On the way out I have a layover in SF and get to see some old friends and classmates- Alan, Tyler, and Cindi
We would meet up with a big group of others, including Julie and Nancy, for dinner and get really drunk, so I slept on the plane ride and it went by quickly...
For the record my parents and I were born in Jamaica, and my grandparents were from China. I do not speak the language or have any relatives over there that I know of. It's funny to think that when some of us go back to visit the countries of our ancestors we are tempted to look for items like the family crest. I have no such goals. Unless your flight over there is first class and paid for by old wealth you aren't finding one. Your family would have LEFT FOR A REASON, and not because your castle in Germany with your shields and portraits got too small for your fat self. They would have been hungry and/or persecuted, in any case looking for a better life somewhere else, which unfortunately would = no family crest (unless you took the name of your town or the person you served). So save yourself the fantasy and spend $10 to get a name chop made. So there- now I have my very own family crest (that supposedly reads Dave Lee-Sue in Mandarin).
First arrival and civilization is evident already
Note the plethora of bikes outside
Sunrise for the flag raising ceremony, Tiananmen Square
Getting up at 5am and freezing my butt off to watch a stupid tourist ceremony among a crowd of people that I couldn't communicate with seemed like an error on my part. With a little patience, the insights I gained were well worth the lost sleep and discomfort. After the crowd gathered the soldiers paced around us and forced everyone in the front row to sit down. Soon after, they moved the ropes holding us back out into the crowd about a further 6 inches. For what purpose? And why wasn't it fine already considering that this is a ceremony done everyday? Answer- intimidation by the state, let's make sure everyone knows who's in charge. An officer would even pace- looking around the crowd- and seemingly at random pick someone in the audience to point and yell at. He would then cross over the ropes to go after them (so of course yours truly snaps a picture of all this and hopes for the best). Nothing like making an example. Then they forced the second row of people down to the cold ground. When I figured out what was going on I thought, "Yeah!" It was fascinating to get a small taste of how an old oppressive regime might have operated back in the day, although now judging by the souveniers I bought from street vendors and the Nike business cases I've studied (Dell even has a factory in country) free enterprise is again winning the day.
"Hey, look out for that tank!"
Me and Mao
I am not a Mao fan, I
just like tourist kitsch stuff (hence my $2 Mao t-shirt which appears
While he must have had extraordinary leadership skills to sway a billion people, he at one point endorsed a possible nuclear exchange and had other near-sighted plans that led to the deaths of tens of millions and China's isolationism and backward communist ideals.
I imagine still not as bad as Stalin though.
Shakespeare in the park, or training to keep your spouse in line
So I was supposed to do this trip with Rich Fernandez, one of my best friends
from high school, who was already in this area of the world teaching English in
Japan. He ended up getting delayed on his way back in from Mongolia, had
recently met th girl below on the internet, and relayed a message to her to give
to me. Yes, I was quite surprised to arrive in China and be receiving messages
from strange people. Very resourceful of Rich though, as it could have really
thrown our trip off without that communication. I wonder what Linda is up to
now? Hindsight is 20/20, and I'm not sure I even bought her dinner or anything
to thank her, now on my list of regrets.
The horrendous tourist crowd waiting to be paraded through the "Maoseleum"
My personal guide Linda and I
Buddhist Virtue Temple in the background, Summer Palace
"A man should live if only to satisfy his
Temple of Heaven, Tiantan Park
Great Wall at Simatai
From this angle it's probably hard for you to appreciate how steep the climb up the wall was. Let me tell you, at the time it was very hard for me to as well.
Advice- spend the $3 to take the relaxing sky tram up so you can walk back down and have gravity work for you, not against.
Comparing size on the wall with our new Swiss friend Tonya
Note that although my camera (the silver one on the left) appears to be the smallest, size can be deceptive, as it is the best performer of the bunch-
blowing the others away with a 160mm zoom.
"Sour, sweet, bitter, pungent, all must be tasted."
Keri, me, and Rich hit the town. Keri is from Austin, small world.
Captain's log, stardate 10/23:
When you have no safety net- NEVER LET YOURSELF DOWN
Sore throat- GONE
Stomach- under new management
"Who's the boss of number two?! Who's the boss?!"- Austin Powers
Sites of the more modern Pudong area of the city across the river
So this guy passed on the year I was born. Reincarnation?
Lonely Planet recommends a cruise of the Huangpu River, do NOT take
the one in the book. If you are like me just take the tourist one (which I
didn't know was an option) around the Bund area. Rich and I ended up taking the
three-and-a-half hour one that went all the way out to the junction of the
Yangzi River (I think). I thought it peculiar when we boarded the boat and not
only was it packed, but packed with real Chinese people and not tourists.
Apparently these were the "country" folks visiting the big city, which showed
when the turning point at the Yangzi River was a huge photo attraction. When I
figured this out it seemed analogous to someone from North Dakota seing the
ocean for the first time, understandably special. I have been fortunate enough
to have always lived by an ocean, so can take comfort with the knowledge that I
will at least save some film if I ever get stuck on such a cruise again.
Nanpu Bridge, viewed from the Huangpu River
The Bund by night
"Who put the statue of that Greek god there?"
And no I am not dancing, it's just a funky angle of my muscle pose.