Archive for July, 2007

Shanghaied in Beijing

In looking at the development in Beijing, I wanted to find elements of the population who might be left behind in the hustle and bustle of the capitalist dream China has become.
This man had drug himself to the middle of a walk way where shoppers were shuffling in and out of a giant mall. He appeared to have amputated legs and only one arm, based on the empty sections of his shirt and pants that where laid out on the sidewalk. The large tin can in front of him was filling up every ten minutes with bills from those passing. The man would occasional reach into the can to to empty it and then fill his pockets. This went on for about an hour and a half. I watched, waited and made some photographs. What I wanted was to show his perspective and to give an idea of his world. My hope in taking the photograph was to point attention to an aspect of their changing society that many people didn’t bother to look down at.
Thousands of people passed. I waited and then went over to one of his disabled friends who he was smiling at. While I was attempting to talk to his friend, I watched in amazement as the guy on the ground rolled up his pant legs to reveal feet, untucked his other arm from under his shirt and then walked away with bulging pockets and a smile on his face. The midget made off with a Chinese fortune.

Characters for Progress

Annah had mentioned how my post “Tangled Skyline” made her think about Chinese characters, and she wondered if those used for development somehow resembled my photograph or somehow depicted this upward mobility.
The above characters are used for glory, rich, prosperity and development. They are pronounced “chaung long”.

These characters are very similar and are used almost in the same situation as the others, but they are, according to a Chinese guy staying at my hostel, considered a lesser degree of prosperity. These are pronounced “fine long”

Ants Go Marching

When you look at all the construction in Beijing it’s hard not to see all the builders as an army of worker ants marching towards the goal of a finished building.
They build, tear down and build again both day and night.
Zhao Dan was working on a traditional structure along a road-widening project in downtown Beijing. The city is making a small road through an old section of the city into a major four-lane thoroughfare. I saw the smiling Buddha tattoo on Zhao’s chest poking out of his shirt and noticed the same smirk on his own face. I made the universal body language of “Do you mind if I make a photograph of you?” by lifting up my camera, and he nodded in agreement.

Breaking Through

As a few of you can attest, the first week in Beijing has been a test of will and endurance. Culture shock set in early and it’s now starting to wear off and things are beginning to make more sense, although Mandarin is still, well, a hard language to tackle.
The past 24 hours have been a break through in a number of ways. First it was accepting that my eight-bed dorm room, at the hostel I’m staying in, isn’t going to be empty for ever. I now have roommates. One is a great Chinese guy by the name of Sun, pronounced Soon, who I have taken to and who went on an adventure with me today.
Beijing’s Olympic park is in a complete state of construction at this point and is blocked by head-high fence for about a mile squared. Workers have made holes in the fence for more convenient in and out access and also for a foreigner and his conspicuous looking guide to sneak through.
We were able to walk right up to the aquatics building where we came across these workers taking a rest in the shade of some machinery. They had come from the countryside south of Beijing to work on this monstrosity of a project.
The Olympics will change this city, and quite possibly the country, for ever. Whether the change is good or not is something to be seen. When I was in Australia during the 2000 Olympics there was a great sense of national pride. Here in Beijing I have heard of a similar reaction. These men were definitely proud at what they were a part of.

Mall Rats

My first visit to a Beijing mall was mind blowing. When people talk about China growing this is what scares me the most. Picture a mall in the States, only 10 floors high each with their own theme (clothing, jewelery, food court…)and completely packed with thousands of different stalls, people and goods made in…you guessed it, China. Well, probably a lot made in Southeast Asia as well. But the consumerism here is at a pace I hadn’t expected.