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The Country That Isn’t

7 Jul

We just celebrated “Hong Kong SAR Establishment Day” here in HK. (Really rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) It’s a holiday to celebrate the handover of HK as a British colony back to China… with a few caveats. This is less like Australia Day or Independence Day, and more like a cause for protests. I like to think of it as “We’ll take the day off, but don’t expect us to be happy about why”.  And so, the day was basically used as a pro-democracy rally — Beijing’s favorite type of rally. Over 500 protestors were arrested and it’s caused a bit of a to-do. I’ve found that CPG Grey actually has a pretty good explanation of Hong Kong and China.


Year of the Horse

31 Jan


Today marks the beginning of the new Chinese lunar year. Goodbye water snake, hello wooden horse! Supposedly, this year is going to be one of conflict, when people stick to their resolutions and principles and refuse to negotiate. But never fear, you’re in for a good year if you work in any “wood” related industries, like lumber, agriculture, and media companies.

Societe Generale

17 Jun

This commercial for a French bank came on today when I was watching tv with the kid. I don’t think you all would be surprised as to why I think it’s actually really funny.



Not bad, Societe Generale. I’m not banking with you, but I do give props for a decent ad campaign.

Sichuan Earthquake 2013

22 Apr

My old hometown of Chengdu was rattled badly on Saturday with a 6.9 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter was to the west in Ya’an, which sustained the worst damage. They’re reporting over 200 deaths, 12,000 injuries, and an estimated 100,000 people have been left homeless.

 chengdu earthquake mapMap via GoChengdoo


This is the same province that was hit by the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake that killed nearly 70,000 people, many of them schoolchildren. The reduction in the mortality rate this time around has been credited to an aggressive earthquake safety program enacted by the government.

Happy Year of the Snake!

11 Feb

year of the snakePhoto by Susan Wang

Yesterday marked the start of a new lunar year, and my favorite Chinese holiday. For those of you who don’t know, the Spring Festival is the biggest and best in the Chinese holiday calendar. Think of Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Forth of July, and your birthday rolled up into two weeks of vacation. Everyone travels back to their hometown for the festivities, making this the world’s largest annual human migration. Traditionally, you set off massive amounts of fireworks, eat all sorts of delicious foods like dumplings and fish, exchange red envelopes (with money inside!) to younger relatives, and wear red clothes for good luck.

This year is the year of the snake, the sixth animal in the Chinese zodiac. It’s a good year for people born in 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, and 1965. (Basically, if your age can be divided cleanly by 12, it’s your year to shine.) I’m a Snake, so that means I’m in for a stellar year. Supposedly, this is the year of steady progress and attention to detail.

Wishing you all a very prosperous Chinese New Year: Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Chengdu: A Retrospective

15 Jun

I leave Chengdu tomorrow. My bags are (mostly) packed, my train ticket bought, and I leave with a smile on my face and a song in my heart.

It’s been a long year here. I don’t think it’s any big secret that I was rather disappointed and depressed during my time here. While I met a lot of really cool people and learned a lot of new things, it never quite balanced out the miserable weather and Kafka-esque graduate program.

The scholarship that brought me here was a really nice opportunity, but it didn’t quite pan out the way I had hoped. Instead of this being the first year of a masters, I spent a whole lot of time knitting. My classes were a joke, and it’s hard to motivate yourself to learn another insane language when you feel no real pressure to. My progress in Chinese stalled out and then plummeted. The only real bright spots were hanging out with an awesome group of kids, forays out of Chengdu proper, and watching a ton of DVDs.

I am grateful, in my own little way, that I got to come back over to China. This year off gave me the perspective necessary to realize that, no, I really don’t want to go to grad school right now. I really don’t want to continue living in China. And I really don’t want to continue with Chinese.

It sucks, since that’s what I got my degree in, but hey. Now I know and I can move on and do something different.

Life is all about the journey, right? You gotta take the good with the bad. This year wasn’t ideal, sure, but that’s life. And hey – I got to see baby pandas, Sydney, Jiuzhaigou, Bangkok, Leshan, and a whole bunch more of China than this time last year. So it wasn’t all terrible.

I don’t want to leave this on a downer note, so here are some random highlights from my last year here in Chengdu.



So long, Chengdu.



The Leshan Giant Buddha

11 Jun

One of the things that I really wanted to see in Sichuan before I left China was the Leshan Dafo. Given that I only have a short time left in China, it was about time that I went. Leshan is about two hours by bus from Chengdu, making it an excellent day trip. Kate and I decided to go on Saturday, fairly last minute, on Friday night.

I am happy that the Leshan Giant Buddha is as large as advertised.

It was a really nice day out, which was unexpected. I spent the day regretting my choices in clothing, but hey. It was sunny! You could see the sky! Blue sky! And visible shadows, even! (Shut up I’ve been in Chengdu too long.)

We may have gotten bored waiting in line.

The Giant Buddha was carved in the 700s by some Buddhist monks, who were trying to calm the river below and keep ships from wrecking on the rocks and currents. Given what I saw of the river next to the Buddha, they didn’t really succeed on that front, but they did manage to carve out a pretty darn big statue. At 71 meters tall, the Giant Buddha was and still is the largest statue in the world.

The rather precarious stairway down.

There are also smaller bodhisattvas carved into the surrounding rocks. I guess they got bored carving the big one?

It was really a lot of fun and theoretically good for our karma? Whatever, like we needed an excuse to leave Chengdu.

If you want to go: round trip tickets are 96 kuai. There’s a bus to Leshan every hour that drops you off in front of the Leshan bus terminal. Lots of guys will try to sell you a ride to the Dafo; don’t bother with them. The no. 13 bus leaves from directly in front of the terminal and takes you through Leshan to the Buddha for 1 kuai. It’s a nice way of seeing the town, too. I’d recommend getting off somewhere along the route and grabbing food; as always, prices on the inside of the park are pretty damn high. Tickets to the park itself are 50 kuai for a student, 90 kuai for adults, so bring a student ID if you’ve got it! There’s a fair amount of queuing involved, so go to the bathroom before you get in line to climb down the stairs. It’s all pretty much paved stairs, so hiking boots aren’t necessary for this trip.