Archiv der Kategorie 'CHINA'

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China

Since I was asked a few times already I will make a ’short‘ photo presentation next Tuesday in atelier0 (at the university in Bolzano) so anyone who is around should stop by :) .

It will be in German though (I can translate and since all students are doomed to learn English as well here it shouldn‘t be a big deal).

Hans

I was out of town once again last week and finally started my photo organization and post-production process (again) today and came across this photo. It’s not that I particularly think that it is a great shot and I ‚Photo-Shopped‘ it quite a bit as well but the content made me smile yet again. ‚Hans‘ is the very Chinese name of a beer that was brewed in Xi‘an and sold for a very low price. Since ‚Hans‘ is a very traditional German male name we had great fun (not only because of the alcohol level) especially because we bought a case of 9 pints to survive the lovely 36 hour train ride to Kunming.
And it’s actually not a bad beer. I had much worse beer before that had a much worse price-quality level.

Beijing – Take 2

My strange life ‚in between‘ surprisingly left enough time to sort through photos a little bit so here is the first part of my ‚final trip‘ across China.
We started in Beijing, went south-west to Xi‘an, down all the way to Kunming in Yunnan Province (close to Vietnam and Tibet) and back to Shenzhen to leave the country for a few last days in Hong Kong before heading back to Europe. With a 36 hour train ride from Xi‘an to Kunming you can get an idea of how huge the country really is and how closely inhabited. I think the first time we saw some uninhabited nature – or maybe only with a few farmer houses – was in the southern part of Sichuan Province close to Yunnan already. Before that the sight was highly concentrated on industrial sites (sometimes more or less disturbing).


dragon ’tile‘ artwork in the Forbidden City


red (lantern) decoration for the 60th birthday


chinese mythical creature in the Forbidden City


the military parade was presented on screens anywhere in town (public places, sights, metro, etc.) so people who missed it could still watch it – here near the Olympic Stadium


guard in front of the Olympic Stadium (‚Birds Nest‘)


Tian‘anmen Square at night with HUGE screens showing the military parade…


…and thousands of proud Chinese photographing each other in front of everything – some more, some less excited


I was almost amazed to get a photo with no people that night – and the bike really has a strong symbolic value as well :D


My second time on the Great Wall, again in Jinshanling but this time in autumn cloud


I like the ‚office‘ translation on this rusty sign – I wish the manager would have been there to talk to a little :)


Forbidden City

Star Ferry

The Star Ferry is one of the many means to cross the waters dividing Hong Kong. It was founded in 1888 and is since then been extended several times but the boats remained as one of the historical artefacts in this else extremely modern town.

I just like the animation that’s why it’s on here :) .

people of the People’s Republic

I came back to Europe last week after another wonderful trip across China – this time even more ambitious than before crossing almost all the way from the north to the south by train, etc. I will certainly post some more photos in the next days/weeks until I will put this blog into a ‚pause-mode‘. It’s been fun to write and post photos, etc. during the last year also because I was on the road quite some time. Now that I have to settle down (at least for about one year) and eventually finish my studies I‘m sure there is much else to do and prepare for. So thanks to everyone who stopped by to see and read what I had to tell and for the very positive feedback I received (including my little counter which revealed a very suprising ~2300 people visiting this blog since I left Europe in May…ok my advertising wasn‘t the worst either :) ).

For now I thought I should post some photos of people since China is called the ‚People’s Republic‘ and I would say they absolutely deserve this title just in terms of numbers :) .


shortly after the 60th birthday on Tian‘anmen Square


Chinese at what they like most…


farmer woman in Dalì (Yunnan Province)


Xi‘an has a ‚Muslim Quarter‘ where you can find the most delicious culinary treats


on the train from Xi‘an to Kunming (36h) on hard seats – definitely the worker class train travel


old man with a chinese kite in downtown Kunming


farmer washing up spring onions in an irrigation channel in Dalì


CCTTV – Chinese Culture Traditional Transport Vehicle aka rickshaw / bicycle / tricycle :)


apparently a portrait of the Chinese teacher of the last emperor (seen in the Forbidden City in Beijing) – to me it looks like a portrait of a well-fed Brad Pitt


Can you see the opening in the pants? In China diapers just slowly become common. Parents instead cut in these openings and children just do what they have to do wherever they need to – be it just on the street or a supermarket.


a very proud lady in front of the Gate of Heavenly Peace


and some more extremely proud people in front of the Mao Zedong portrait

Mid-Autumn in Humen

While the People’s Republic celebrated its 60th birthday, the tanks were rolling and the women soldier in their tight dresses marching along I could finally experience the ‚China‘ that my ‚Guidebook to China‘ (I had bought the book before I came here to arrive not entirely stupid) talks about. Mark and I had met Lee Ming in Yangshuo while were lost somewhere in the rice fields riding our bicycles. So we ended up spending our time with him.
Since the government decided to have one week of National Holiday, which ended my work already last week, I sent him an e-Mail asking what he would be doing these days. So after he came to Shenzhen for two days he invited me to Humen, his hometown, to celebrate ‚Mid-Autumn‘ (the second most important festival in China) with him and his family. In between unbelievably delicious meals (which I would say were definitely the ‚centerpiece‘ of the whole stay :) ) I had the great chance to get to know his family and friends and to see where he lives. And really everyone who could speak just a little English tried to talk with me which was the first time to see here in China. My colleagues in the office never tried this hard.
Now I definitely have to reconsider my image of China and leave out the numerous rather negative experiences I had in the city of Shenzhen.


Humen bridge is connecting the city with Guangzhou across the Pearl river


friends and family altogether after the Mid-Autumn dinner


Mid-Autumn is also the day to fly ‚Wishing Lights‘ which we of course had to do as well


Lee Ming is an English teacher (just started this year) in a small Elementary School. He told his students of my stay and invited them to come and meet me. Unfortunately his message was misunderstood so only one girl appeared who was very nervous and too shy to ask me something in English (although Lee Ming told me that she is the best student in the class)…which is of course a normal thing if you‘re suddenly around a tall, blonde, strange-looking foreigner like me :)


She was very sweet though and kept asking questions through Lee Ming. The best question was for sure ‚How can I become as tall as you?‘ That made me smile…


Humen was the key city for the first Opium War so you have memorials and Museums all around town praising the glorious victory against the British as well as Lin Zexu the Qing official who initiated the conflict.

update

I updated the ‚China‘-page on my website a little bit. It’s mainly photos I posted here already but it’s of course a lot more organized.

English & Deutsch

Shanghai Pt.3

I haven‘t actually written anything about Shanghai which I will in the next days. For now just a few more photos that I like.


It’s not a lie either, Chinese really can sleep anywhere and I‘m impressed about that…


the Shanghai Tourism Festival started on that weekend so they decorated many parts of the city center with bright colors


don‘t know what this shop is about but I like the photo for some reason…I know it doesn‘t seem to be too exciting :)


another ‚non-exciting‘ photo that I like a lot, I don‘t know the name of the building though

cultural industries

China Daily, an english newspaper about China, published a very interesting article about two weeks ago. The author was commenting on Chinas recent step to ‚vitalizing the cultural industries‘. His main concern was of course the word ‚industry‘. China has shown that it is able to provide the world with manufactured goods. Shenzhen is once again a great example for this. It became rich due to the manufacturing industries that are set up all around town. But what does culture have to do with ‚industry‘?

[…] Culture in its broadest sense is the way we conduct our daily lives. […] Yes, our food is unique, and we all use chopsticks instead of forks and knives. Foreigners around the world are crazy about Chinese food, and there are Chinese restaurants everywhere you go. That is about it. […] At the moment there are probably more Chinese elements preserved in Korean and Japanese culture.

Coming back to the company I work at once again. You can basically see this here. Their ‚design‘ thinking is based on ’styles‘, ‚Western style‘ – ‚Chinese style‘ – ‚American style‘ – etc. They keep pretending that they maintain their ‚cultural identity‘ by simply adding a handful of elements found in Chinese architecture (in the few temples and palaces that survived) and copy the rest together from design books or the internet.
I assume the main problem is not that they wouldn‘t be able to do it different but it has proven to work very well for them. Customers ask for this kind of work and since they are the ones with the money a design office just like ours provides it. And I suppose once this cycle is running it’s hard to step forward and change the whole idea of ‚design‘.
When I realized this very early in the internship and talked with my flatmate and colleague about it we thought that maybe we can somehow show them different and make them question their ’style of work‘. Of course this was absolutely naive and turned out to be completely stupid since money controls the business. It seems that you cannot survive in China if you don‘t adapt to this. And what is even more frustrating is when your hear from the boss (behind your back never direct!) that he thinks you‘re just a beginner and have no experience and idea about design. Well yes to some degree that is true. My boss studied industrial design in Berlin though so he has seen and learned a different way. I assume that this should make a difference but I guess I‘m wrong once again. As I wrote before ‚Shenzhen is all about making money…and it better be as fast as possible!‘.

Johanna was once asked by a Chinese colleague if she could help to find an ‚African style‘ dentist clinic :D

finally..

Last night after a shopping day (oh boy how I like being in these crazy shopping centres) I came by one of the restaurants in front of our house and saw something very interesting. It might seem disgusting to you and I think the sight is rather unusual, that’s for sure. But still THIS is part of the ‚chinese culture‘ that my boss keeps telling me about after he just copied another hotel interior. I forgot to take my little digital camera but had the newly purchased cell phone for my dad with me so I pulled it out and took those shots. Not the best quality (I actually don‘t want to post the ‚best‘ photo since it really is critical :) ) but you can see the dog. The funny thing about it was that the owner of the restaurant came out and started talking to my colleague and asking whether I was an animal rights activist and would make him any trouble. He told him that I‘m from Germany and I‘m certainly not photographing it to make any problems. It was the first time I see this ‚live‘ so I wanted to take a picture. He smiled again and offered to take as many photos as I wanted :)
And now I can finally say, Yes in China they eat dogs!


strangely ‚delicious‘?!

prosperous future

I just happen to become witness of a very disturbing incidence taking place in front of my window at office. I honestly have to say that I shouldn‘t have taken photos but I think this story tells a lot about this city. On the building that is situated in front of my office tower a lady tried to jump off the roof.
I assume that a lot of people already realized – if I haven‘t told them personally – that I don‘t like the city of Shenzhen. I tended to think that it counts for China in general but this is simply wrong as I realized again in Shanghai last weekend. My colleague told me many times already that ‚Shenzhen is all about money.‘ And it is true it was never really intended for anything else. The city exists and grew because the government decided to set up a ‚Special Economic Zone‘ nearest to Hong Kong. So most people who live here decided to leave their home towns to earn money in Shenzhen.
I don‘t have any proof and I‘m most certain that the government will not reveal any statistics about suicide numbers here but I heard that it is many times higher than in most other cities in China. And I would say that this makes sense. Once they come here and work at whatever job they get – be it a cleaning lady, a construction worker, security guard, etc. – they realise that life is not all about money and having a prosperous future. I can even see that here in the office. A lot of people are not only quitting because they are unhappy about the work atmosphere but because they also have a feeling of ‚homesickness‘. Many workers left behind their family, sometimes wife and children, and came here for work.
I certainly hope that this will change in the future and the city – be it ugly or not – becomes a ‚real‘ city and not a comglomerate of people desperately trying to find their luck and wealth which it is today…


at first I only saw the police officers and firefighters on the roof…


..until the big fire trucks arrived (see the red dot on the tip of the building, that’s the woman)


I‘m following it since 10 in the morning (it’s just after 4 in the afternoon now), luckily she hasn‘t jumped.. although she was really close a couple of times


in front of the building they put up an air pillow and secured the area with police and soldiers

*Just when I finished writing this entry I saw a man sitting right next to her so I believe the situation is safe now.

Shanghai pt.2

I took this photo friday early morning near Nanjing Road, the main pedestrian and shopping street in Shanghai. It’s somehow funny yet sad that this homeless is sleeping in front of this luxury boutique window with the name ‚[…] Marx‘.

I just remembered something else of Beijing. We met Lulu, the cousin of a former intern here in Shenzhen who showed us around town one day. When we left her and spoke the usual invitation to Germany she said

‚I would like to see Germany, it’s the birthplace of [Karl] Marx.‘ .

Thank you China!

Shanghai pt.1

I like ‚em black & white…more infos to follow.


ok no b/w I had to add this in color – one of the many construction site signs found anywhere across town


kid on the campus of Tongji University


early morning dance session in front of the Shopping malls on Nanjing Road (close to People’s Sq.)


regular Shanghai scenery


Qibao old village far outside of the town centre is one of the main attractions for Chinese – with the usual ‚traditional souvenir shops‘


you couldn‘t simply walk when a car was coming, street guards were always checking that you crossed the road only on green light


the Mao statue in front of Tongji Campus library – one of 4 (at universities) with the arm lifted

I quit!

Within the last maybe three weeks around 5 people told the boss that they will quit working in this office. Since we are around 25 people in total I think that tells a lot about the situation here . And I have to admit that I had plans myself to quit and look for something else to do for the rest of my stay (I didn‘t consider changing my flight as an option). It’s a normal state that people come and go and it happened before. Johanna told me that since she started in February about half of the people left the office (including interns). Of course quitting a job is done very different to how I think it would work (saying that and never having quit a job). Most of the workers don‘t have a contract – I wrote that before – and since this is due to the boss I would just leave the company and tell the boss on the day I leave. Well I know that this is not the nicest way but the reasons why people are leaving are simply because the boss is giving them a hard time (saying it nicely today). But no the Chinese write a ‚notice of termination‘. This seems strange to me but alright why not? When I saw a notice though I was stunned. They are not simply telling the boss ‚Look I will quit working at the end of the month for this and that reason.‘ They start ‚praising‘ the boss telling him how thankful they are about what they have learned from him. They tell the reason why they leave but in a subordinate clause when apologizing for any losses the boss might encounter after they are gone. I will truly never understand their thinking as it is not them who are the problem but the boss.

around my neighborhood

saturday afternoon walk around the block…


Google translator or political statement? – found on a big information screen

people playing games in one of the ‚parks‘ (small concrete areas between the street canyons) – mainly also for money


one of the cyclo-people offering his services – from relocation to carpentry – oh these multi-talented chinese


kid playing near the car repair shops – reminds me a lot of my walk to Dolapdere Campus in Istanbul


‚trash collectors‘ sorting bottles – for each bottle they get about 2-3 cents

Lili Marleen

Last week I could enjoy the great pleasure of finally going to a ‚chinese style‘ club here in Shenzhen. It was one of Johannas last evenings so we decided to go to a place called ‚Lili Marleen‘. It’s a huge building full of blue neon signs that you can see from anywhere and I think already this would normally make me consider not to enter this place. In front of it two security guards in Army uniforms with helmets were checking who got in. The inside was somehow funny. They really put a lot of effort in the decoration – the side walls were full of LCD screens showing graphics but the rest of the place was decorated in a ‚wild west style‘ rather being rustic than modern. There was no dance floor so you had to dance around your table which was always the ‚home base‘ of a group since drinks were mainly served in bottles (and I don‘t mean only the beer). The music was in my opinion really crappy and consisted mainly of R‘n'B and black music which is absolutely not my taste of music but they had a really lovely addition to that. Around the room they had placed several small platforms where people could dance on or, and that was the interesting part, where live ‚Karaoke-style‘ singers could perform their show. The music performed by the singers was a wild mix of R‘n'B and Chinese-Cheesy-Pop which made the Chinese go completely crazy.
At one point a guy in a Spiderman costume showed up behind the bar and started a short barkeeping-juggling performance. The music then was some really nice breakbeat (the best music played this evening in my opinion) but of course people were too focused on Spiderman and didn‘t dance to it.
I simply started drinking overpriced Heineken and surely got in the mood to dance as well. So in the end people started inviting me for drinks were dancing with me or screaming a drunk but nonetheless heartily ‚Welcome to China!‘ in my ear.
And in between all this chaos the regular cleaning ladies in their work dress armed with shovel and broom were constantly walking around you and picking up anything that was on the floor. What a strange image…


if god is a DJ then Spiderman is the barkeeper…


short recording of one of the many ‚Karaoke-style‘ live performances

Guangzhou

I mentioned Guangzhou before but haven‘t posted any photos yet. So here we go…even though I can once again say that I wasn‘t extremely impressed.


simply perfect living…


the train station is not particularly nice but it’s really interesting to see how many people and how they are traveling


This last sentence is simply great. I mean the Orchid Garden was truly an oasis in the middle of the city but this is once again an exaggeration ‚chinese style‘ :)


fishes shouldn‘t be missing in a Chinese Garden for the ‚good luck‘ and such


now this is by far the most elegant inscription I have seen, I think the Chinese letters look so much better…


…than the latin one…sorry Cathy & Vince but this is ugly.


lovely tea house next to the fish pond inside the ‚Orchid Garden‘


chinese porcelain painting is very beautiful

boredom, archive and swine flu

Boredom seems to become my main concern at work. I have to admit I don‘t force them to give me a new task but it seems to me that I‘ve done my job for them anyway. Since it’s an interior design office graphic works are more rare than recent. But of course I can keep myself busy with own works that I postponed before. While I was doing one of these works I was searching my personal photo archive for material I could use for some graphics and found the photo below (same happened to the page ’scan‘ in the post before). I took it on a university excursion in 2008 to Munich at the ‚Deutsches Museum‘ (German Museum). Well as pretty much always I didn‘t write down anything about this sign so I really don‘t know when it was made. The sign basically says:

For public health reason it is requested to stop spitting in the train station building, the platforms and on the trains.

I think it is interesting that some years ago they also had to put up signs to ban spitting in Germany/Europe. In China it is nearly impossible to do so since the act of spitting is yet another cultural relic. Spitting is considered an act of cleaning from the inside that keeps away misfortune and promotes health. It is not simply called ’saliva‘ but rather ‚Jade juice‘ or ‚Gold drops‘. Spitting is very common here and probably counts as one of the most obvious differences to our western world. But what sounds rather disgusting to me is as normal as brushing teeth to the Chinese. You adapt to the sound of it after a while but what really frightens me is actually the ’swine flu‘. It’s not that I‘m afraid of catching it myself and if so to have trouble with it but the biggest concern is the speed it can spread here in China through spitting. I guess it won‘t be a problem here in the south but in the north it could become a big issue…

chinese farmer

every 7th human on this planet is a Chinese farmer (women & men)

I wonder what the percentage would be together with India

uuuhhhright

I‘m finally adapting to the controversy of this country. I just picked up a custom-tailored woolen coat that I ordered about one week ago and they did a really good job, too…So I‘d better be cranking up my A/C tonight to get the right feeling…uuuhhh yeah…. 8)

 

 

emergency access

One of my colleagues asked me to help her with a presentation the other day. In particular she asked me to draw in the walkways and signage on an interior design plan that showed a ‚leisure centre‘ with a huge greenhouse including restaurants and an immense park area and a massage & spa centre at the other end. At one point I had to draw the emergency access ways for fire service and such. The area is basically just a huge square so the emergency ways are simply placed around the buildings. I happened to come across a small pond though. So I asked her if I should draw in something like a detour which she declined. She insisted on leaving it this way and instead told me „make green!“ pointing on the area and trying to explain me that I should use Photoshop to change it the way we need it….simply extending the grass area a little bit and cutting off the water.
Since this was just a map for signage, entries, etc. and not the final construction map I can just imagine what will happen in case of a fire in one of the buildings. Well the fire fighters will stand right in front of this pond then…luckily enough it wasn‘t a brick wall and water is always useful in such cases.

Sometimes I really think we are a little ‚uptight‘ and ‚overprotective‘ in Europe. Anything will work and China is showing us how :)

Up the Yangtze

I was doing some research for my last trip across China before I fly back to Europe in October. I immediately realized that the country is too big and there is way too much to see and do. One part that I was considering a lot was the ‚Yangtze Cruise‘ from the city of Chongqing downstream to the highly critisized ‚Three Gorges Dam‘. The Dam was finished earlier this year and an area up to 175 m high has been flooded sucking up the former living space of around 2 million people. Nobody really recommended the cruise since the landscape and the sights have been thoroughly damaged.
At one point I came across an article about the documentary ‚Up the Yangtze‘ that is set around the famous cruise. It is fairly depressing but basically shows what I had read before. Below is the trailer but if you can get your hands on a copy of the movie I can strongly recommend watching it.

[I know I shouldn‘t write this but I saw that you can watch the movie split up in several parts on Youtube (I couldn‘t check though whether it worked or not)]

smart living made in China

I would like to add two articles that I found concerning the ’smarter, more gracious and more high-class‘ residential space of China [see below].

The first one comes from the british Guardian and talks about Prince Charles‘ effort to preserve the traditional ‚Hutong‘ residential areas in Beijing.

More than two thirds of the courtyard houses that existed in 1949 have been demolished leaving 1,000 today, according to the Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre.

Guardian: „Charles takes on China to save Ming dynasty houses from Beijing’s concrete carbuncles“

The second one talks about the same problem going a little more into detail and comes from the website ‚Architectural Record‘

The Death and Life of Old Beijing


we took a rikshaw tour in one of the rather central Hutongs that have been preserved for touristic reasons

yeah right…

I have two last quotes for today.

Confucius said:

By three methods we may learn wisdom:
First, by reflection, which is noblest;
second, by imitation, which is easiest;
and third, by experience, which is the bitterest.

The second quote comes from an architecture book that we looked through today with the title ‚Chinese Style Houses‘. At one point we really had to smile because the author wrote the following:

The Chinese traditional space is the residential space that is smarter, more gracious and more high-class than the western ones for it is the outcome of five thousand years‘ development.

I guess my statement with the first quote is clear. But for the second one…Well if they would have so many traditional spaces than I could certainly agree [just see the photos below]. If they wouldn‘t have had the ‚Cultural Revolution‘ I would also have to reconsider it but with the background I have already in terms of architecture/interior design/design you cannot take this serious. For interior design and architecture – I just wrote that recently – ‚good design is design that has been considered good already [in the western world]‘ seems to count the most. So combine these two quotes and you may understand more :) .

Shenzhen views


the small houses in the front row are the ones where I live…I think it looks a lot more dramatic from the roof of our office building than it actually is


facing east towards the city centre


If you‘ve looked close enough you recongize the guy in my new header, he was a construction worker in central Shenzhen living in a container house (although one of the more fancy ones) right on the main road crossing Shenzhen in the centre. The green tower in the back is the ‚Shun Hing Square‘ which is 384m tall and the 9th tallest building in the world (an even taller building with 439m is already planned in Shenzhen) and the 5th tallest building in China


this is no fake I took this photo with my small camera one day on my way back from work

yes but

I learned a lot the other day. Not that I‘m not constanly learning in this new environment but I got some possible answers to a few unanswered questions. We met two Germans last weekend working for an architecture or interior design office here in Shenzhen for almost four years already. Of course we came to talk about China and certain behaviours very quickly. They told us from their experience how a big architecture/interior design project is done in China. At this point I guess I should take a step back from my former critique against my boss.
Let’s say a person has the money to build a big hotel. He/She doesn‘t know much about design and since this is all a new topic in China ‚everything is good that has been done before, especially if it was in the western world‘. He doesn‘t start a competition where architects make an offer that he accepts but hires many companies to make designs that have to be at a very elaborate level when presented to the client. So an architect invests money first by creating his design without getting paid anything and certainly without a contract. It’s not that an architect or interior designer gets chosen by the client but quite the opposite they have to do very well in front of the client sometimes even getting in contact with a contractor and telling them that they do better than their opponents. So this person with the future Hotel gets 4-5 versions and then decides for one for some reason that are beyond from being reasonable. Sometimes he even dismisses all the designs and hires another company that wasn‘t in the ‚race‘ before. Sometimes companies also offer the contractor to build the design he likes the most for a lower price than the company who actually created it. Nobody will really understand how and why a certain decision is made then. Of course at this point I was thinking that my boss then cannot really work efficiently even if he would be extremely good. There are way too many aspects that cannot be considered. In the end especially small and more or less known companies work against efficiency investing way more than they get out of it. Sometimes they get a part of the planning or construction phase in the end which probably equals out the money spent at first.
The next phase involves construction companies. So called ‚mock-up‘ rooms are built by several companies to give the contractor the possibility to choose yet again. The construction companies also do not have a contract and try to be better than the opponent to make it in the end. But a lot of money is spent at first that easily turns out to be a loss if you won‘t make it. The market is mainly split up by big companies often being the result of a former state-owned firm.
This whole insight into the business shows one very important aspect. International companies come to China to make their products and benefit from cheap labor but the image – that I had in mind at least – was that China is open for everything as long as you accept certain policies which is correct to some degree. But I assume that the effort you have to build up a company is not worth a try if you start at almost zero. Chinas wealth mainly comes from this cheap mass-production but their inland economy seems very closed and ’suffering‘ from former political structures. China is the Peoples Republic with a Socialist One-Party government with a capitalistic economic system. So much for the theory but is this the reality? I would say no especially after this talk last weekend but I would also say that it goes far beyond my understanding.

quote

I heard a very interesting quote today – supposedly from a movie or documentary (don‘t know which though).

guy: „[…] yeah I‘m traveling a lot.“
woman: „You must be very lonely then…“

that definitely made me think…

human resource

A friend of mine who studies Business once told me that he was shocked when the term ‚human resource‘ was introduced early in his studies. And it wasn‘t so much the term itself but rather the way it is used in business language. Luckily in Europe there are many policies and laws that protect a human worker from becoming a mere ‚tool‘ in the line of many to raise profits for a company. Back then I could understand what he meant but wasn‘t really aware of it (of course I couldn‘t since I hadn‘t even started studying nor had I any knowledge of how the ‚world of work‘ would look like). During my stay in China I get to understand the term much better and realize its extreme existence constantly in the office I work at.

I didn‘t mean to write about it so early already but with the recent policies that have been introduced against the (Chinese) workers I get more and more angry about the situation and keep loosing any respect for our boss. Although I have to admit that most of what I write here doesn‘t count for us Germans. We still ‚enjoy‘ somewhat of a special status but had our moments of conflict as well.
So here is a list of (un-)official laws/policies that seem completely wrong from my point of view.
First of all what also affected us Germans already: vacation. I know that in Germany and France vacation is a big deal and is enforced by state law. In China it is different of course. If you want to have days off you need to get the approval of the boss and even need to justify why you are not coming to work. But these days are certainly not paid. I guess this policy is more or less ‚common‘ in countries like China and that’s why I started with it.
Another office policy is concerning sickness. If a worker is sick he/she gets paid only 1 day each month for not coming to work. In reverse this means of course that the workers come in even if they shouldn‘t for health reason.
Just a few weeks ago one of the secretaries put up a note stating that everyone who comes in late gets cut off 50 Yuan of the monthly earnings (this is about half of the average day rate; I get about 80-90 Yuan [~9 Euro] ) each day. So most of our colleagues rather run to work than complain about it.
Working on weekends sometimes even sunday is basically required (except for us Germans fortunately) but is not paid. If you cannot work on a saturday you even get money off your loans. The calculation is stupid as well since they divide the amount of money you receive by the weekdays you worked in a month (weekends not included), the day rate is of course higher then so in the end it’s a higher loss for the worker.
But the best policy came out just this month. The secretary (I‘m sure on behalf of the boss) started categorizing the workers according to their status in the team and certain criteria that is mainly a highly subjective decision. Our German-speaking colleague told us for example that he was placed in the category ‚chief designer 3rd (lowest) class‘ which may sound good in the beginning but this means a cutoff of 2000 yuan each month (that’s his rent and the amount of money we get each month). He doesn‘t have a contract which is the next thing I would like to point out. Many workers have no contract and the boss talks it down by telling them that we are still a young and small office so once we grow everything will get better. The office exists since 1996 and due to a lack of leadership (to use a very business-like term) the company is not really growing and probably will never do so. But because the workers don‘t have any contract they have to face these policies without any possibility to complain. Same for social security. You can only get social security if the office registers you so most workers have no social security and even if they have they still pay the monthly rates the office does not pay even a part of it.
Before the secretary started this categorizing he came around asking our colleagues for their contracts so most people told him that they don‘t have one which then of course makes it easy to simply cut the money.
But the biggest problem is that the people don‘t stand up against it and rather accept their fate. And I asked myself already many times why this is so. The only way out is by looking for a new job themselves which obviously might be the same or even worse (who can tell?!). I assume you get the link with the introduction and the term ‚human resource‘ now. Everyone can be replaced and it seems more easy for our boss to change the team or loose the workers in a constant cycle instead of creating a more attractive work atmosphere. The second reason why they don‘t get critical is a cultural reason. Chinese rather pretend to live in harmony together than face a conflict. I knew this before but I heard exactly this sentence from my boss when we had a discussion about the holiday policy (of which he didn‘t tell us in the beginning and which also doesn‘t show up in our contracts): „Let’s not argue we have to work together in harmony. […]“

And to conclude this already very long text I have another story to tell. The (very much disliked) secretary started putting up notes more or less frequently since he has started working here in late May. The last note stated that our German-speaking colleague is responsible for the creation of the new website and has still failed to finish up this project. This behaviour casts a dark shadow on the work of the office and cannot be accepted. He forgot to mention though that I was on vacation (I‘m doing the graphic design for the website and have everything on my computer) and he was occupied with translation work for a project our office and a partner company started with the Technical University Stuttgart and was responsible for the interior design of two appartments as well.
My response note would have looked like this:

‚The Behavior of Mr Secretary with his constant denunciations lead to a very bad work atmosphere and is counter-productive in terms of efficiency and productivity. In the long run this will also affect our customers. I suggest an immediate dismissal if this doesn‘t stop.
Putting a smile on the face could also help.‘

Congratulations if you got this far you know much more about the work situation in my office.

abandoned places


from this angle you don‘t notice much; just walk a little further and the place reveals its real character

One morning I was walking along the beach on Phu Quoc island and came by this Hotel which never seems to have been finished. It immediately caught my attention so I just walked up to see what it was exactly. There was still a security guard who saw me but didn‘t care about me walking around taking photos. A French professor who owns a Hotel a little further down explained me later that the main investor of the ‚Resort‘ apparently changed just recently so he figured that they probably ran out of money. The main structure and facade is more or less finished and you can as well just walk by without noticing anything but when you have a closer look you realize that there are no windows and the inside is still in the first construction stage with only grey concrete in use.

For me the whole place seemed very surreal yet had an aesthetic of its own. I would definitely say that places like this Hotel attract me and was trying to figure what it really was. So when I was back I stumbled across a sentence that I think explains a lot:

„Swimming pools are signs of spiritual optimism, economic prosperity and the hedonistic good life, so the image of a pool dried up and cracked or half full of dirty water becomes a symbol of disappointed hopes and dreams. A sign on the wall by a pool that was filled in with grassy sod says, ”No lifeguard on duty,” which is funny at first, and then starts to sound like an ominous judgment about modern American life.“ – Ken Johnson (NY Times)

It’s an extract of an art review for a photo work by ‚J. Benett Fitts‘ titled No Lifeguard on Duty‘. His photos are much better than mine but I think the ones below give an idea what I mean about ’surreal‘ showing the controversy of this building at such a paradisiac place.


moss is growing on the bare conrete stairs that lead into the first floor of the main building


the pool is dried out and the artificial pond that you cross when entering from the beach side is full of water lilies


I assume this was meant to become the restaurant facing the pool and the beach

Some weeks earlier this nice collection of abandoned places in the world has been posted on freeunibz.net showing some nice photos of places all round the globe. I‘ve been to ‚Varoshna‘ in Cyprus in December last year . It is a formerly well-established beach holiday town that became a ‚ghost city‘ with the separation of Cyprus in 1974. It’s still controlled by Military and only a few people can access it.

Macau

I had to leave China last week to renew my visa so my first stop was Macau before moving on. Once again it seems odd that half of my stay here is already over. Well anyway I was a little disappointed in the beginning that I only got a double-entry visa for 2 times 90 days but now I guess it’s not so bad after all. Johanna, my flatmate, came with a tourist visa and is filling up her passport with Chinese visa (since february) and I think is up to 12 pages and still has to get one last visa before flying back home. I have it a lot easier although I cannot go to Hong Kong until the end of my stay but that seems a reasonable restriction. For my one and only ‚visa-renewal-trip‘ I didn‘t choose to only go to Hong Kong where I will fly back from anyway but instead visit one of the South-East Asian countries nearby. So our choice came to Vietnam since the flights to get there were cheap (from Macau).
But first to Macau where I could spend at least one day. Johanna and Mark, who was visiting me here, went one day earlier so I met them on friday. Macau seems like a very relaxed town. Similar to Hong Kong you immediately get the feeling of arriving in a different country though just crossing the border or like in my case taking a one-hour ferry. To the world Macau is known as the ‚Las Vegas of Asia‘ and there are really very many casinos. But of course there is more to the city than that. Unlike Hong Kong Macau still has a lot of signs of their portugese colonial heritage. The city center is a big pedestrian zone that could be anywhere in Southern Europe. The Portugese also brought many churches which also add up to a rather strange feeling of not being in Asia. We spent the day walking around the city and visiting the main sites and went up the ‚Macau Tower‘ for an unfortunately cloudy sunset. The view was nonetheless spectacular and we stayed up there for quite some time. In the evening there is of course nothing better to do than visiting the glamourous world of casinos. Of course my ‚green side‘ kept me thinking a lot about the incredible waste and exaggeration of these places but to be honest I was very impressed as well.

the ruins (facade) of St. Pauls cathedral in the centre of Macau

The ‚Grand Lisboa‘ Casino is the most recognisable building and can be seen from almost anywhere..

…just like here from the old Portugese Fortress

three languages combined in one sign in Latin writing….wow

one of the many small alleys that criss-cross the main part of the city: Macao Peninsula

city centre and pedestrian area ligned with very european looking buildings

night-view of the city from the ‚Macau Tower‘

barber shop

I guess everybody knows that the classic ‚massage parlor‘ has a slightly ’sketchy‘ touch to it with prostitution being illegal in most south asian countries as well as China. Here in Shenzhen you can find them basically anywhere in all price ranges and of course they offer you a massage with ‚happy end‘ as well. I read in an article a while ago that in Iran, of course prostitution is illegal there as well, you can find places where you do a marriage for time spent with the ‚prostitute‘ and cancel it afterwards. It’s completely ridiculous but it seems to be legitimate enough for the state not to interfere in this business.
But as the title implies I didn‘t want to talk about a massage parlor or prostitution in general. Yesterday I went to get a haircut at one of the many barbershops close to my house. I decided to take the ‚full program‘ and was instantly taken upstairs where I got a head massage first. As I already learned before a head massage (just like the foot massage I did before) doesn‘t only include your head. They start off washing your hair, then massaging your head. It keeps going with a face wash including massage and all ends with a back/shoulder/arm massage. After some very relaxing 45 minutes you keep wondering ‚Didn‘t I actually come here for a haircut?‘…Of course they cut the hair as well and I think even did a pretty good job for me. After that they wash you hair again and style it very precisely with a hairdryer. So in the end you spend almost 2 hours just getting a haircut for a price where European barbers would just pick up their scissors. It’s a great adventure that I can highly recommend.

nuclear powered studying

The following piece is a text that I copied from a Chinese-German language book (therefore it’s in German…sorry about that for those who won‘t be able to understand it). It really reminded me of a website my brother showed me a while ago called ‚Retro Futurism‘. It’s a collection of really utopian illustrations from the 50s and 60s. The text below talks about the use of Nuclear Power first for submarines and then tells the reader that scientists in America have also made plans to build planes and trains powered by nuclear energy. Quite a lovely idea that fortunately enough didn‘t come true.
The book was printed in 1990 by the way…

-lichen Treibstoffvorräte wegfallen, die heute auf längeren Reisen mitgeführt werden müssen. Das Gleiche gilt auch für Atomflugzeuge. Die Belastung der Maschine durch einen etwa 60 oder 70 Tonnen wiegenden Reaktor wäre durch den Wegfall des beträchtlichen Gewichts der bishergen Treibstoffmenge durchaus erträglich. Der Atomantrieb kommt vor Allem für Großflugzeuge, zum Beispiel für die auf Transatlantlikflügen eingesetzten Maschinen in Frage. Nach amerikanischen Entwürfen soll als Brennstoff Plutonium verwendet werden. Der Dampf, der durch den Reaktor erzeugt wird, treibt vier Turbinen von insgesamt 56 000 PS an, die auf die Propeller wirken. Das Plutonium, das selbst nur wenige Kilogramm wiegt, soll für 5 Millionen Flugkilometer ausreichen. Es wird bereits an Plänen für Flugzeugatomreaktoren gearbeitet von denen man sich für Non-Stop-Langstreckenflüge mit Überschallgeschwindigkeit viel verspricht. Ebenfalls in den USA sind bereits Pläne für den Bau einer Atomlokomotive ausgearbeitet worden, die eine Leistung von 7 000 PS entwickelt und etwa 52 Meter lang sein soll. Sie würde nur 5 ½ Kilogramm Uranbrennstoff im Jahr verbrauchen.

Yangshuo

Last weekend I was in Yangshuo (about 700 km north-west from Shenzhen) which is one of the ‚must-see‘ places of China. Most travelers who come in from Hong Kong go straight there without stopping in between. And I really have to say that it was worth going there (despite the crazy night bus rides). The landscape sourrounding Yangshuo is really amazing. We spent most of the time cycling through the rice fields along the river with regular stops to go swimming or take a bamboo raft to lazily float back the way we came.
Before we went I was reading an article about ‚HDR‘ (High Dynamic Range) photography and of course had to try it since I found out that I can easily do it with my own camera (read more HERE). The trick is simply to shoot a range of photos (in my case always 3) of the same scene but all with different adjustments (one image too dark, one too bright and one correct). With the help of a computer you can then create an image that has all three ‚lighting layers‘ calculated together. Of course the output looks slightly unrealistic but the idea is to get closer to the perception of the human eye. A digital camera creates a really high resolution today (even my 3-year-old camera) but it is far from creating an exact image as the human eye does. HDR is a nice way to get at least the different shadows and light situations into one photo that we immediately see when we‘re looking at basically anything. Now of course the resolution is a different thing and I‘m sure it will still take a while until technology is that far.
Below you can see three example photos. I didn‘t play around with colors too much so the outcome I think is still quite natural.
I should finally get a tripod to have some more precise results.



tropical beaches

If you look hard enough and with a little luck you are really able to find very nice places around Shenzhen. Yesterday Mark and I had another attempt to get to ‚Dapeng Fortress‘ an old walled-town that was a key battle site in the Opium War. A few weeks ago Johanna and I failed to find it since we forgot to bring our guide-book and couldn‘t explain other people about it. This time I just showed the bus stewardess my book and she came back to me with a nice little booklet (in Chinese of course) that described how to get there and had a ‚collection‘ of beaches and walking trails on ‚Mirs Peninsula‘ where the Fortress is situated. In the (new) city of Dapeng we had to switch busses and fortunately enough a nice Chinese man though not speaking a word of english explained us that he was going in the same direction by showing us his working ID of the Nuclear Power plant and pointing it out on the map. After visiting the old city we tried to get to one of the beaches that was described in the little booklet. We had to ask around a bit but found the right bus and were immediately surrounded by a group of young Chinese happy to be able to speak English.
At the beach we had the curious sight of the below. Since it was one of the few public beaches where you didn‘t have to pay an entrance fee it was used by photographers for (kitschy) wedding shootings. But it wasn‘t only one or two couples half of the beach was full of them. There were about 20-30 wedding couples in white and sometimes very colorful dresses. The Chinese we met explained me that it was very common to do this as the sea or the ocean is a very strong romantic symbol. And since there are about 1.3 billion Chinese it can be seen just normal too to see the couples as numerous.


view off the coast on ‚Mirs Peninsula‘


Dapeng Fortress


wedding photo shootings

democracy

I found a ‚nice‘ entry in my notebook today where I wrote down the encounter with a strange but funny guy in Turkey. I was in Trabzon, far east on the Black Sea coast, and was traveling without a guidebook so the tourist information was usually the first stop on arrival in a new city. In Trabzon I was asking my way to it with the help of my extremely poor Turkish to then meet a guy who would speak German really well. He was the Head of the Tourist information and for some reason had studied German for many years (though has never been there). The cheap hotel that fit my wallet was right next door so he took me there and even negotiated a price for me (even though that might sound suspicious the price was really fair so I didn‘t care). The morning of my departure he came again to say goodbye and ask me where I would go next. So I told him that my plan was to go towards ‚Van‘ stay there for a few days and then get on the train to Tehran. ‚Iran?‘ he asked me pulling up his eyebrows ‚Why do you want to go there? You know in Germany big democracy, Turkey..hmm…little democracy, Iran no democracy.‘
Sadly enough after „the most free held [elections] anywhere in the world“ (Ahmadinejad earlier this week) his statement proves right.

Locust adventure

We found this tough little guy up on the rooftop of our office building in the 26th floor yesterday during lunch break. In the back you can see the skyscraping office towers including the China Merchant’s Bank Tower (the tallest building in the row).


cage people

Johanna just sent me an article about the ‚cage people‘ of Hong Kong. In this ridiculously rich city a system of cheap housing has been established that is affordable even for the migrant worker (the rent here is among the highest worldwide) but can definitely be seen as humiliation. The living-space of these people, as the name already tells, is limited to a cage that looks a lot like a dog cage. I guess that’s the most convenient way for the city administration to deal with this problem (although the houses are usually private-owned) and not have a huge number of homeless people which there are in fact almost none (but I suppose there is another reason for this as well).


old man in front of his rented cage that he calls ‚home‘

The New York Times published an article already in 1996 that you can find here.

The ‚Tagesspiegel‘ published a German article about it. Check here.

cantonese market

We go to this market pretty much every sunday since it’s just a few minutes away and extremely cheap for European measure.
I think it really isn‘t the worst market you can have in ‚Canton‘ but it sure is interesting to see all the treasures offered especially in the meat and sea-food ‚department‘.

I didn‘t bring my big camera so the quality is only ‚reasonable‘ but I still like these photos.

the Great Firewall

I wrote about it before a couple of times and just came across another article on BBC about the whole web censorship issue in China. The most recent article talks about the software that is called ‚Green Dam‘ and which is now being pre-installed on every new computer sold in the country. The official objective of the program was to restrict access to pornography with the use of a color filter as well as a ‚blacklist‘ of words. As China is known for its web censorship concerning any opposition it is of course clear that the real objective is different. First tests of the software even revealed that the color filter does not apply for dark-skinned people and the blacklist contains words that are far from being used exclusively in the world of pornography which would be for example the word ‚essence‘.
It seems that it is yet another step of the government to gain more control of the virtual world though ‚bloggers‘ already commented on the out-dated technology being easily bypassed with certain (half-illegal) tools. The biggest concern with all this is that this software costs the chinese tax-payers around 40 million RMB (~ € 4,5 million ) but as long as they simply accept their fate and don‘t complain about it the government can go on passsing these enforcements.

As I also wrote before the access to Youtube is blocked in China as well (along with other popular sites such as ‚blogspot.com‘) so I tried to find a way around. The website ‚Ktunnel.com‘ worked in Turkey fairly well and at least gives me access to most sites including Youtube. ‚TOR‘ is another open-source project that does basically the same (and without any pop-up advertisement) though it’s being a lot slower as it uses an own version of the Firefox browser. But with both versions ‚Youtube‘ is still not working properly. I can access the site but when I try to open a video the next stage of the Great Firewall comes in and tells me that my ‚Flash‘ player is out of date or ‚JAVA script‘ not activated (which is both not correct). In the end I probably just have to wait until I get back to Europe to finally use these services again.