Posts Tagged 'Travel'

Rural Anhui (Xun Cun) in Pictures

2010 World Effno

Okay so there’s this giant TV, right? And it’s hooked up to a camera, right? And when you stand still in front of it, Hello Kitties and hearts appear next to you! Cool, right? No? Well if you don’t find yourself entertained by such attractions, the World Expo is not your gig. The sad thing is, this was perhaps one of the more innovative exhibits at the Expo.

For months I had been hearing about all the awesome architecture and infrastructure that was to be incorporated into the event. Things like rainwater catchers that supplied coolant to outdoor air conditioning systems that doubled as giant street lamps capable of turning night into day. If that doesn’t blow your mind then I am truly sorry for you.

It was hearing about things like this that got me excited about attending the expo; I thought I was going to have a chance to test just how sharp the cutting edge of modern technology has to offer. After all, isn’t the expo supposed to show off the best your country has to offer? Evidently not.

In reality, the Expo is just a collection of larger-than-life travel brochures housed inside pretty buildings. A typical pavilion consists of a four hour wait to get in followed by a few movies that advertise how cool the sponsor is (either a country or a company). That’s it. Some went the extra mile going as far as to include 4D special effects and light shows but really, there was nothing you couldn’t learn just by typing in “Thailand” into Wikipedia. Needless to say, it was overall a massive disappointment.

What made it that much worse was the fact that it was all a giant contradiction. The theme was supposed to be “better city, better life” which means improving infrastructure and promoting sustainability (according to an Expo worker). Not only did this thing occupy impossible amounts of prime real estate that could have been much better allocated, most of the pavilions are scheduled to be destroyed once the Expo ends. So much for sustainability.

By this time, most people who want to go to the Expo have gone so I suppose it’s more or less pointless to advise my readers not to go but I thought I’d share this little tidbit. The last Expo took place in Japan in 1976. As many of you may know, Japan and China don’t have the coziest of histories. According to an expo worker, the Chinese government has set attendance quotas in order to beat Japan’s record for attendance and has thus far failed to meet them. They have resorted to subsidizing travel costs for government workers throughout the country to bring them to Shanghai in order to boost attendance. I’m sorry Beijing, I wanted to like the Expo. I wanted to be able to write a glowing review and say I had a great time and learned so much. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

A Pleasant Surprise

Before I start, I want to get one thing straight. I am a firm believer in the marvels of Western medicine and am staunchly opposed to most types of “Alternative Healing” like supplements, homeopathy, and other so-called miracle cures. Although pharmaceutical companies are evil, patent-manipulating, profit-motivated, soulless corporations, it is these very traits that convince me that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to developing new drugs. What better way to generate new profits than by discovering new cures? With this disclaimer in mind, what I’m about to say next may come as a bit of a surprise: I think Eastern Medicine works.

As you know, I was sick for the better part of the last 2 weeks. When I could no longer bear my cough anymore, I asked my uncle to get me some medicine. He came back with what you see in that vial I’m holding up in that picture. My gut reaction was repressed anger. Where is my NyQuil? There’s no way this hocus pocus potion could have any effect on this rhinovirus… Where’s the scientific evidence behind it? Did someone pour millions into developing it? All this aside, I was desperate to rid myself of this cold so I downed it in one gulp and hoped for the best, expecting the worst. To my surprise, the damn thing worked! Now you might be thinking, “How can this be? If it works, why don’t we have it in the US? It must be placebo!” And you may very well be correct but in all honesty, this has been an eye-opener for me.

I think that this potion derives its potency not from the “active ingredient,” but rather the context of the ingredients. It’s like how they say taking vitamins don’t actually help because your body can’t absorb just raw vitamins. This is probably made from boiling herbs which would mean that it includes not only the drug part, but much of the other plant materials that may very well aid in its digestion and absorption. Now I’m not saying that all Eastern Medicines work, but I will say that I won’t write it all off as bunk in the future as I have in the past.

Stop! It’s a Collector’s Item

Your eyes do not deceive you, that is indeed a car with all its post-
factory protective wrapping in tact. Before seeing this, I had no clue this was even possible or that this wrapping even existed but apparently it does. Like a nerd after Christmas, the owner has (and still does a month later I should add) all the self control of a zen monk in not unwrapping his present. While this particular scenario is atypical of Chinese people, the general activity of leaving things in their wrappings is not.

More often than not, the remotes I use are still in their original packaging, the car dashboards still contain pieces of vinyl wrapping, and car seats are covered by multiple layers of colored cloth protection. My grandparents go as far as to keep their TVs covered in plastic or cloth when not in use. Most visitors to China won’t notice this behavior because it’s mostly contained within private households but I found this to be fascinating for whatever reason so now you know. I asked a couple people why the Chinese are so keen on preserving packaging but no one could really provide a satisfactory answer. Perhaps someone reading this does? If so, kindly leave it in the comments.

The Alphabet is Underrated

I had a bit of time on my hands today so I decided to a little shopping. I had been meaning to read some Vonnegut for the longest time so my first stop was the Wangfujing Bookstore because of its supposedly myriad selection of English imports. To make a short story short, this is a lie. It has a decent selection I suppose but really only about a quarter of one floor is dedicated to English imports and about a third of that is fiction. Given the size of the building, that’s still a decent selection but unless you’re looking for something popular or videogame-based fiction, then chances are you won’t find it. This is in part due to the lackluster selection but moreso because they are not organized in any discernible fashion. Eugenides was found next to Brown, and later next to Rowling as well. You might be thinking “well Michael, they don’t use the alphabet!” but that’s where you’d be wrong. The English alphabet is necessary for typing in Chinese and all school children are taught it. Anyway, I was looking for Vonnegut but had no idea how to approach it so I asked one of the attendants. She yelled across the floor for another attendant who scoffed at me and told me to use the catalog.

I can’t really read anything beyond rudimentary Chinese so I entered “Vonnegut” into each of five separate search bars before the fifth and last one yielded results. This was frustratingly of no help at all to me. It spat out the titles along with some random numbers that were apparently related to its location but each of the titles had a different number that was nowhere close to any of the others which I could only assume meant that they weren’t grouped together. When I asked the attendant for help again, she just told me they were probably sold out of everything… At this point I had had more than enough, so I left. Needless to say, I won’t be going back and frankly, I suggest you don’t either. Should’ve could’ve just bought an e-book.

This is What Americans Should Worry About

What you’re looking at is not a playground, but children do enjoy playing here. Although empty in this picture, these outdoor gyms that are in every Beijing neighborhood are crammed with people of all ages every night without fail. That’s right, this brightly colored collection of machinery is a gym. It is free and open to the public and people actually use it. It has everything from elliptical trainers, to weights, to rowing machines; even powerless tread mills!

If there’s one stereotype that we as the United States deserve, it’s that we do harbor a large population of obese people. This is not only due to our high-calorie, low nutrition diet but also due to our lack of exercise. What Beijing has done with these outdoor gyms is make exercise fun and accessible. In America, if you want to work out, chances are you have to shell out for some kind of gym membership then you have to drive across town to get there. These outdoor gyms are all over the place and are easily set up anywhere from parks to alleyways to vacant lots.

While here, I’ve been exercising everyday but it’s not easy to do… Because other people are always on all the machines! The people love these machines and so do I. While I often find fault with many of China’s government programs (see geological preserve), this is one thing that it has done exceptionally well.

I would like to be able to suggest bringing this idea to America, I know that it’s sadly impossible due to the lawsuit-happy nature of our society. I guess the YMCA will have to do for now.

Nature Calls… Out For Help

There’s one word to describe what China’s done to what I believe to be its version of a national park system: bastardization. I spent today at a “National Geological Preserve” and if this is what they call a preserve, well–I guess I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves again.

Okay, what the hell? Carnival games, litter abound and more created by the second, a gondola and bungee jumping, construction on another gondola, a truck driving through a man-made lagoon whose sole purpose is to provide floatation for those leisure boats which are actually made of styrofoam, and vendors at every turn selling super soakers and plastic-packaged foods and beverages which all get tossed aside onto the trails (yes the super soakers as well). Could you imagine if we put a strip mall in Yosemite? Or a Gondola in Zion to the top of Angel’s Landing? Frankly, self-worth and challenge completion are totally overrated. We should totally make it so anyone can climb to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back whenever they so desire; a cable car would do the trick!

From what I’ve gathered, the Chinese view on natural wonders is that they are there for our entertainment; and if they’re not entertaining enough, then it’s up to us to make it entertaining! Perhaps “National Geological Preserve” was just a mistranslation and I sure hope so because if this is actually what they consider to be preservation, then I can’t imagine how awful exploitation must be.

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