Tag Archives: Guest Blog

By Mom

I asked my mom and Matt to share about their China experience on my blog.  Here is what my mom had to say and some of her photos.

Jodi’s China Blog

China!  Wow .  It is another world.  It was better and worse than I had expected.

I have to say, in moving to Eugene, Oregon a year ago after about 18 years in the Rogue Valley, I was overwhelmed with the BIG city of Eugene and its 156,185 people.  Let’s just say my perspective has changed a bit.  Shanghai has about 23 million people, the most populous city in the world.  The number is too big for my little brain to wrap around.   That’s New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio and maybe San Diego all put together.  (Disclaimer – finding reliable, recent statistics online that specify the cities proper versus the metro areas is a bit of a challenge, so don’t quote me on this!)

From Shanghai we went to Beijing with a mere 12 million, though arriving in Beijing and going to tourist sites on a Chinese holiday, I wasn’t aware of the massive drop in population.  But what was amazing to me in all this massive humanity is just that – the humanity of the people.  Julia has mentioned the pushiness of people when it comes to lines and subways.  Sure, we saw that.  But we also saw people laughing, smiling, eating, humming, sleeping, cleaning, going to work, taking children to school.  The same activities we all do.  People living their everyday lives.

Impressively, with so many people everywhere, we were actually amazed at how civil everyone was.  Sure, there were people cutting blatantly into lines at the train station.  But as cars, cyclists, bus drivers, pedestrians, taxis and scooters all vied to get into the same lane at the same time, no one seemed to get upset.  I didn’t see anyone yelling or swearing or flipping anyone off at being cut off.  Being cut off is just part of the fabric of society.  Just keep nosing into the vaguest hint of a gap, and you’ll get there.   What’s to get upset about? It was actually rather refreshing.

In this millennium, Westerners are quite common in the big cities of Beijing and especially the very commercial Shanghai.  We saw other westerners everywhere we went.  We definitely are not a novelty in China any more.  So it was quite a surprise as we were out at the touristy places to find Chinese clandestinely (or not) taking pictures of us.  I suppose it serves us right as we were snapping photos of cute little kids, the food vendors, the bricklayer and cyclists pedaling down the streets.

Bricks in a Beijing Hutong

Julia has gotten a bit used to Chinese taking her picture.  But then she’s a good-looking blond young women.  Our very first day out, numerous Chinese would pull their cameras out from across the pagoda or out on the walkway to get a picture of Matt or me – the old people!   Near Tiananmen Square, a middle-aged gentleman in a worn suit (perhaps a man from out in the countryside, first trip to the Big City, a tourist himself), sidled right up to Matt and indicated that he wanted a picture with Matt, which of course turned into me,  the man and his whole entourage in the picture.

Posing for a picture near Tianamen Square (Julia's picture - M&M were busy!)

The award for best tourist attraction has to be Matt.  In Beijing’s Summer Palace, as Matt and Julia were sitting on a rock wall waiting for me to come back from the toilets (better left un-described!), a man came up to Matt, indicating interest in the camera (mine) Matt was holding.  (Wouldn’t want to lose a lens cap in those toilets, for sure.)  After a little incomprehensible small talk, the man started poking Matt’s knee.  It being a warm day, Matt was in shorts.  The man giggled a bit and then reached down to Matt’s calf, delighted to feel the hair on Matt’s legs.  While Matt thought people had been looking at his Keen sandals, they were apparently just impressed with nice, hairy western (male) legs!

The street scene:  Matt has described the traffic, both on the roads and the sidewalks.  But there is so much more than traffic on the sidewalks.  The sidewalks are where life is lived.  Yes, there are the vendors vending their food or flowers or trinkets, but this is where services are also rendered.  The bicycle repair guy has his “shop” set up on the sidewalk just around the corner from Julia’s apartment.  His shop consists of a rickety plywood box with old worn tires and rags underneath it.   Need your car detailed?  Just drive it up on the sidewalk in the middle of the busy block at the detailing guy’s place and he’ll do it there for you.

Making our breakfast! Notice the hand in the tin near the front, that is a do it yourself cash register!

Wonderful street food!

For many of these businesses, people seem to just set up shop outside their home.  Open the front door and set up shop on the step.  Closing hours don’t really exist.  If it’s a hot summer evening, what else is there to do but sit on your front step and talk to the neighbors?  If you’re just sitting out on your front step, might as well keep the business open.  10:30 at night and you could still buy mangoes, cabbage, squash and quail eggs or have about anything repaired.

Veggies on the street

Definitely another world.

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By Matt

I asked my mom and Matt to share about their China experience on my blog.  Here is what Matt had to say and some of his photos.

Matt’s China Blog

We had a fantastic trip to China.  Shanghai was an experience like no other.  We arrived in a half full airplane, proceeded through a jammed airport and customs, a packed 425-kilometer per hour Maglev (high speed shuttle from the airport), to an overstuffed subway, to Julia waiting with an welcoming smile.  Julia showed us a wonderful time in China, both great tourist sites and places a vacationing tourist would never see in a hundred years.  She was amazing with her knowledge of the Chinese language and her ability to figure out from bus stop signs and maps all in Chinese characters how to get there, and how to get back!  Also, her friends May, Colin and Junyi, all fluent in Chinese, contributed to her terrific guide service.

Hazy Shanghai welcomes you! (Excellent picture, Matt!!)

Shanghai was all hustle and bustle, and I mean hustle and bustle like I’ve never seen.  The streets are full of traffic, including the shoulders and breakdown lanes.  The sidewalks are full, too, with pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and motorcycles.  There is a definite pecking order amidst the confusion.  The buses rule; everyone gets the hell out of their way.  Next come the taxis; they may give a cyclist or pedestrian a break, but it’s a chancy risk.  Scooters and motorcycles are down one more notch; most scooters are electric and silent, and they don’t use their lights – even at night.  Lower in the pecking order are cyclists, and they are everywhere.  Old, young, fast, slow, two wheels or three; one, two or three on a bike, maybe carrying 200-pounds of cargo, maybe with a dog or two, anything is possible.  I actually saw three riders (out of probably 5000) with helmets one day.  And pedestrians (that was us), had to watch out for everyone.   We were low man on the totem pole.  There were tons of walkers, scooters and cyclists on the sidewalk going in opposite directions around the hawkers and vendors and sweepers and card-players and cricket fights.  Made one pay attention.

Busy with bicycles

Loaded down bicycles!

Of the many little obstacles to progress along the street, my favorite were the food vendors.  Everything smelled good, except the stinky tofu, and even that was preferable to the cigarette smoke and the men’s toilets.  There was an unbelievable variety of food to be had, from the unrecognizable to the everyday ear of corn.  In front of the fabric market in Shanghai, we bought for a mere 50 cents a round, pancake / crepe / pizza crusty thing that was sweet, kind of tough and chewy, perhaps a little eggy, seasoned with chives and herbs that was so perfect and so delicious.  I could eat two or three for breakfast every day for a long, long time.  Yeah, we ate regular Chinese food in restaurants and western food at a great place called Boxing Cat that Julia has written about that had a delicious life-saving IPA.  But for simplicity, freshness, and cooked right before your eyes on a charcoal fire, nothing beats Shanghai street food.

Food!

I had a blast, wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Thanks, Julia!

No problem, Matt!  I was more than happy to have you as guests, especially considering your good taste in food & beer!  (My Boxing Cat blog can be found here.)


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