Wednesday, October 31, 2007

not NYC

...but the new new york - Shanghai!

Sunday, October 28, 2007


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' 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 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 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 know, the dust bowl, workers in there orchards towards the 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.


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


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 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 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.

Friday, October 12, 2007

and we are off to Mudanjiang

this is the background information I received before leaving for Mudanjiang.
- it's cold
- it's close to the North Korean border (awesome!!)
- it has the world's largest Bear Bile Farm *
- it's China's version "of like Tulsa, Oklahoma" - from someone at dinner Thursday night discussing it.
- tourists thought it was a cruel joke for Bill to be taking us along.

* info taken from the US Humane Society:

There are about 7,000 bears on bear-bile farms in China. The captive animals are used to supply the voracious Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) market. Bear bile has been an ingredient in TCM for thousands of years, but intensive bear farming only came into existence in the 1980s when China's supply of wild bears began running low. The farms, however, have created a new set of problems.


Usually bile is extracted from the bears' gallbladders twice a day through a surgically implanted tube. The process, called "milking," produces from .338 to .676 oz. (10–20 ml.) of bile each time. Milking is clearly painful for the bears, who are often seen moaning and chewing their paws during the process.

Sometimes the farmers just push a hollow steel stick through a bear's abdomen, and the bile runs into a basin under the cage. Surgery to insert the tube or stick is seldom performed by veterinarians (very few bear farms employ them). Roughly half of the bears die from infections or other complications.

The catheter has been banned as a method for bile extraction (although bears have still been seen with catheters in them). In recent years, the government has been promoting the so-called humane "free dripping" method, which sees a permanent hole or fistula carved into the bear's abdomen and gall bladder, from which bile "freely drips" out. The damage caused by bile leaking back into the abdomen, together with infection from the permanently open hole is as bad, if not worse, than the older style methods and causes a high mortality on the farms. Because the body's natural instinct is to repair itself, farmers' have had a difficult time keeping the hole in the abdomen open. This has led to illegal use of a small Perspex catheter which keeps the hole permanently open and infected, inflicting severe pain on the bears.

It's important to note that the herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile are 100% equal to bear bile in effectiveness. Additionally, veterinary evidence suggests that bile from farmed bears is often contaminated with pus and other detritus as a result of the conditions in which it is extracted.


On most bear bile farms, the bears are housed in a cage that is about 2.6 feet x 4.2 feet x 6.5 feet—so small that these 110- to 260-pound animals can barely sit up or turn around. The bars pressing against their bodies leave scars, some as long as four feet. Some bears have head wounds from banging them against the bars. Many of the bears have broken and worn teeth from biting the bars.

Cubs and Older Bears

Captive-bred cubs are taken from their mothers at three months. (In the wild, they have been observed staying with their mothers for up to 18 months.) Infant mortality is high. Captive mothers often eat their young, a behavior attributed to the stress of captivity because it seldom occurs in the wild. Some farms train cubs to perform in circuses (riding a bicycle, boxing, or walking a tightrope) until they are about 18 months old. Milking of the gallbladder begins at three years. Bears can produce bile longer than 5-10 years. Some bears arriving at the Animals Asia Moon Bear Rescue Center have been in cages for 20 years or more, still producing bile at the time of their surrender.

Gallbladders can be worth much more than $150 USD depending on where they are sold. We have no fixed figures for the price of gallbladders in China, but many investigations have put it at much higher than $150 USD. Once smuggled to Japan and Korea, they can fetch several thousand dollars

Once they stop producing bile (between five and ten years of age), bears are either allowed to die from starvation or illness, or they are killed so the farm can sell their paws (one quoted price was $250 USD each) and gallbladders ($150 USD each).

"Model" Farms

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) sent investigators to 11 bear farms in China. At two model Chinese government farms, WSPA investigators were told that a smaller cage was used for the twice daily milking, but a cage large enough to allow the bear to stand and turn around was used the rest of the time. Still, practically all the bears had injuries from rubbing against bars.

Bear Bile—the Wonder Drug

Bile acid—ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA)—has been popular in TCM for about 3,000 years. Unfortunately for them, bears produce more of it than any other mammal. Bile is excreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, from which it is released into the stomach to help digest food. Bear bile is marketed as a treatment for a staggering array of human maladies, from cardiac illness to impotence to sore eyes. You can buy it in almost any form: pills and powders, ointments, lozenges, wines, and shampoos. But some practitioners of TCM use herbal and synthetic alternatives to bear bile that are less expensive and more readily available.

China's Market

In 1999, a Chinese official reported that 7,002 Asiatic black bears were being held on 247 farms in China. (China is the major source of farmed bear bile. Sources indicate that there are 4,012 captive bears in Vietnam, a steep increase from the 1,059 reported in 1992 when the captive bear issue first emerged there. Over 90% of captive bears in Vietnam are Asiatic Black Bears. 85% of bear farms keep bears for bile tapping, while another 15% are for display only.

In Korea, the South Korean government may have made bile extraction illegal, but another method of bear farming is now gaining steam. WSPA and Green Korea United estimate that 1800 bears are being kept on farms. It is legal for farmers to slaughter them when they reach 10 years of age and extract their gallbladders.

Species at Risk

There are eight species of bear in the world. All but the giant panda are threatened by the trade in gallbladders and bile products. The species most targeted is the Asiatic black bear, classified as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Because Asiatic black bears are listed on CITES Appendix I, it is illegal for China to engage in international trade in their parts. But it's impossible to tell whether a gallbladder or bile has been taken from an Asiatic black bear or from an American black bear, a species that can be internationally traded. So Asiatic black bear parts are slipping into the international market disguised as parts from their American relatives.

The Threat to Wild Bear Populations

It's no secret that products from wild bears are sold in China. Although the Chinese government claims that captive breeding is successful, bear farms regularly restock with wild bears. The farms pay the equivalent of $280 to $400 for a wild-caught cub—as much as ten times the monthly wage of a restaurant worker.

It's hard to get a fix on how many bears are living in the wild in China. In 1997, the Ministry of Forestry reported the number was 46,530. By 1999, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated there were fewer than 20,000. The decline of Asiatic black bear populations in China has endangered other bear species: wild bears are being killed for parts and viscera throughout Asia, North America, and South America.


Despite international laws protecting bears, the illegal trade in bear bile and gallbladder thrives. There's no lack of smugglers willing to move the products across national borders. Smugglers have been caught with whole gallbladders dipped in chocolate (attempting to pass them off as chocolate figs) or packed in coffee to obscure the smell. WSPA investigators tell of bile farm owners admitting to illegally exporting products to Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Singapore.


All bear species are listed under CITES Appendices, either on Appendix I (no international trade is allowed) or Appendix II (regulated international trade is allowed with proper permits). The differing international legal statuses for bear parts in trade, combined with the impossibility of distinguishing between species parts, make it difficult to enforce national or international bear-protection laws.

Despite the prevalence of illegal trade in bear gallbladders and bile products, China promotes the idea that it can maintain a bear farming industry that is both sustainable and humane. To that end, the CITES Management Authority in China created a list of standards for bear farms. The idea is that farms meeting the standards could be registered with CITES and allowed to trade bear products internationally.

Five Hundred Bears to Sanctuary

In July 2000, the Chinese government signed an agreement to deliver (over five years) 500 bears to the Animals Asia Foundation, which would provide them with veterinary care, rehabilitation, and sanctuary. The bears would be taken from the most primitive farms in the Sichuan province, which the government would then shut down. In the following ten years, the program would be expanded into other provinces. The estimated cost for building a sanctuary and caring for the first 500 bears for the first year is more than $3 million.

Some consider the agreement with Animals Asia to be nothing more than a public relations maneuver, intended to mitigate the fact that the Chinese government is clearly committed to bear-bile farming and is, in fact, pushing to legitimize the industry. Critics point out that the farms from which the bears would be taken are merely the worst of the hundreds operating in the country. Furthermore, they say, the bears being turned over to Animals Asia are old bears who are no longer profitable.

The director of Animals Asia Jill Robinson, MBE, agrees that the animals being released into her custody are but "a small percentage" of the thousands suffering on bear farms in China. But she points out that, "They are also animals which have spent anywhere up to 22 years behind bars and desperately need help in the form of extensive veterinary care, physiotherapy and integration. For the first time, large numbers of farmed bears are, at last, seeing their freedom. This, and our work with the Chinese government and related authorities, is keeping bear farming in the public eye, while working continuously towards the goal of ending the practice once and for all."

The Moon Bear Rescue Center has confiscated 187 bears, and are set to reach their goal of rescuing 500 bears by the 2008 Olympics. While 500 bears may represent a small percentage of the total number of bears on farms in China, the Moon Bear Rescue Center is a focal point for education and awareness on the issue, attracting a tremendous amount of local and international interest. People all over China have been shocked by reports in the media on the bear farming industry. The bears surrendered to the rescue center come in all ages and condition. Perhaps one of the most important (and often overlooked) roles of the sanctuary is the compilation of veterinary and scientific evidence which proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that bear farming is inhumane and hurts wild bear populations as well. Through our Education Village at the Moon Bear Rescue Center, Animals Asia is advancing the concept not only of bear welfare, but animal welfare as a whole, on a grand-scale.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

i will try to catch you up to date...

Wednesday 10/10/2007:

We traveled east across the river once again; racing along the interstate passing bicycles and scooters, looking at the construction going up in the countryside. I attempt to shoot out the window of the van but it just doesn't work the way I would like for it to - too obvious I am using a long lens in attempts to get some sort of interesting composition.

After about a 20 minute drive out of the center of the city, we turn into a construction site. The small parking lot is surrounded by apartment buildings. Though, a better way of describing them would be make shift dorm rooms, at 2 levels, to house the workers brought in from middle China and the countryside to help build up and out Shanghai.

Turning into a lot, of steel scaffolding and green nets covering the beginning of the high rises, muddied fields and men with bright orange hard hats. We follow Bill, Jason's brother, to the building that he has designed and we step in for me to take some architectural shots of the progress. Of course, its a repeat of the time we were at that lot and I heard the record stop and the needle scratch from one end to the other.

Stares, gawks, and just holding onto my image. Jason and I step outside to meander around and for me to snap more pictures. A group of 3 men walk towards me just staring, neck turns and its just too obvious for me not to smile and say hello, in mandarin. They stop, smile with a curious grin and approach me. The nod and mumble a slight hello in return.

Jason asks them if I may take their picture and they don't understand him. He realizes that they are from middle China and have a different dialect, but finally we get the point across and they agree. I snap only 2 pictures, and then my memory card is having problems from when I renamed the folders after shooting the wedding. Only 2 images will have to do.

They continue to work with stares, more men coming over to take a look. Smiles, snickers, and just blatant stares. The group of young men lining up against the wall are staring and I go over to greet them and I smile, and point to my camera. They shake their heads no, I respect peoples wishes and thank them and walk away.

Working like this is exhausting. Not so much work, but its exhausting not being able to verbally communicate and then being examined all the time. I get breaks when I am in the actual city, but overall its just plain, downright, tiring.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we leave for Heilongjiang - a 3 hour flight to the middle of nowhere. We will be close to the North Korean border and its suppose to be cold.

Monday, October 8, 2007

a complete outsider

Saturday we ventured to the outskirts of town. Its an area of about 3 square miles of stalls/shops that sell the goods from factories throughout China. Families move to this area to run the shops and sell the goods. Down the alleys, you can see the children playing, food being prepared, young girls getting their hair washed by a parent.

I was probably the only "lauwei" within a 4 mile radius. Lauwei is literally translated to "old outsider" and is somewhat of a derogatory term. Any guide book will tell you that it means "foreigner" - thats being nice about it. I heard this term over and over again...I usually looked back and waived, to either stunned faces or laughing. To some, I may have been the first actual white person, to others, a very rare occasion.

Taking pictures was a new experience for me. Usually, for example, in NYC China Town...they throw their hand in front of me letting me know they don't want me to take their picture. Here, I don't know if they were too much in shock or didn't know what these pictures are sometimes used for.

One child raised his toy gun at me, right at my face, I in return aimed my camera at him - he withdrew, I fired.

Another group of children were playing with a large pair of binoculars. One little boy watched me through them until I was about 4 feet away - aimed at my large eyes only making sure attention to hopefully match his through the glass lenses.

At one point, we are walking through the stalls and I see ahead of me a girl of nearly 5 or 6 pat her Father on the back. He turned, she pointed, I smiled. I walked up to her and her sister and pointed at my camera and smiled, gesturing to take their picture. I threw a quick glance to her father to catch his impression and he was all smiles. She knelt down next to her sister, gave me a gentle Peace sign with her right hand and the other child just looked at me in slight confusion. I snapped one picture, stepped up to show them and thanked them, "xiexie". They both stared at me, one with a large was one of my most exhilarating experiences as a photographer. I have grown up, this experience is the most wonderful of my entire life.

What I saw for those few hours, I don't know if I could ever describe in words. The images stuck in my head bring such an emotion to surface. Families, more than likely, moved from the Rural lands of China, to work in a tiny stall to sell items from factories. Is it a better way of life? Are they happy? What Jason and I were amazed by was the commotion, the amount of people, bikes/cars/trucks/walking - and there were no car wrecks. Especially since about 80 percent of the drivers weren't even paying attention to the road and staring at my face. Honestly, I am still working out emotionally and mentally these feelings. Never, as a white girl, have received so many stares, so much finger pointing, so much loud discussion of my presence. To a point it made me feel special, but on the other side of things, a distant outsider that would never be allowed to know the truth that exists within the culture.

Returning to the city after that adventure, the stares are minimal in comparison, if anything.
I am lucky on my travels to be staying with Jason's brother, who knows Shanghai, and takes us to strange places like this. A typical traveler to Shanghai would never have seen what I did - on my second day here no less. It has not even been a week and my mind has been blown. My look on life, happiness, struggles, work, etc has all been blown up and I do not plan on making any repairs until I get back to the States. KOKO, Keep On Keepin On.

The center of the city is not really that much different from a place such as Manhattan or even Brooklyn. I get a few stares, I get a few chuckles with my awful Mandarin - its emotions I have never experienced before. I peer into homes, which in any other American city would be considered run down store fronts. The way of life, the simplicity, the acceptance of this is the way it is. I feel like a fat, spoiled, lazy Meiguoren here, though I know have my own visual proof that America is the richest country in the world.

It is 8 am in NYC right is 8 pm right now, here at this table, in the center of Shanghai, while Jason sleeps on the couch.

Pictures will be posted later, as I am not sure how to handle them - because there are places/people that would love some of the images I captured. I must find a way to fund another trip here, or at least pay off the dept that this is going to incur. Much love America!

Friday, October 5, 2007



my blog is blocked from here...i suppose "they" don't want shanghai reading the ramblings of a Meiguoren. so, for all comments, i will not be able to view until I get back into the states...but please feel free to leave them.

24 hours of travelling

items lost in within 24 hours of travel:
-book of short stories
-pair of contact lenses in case

-swollen feet and calves, it looks as if I have a mean case of gout (sp?) and my feet feel tingly and fall asleep while sitting or walking.
-intestinal problems.

Jason and I got to hang in the VIP lounge in Hong Kong since our flights were all delayed and postponed. We ate and ate...mmmmmm, we were sad to leave.

Flying into the Shanghai airport, the sites a half a mile in the air were spectacular. Huts and factories, apartments across from the factories, parts of factories looking like shacks and such.

I watched a woman in a periwinkle outfit sweep the sidewalk last night, making nice piles of discarded items in the gutter of the street. While 3 men squatted around a bike, searching for the hole in the tire tube. Bicycles and skooters whizzing bye. Kindly introduced to the doorman of the building who lives under the stairs - his "apartment" being roughly the size of a full size bed.

Today, we went through markets, I catch the turning heads to get a look at me every now and again. Sensing Jason's frustrations for me not understanding 99.9 percent of any language. I drank fresh pressed Sugar Cane juice and walked through the market of second hand electronics and boot leg cell phones, being careful not to bump into the small boy taking a pee pee in the storm drain in the middle of the walkway.

My feet are swollen, I have slight jet lag, so I will rest.

Blogger is strange, the language has appeared in Chinese so this is a hint to me that this all may monitored more than I had previously thought. I have already read warnings in the airport to Bloggers....

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

far far away

Jason and I will be leaving from Seattle in a couple of hours. Accept the apology for not writing last week, but I was in San Francisco soaking in the sun and crashing my 5 day old notebook computer. Shooting a wedding, and tending to Jason shooting people and being shot.

The wedding was beautiful, and I didn't suffer any sea sickness except for a little burp'iness.

We slept on the floor at my dear friend Brent's and Jason's body still hurts from sleeping "all Jackie Chan style and shit". Yes, I was awakened early in the morning with this comment. A chuckle to help me fall asleep.

Seattle is gorgeous, what else can I say.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

san francisco

Can you feel it, see it, hear it today?
If you cant, then it doesnt matter anyway
You will never understand it cuz it happens too fast
And it feels so good, its like walking on glass
Its so cool, its so hip, its alright
Its so groovy, its outta sight
You can touch it, smell it, taste it so sweet
But it makes no difference cuz it knocks you off your feet
You want it all but you cant have it
Its cryin, bleedin, lying on the floor
So you lay down on it and you do it some more
Youve got to share it, so you dare it
Then you bare it and you tear it
You want it all but you cant have it
Its in your face but you cant grab it
Its alive, afraid, a lie, a sin
Its magic, its tragic, its a loss, its a win
Its dark, its moist, its a bitter pain
Its sad it happened and its a shame
You want it all but you cant have it
Its in your face but you cant grab it
What is it?
Its it
What is it? ...