Saturday, July 26, 2014

Trip 7 - Work, Work, Wuxi, Nanjing and Taipei

Trip 7 to Shanghai was/is my longest to date.  By the time I am done it will be 74 days since I was standing in the USA.  I am changing and Shanghai is changing.

My body has adjusted and I am eating regular Chinese everyday for lunch and dinner.  I will admit I partake of a huge Western/Asian buffet every morning because it is included in my accommodations.    Meihua Rd was a scary area that was near the bubble where I call my second home. Now I can walk among its many restaurants and have locals waving or telling me hello.  Two restaurant owners greet me by name and know my order in the evenings.  The local bar feels like Cheers even though I have stopped that bad habit near the end of this trip.  So many people ask if I lose weight, I can tell you I do not!   

74 days in China initiates the need to start becoming educated with the immigration laws.  I, like many other, exceeded my work Visa length of stay which is 60 days.  Instead of following my other Western friends with a trip to Hong Kong and HKDL I chose to go to Taipei, Taiwan.  Because of trip 6 I triggered some sort of review and I have been recommended to get a  temporary residence permit in China.  There is an obscure law that does not allow a M Visa to spend more than 90 days in China in a calendar year.  I have 104 days logged to date.  I start the Zvisa process now.  It is a bummer that I will never need to leave the country to recharge my Visa but these are the cards dealt.   

Another change is communication.  It is funny to read back at my earlier posts and read about how cool it was to Skype back home through my blackberry.  Now with an iphone I can stream live video and audio back home whenever I want.  My data plan is unlimited so calls are effortless with audio facetime.  I stream to my family via Apple's icloud pictures I take almost instantly.  Sally and the kids send me pictures so I feel connected even at 8000 miles away. 

My American Asian history education was non-existent.  I have to document that this has been very educational on the impact of the Japanese on the Chines.  My first introduction was the bags of beer in Qingdao.  Japanese drink out of bowl so they prefer to take their beer home in bags to drink out of their saucers.  The locals in Qingdao still do this because their town was the last city to be held by the Japanese during WWII.  I learned about 300K massacre in Nanjing ( was Nanking) where the invading Japanese nearly wiped-out a whole city.  The local English paper, China has been printing recently release documents that describe Japanese war criminals that dies in Chinese prisons.  Let me just say the Japanese at the time were as brutal or worse than Hitler in every way.  This has led me into so many discussions with my local colleagues.   

The day trips are adventurous.  I travel alone as most of the other westerners prefer to stay in the Disney bubble and get excited for a dinner in a western restaurant in downtown Shanghai. Eating during daytrips is still the biggest challenge. With apps like Tripadvisor and travelwiki you can find restaurants that have English menus but then you spend so much time trying to get to these restaurants that you burn your day time up.  I choose to keep trudging forward with quick snacks off the street or from a local family mart (7 eleven like).  My determination to keep walking no matter how many blisters I have or my lack of civilized food is why I think I travel alone. 

Travel is safe and in China people seem to want to help when I need directions.  This breaks the stereotype that I was taught in my culture classes or the Chinese are changing. 

Enjoy the photos but realize I photograph the ancient Chinese tourist spots.  China is 90% modern with a few sections with traditional Chinese architecture.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Train ride to the Boro

Friends, I hear you; "what were you thinking" but after a multitude of trips on China's extensive railroad I had to try USA style.  No matter what you think a train ride is so much more relaxing and economical for a single rider. Yes it may take 2.5 hours longer by train but when was the last time you had nothing to do for 7 hours.  For the Orlando to Savannah trip the Amtrak makes a lot of sense.  There were many on the train going from the Northeast to the greater Miami area but I would not suggest this. 

My adventure started on the SunRail test days so it took 90 minutes to clear Orlando with me starting in Kissimmee.  Lesson 1 start on the north side of Orlando if you can.  Sunrail and freight trains seem to have the right away over Amtrak.  Once north of Sanford we almost got up to speed when we seemingly pulled over to allow a freight train pass right before went over the St. John river.  Then we took off. 

This is where I will tell you that after living in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida with many trips to Europe and China; I can say poor is poor.  The houses along the rail line are lived in by the poor, the poor live like poor people do wherever you happen to be.  I am sure there are qualitative studies to show the difference of poor between America poor and China's but my view is they are all living to live.   

There are stops along the way that last 15-30 minutes. In China a stop for a major city do not last more than 5 minutes.  Even from Shanghai to Beijing there is no stopping to top off the locomotive fuel tanks like I did in Jacksonville.  The stations along this part of our country are right out  of a 1930 novel.  It is like time has stood still around the stations and that includes stations in cities like Orlando, Savannah and Jacksonville. 

The people are an eclectic group on board the train.  A South American family clearly traveling to Orlando from New York had limited English skills outside of their middle school daughter.  I was able to show the family on my phone where we were and our ETA to Orlando.  A couple of "rough looking" guys were trading stories when one admitted getting kicked off a greyhound bus and Amtrak was his last alternative.  I kept my distance form these two even though one clearly wanted to know my life story.   A couple of down syndrome adults joined the ride to Orlando in Palatka. They traveled with a caregiver.  The caregiver was assigned the seat next to me but she chose to stand next to her charges.  I kept wondering do I really intimidate people??? I was in awe how she talked with the two and soon realized this was just an overnight trip to Orlando with no amusement park visit.  The man seems to have clear rituals in his daily life and the two females kept comforting him and telling him all was going to be alright.  I figured out he could get over stimulated easily.  The girl was clearly in love with her man friend and the caregiver never stopped the kissing and love strokes she applied to his hair.  As if God was not teaching me enough about humanity the two "rough looking" guys came up and started to talk with the trio.  I felt ashamed that I sat there the whole trip and never started a discussion, never tried to make sure the caretaker was comfortable.  The two "rough guys" engaged the two and had them laughing and telling us all how they were in love. These two who I judged, made a chair in front of the handicap seats with their luggage so the caretaker could be comfortable. 

Here I sit minding my own business feeling like a jerk....

Do you have a trip to Miami, Savannah or Charleston planned? Take the train, I highly recommend it.  I learned a lot!