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.