Thursday, December 29, 2011

The things people carry


If you're reading this from the US or Europe, I'd like you to take a bit of time to imagine all of the Things that are moving back and forth around you now.  All of the food and clothing and plastic toys and electric appliances and general consumer goods that are on the back of semis going from one place to another on the highways and streets near you at this very moment.  Do you see all that stuff in your mind's eye?  Now double or triple it.  Take half of this ginormous mass of stuff off of the trucks, and put it on motorcycles, carts, bicycles, or wheelbarrows.  Or simply on people's backs.  Welcome to China...  (Or most of the rest of the world, for that matter.)

Coming and going

Are you thinking about privilege right now?  I know I am... 


Friday, December 23, 2011

The sounds of the season


Aaand another round of classes and final exams is done!  Now, on with the traditional festivities, including having people over for jiaozi (dumplings) and buying tickets on the high speed train...  Merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Grand Openings


...of stores are mainly in pink, usually flanked by multiple floral arrangements on red woven bamboo stands.  The doorway is usually framed in an arc of purple and pink balloons, and there's sometimes a local percussion band and drill team / dance troupe to liven things up.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Shapes We're In


I don't know how many other people besides myself walk along the street and think "Wow, what a great rectangle!"  And maybe I don't want to know.  Further proof, if needed, of how years of art school have messed with my brain...

Herewith, a few more photos about the shapes that I've seen lately.  And how we've been (are still being?) shaped, besides..?


Diagonals, triangles, and some big clothing models.


A diagonal stuttering down through some rectangles.  That's me in the the top center, by the way..


Lots of tiled rectangles, three pyjama'd mannequins, and a glimpse into a restaurant kitchen. I sincerely ask you - what more do you need in a photo?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Counting Cranes

Hey, look, another blog post about construction in China! 

So what do you do when you're on the elevated platform waiting for a train?   Count construction cranes, of course...

Counting Cranes - 1

Counting Cranes - 2,3,4...
Two, three, four...

Counting Cranes - 5,6,7,8,9...
Five, six, seven, eight, nine... (you'll have to take my word for it - my pocket camera doesn't have much of a telephoto lens)

Counting Cranes - 10...

Counting Cranes - 11,12,13,14...

Counting Cranes - 15,16,17...
15, 16, 17...

Counting Cranes - 18  Counting Cranes - 19..20!
Eighteen, Nineteen.....    Twenty!  Twenty construction cranes!  HaHaHaHa!  (Cue the Count from Sesame Street)




Can't decide if I like the photo better with or without the big blue garbage truck, so you're getting them both.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life on the Streets


Even though it's getting pretty cold out (4-8°C, 39-46°F), life here still continues to happen outdoors as well as in.  Here, a few examples, (some a little on the fuzzy side), taken from recent wanderings around Chengdu...




Monday, December 12, 2011

A glimpse of the future. No wait, the past. No, maybe the future. No, maybe...

Lately, the area around our local high speed train station has been looking more and more, hmmm... dystopian?  Post-apocalyptic?  Or perhaps, just plain surreal.  Above, huge concrete tracks, where futuristic trains quietly zoom along at around 175 kph on their way in to the metropolis of Chengdu.  Below and directly outside the station, a flagstone plaza and driveway, covered with construction dust and looking more ancient by the day.  Just past a fifteen foot section of wall, left over from the small factory that was there two years ago, a vast field of rubble where the construction area for the whole train line used to be.  The rubble field is arranged into randomly placed mounds, is the size of several football fields, and is now covered in vines and weeds.  Close to the station, some enterprising people (the station employees, perhaps?) have put in some terraced garden plots of bok choy and other vegetables.  More towards the horizon, several towering new five-star housing developments under construction.


Some taxi drivers playing cards around an improvised fire of pieces of scrap lumber, adding to the overall Mad Max kind of effect.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Christmas Discovery


One thing I have appreciated about living in China is that every day, there's a chance for a new discovery.  For example, did you know that Santa has a thing for playing the saxophone?  Neither did I, until now...


Friday, December 9, 2011

Everything's going on all at once...

Lotus Market, Chengdu

Another photograph from the Lotus Market in Chengdu.  Every once in a while, I get this revelation that life is going on all over the planet, all the time.  At the same time that I'm typing this, for example, countless huge blue trucks all over China are being stacked full of cardboard boxes and are then probably rumbling off to countless marketplaces full of countless people.  Meanwhile, most of the people that I have known for more than three years (i.e., most everyone I know who's in North America right now) is either getting ready for bed or already asleep. Life is going on more or less as usual in all of the places that I've lived or visited, even if I haven't been there in the last twenty years...

Simplistic?  Obvious?  Nostalgic?  Or incredibly cool that we make the connections that we do as we go about the world?  In any case, welcome to my brain, everyone.

But back to Chengdu - the guy in the bottom center of the photo who just noticed me and the camera?  He makes the shot happen, don't you think...?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Honoring the tradition


Was at the sprawling Lotus Market near Chengdu's North Train Station yesterday, which has no Lotuses to speak of, but darn near everything else.  I was looking for a new Christmas tree, which I found in a remote forest clearing market stall next to 3-D Buddha posters; chopped down with my hatchet bargained down with the vendor from 60 RMB down to 45, hauled home through the drifting snow crowds of people and electric motorcycles; and sawed the trunk down took it out of its cardboard box so that I could fit it into the stand. 

Then I sat on the couch for 45 minutes, untangling snarled masses of Christmas lights and trying to figure out which bulbs were broken so that I could get the darn things to work, while the rest of the family dug stuff out of boxes and decorated the rest of the house.  Some traditions are universal, after all...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

With Great Power comes Great Responsibility

The Executive of the Tobacco Monopoly

If you were the Executive of the Tobacco Monopoly, what would you do with the power at your disposal?  This particular Executive seems to be hanging out in his van playing video games on his cell phone.  Sounds like a reasonable choice to me...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Riding multiple horses

Isn't that Chicago up there?
Photo: A glimpse of Chicago, as seen on a local billboard..

Ah, December, that magical time when everything happens at once.  Aside from the usual preparations for the holidays, weekends taken up by various retreats with various organizations in various places (most recently, back from Shanghai), and having all five of us back together in the same time zone under the same roof for the first time in four months, there's also the matter of planning for what we're going to do this summer.  As in our contract to teach here is finishing then; so we are busy deciding where to work, which country to live in, and what to do for the next step in our lives kind of planning. 

So you can well imagine that the past few weeks here at Slow Boat Central have been full of all sorts of challenges, choices, and possibilities to consider.  Exciting at times, draining at times, and most definitely not the most conducive to blogging.  Especially since this blog now has a wider audience than just our family and friends who we're keeping updated.  I'll still be putting up photos and thingies as time permits, and will fill you all in as developments develop.  If you know us, however, and want to get more detailed news, by all means keep in touch - we'd love to hear from you!