Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Artist shoots down her own sculpture with a pellet gun

"Clearly art by women in China is not confined to “women’s issues,” like family and home. Much of the art is about excavating a personal past and bringing it into the present, and about examining that present and how women are living it."

I wish I could have referenced this article when I was still tutoring the VIP and arguing over "natural" male supremacy in the arts, academics, etc., etc.

click here to read about China's emerging female artists.

The photos are from the 798 Art District in Beijing, taken during our trip in April.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Packing up

It's hard to believe that it's almost time to go. Friday Ethan and I are leaving our home in Qingdao. We'll head to Beijing first, than travel a bit in the south of China, and on down through Cambodia and Thailand, and then of course back up to Beijing for the Olympics (Ethan's gonna have the gory details up on his blog soon). I'm sitting among the piles of stuff that are waiting to be dealt with, packed up or given away - but I still can't quite get a handle on the fact that we're leaving. On the one hand, I'm ready to hit the road and do some traveling but I'm also feeling a little sad about leaving behind our life here. There are so many BIG things that I will miss. But, here's a list of the smaller things that have been rattling around in my head this week. In no particular order...

1. The old men. I just love the old men here. For one, now that it's hot out they all wear their shirts tucked up above their bellies. Oh, how I wish I had a picture of this to show you. And for two, here in China they spend their twilight years working out. Seeing septuagenarians idly stretching a wiry leg on a railing above their waist or doing humorless pelvic thrusts is just part of the summer park scene here. Is it wrong that this makes me smile?

2. Taidong and the tailor. With the help of a very patient tailor and various friends who have come with me to help me bargain and spend way too much time looking at pretty fabrics, I've been obsessed lately with getting clothing made. So far I'm toting back a wool winter jacket, two silk dresses, two silk tops, and a skirt. Pretty, pretty.

3. Smiles from strangers. Sometimes I get grumpy walking around Qingdao. People stare at me on the bus, random people shout, "hello?" at me like they're answering the phone - being anonymous is just not part of the deal living in China. However, as much as I get annoyed when I see a camera-phone pointed at me surreptitiously, I kind of respect the straightforward curiosity and delight in difference here. And on my better days when I remember to smile back, I love the recognition and connections that are made in these small moments with strangers.

4. Tsingdao Beer. It's light and summery and comes in a bag.

5. Green city. I'm looking forward to Beijing, the excitement of the Olympics and seeing some foreigners I like. But, the smog, congestion and general craziness scares me a little. After a couple of days I'll probably be mourning tranquil Qingdao. Our two favorite places to escape: Fu shan, a rugged little fang of a mountain that sits just behind our campus, and in the other direction, the yellow sea.

6. I Almost forgot! - Hand holding. There's a lot of PDA among friends here. Women, and sometimes even men, walk arm in arm or hand in hand , down the street. I've even seen some of my male students just holding hands in class. I love it.

Bye Qingdao!

Friday, July 25, 2008

You should buy this book

When I went home for my sister's graduation in May my friend Julia at Simon & Schuster gave me a copy of one of her new books, "Out of Mao's Shadow" by Phillip P. Pan. I read it non-stop on my flight back to Beijing, unable to put it down mainly because it answers the question Ethan and I have been repeatedly asking ourselves and each other during our time in China: where are all the voices of dissent? Do they exist? Pan's answer: yes, they do. His book chronicles the stories of a number of individuals who in one way or another have gone up against the government and not backed down. Included are the stories of the doctor who blew the lid off SARS and later spent time under house arrest for speaking up against the Tiannamen massacre, a disillusioned young communist revolutionary who died in prison and was famous for the poetry she left behind written in her own blood, and a journalist who opted for prison instead of towing the party line...and many more.

For anyone interested in finding out more about where China's been and where it's going this book is a must read. I loved it - and Ethan's loving it now.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The torch and I are in Qingdao

The VIP couldn't help me with a pass to the torch relay so I followed the masses to nearby Qingdao University where we had a great view of the very tips of the flags lining the streets and the helicopter buzzing the pre-selected crowd - who do they know I wonder?

Apparently the torch has arrived.




{The other waiguoren who was snapping photos had to delete her shots of the officer. I was more sneaky. And quick.}

Here it is: the torch!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Boo for the torch relay?

So, Ethan's in Iowa having fun at a wedding and I'm here in Qingdao being "productive". This morning I was OK with that because on Monday the torch relay is coming to Qingdao and, because E and I are the only teachers in the summer program, I have the day off to go witness all the madness. However, this afternoon I heard from my friend Zhang Rui that "normal" people won't have access to the torch wielding fun. Zhang Rui works right near where the festivities are going down and she said that police are planning on setting up barricades barring pedestrians from participating. Apparently only a handful of people have been granted access. Hi-Sense, one of the prominent Chinese companies here in the city, has only given out 20 invites to its 20,000 employees! Not only that but Zhang Rui and her co-workers received an email this week stating that anyone who opens their office windows on the morning of the torch relay will receive a fine!

What the heck?!? I wasn't planning on boycotting but now I might have to.

I'm teaching the VIP as usual tomorrow morning - we will be practicing how to ask for and respond to requests: Can you get me into the torch relay? I'm crossing my fingers it's a yes. If I have to I will wear my "I heart China" t-shirt, but at this point only grudgingly.

In other news, this week in teaching Ethan and I went back to our roots herding teenagers. We took our students on a field trip on Monday and had them search for "bad English" throughout the city {the winning find: "Be your own brain" worn on a t-shirt}. After the scavenger hunt we went to a restaurant for pizza and then returned to the school for a screening of Men In Black. It was a fun day, but it threw everyone off - mostly digestively poor things - so much pizza!

Here they are. My favorites...

Acting Crazy

Training for America - for some, their first pizza experience

Inventive pizza eating

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Country Time

After class on Friday Ethan and I hopped a train and then a bus to the crumbling village of Zhujiayu (Jew-Jai-You) for some country time. We ambled around the 500+ year old cobbled streets, climbed up to the pagoda (a newer version of the one destroyed during the Cultural Revolution), and started training for travel in the clingy summer humidity that has finally hit us here in Shandong province.

Zhujiayu, about the size of a postage stamp, is unlike any other place we've seen here in China. It is inexplicably well-preserved AND free from hordes of tourists - a very rare treat here. Many of the mud-brick houses are turning back into earth these days, but two hundred or so residents still remain. Some are elderly and have been living there their whole lives, and some are enterprising young families, like the one we stayed with, who are working away at serving the burgeoning tourist industry and banking on increased business during the Olympics.

Here are some pictures from our time in Zhujiayu. Highlights include: village scenes, bug eating, and a visit with an elderly couple who took us into their home, fed us a delicious lunch (no bugs this time) and then proceeded to drink us under the table. (This is the second weekend in a row that old folks have put us to shame with "ganbei" after "ganbei".)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Double Happiness

Life is very happy these days, maybe even doubly happy. For starters, I'm almost done computing final grades for the semester - just a few more hours in front of the computer screen to go! On top of that, I'm loving teaching right now. I admit that I dreaded signing on to teach an additional six weeks, but now I feel like I made the best trade ever: 200 students of mixed ability (and mixed motivation) for 15 energetic, interested and interesting new students - I didn't realize how hard I had it this semester! But most of all, I'm just loving spending time with friends from Qingdao and am relishing our time here before we have to go.

This weekend was full of friends. First off we went to Yantai, a smaller nearby beach city, to celebrate the wedding of friends, Mike and Monica (English names). In fact, Mike and Monica were our first friends here in Qingdao (Mike saved us on that first icy, somewhat hopeless day here), so it was very special to be able to celebrate their marriage - as well as their new pregnancy - double, double happiness! Of course, even though it was their wedding, we were treated all the way from the hotel room to dinner with their family the night before, and even breakfast in Monica's family's home the next morning - they insisted. The wedding celebration was one of three, this one hosted by Monica's father, and like most events here it was straightforward. We ate, we "ganbei-d" (a Chinese toast where you drain your cup to the bottom), we ate some more, we "ganbei-d" some more, and then it was over and we were left to the rest of our day in Yantai: a walk along the seashore, with bellies full of delicious food and baijio, a Chinese grain alcohol. We were the only foreigners at the wedding, but thankfully everyone was very nonchalant about our presence (excluding the group photo when a couple of the guests forced the waiguoren {that's us: "foreigners" or, literally, "outside person"} to sit front and center!).

The Happy Couple Laughing at the Uncles

The Uncles and The Spread - in the foreground: pig's stomach (not too bad, but not my favorite either)

Yantai's shore and a giant beach ball you can climb inside and flop around in

I will be climbing into one of these before we leave

Mike and Ethan

When we got back to Qingdao we hung out with more good friends. We had Korean barbecue and played pool with Ethan's Chinese tutor, Lavender and her boyfriend, Foster. That's cow tongue on the griddle.

And I went shopping in Taidong and back to the tailor with friends Ezra and Julie. So many good friends and these days almost all are Zhonguaren (Chinese people). It's been interesting that way. Aside from our friends in Beijing, and the Australian-Turkish couple who left for Thailand last week, our Chinese friends here in Qingdao are the most dear.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Can't Say Fairer Than That

My first "American Culture" class with my new group of Alabama University-bound Chinese students. Here's how they finished the sentence: "American Culture is..."

In no particular order...

Bill Gates... Wall Street... Hollywood... Elections... Edison... Multicultural... oil policy... plantation... terrorism... anti-terrorism... cola... company... immigrate... 911... basketball... hero... Watergate... racial discrimination... diplomacy... NASDAQ ... individual... travel... buffalo... jeans... Dr. Lee... shopping mall... beef steak... Rockies... white house... colonize... punk... negro... black... outer space... CO2 (greenhouse effect)... Nixon... information technology... movies... discovery... Neverland... religion... God... Overbearing... Iraq... Bible... automobile... TV series... friendship... West Point... Hawaiian Dance... Blues... Party.... Jazz... Hip Hop... Old School... Country Music... Army... Human Rights... Festival... Disney... flourishing... Armstrong... drugs... Yellowstone... BBQ... Gun... Sex... Slave... Korean War... constitution... democratic

With a list like this I know I'm going to enjoy teaching this class. Personal favorites: "overbearing" - pretty right on the money with that one, and also: "old school" just because.