Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Hiking" in Half Moon Lake Park

Yesterday morning, I took a taxi to the German beer hall, called Drei Kronen Brauhaus 1308 or Three Crowns. There, I met three very fun German women, one of whom I met on CouchSurfing. Their names were Désirée Krips, Lesly, and Bettina. All three of these women are teachers and the first two work at a German kindergarten. We all laughed together all day.

The restaurant was quite amusing. Everything from the food to the frescoes was just a little off and entirely out-of-place. Among the clientele for breakfast on a Saturday were large, Aryan men in long, leather pants who work for VW, Audi, or any of the other German car and parts manufacturers. They come to China with their spouses and children for a year or three. Their children are the kindergarten students of Désirée and Lesly. There were also Chinese women with adopted German names, like our waitress, Ericka. She was dressed like Heidi. It was quite a spectacle, akin, perhaps, to seeing me in a Korean king's garb.

We sat upstairs at Drei Kronen 1308 at a solid oak table.
Breakfast consisted of meat, cheese, English tea, rolls, fruit salad (which included dragon fruit), and scrambled eggs. We lingered for an hour or so and convinced Bettina to join us for the "hike," which she told us would entail returning to her apartment to retrieve a shawl. Desiree and Lesly found that quite amusing, correcting her that in winter such a thing is usually referred to as a "scarf." We took a quick cab into the carefully guarded high-rise apartment complex where Bettina's employer has provided her an apartment about one and half times as large as my own. It was very clean, well-equipped, sunny and beautiful. She had a study, two bedrooms with large beds, a living room with a large Barcalounger and a big brown Barcalounger couch to match. She had a utility room, a lovely bathroom replete with tub, and a porch. It was the sort of place no teacher in Europe or America could ever contemplate renting, but was provided to her as a perk for teaching here. Like my space, it still lacked a certain coziness, we both agreed later, but was very comfortable.
Lesly, Bettina, and Desiree at the Light Rail station nor far from the brauhaus.
The return trip on the Light Rail after we had been "hiking."
We left Bettina's apartment and headed for two or more hours of walking around the dammed reservoir at Half Moon Lake Park. We took the Light Rail to get there, which requires the purchase of a plastic card that you use to get in and out of the gate. It swallows the card as you leave. The cards have been used so much that they are worn white and the text, even if I could read it, and design have been obliterated by the thousands of hands through whose fingers they have passed.

It was cold yesterday and I was glad of my long underwear tops and bottoms, my ugly neck warmer, parka, and Sorrels. It was thirty quai to get inside the gate. We walked along a path and up some steep stairs, arriving at the top of the dam.

The Modern Explorer.
Three Frauleins and a Reservoir with several feet of ice.
There were men along the side of the reservoir digging a trench so that the ice would have room to expand without cracking the walls and levies. The women in the red jackets proved to be brisk walkers and scoffed at my calling this a hike. Lesly and I flagged down the bus at the end and we all piled in, taking it back to the gate.  We caught the Light Rail back to town and then a cab to my apartment.

I had to be back at school by 4 PM to sign my contract. We taxied to my place and played a game of Quiddler before I showed them to Xikang Lu, where Desiree (a complete Korea-phile) knew of a Korean coffeehouse. I high-tailed it to Ella's office and then re-grouped with them in a half hour. Jason came and joined us. We lingered for a bit as the snow started to come down and then went to see Ravi at New Dehli Indian Food. It was delicious and we lingered some more in a raised floor seat with cushions and pillows for three or four hours. Ravi is one of the most inspirational men I have ever encountered--a philosopher king who opens and closes restaurants all over the world. More on Ravi and his great new restaurant in a subsequent post. More than one of us was tempted to follow his path.
The walk way along the top of the dam.

Desiree and I in a camera duel; she with the high tower in the background

Friday, February 25, 2011

Signs That in Asia, I am

One of the things that any native English-speaking person will notice in Asia is an abundance of funny signs. The first sign I saw, when I deplaned in Changchun, pointed people to the Qnarantine Room. It is not uncommon to pass a girl on the street with a shirt that says something akin to "Sweet Honey of Yours."

Here is one example that is less than a block from my house:

Photographs: From Movie School of thought Naturalism

Here are two from Korea which are very representative of the genre. The first shows that Seoul (65% Christian) has some quite divinely inspired capitalists.

Bongzi & Bongzi...That's the Place made by Jesus
Especially considering that the words a, an, and the, frequently omitted by Asian speakers, are called articles, this is my grand prize winner.
BARBARA: a fine article. Talk about the objectification of women...or their shoes.
Finally, I bought a beautiful Korean liquor bottle that sits on my widow sill here. It is actually Traditional Koeran Liquuor, which, I hear, teetotalling Moslems abhor.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Palace Life in Changchun

The crown jewel of the Changchun tourism industry is the palace of Pu Yi, who is usually referred to as the Last Emperor of China. On Monday, I spent a couple hours using the local bus system to land at the palace gate and then several hours touring the grounds with an English audio guide that clicked on and off as I made my way around the palatial grounds, which included an air-raid shelter and outdoor swimming pool, housing quarters where Pu Yi isolated his poor concubines, gorgeous rooms for watching movies, etc. There were hundreds of security guards throughout the palace--at least one of whom was nodding off. Each room was guarded and, understandably, since there were treasures from the Qing Dynasty in numerous rooms.

For me, the most fascinating part was the way that the plaques and signage that spoke about the Japanese. The pain, anger, and hatred are still raw. Japan still fails to acknowledge all of the terrible things they did during and after the Manchurian Incident. At one point, early in the tour, you are invited to see the "ugly faces" of the Japanese occupiers.

There is significance to the time on this clock. Pu Yi was a puppet emperor and this was the most significant gate of the palace.

The garden was delightful. The paths were all cobbled with polished stones and this little quiet spot beckoned. I hope to return in summer.

This was the school room in the palace.

You can see that this was an ornate and well-built assemblage of buildings.

A bit of a hypochondriac, Pu Yi had a whole room of medicines. He was frail as a child.

A manservant attends to the concubine (in wax).

There was a whole room of ornate uniforms for various people who held important positions within the puppet palace.

Important document signings would take place here.

The throne room.

Throughout the grounds there were various chapels for the worship of Buddha.

On the seats behind this screen were a syphony's worth of instruments, which were played during supper.

The royal dining room.

John Elder, my college advisor, plays Go on the Internet. Sixty and seventy years ago, the denizens of the palace played here.

Pu Yi meets with his puppeteer.

The Royal Movie Theatre!

Pretty great place to watch a movie if you ask me!

Adjacent to the palace grounds was a museum dedicated to exposing the horrors of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, which lasted fourteen years. Like Hitler in Europe, the armies of Hitohito were ruthless, carrying our brutal experiments with poisonous gas on innocent Chinese victims.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why I Came to China...

Though I resent that I need to explain myself repeatedly, I often am asked why I came to China as a 36 year-old member of the Massachusetts' bar, leaving behind a successful nonprofit and a thousand friends. This is some semblance of an answer/reflection.

What is clear already is that waiguoren come here for a vast array of reasons, some innocent (even naive) and some nefarious and pathetic. If I fall into either of these overly broad categories, it is the first. I never took Chinese history, never read any Pearl Buck, and knew next to nothing about Asia until two months ago, except what I had gleaned from years of carefully reading James Fallows' pieces in The Atlantic. My short-term Mandarin tutor in the weeks before I left leveled the charge that the title of this blog, Waking Green Dragon, was Orientalist. Admittedly, I came here almost tabula rasa with a certain naivete about the Middle Kingdom.

Here are my reasons:

1) To Observe Communism with Chinese Attributes

A fortnight or so before setting out for Asia, I broke bread with a dear, old friend from high school. In high school, he was the Young Republican, slightly corpulent and more slightly stooped, who reminded us that we would all be middle-aged some day. Irreverent, funny, and anachronistic, he was an independent thinker who cherished the role of Devil's Advocate. An unapologetic hard-drinking Irishman, he has grown into a man who would seem more comfortable in  the bawdy houses of 19th-Century Tammany Hall  and New York City's Five Corners than the country clubs and resorts of white shoe Bostonian lawyers.

After graduating with a joint degree in law and business from Boston College and practicing at the highly-esteemed firm, Hale & Dorr, for a few years, he tried his hand at the greatest ruse known to man, called "working for a hedge fund start-up." That went nowhere to my delight...for his soul. He has now landed on his feet, working as the legal hand for a business that, for all intents and purposes, sets up phone answering services for corporations almost all, if not exclusively, "off-shore." His work may bring him to China while I am here.
I came to China, in part, to observe the economic and political system here, inextricably linked as they are in any modern or modernizing nation. I am filled with the propaganda and official hates, the stereotypes of Americans about this paradoxical Middle Kingdom. I wanted to see for myself what "communism with Chinese attributes" looks like.

2) Success is Not Measured in Column Inches

Chuck Matthei, mentor and friend until his death from cancer in 2002, told me at eighteen never to write a resume, which was advice that I promptly ignored. The meaning of his counsel has always hovered on my shoulder like the angel that Chuck, as broken as the rest of us, often was. He meant that we should not make an official accounting of our worldly accomplishments for such an exercise is asked for only by The Man who makes little boxes out of ticky-tacky and to do so is, ultimately, vainglorious. I did not disagree then, nor could I now, despite my hundreds of LinkedIn "connections."

A new friend here--an Army vet from Alabama--asked me recently how somebody who had appeared on The Colbert Report and innumerable times in the New York Times could leave for China in the midst of such worldly success.

In truth, I was burned out by a US tax system, payroll laws, thanking a donor eight ways, and the sundry other unreasonable expectations incumbent upon any ethical nonprofit manager. Chief among my complaints was a Board of Directors, comprised of my nearest and dearest friends, that stubbornly refused to grow and was incapable of adequately compensating me or the bevy of overly generous consultants upon whom we invariably came to rely. Still, the pecuniary failures of Project Laundry List, which may yet re-invent itself with new leadership and a board invigorated by the departure of its now cranky founder, would not in and of itself been sufficient cause for me to throw up my hands.

Most importantly, I felt like I was stagnating in my calling and we, to an extent, in our mission. More and more North Americans each year seemed to be installing dryers, despite symbolic victories on the "right to dry" stretching from Hawaii to Maine, Ontario to Fort Launderdale (sic). Commitments from "socially responsible" American corporations looking for some juju by their association with us fell short of what was promised and/or of our expectations. Projects like the production of a documentary and the planning of a bike tour across America dragged on or became so unwieldy that I could not contemplate many more weeks of sitting in front of a computer, running a quirky, off-beat movement over the impersonal Internet. My own corpulence and stooping lay on the horizon. Upon returning from a two week bicycle expedition to give a speech at St. Lawrence University, it was clear that I could not re-charge my batteries if something did not change.

I wanted to come to China, because I read in the Washington Post that the citizens here, largely, have not acquired dryers even in the rising middle class. To generalize again, the Chinese are materialistic and, therefore, cannot imagine ruining, desiccating their clothes in the hot drier. Furthermore, they cannot fathom spending energy on something that can be done just as well with a rack, a line, a bamboo shaft. I want to develop the guanxi with government officials and executives at Haier (world's fourth largest manufacturer of appliances) so that the ship never leaves the harbor here. I learned, in the United States, that once people see something as essential or liberating them from the drudgery of housework, it is hard to turn back.

3) Good-bye, New Hampshire! Good-bye, America, and your crazy politics

In October, fresh from my primary defeat for a local House seat (I ran on a socialstic sounding platform of reducing the work week, obesity, and depression), the general election loomed and I found myself less involved than ever before in campaigns and party politics, because I was deeply disenchanted with the Congressman in whose campaigns I had enthusiastically participated in the past and with the general tenor of the conversation in my party. I did not want to share in the blame for the coming, apparent disaster, either. 

On November 2nd, disaster struck with the election. In early January, the first act of the newly elected Speaker was to permit a motion that handguns be allowed in the State House, where fourth graders come on field trips. Hours later an impertinent, laughable attempt to remove a sitting Democratic member of the House was underway. The victim of this absurd fiasco, which even Jonathan Swift might not have imagined, was the executive director of the NH Democratic Party. His crime: supporting earmarks so that a shipyard would remain open.

It is hard in the America of 2011, especially for an impatient radical, but for any person of modest intellect, who takes himself or herself half seriously, to abide the charade of our weakening democracy, which even as I write seems to be racing to cover up and undo human rights' violations. We have a President whose jingoistic State of the Union address seemed to come from the strategic plans of Wall Streets' giants--e.g., let the highly educated immigrants stay because they are an engine for economic growth just as our education system hemorrhages from a lack of creativity and a more fundamental lack of purpose. Income inequality, obesity, depression, drop-out rates, divorce are epidemics that Keynesian high-speed train projects cannot arrest.

A handful of Russ Feingolds, Al Frankens, Bernie Sanderses, and the holy, merry elves from Cleveland are insufficient antidotes to the bureaucratic spin-machines that our political parties have become. (George Washington warned against such divisions much as Christ warned against sects and denominations that cause splits in our circular, gray existence.) The corporate media, 24-hour doctors of vapidity roll out as news the tabloidesque "breast-feeding" scandal du jour. Sarah Palin contemplates being the rock star in chief. Sadly, whole hospitals of ophthalmologists may soon be needed for the eye-rolling in which even the modestly informed must now unavoidably engage, try-as-they-might to suppress it.

4) I am a dam fighter

Three Gorges Dam, by any account the largest hydroelectric project in the world, tamed the Yanghtze Jiang. In so doing, China's leading seismologists and hydro-geologists suggest that they may have, in fact, simply caged a dragon. The pooling of water--in places where heretofore twas never puddled--may cause tectonic shifts and earthquakes. There is not a friggin' thing that the Central Committee or even Mao or Buddha, reaching their hands from the grave, can do to put this genie back in the bottle, but we can stop before we do the same thing again in Turkey or on the Nile, Amazon, or St. Lawrence. I am here to bear witness to the hubris of our human race in its thirst for electric power. This week, my nose is buried in Simon Winchester's thrilling travel writing about his trip up the Yangtze. Fully one-twelfth of the world's population lives in this single watershed. It sheds a thousand times the silt that the Mississippi does.

I want to make a prediction, which should make believers in the Mayan prophecies tremble:
In the short term, Three Gorges Dam is going to cause geological turmoil on a scale that makes what happened in Haiti look like tiddly-winks. 
I am not such a mystic that I believe my simply saying such a thing will make it come true or I would not utter these words. In fact, I hope with all of my soul that I am wrong. Nevertheless, I want to be in China, but safely far to the north, when the dragon blows fire so that I can do humanitarian work with the victim's of our species' excesses. I want to bear witness and so I am turning to you, my readers, to expand the reach of this blog.

5) Mandarin 101

One of the very first things that my skeptical mother said to me, when I announced my plans to come here, was, "You could not even stick with Spanish for two weeks in high school. You were terrible at languages." I hated Latin and the queer men who taught in that department. I know that my mother is partially right (aren't they always) and that the only way I am going to learn any language is to immerse myself in it.

I am taking steps to learn the language because there is no question that the feeding, clothing, and entertaining of a population as large as China's must be done well for the sake of humanity and the abundant Earth. While the street signs in Changchun are also in English and few of my friends who do energy work or dabble in the capitalist ventures of Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing have taken the time to learn Mandarin, I feel that you cannot truly understand a culture until you comprehend the intricacies of their modes of communication. I may not need to know Mandarin to be a competent world citizen of the 21st Century, but I want to know it.

6) The satisfaction of teaching

There are few jobs in the world that can compare to teaching--the daily satisfaction as you look out at eager students filling their heads with the skills and knowledge for tomorrow's world.


Whether to scold or agree, I hope you will take some time to comment on this post.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lugubrious Lugee Lucubration 101 (by flashlight, rated NPC*)

The lights just went out for the third or fourth time since I have been here (eventually, I will lose count, if I have not already). With it, the Internet also cuts out. Director of Studies (and Hospitality) David P. told our assembly of new teachers that brown outs are unusual (water shortages more and more infrequent), so I must assume that it is just my building because the lights across the street at the USA Cleaners are still on. In fact, they keep going on and off here, which makes me quite glad I have the battery in my computer.

I just fixed a cup of perfectly warm tea from the hot water which issues from the plugged-in cooler. Yesterday, I had the hilarious experience of going to the market to get tea and expending seven yuan for an empty tin--only realizing what I had done when I arrived home. Today, after supper, David B. and I went to the fancy tea shop next door and I got a tea strainer and vacuum-packed bag of jasmine pearls ("sex in my mouth" as David B. refers to sundry Chinese culinary pleasures).

Aside: A Word on Mucus and "Civilization" (not for the faint of heart or those with a weak stomach)

I just boiled my snot rag by flashlight, being careful to remember that the gas must be turned off at the pipe after each use of the industrial-strength, two-burner, ovenless stove which threatens, unadjusted, to melt the very aluminum of my small, provided cooking pot. I will be looking for a couple more pocket hankins soon, especially if this nominal head cold and unpleasant gastro stuff is habitual. I steadfastly refuse to resort to farmers' blowing anywhere but in the privacy of my own home and even then only when I am accompanied by none other but God Himself. That said, I am quite proud that I was able to produce a good little phlegm ball and spat it with vim on to the sidewalk yesterday as we left a bar called Three Monkeys Pub (the irony of a drinking establishment by such a Darwinian name betrays an evolution of humor here, not lost on this irony-appreciating American who will soon do a post devoted entirely to the uproarious signage here, manifesting itself in the form of misspellings and un-intentional erroneous turns of phrase). There is a certain relief that comes from cleansing the lungs of this dirty air in these grubby little streets.

Nevertheless, I cannot do it without some deep, primal self-loathing that stems from a memory, clear as yesterday, of me standing on the fourth floor of Cilley Hall, my dormitory at Phillips Exeter Academy. I was all of fifteen year-old and was sporting to see if I could get my saliva to fall four stories through the narrow crack of the banisters to hit the floor at the bottom. I was caught red-handed after my third or fourth (successful!) bulls-eye by a tall, handsome, Black minister, who was also my dormitory head. He called me and the one or two other offending imbeciles to the first floor where he gave us a lecture, remarkable for its pith and eloquence, about what it means to be "civilized." One felt always with Mr. Weatherspoon that you were in the presence of a very advanced and civilized gentleman. While there was nothing forced or unnatural about him, in the rarefied, white enclave of an old, exclusive, WASPy boarding school, it did have the affect of making me wonder if he really was like this or if it was some practiced art meant to shame the spawn and scions of The Somerset Club into recognizing that he was more of a Bill Cosby than a Michael Vick.

In any case, you came away from such gentle upbraids in much the same way you emerge from the confessional, when the non-coercive priest who knows his sacramental duty carries out the act of forgiveness contingent on true repentance. That is to say, you felt penitential, like you were on the path to salvation and growth, forgiven and stronger, but very clear of your transgression and humiliated roundly and properly.

Sichuan Supper

I am just back from an early supper with David Burgess, the bloke from Northampton (though, he tells foreigners that he is from Nottingham) who spent last year in another Chinese city with a different establishment teaching English. He is all of twenty-two and a recovering anarchist, cynical and hopeful at once about humanity and humans. As he went to the bathroom--invariably a squatter--at the Sichuan restaurant, I summoned our waitress and paid the check, which is what the Chinese do with even greater discretion. David is a dozen or more lessons ahead of me in his understanding of Mandarin and I am grateful for his help, showing this waiguoren the ropes. Dinner was 58 quai/yuan/Re Min Bi. We had fish with lots of Sichuan peppers and potatoes, boiling in a communal (communicable) pot at our table.

Comrade David "The Citizen" Burgess sans Chinese winter cap.

I met David after signing my official government contract (different than the contract that I may eventually sign with Perfect English). Vivian, the cashier at the school, offered me time to read it, which I did more out of interest than fear. It was totally pro forma, to my eye apparently favoring the vaunted Worker on whose behalf the Revolution took place. A sample can be found at the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs so I am told.

Grey baijiu flask in right foreground
Dinner included my first little cermaic flask of baijiu--the infamously poor-tasting "white liquor" that plasters every office and holiday party from Harbin to Macau, Shanghai to Shiquanhe. I did not find it, except the unpleasant subsequent burps, nearly as vile or unpalatable as the century eggs. In fact, I rather like it. It complemented the rice and spicy Sichuan stew bubbling on the tray in front of us.

Lucubration 101: The Sodom-Madonna Opposition

This missile from Manchuria comes from the heart (and lungs) of an ancient "civilization."

Lucubration is the word of the day, from the Latin, lucubrare, which means to work at night by lamplight. I am using the term loosely, because I rather like it. It describes well the jet-lag cum insomnia that has bred in me a heretofore latent talent to seriously focus in the latest hours on any tasks, particularly on the writing of love letters to a woman who does not love me in return. I read Plato's Phaedrus this morning (so not technically lucubrious for lack of the nocturnal requirement) and contemplated the half-dozen Beatrices (Hannah, Michelle, Kat I., Carrie H., Rebecca Mertz, and now Ace) who have had the misfortune of being the object (or subject, I hope) of my unrequited and complete desire. How lucky I am to have loved with such ferocity so many times in one life, but also how unfortunate for it is a habit that I fear no amount of therapy could stamp out from my soul. The very first of these women, who are all still lovely albeit estranged to varying degrees, said to me, with her characteristic ruthlessness and sophistication, "You don't love me. You love the idea of me." More than twenty years later, I still try to make sense of this wise sixteen year-old's cutting advice. I tell myself that she must be right, for I could not be wrong so many times, but also convince myself that she was afraid of my love, which is not the patient, enduring, blessed love of the trite-yet-holy 2 Corinthians passage, but some version of Eros from Song of Songs gone awry.

There is, I am cognizant, a certain sadistic glee in many of my closest friends (and even a trace of masochistic self-reverence) at the comedy of my love affairs, summed up best by a trumped up memory from high school that Chrises Hoag and Hilton remember more clearly than I (they would swear by it). In their rendition, at the ripe age of fifteen or sixteen, I declared that K. Lehman, heiress to the now disgraced corporate misadventure called Lehman Brothers and classmate, was “my freedom.” One must be able to laugh at oneself, I suppose, but also to comprehend fully the tragic proportions of a life lived so ridiculously, too much like Dostoyevsky’s Karamazov brother, Dmitri, with his “Madonna-Sodom” opposition. I only hope that the woman who (hope upon hope) eventually settles for the dark Russian heart of Alexander does not feel any less like a princess for being my Katherine Parr "till death do us part." With all due respect to proud Catherine of Aragon through Kathryn Howard.

In the meantime, I suppose that I should take some comfort from the dozens of men and women, foreign and Chinese, who have said to me, with smiles on their face, "Be glad that you can find a Chinese girlfriend; it is the fastest way to learn the language." I welcome the absurdity of such alms offered as balms to my surreal despair. Such well-meaning offerings are proof that there must be a God with one Hell of a sense of humor. We (almost) all soldier on, because this same God has blessed the Earth with a multitude of beautiful things and our lives with a multitude of experiences--each one, for better or worse, bringing us closer to a peace that passes all understanding. I am the handmaiden of experience. Thank God for that.

Special Requests (aka Material Desires)

The Story of the Kiss
I would like from home some material things that would make the life of this aesthete here better. First, I would like somebody to contact Jonathan, if he is not in fact reading this, and see whether he might arrange to send me a couple of those remote control phantom load thing-a-mah-bobs that will allow me to save energy. Second, the acres of walls here cry out for posters of Chairman Mao (no comment) or Theodore Roosevelt, Mother Mary with Jesus or Jack Nicholson (in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or The Bucket List, but not The [too scary] Shining), or Ellen Paige and Drew Barrymore pecking each other, if such a poster is to be had.

Finally, I could use some weather stripping for a porch door and some Goo-Gone to strip the gummy residue from my refrigerator. My friend, Jessica Fogg, or my parents, might be willing to make arrangements for a care package. Please, if you choose to indulge me, use the regular parcel post for both FedEx and UPS are preposterously expensive. McCann's Irish Oatmeal in a tin always appreciated by the lactard et glutard (go ask Alice).

* Not for Parental Consumption (heartbreak, disapproval, lewdity), a new MPAA rating premiering here (take note, sister Madeline)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Full Moon Brings End to Fireworks

Since my arrival a week ago, with crescendoing intensity, fireworks have peppered the night and, not infrequently, the daytime. Last evening, they began at 4PM or so and went until midnight. The streets are also festooned with red lanterns. The holiday is an ancient one and marks the end of the Spring Festival. As usual, Wikipedia has a very good description of the holiday and what it entails.

Imagine being there when they lit these daisy chains of explosives off? Pretty exciting!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One of the most amazing things I e'er did behold

On the 29th of December, 2010, word went out from the People's Government of Jilin Province:
As the 2011 Spring Festival is approaching, according to the requirements of the provincial party committee and government, the province’s propaganda and cultural departments take early action, make coordination and arrangements, elaborately prepare colorful cultural activities for the Chinese New Year, and create a joyful, peaceful and civilized festive atmosphere through theatrical performances, sound and screen broadcasting, group activities and other forms, to promote the rich cultural life in urban and rural areas, to enrich people's lives.
Tonight I smiled hard and long. I went to see one of ten special acrobatic evening parties Changchun Acrobatic Troupe has held during Spring Festival. I took a lot of video and many pictures. It takes a long time to upload the video so I cannot offer it all to you on the blog. Here is a teaser:

There were probably ten different acts. I was so mesmerized that I did not focus on picture quality nor did I catch all of the acts on my camera. At one point, this character in a black and gold cape whose masks changed like a chameleon came right into the audience and held my hand. I was there with an eighteen year-old German boy, who is studying in Harbin, but had come to Changchun to stay with a woman more my age. She was working and so could only join us for dinner at the new Indian food place in town.

We got to the theater at 6:15pm and hurried for back aisles where there were still two seats together with a good view of the stage. No sooner had we sat down than a man came to us and offered us front row seats. It was impossible to politely refuse and so we moved, once again brushing passed the unfriendly woman with whom we thought we were going to share the show. 

There is no shortage of things to do here. I hope that some of you will consider coming to visit while I spend a year here. You may choose to make your plans using this helpful website from the local organ of the party.