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Saying Goodbye to China – Confused Communism & Controlled Capitalism.

2 Nov

Say goodbye to China. I wonder when I coming back? If, I’m coming back? Isn’t it strange to think like that. Thinking that you many never, ever return to a place. In other words, death will knock on my door before China will?

What would bring me back to China? Work? Vaction? I really just don’t know.

Do I see myself in China? Hmmm… Do I see myself in Russia? I believe Russia needs me more than China. They’ve got things cranking in China.

Russia, she just sighs. Has so much potential. I have a “fixer” soul. When I see a problem, obstacle or issue – I look for a solution. For me, China’s simple. She’s in need of an image makeover. Re-branding to describe this blending of free market and one-party government. Russia is lost. She needs to find herself.

After spending some time in China, I found day to day, communism is a non-issue. Like the rest of the world, the Chinese are more worried about holding on to their jobs, paying bills, feeding their kids, saving money for school… They are more concerned about making a better future for their children than what the Chinese government says about the currency, human rights, Tibet or climate change. For the most part, they’re a politically apathetic bunch of folks… Sounds familiar.

Unlike Sweden, UK, US or Canada….there’s scant evidence of any social safety net in China. This SHOCKED me for I assumed communist governments took care of their people to the point of putting a spoon to their mouths.

What about Social security programs? Medicaid or medicare? Welfare? Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? Chinese are on their own. Because of this, they save and save and save and save.. To buy an apartment. To buy farm land.  To pay for having a baby at the hospital. To pay for their one kid’s high school education.  To pay to drive on a road…They pay out the nose, considering their average salaries per year hoovers around $4,000 US dollars –– depending on who you ask and who you include…

At a macro -level,  one-party rule is here to stay. There’s no tea party. No coffee party. No dumpling party. No nothing. People can’t kick out the inept. Can’t trash talk their leaders. Can’t call for change. Really, they can’t call anyone.

What you see – is what you get. Quite frankly, it’s in their culture NOT to question parents, elders or superiors.  They obey.  Did you see the opening ceremonies for the Olympics???

As a Westerner, I can NOT imagine keeping my mouth shut if I received a notice from the government instructing me to move from my home I was born and raised in to make way for a skyscraper, five star hotel or new toll road.  They do.  They comply.  For, government officials know what’s best for the collective whole.

Commercial break. So, when China Southern Airlines does their 411 on “what do do when you crash,” you have to giggle. Of course, I look around

Picture taken of TV of N. Korea Parade

seeing if anyone else finds this humorous. The plane is 98.4% Chinese. No one is smiling.

They are reading the newspaper. Front page news details yesterday’s little dictator gathering in N. Korea’s where Kim Jong-il showcased his large and in-charge son and his country’s military might on international TV.

OK. China Southern Airlines instructs us to do the following before you crash and burn. Four main rules of thumb…

  1. Take off your high heels
  2. Take out your denatures
  3. Take off your head phones
  4. Put on your flotation device.

Then, and ONLY then, can you slide down the raft. That is, if you are still alive. Never knew wearing heels and denatures were an issue during an airplane crash. Now, they are playing over the loud speaker some Latin dancing number to slow Chinese music. The woman is doing the samba to Chinese music.

Back to blog: Confused Communism and controlled capitalism. That’s how I labeled China.

Came here with little expectations. And, leaving confused.

Someone I met said China, reminded her of Europe after WWII. People had hope. People saw a promising future.  Innovation. Ideas…She said, that is how China is to her now where possibilities are limitless…  Even, a two party government? Freedom to express your differences?  Five thousands years of written history says…“not so fast lady.”

Face of China

I look out the plane window and question what is China’s tipping point?

They’ve entered a time of government corruption, a widening income gap, a decomposed, non-existent social safety net and political disinterest in favor of profits. China’s been here before – just a different dynasty, different millennium, same issues…

And, I wonder if it possible to change the direction of 5,000+ years of a culture based on Confucianism, Buddhist & Taoism?

Where respect for elders and complete obedience of your superiors remains unquestionable.

Where people have differences in opinions, yet are required to live in harmony with each other.

Where seeking knowledge to become a better person means bringing wealth and honor to your family and, once again, serving your superiors.

Where trading for profits is seen as disrespectful and self-serving. Where attraction, not force, is used to obtain what one wants. And, where humanity is seen as kind and benevolent.

This philosophy fits perfectly in this government’s one-party rule. Doesn’t fit so nicely with free markets and modern political parties. China seems to be straddling both sides.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said of China, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she’ll shake the world.”

From what I’ve seen, this giant has stirred. Watch out world..

Next stop. Bhutan.

Buddhist country of only 700,000.

Just put in roads in the 1960s… Some towns just got electricity. Monarchy introduced democracy two years ago. Only allows a select # of tourists in per year…My type of place…

Shanghai Surprise

30 Sep

It’s 5:30 am. In Shanghai. The place is quite – for 17.5 million people. We leave in a few hours for Hangzhou and then to Yangshuo. Does anyone know where that is? Need a map.

Shanghai is much different than Beijing. Has an energy. Vibe. And, millions of Chinese swarming the streets, coming up to my armpits. I don’t recall the Chinese in Beijing being this small. Maybe the government gives them more milk or something.

The fab thing about being a giant in the land of little people is I can see thieves or hawker’s coming for blocks. I’m a full head above 95% of the crowds. It’s a strange sensation. I stand up taller. I assume the role of power-lady when I walk. I feel forceful. Part of it is that I want to project fierceness so they won’t bother me. But, the hawkers still do… “Bag, Watch, Drink, Lady?” I lift up my arm. They smell my pit. LOL.

Our hotel is about a one or two star – US standards – and three star Chinese standards. Let’s see… We’re talking hard beds – later to find out made of plywood – fluffy pillows, refrigerator, hot water pot, one working light, two towels, mini-balcony and a shower needing 15 mins to spew luke warm water. Its a stone’s throw from Nanjing Road, the frantic commercial strip glowing in neon colors at night and is elbow to elbow 24/7. Leisure stroll is out of the question. Took some pictures below.

The hotel breakfast is $5 all you can eat – we’re talking about dumplings, rice soup, chicken feet and puffy balls filled with beans or random meats. Fruit table teases us with watermelon. Chinese love their orange juice. The hotel is across the street from dumpling-ville heaven, offering a range of steamed or fried dumplings. And, then there is a micro-mini food mart selling all things Chinese and coca-cola. Guess what? So excited. They have PEANUT butter. Bought it on arrival. Expiration date wiped clean. No matter. As long as it works.

The new Gap Adventure tour group is much different than the “I can’t afford anything” Young Bucks backpacking crowd of Russia, Siberia and Mongolia. With this traveling posse, Canada is in the house. Most of this group are married or with significant others – and range in age from 30 to 80+. This China trip is not as intensive in terms of carrying bags and walking miles and miles and miles to metros in below freezing temperatures. This is the “standard” Gap Adventure package where they arrange transport or give you sight-seeing options.

Let’s see. For the travel posse China tour, two women are from Switzerland. One couple is

Travel Posse

from London. One couple from Australia who admitted they would LOVE to live in Orange County, California. Me. And, the remaining ten or so are natives from our NAFTA partner to the north, Canada.

The BEST part is no single, white female roommate. I’ve been sharing air and toilet paper with randoms for the last eight weeks or so – if not longer. I finally have space to spew my shit across the bed and on the floor. Funny how in one of the most crowded, overpopulated countries in the world, God sees to it I get my own space. Nice touch. Didn’t go unnoticed Big Man.

This city is exploding with little people and the smells that go along with it. I expected seedy. Expected dirty. Expected more pollution. With 1.5 billion people and 18 million calling Shanghai home, you reckon there’s high demand and job security for garbage collectors, street cleaners and window washers…

I even laid my eyes on recyclable garbage cans. Impressive. Since Chinese people comply with rules, they actually use the bins correctly. I watch them as they watch others, ensuring compliance with the recycle rules. Yea, with BA-zillions of people, someone is always watching. Especially, if you are blond and 6 feet tall.

Food alert. New food of choice are Chinese dumplings. OMG! Eating them nonstop. I’ve been to the little shop across the street three times in two days. I’m vying for another stop this AM as my bus snack.

So, what have I been doing. Observing the people. The city. Going out. Meeting people. Did do the Shanghai museum. Not normally into museums because I would rather be outside hiking or watching people. Not the case here. Shanghai museum is home to one of the most impressive collections in China – ceramics gallery, calligraphy gallery, coins/ethnic costume gallery, Buddhist gallery…and more.

I was drawn to the ceramics or porcelain and ethnic clothes exhibit for they looked like Latin American garb. As I was looking at the porcelin, thoughts of grandeur came to my mind – me at the Ritz sipping tea…Me putting flowers in the vases. Me feeling clean and light flowy clothes…Me not in a two star hotel sleeping on a bed made out of plywood.. I took a bazillion pictures.

Had to laugh when I stumbled upon the Catherine the Great exhibit straight from the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg. OK. Note to Russia. Let’s get moving. This exhibit was 100% better – providing more detail in ENGLISH – than anything I saw at the actual Hermitage. Stop sighing Russia and let’s get the party started. It’s not hard. I can help you with marketing and communication. GEEE… Frustrated. On another note, Catherine the Great has droopy eyes like me, so I felt a kinship with her. Great woman have droopy eyes… YEA. Like that. Maybe we’re related and just don’t know it. She’s not Russian. She comes from German ancestry….hmm..

We sauntered over to Shanghai’s Old Town and the Yuyan Gardens. It was a sight. The Chinese love to tour and go too. So, the place is overrun by western tourons and Chinese tourons too. There were hour lines to to get dumplings. Oh, the World Expo is in Shanghai, wrapping up in October. So, even more people have descended on this fair city of 18 million.

We ate at some fab place. Tried my hand at pork dumplings where you suck out the pork juice with a straw. Interesting. Good.

The Gardens missed the grass memo, but did well with the bamboo, jasmine and stony paths. I read a rich Ming-dynasty official founded the gardens and it took about 20 years to grow and nurture the place. The gardens were trashed in the Opium Wars. Probably by the French… This was not a garden spewing calmness and peace, for the Chinese are on holiday and was packed, packed, packed with folks taking pictures…

That night in Shanghai, we went to the Bund. It’s “the place” to see at night. The word means “Muddy Waterfront.” Used to be super-nasty. In the 80s when China started opening up – gradually – the place went gang busters. Grand buildings loom from recent to neoclassical 1930s, where they were once embassies of those countries running Shanghai like US, Britain, France, Japan… The second tallest building in the world is here. (wooooooooohoooo).

Pictures tell you more about Shanghai and its capitalist power than my words ever could. Oh, I read some place that Shanghai economy supports about 90% of this country… Pictures reinforce this one… It’s the wild wild West. The place were money flowed and Communism was born…

Laundry, Shanghai Style

26 Sep

Where is Downy when you need it. Chinese lady just returned my laundry. It’s dry but oozes with the smell of grease. The smell counters my stature… Looks like I’ll be blending in just fine.

Map – China Travel Route

25 Sep

Travel Route for China

Map – Trans Siberian Train Route

25 Sep

For those who want to check out the Trans Siberian train route.

More detailed map of the Trans-Siberian Rail below…