the Chinese still have not mastered the task of concrete pours and have to bring Russian crews in to do that task. I turn my head on the first level to see Grandpa carrying to canvas bags, one in each hand, filled with concrete or some sort of tile. He must be at least 20 years older than my own dear father and can't but feel to offer him a hand...though I resist - he wouldn't understand the language or the gesture. Watching this construction, I always wonder of my own father, and my heart and mind is put to a moment of rest thinking if this 70+ year old man is still doing this, my dad can keep going. Perhaps when your body is use to this life, it's easier to continue through this way.

After about an hour or so we leave to go to a bank where the developer's work, Greenland, and leave very briefly from there to our Hotel. The front desk girls are wearing large military green coats to keep themselves warm. The coats are styled as Russian military, or maybe North Korean, I am not sure as I have never seen either nor been in the military - though have visited military surplus stores more than a handful of times.

Only in our hotel for a matter of 15 minutes or so - we head off to dinner with members of Greenland and MRT. There are approximately 10 of us, in a private room, with a round table and the typical "lazy susan" for you Westerner's to understand. Now, if you have never eaten with Asians, you do not order your own dish. Many dishes are ordered and you share them. I learned this a couple years ago with my roommate Hey and then meeting Jason. I love this style of eating, and is definitely one of the things I love the most about Asian culture and cuisine.

First comes hot tea, a couple of dishes consisting of seaweed, a cabbage style salad with little brown nuts/herb than numbs your mouth when you heat. It's kind of like mentalatum but not really. The cabbage and oil is warm and supposedly these little guys have a medicinal purpose. I decide to only have 2 small serving of this. We are brought a basket of large bottled beers and then beautiful and strange dishes begin to appear. A large fish head, small fried fish on a skewer, pork meat from the spinal column (which is the only dish I must pass on) - but the most interesting dish is the DONKEY! Now, I decided when I visited I would try most all of the dishes. I am aware I am at a partial business dinner and it would be incorrect for me not to try - or show disgust. Let me remind you, I am in a room, eating with all Chinese - with very little English being spoken. I have to go strictly on gestures, some words of English, and some translations from Jason and a few from Bill. Jason is wonderful, as he sits next to me translating most of the conversations for me.

"Are you not going to try the Donkey" comes from the jokester of the group. Who knows some English - such as "Porn". I smile, reach across the table to the plated meat in the shape of a brain - which is what I thought it was at first. I place the bite size piece of meat in my mouth and its absolutely wonderful. It takes a bit more chewing than what I am use to but the flavor is absolutely wonderful...perhaps Anise, or some Clove. I don't know, but I will let you, the reader know, that I ate more than just a couple of bites of Donkey.

After a large meal, with a large amount of food being left to waste ("there are starving children in China"), and large bottles of beer. We head out, to get into the van again and head down the streets through the city. The city streets are fairly dead and empty at this point until we arrive to a KTV. NOW - a KTV was explained to me that its karaoke. Okay, sure, I go to karaoke in NYC and its chill, byob, private rooms and what not. But this is not the karaoke establishment I was expected to find. Two floors, neon lights, brightly lit, men in uniform directing us wear to park. Upon entering, I saw these young girls in knee high boots, brightly lit satin and silk dresses, with a fur scruff. Hair elegant and a fair amount of make up. From see the city before night, my first assumption is, "oh, someone's high school is having prom". NO. They are employees, and which I find later on - attendants of rooms and other personal services.

We enter a large room, with more neon, a large screen, and with only one female attendant. She pours red wine into carafe's with ice and brings trays of fruit, popcorn (which is sweet in China - no such thing as salty or buttery popcorn), nuts, and other snacks. Jason and I only sing one song, as we were instructed by Bill because of the business going on or what not. I also joined Bill on a Mr. Big song.

On my way to the bathroom down the dark hallway, I receive strange looks from these girls - these dolled up teenagers, some with tiara's some with sparkely things. My instinct tells me that something else goes on here, behind these doors, in these dark rooms, that is more than just some sing alongs. I find my way to the bathroom, where I young man, probably around my age, points me to the correct bathroom and speaks some English to me. I am very grateful.

There is an attendant trying to get ink pen marks off her white boots with a rag. I can tell she is frustrated about it and its not coming off. Why are there pen marks on her boots? How did they get there? What is really going on in this place? I use the squat toilet, wash my hands, and head straight back to the room - praying that I enter the correct one.

As we are leaving, we walk through the bar where there is a stripper pole and in the next room seems to be a quasi rave going on. Oh, good ol' communist China, how I wish I was still so young but I am quite ready for bed. We leave, we go to our rooms at the large hotel with no heat, and tuck ourselves away from the cold until the morning. Jason and I are set to see the "Bear Farm" in the morning.

Friday, October 12 (Happy Birthday Chris, my brother):

Jason and I head down for the breakfast at the hotel. It is 8:30 am and we have 30 minutes left and a lot of cold food. I take some breads and cookies because I woke up in the middle of the night with stomach cramps thinking, "why did I eat that damn donkey!?" but that wasn't the reason for the abdominal pains.

Once outside, I am bombarded with smells and sounds. What I see and hear and smell is definetly strange, even in comparison to Shanghai. Too much going on to even try and discuss...sensory overload. We walk through streets where there are vendors, and markets, and chickens and all sorts of different animals. I have my camera and some people ask what are we doing and ask Jason more questions about me. We continue through the streets while I take pictures, 2 of man with his donkey, hauling 2 large steel barrels of muck. He came outside and asked in Chinese, "taking a picture of my donkey?" We exchanged smiles, because though I can't understand, a smile is fairly universal.

The entire place has a grey smudge to it, like everything has been dusted with a fog. In the close distance you can see smock stacks. But from our 13th floor of the hotel, it only goes so far until the city is completely cut off my mountains. There is Mandarin being spoken from the loud speakers around the city, honking horns, bicycle bells - loud speaking. A McDonald's with great coffee that trys to upsell hamburgers and fries - we only want the damn hot coffee. I spot teenagers all hipster like, not fitting the scenery - and can relate to my youth with the dreams of getting out of a shithole and dreams of a big city where everything is clean and beautiful. Oh, if they only new the truth of it all. Like the assumption that Americans ALL have a car and that i why taxi's are expensive.

At 10 we hailed a taxi. It took 10 minutes for Jason to speak to the driver about going to the Bear Farm. Trying to explain that the bears have hoses from their stomachs where they take bile. When I hear both give a big sigh of relief I realize that they have come to an understanding of where we are trying to go and for he to take us. He explains to Jason that no one ever goes there. (Here is some forshadowing for you my dear reader: Do you remember when Yogi and BooBoo go to the bear cave and Yogi is confused about the Bears sleeping in the Fall/Winter...?)

So we are off to the Bears. We leave the city and we are driving through the country side. It is the fall now and I can only imagine what it looked like during the Spring. For now it is orange and dying green and brown...though this will have to do for my photographs. Looking outside the window, while Jason and the Taxi driver chat it up, I am dying to get out and take photographs. This is obviously a very poor part of the country, no cars, all carts, horses, buggies, and just a few bicycles. Huts and shacks are set of too the back of the corn fields, that you can see a few people sprinkled though out the fields harvesting the corn.

Jason explains to me that the driver is asking a lot of questions and wards them off because he doesn't want us to be taken out to the middle of nowhere to be killed or whatever. I do grow nervous when his car starts going really slow up the hills but I realize that it is having transmission problems or the fuel injections just really sucks.

We pass small communities, where I can see from the top of hills that you enter this neighborhoods with one street and then its a labyrinth of homes throughout this squared area.

I begin to see billboards for the bears. you wouldn't believe the ads; bears in tutu's, bears and trapeze's, bears doing non bear activities. Do I for see a wonderful proposal for a story when I get back to the states? Newsweek? NY Times? Vice? I know I don't have enough film for what I may see so I am already preparing a plan to get back in the Spring.

After about a 45 minute car ride, we arrive. (Taxi's are dirt cheap here) It is obviously closed for the season but the giant basketball court next to a warehouse facility in the middle of nowhere makes both Jason and excited of what happens here. But its a no show. Closed...mental note....must COME BACK AGAIN!

We make a deal with the driver that we will be making stops on the way back for me to take photographs. He says where we want to go is this "waterfall". So we go there. Maybe more like a trickle of water down some stones. There is a fenced area a couple yards away...we walk up to it and the driver yells to us that we can go in. (Jason can't read chinese). We go in and its a Temple, in the middle of nowhere. I take some photographs, Jason purchases some water, a woman comes out and asks why I want to take photographs, its only a field of corn stalks. She is smiling and very friendly. She explains to Jason that if you look up the mountain the rocks look like Buddha, or whatever you wan it to be. This woman, in the middle of nowhere, a place of poverty, is instilling the idea of imagination to us. I think its wonderful, we all laugh...a wonderful woman and very neat Temple. Yes, I took pictures of the Mountain Top Buddha.

Back in the car we head down the dirt roads to get back on paved path. We stop at one entrance to a community. The driver gets out with us, and tells the people to leave us alone, we are just taking pictures, who cares. because they had tried to shoo me off. we walk down and through. an older man with a toddler comes up towards us and I smile and say hello (obviously in mandarin) and he smiles and returns it. i gesture if i can take a photograph he politely shakes his head no. there is a very tiny woman in the streets explaining to others that i am someone from another country. she approaches us and i say i am american (again, in mandarin). she understands and continues, like a skipping record to jason that she is scared of americans and foreigners, over and over again. this is after he asked if we could take her photograph and she said no because she doesn't know me and i am a foreigner and they scare her. i notice a large bag of prepared ramen packets (in china, there are noodle places everywhere, people usually make their own). she explains that she has to go home and make them for her and her mother. Weird...we leave.

We continue stopping through the country side. The driver explains that dog is eat out here. Bill calls us and tells us we should go see the baby tigers. The driver gives us a high price for the transportation...i mean "high" as relative. We are already giving him extra for making all the stops and paying his cheap rate. I will have pictures of this adventure as soon as the film is developed.

Returning back to the city, I completely forgot to ask the driver if I could take his picture. We had spent nearly 3 hours with him and Jason and he had chatted it up for nearly the whole time. One of the discussions between him and Jason was how "America is heaven and here is Hell" - where all Americans are rich and have cars, where life is easy. The Chinese are allowed to watch too many Friends episodes or 7th Heaven or whatever. Jason tries explaining that it's not all like that. Either way, I have to admit, America does look like the land of the rich from what I have seen and where I have been.

We go back to our room, watch some communist tv and take a nap. It's freezing.

Later, we go out to take some more photographs. Near the end of the walk we purchase some sunflower seeds from a woman. She asks Jason if I am Russian, I "look Russian". Her son, whom I think may have had some "learning disabilities" claims I am American. She probably thinks I am Russian because Americans don't come to this part of the country. They stay in Hong Kong/Beijing/Shanghai and shop their worthless US Dollar away. They are pleased that I am from America and we all exchange smiles and sunflower seeds. A LOT of sunflower seeds.

Back to the hotel room to warm up, drink a beer, and eat sunflower seeds...and of course some more communist television - in the sense of the government control.

FOOD IS SO CHEAP IN CHINA!!! Jason and I found a place for dinner. We each had a meal and 2 large beers a piece for under 6 US Dollars. Food, booze, and transportation is cheap here...to keep the people happy. We buy more beer on the way home and some bottled water. Realizing we have no bottle opener, I am prying the caps off with the clothes line hook in the bathroom while Jason is using something else. Mine works the best - I win.

Saturday, October 13th:

We are leaving at like 15:00 or sometime around there. Jason and I walk to a different part of town. We come by a back alleyway, sort of street...with dogs everywhere. i mean everywere, in cages, on cages, on leashes, hundreds. 10 Us Dollars....its sad...its cold...will they be eaten or for pets...we have to leave. this explains what i though i saw on our driver from the bear farm...i thought it looked like a puppy farm...it probably was. We walk to the river where I finish up the batch of film. We have to meet up with Bill but am so disappointed because I find a run down amusement park of sorts along the riverbank. But, we have to go and I am out of film anyhow. We eat. Back to the hotel where we wait for a transportation. There is something strange (nothing new in this town) out in front of the hotel. There is a large truck that men are filling up with cut steel and metal. no gloves, nothing, just pure blood and sweat. the below photograph is of the man that stays at the top and adds the metal to the truck. they are emptying all of this stuff out of the bottom of the hotel we are in. a little tractor with a cart goes under and then about 10 minutes later returns with a cart full of metal scraps.

In the van we take a different route to the airport. There is dozens of construction sites, building materials, all next to huts/homes of the nearby communities. This is across the river from the city where there is nothing but corn fields and broken down homes. It's crazy. If I only had another week here and a car. This is has been the craziest place I have ever been in my entire life. Its sad. Its dirty. Its poor. Its REAL. I am experiencing real China and I couldn't ask for anything better. The only thing I wish on a daily basis is that I wasn't large and white and could speak Mandarin.

At the airport...goodbye Mudanjiang...I will return - someday - I must. The best trip EVER.


The above pictures are just snapshots of Heilongjiang - as I shot more than 10 rolls of Medium Format film in a day and a half.