Thursday, July 28, 2005

Why are Beijing Parks So Green?

Have you always wondered why some parks, university campuses, historical sites and gardens have REALLY green grass...well wonder no more! You're not allowed to walk on the grass at any of these places.

Only 12 Days Left...

It feels like just yesterday that I last updated my blog - but so much has happened in these past few days. Let me recap:

Manchester United vs. Beijing Hyundai: On Tuesday I went with Nick (Australia), Sally (England) and Kim (US) to a soccer match at Workers Stadium. I pulled up to the stadium in a 1.2 cab and was absolutely surrounded by people outside the stadium holding China flags, yelling and screaming cheers, blowing horns and noisemakers...it was madness. After realizing the group meeting point was inside the gates and I didn't have a ticket, I met a couple random guys from Hong Kong and Minnesota, borrowed their cell phone to message Nick and only realize I had the wrong number. So what did I do? I didn't freak out...I bought a beer and chatted with them! After scrounging up the courage to walk through a line of 20 soldiers checking tickets (without mine of course)...I made it through easily to the other side because there were so many people rushing to get inside. The game was fantastic! My first ever official soccer match. ManU won 3-nil. The best part had to have been the ride home when Nick and I took a bicycle rickshaw all the way from the stadium to Guo Mao. It was so much fun! It definitely reminded me though never to be stupid enough to ride a bicycle on the streets of Beijing...it's chaos!

Dinner with a Reporter: China Daily was interested in writing a few articles on AIESEC, so we all went out to dinner last night to a Sichuan restaurant with a reporter who has already written two articles on returned SN's from China. She is looking to write a few more columns and a double page spread on the experiences of AIESECers coming and going from China. It was really interesting to sit around the table and just listen to all of the experiences of the other AIESECers on the MC team...so diverse! We went our seperate ways at the end of dinner, but it looks like AIESEC will definitely be in the news again here sometime soon.

Latino: Last night the whole MC team ventured out to do some salsa dancing. Yes...Salsa dancing in Beijing. You would have been amazed to see how talented the dancers were! They had a live band playing real latin music with the congos and maracas. They had a performer (professional salsa dancer) dance a couple songs on the dancefloor - he was amazing! Throughout one song, I think he switched up girls about 10 times - just spinning them all off the dancefloor and grabbing another one. I have to give the entire MC team a round of applause because none of them knew how to Salsa dance and they were willing to give it a try on the dancefloor. This definitely sparked my interest again though to take some more salsa dance lessons when I return to Edmonton.

My Plans: Put yourself in my shoes. You have 12 days left in a country that is so far from home and incredibly different than any other country you have experienced before...what do you do? Well - I have opted for the 'One Last Big Trip' option. I am heading to one of the most beautiful cities in China - Guilin. I depart Monday morning and return late Thursday night. Since Guilin is in southern China in the Guangxi province, I have opted for the 3 hour flight instead of the 30 hour train ride. I have a gracious AIESEC PKU member who is originally from Guilin that is helping me arrange my accomodations. Look forward to some AMAZING pictures!

Zia Jian - Signing off...

Newest Additions to the DVD Collection: Fantastic Four, Cold Mountain, Forrest Gump, Braveheart, Shrek 2, War of the Worlds, The Forgotten, Fahrenheit 9/11, Enemy at the Gates, Along Came Polly and The Motorcycle Diaries.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Imperial Vault of Heaven


Imperial Vault of Heaven, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

This is where the emperor used to keep tablets of his ancenstors that he needed for the winter solstice ceremony.

Chinese Chess Anyone?


Chinese Chess Anyone?, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

I must say, the most entertaining part of watching these men play Chinese Chess was that every other person watching would tell the players what moves they should make. Everyone was helping out both players...teamwork!

Serenity


Serenity, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

This is one of the many pathways at the Temple of Heaven leading away from the Vault of Heaven and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. Peaceful eh?

Tiantan: Discovering Silence

So just when I had thought that the Summer Palace was the most peaceful and tranquil place in all of Beijing...I was wrong.

Yesterday I visited Tiantan - the Temple of Heaven. I have come to the realization that with only two weeks left, I have to venture out on my own more often. So that's what I did.

Imagine, in the center of a city with 14 million people - that I was able to find a place where I could look all around me and just see tall trees and grass. There was not a person in sight. The sun shining down on me. This feeling of 'Individual Serenity' is something I have really been missing. The moment this feeling came over me, I felt rejuvinated and absolutely overjoyed. I had to spin around a few times in the trees to make sure that there really weren't other people around - and sure enough - I was on my own.

I returned back to the flat about 3 hours later having experienced so much; watching old local women play jianzi better than the young hackeysackers back home, learning the basics of chinese chess after watching a group of local men play a couple matches, seeing with my own two eyes - the temple where the emperors of two dynasties used to pray for good harvest, watching locals yell to their friends down the Echo Wall and seeing young kids playing games under the canopies of hundreds of trees in full bloom.

Had I not just gotten up and gone to Tiantan - I would have missed all of this...and with only 2 weeks left - I can't let any more opportunities pass me by.

Lots more adventures to come!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Whose Legs are Whose?!?


Whose Legs are Whose?!?, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

This picture didn't turn out too well, but this is us enjoying a foot massage as a 'Post-Conference De-Stressor'. Ok, so now the challenge is to guess whose are whose! Your choices are Pierre, Peter, Leon, Nico, myself and Primrose. So what is your guess???

Teaching Pierre to Skate


Teaching Pierre to Skate, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

We all decided we would go to Guo Mao for some ice skating! Yes, that's right...I went ICE SKATING in BEIJING! We had great fun just fooling around. Pierre was a quick learner too ;)

Beijing: A Sequence of Random Events

My last 3 days have consisted of...

Shopping at Ya Show Market: One of the hidden Laowai (foreigner) highlights of Beijing...a six storey building selling anything and everything your heart desires - all for 'Cheapa-Cheapa!' Apart from the vendors haggling you as you walk by their stalls, this market is loaded with fake brand name clothing, silk products galore and selling everything from hockey jerseys to swimsuits. Needless to say, I didn't try my bargaining skills yet - but that will definitely be a place I pay another visit to before I head home.

Ice Skating at Guo Mao: So what are the odds of ice skating in Beijing? Apparently really good!!! There are various shopping malls throughout the city that have ice rinks inside them. So Pierre, Nico, Leon, Peter and I ventured to give it a try (a round of applause to Pierre for ice skating for the first time!). A couple things really caught my attention while skating: 1) The majority of men here wear figure skates and are much better figure skaters than hockey players. 2) None of our skates had been sharpened in the past couple years, but that only made it more exciting! Finally, 3) there were lots of young girls out figure skating with their coaches...and they were amazing!!! Much much more skilled than the young figure skaters I see back home.

Playing Games at the Arcade: So imagine me walking into a huge arcade full of shooting and fighting games with enough money to play one game. I put my 4 quay into this crazy shooting game and about 10 minutes later and having passed 2 levels - I had a crowd of about 6 or 7 Chinese guys my age watching me play. No pressure right - haha...so of course, right after realizing I had all of these people watching me, an enemy jumps in front of me in the game - shoots me - and it was game over. Haha - oh well, it was great fun while it lasted!!!

My First Foot Massage: So is sit down in this super plush chair and sheepishly take my shoes and socks off wondering why the heck I am getting myself a foot massage...next thing I know, my feet are in a warm tub of water and I was in heaven. The process is then followed by having an attendant prop your feet up onto a pillow, while they begin to apply massage oil to your feet. Then they massage your feet for 30 minutes straight...30 minutes! After finishing each foot, they will wrap the foot with a towel and work on your legs. This whole thing cost $5 - for 30 minutes! We all left feeling like a million bucks...and the next time someone offers me a foot massage - I won't think twice! Haha.

Rain, Rain and More Rain: So after two weeks of hot and humid weather - the rain has hit Beijing! As I sit here right now in the flat updating my blog, I look outside and the street corners are flooding (this city is not built to last heavy rains)...the odd biker rides down the street while everyone including the security guards to our community are armed with umbrellas. The temperature is about 23 degrees - definitely the coolest weather I have experienced yet and I feel like I want to put pants and a jacket on. Hopefully this rain will only last for today and tomorrow I'll get to go do some sight-seeing!

Eating Candied Grapes from a Street Vendor at Wangfujing: I have discovered the ultimate mecca of street vendor stalls! I visited Wangfujing street while shopping for some new CD's at Oriental Plaza and while walking around outside - came across a hutong loaded with food vendors selling everything from barbequed lamb skewers to sparrow on a stick (I promise the next time I go there, I will take my camera!). I came across one of the best sweets I have ever had - green grapes covered in caramel candy on a foot long skewer! Absolutely delicious! I found a spot to sit and enjoyed the view: 5pm on a Friday afternoon...People rushing to get home from work...couples meeting up at streetside cafes for some Tsingdao Beer...Chinese Tour guides winding their way through hordes of people with their group of Chinese tourists while describing buildings on their megaphones. Life was passing me by and I just sat there and enjoyed the moment. I couldn't think of a better way to end off a fabulous week!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Giants, Trolls and Elves


Giants, Trolls and Elves, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

What do you get when you have all delegates playing one huge game of Giants, Trolls and Elves? Mayhem! Haha, everyone really enjoyed this Teambuilding Game on the 1st Day of the Conference.

Dragonboat Races


Dragonboat Races, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

So imagine having an ex-Czech MC member bring the infamous Topalky to China. Yes, that's right - we had Dragonboat Races on the 2nd night of the conference. I chaired the races and - from what I can remember - got really drunk. (To start the race off, the chair has to chug a cup and yell 'HO' - then the race begins)...so after the first round, quarter final, semi final and final - I drank ALOT of beer!

Room Party!!!


Room Party!!!, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

This is probably the biggest difference from conferences in Canada. Room parties here are great, but they involve much less drinking, but alot more dares! I had a flashback from Junior High when I saw delegates punishing each other by kissing someone on the cheek (something delegates in Canada would gladly do after having a few drinks in them). Needless to say, I had a great time in the room parties and learnt some great new complex games to play (and I didn't wake up every morning with a terrible hangover).

Global Village - Peter, Rahul and John

One of the nights we had a Global Village party! The Canada booth was decked out with ice wine, crown and coke, maple syrup cookies, canadian pins, pictures of Canada, an Edmonton ppt running on my laptop with Arrogant Worms and other Canadian Bands playing in the background.

Final Banquet


Final Banquet, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

The MC Men posing for the camera. From left to right it is Adam, Nico, Leon, myself, Peter and Pierre. This was the first ever 'Official Dinner' held in AIESEC MoC and it went over great! We presented awards for the Best LC and most improved LC as well as some fun awards. I explained to the delegates in a speech that the reason we have an Official Dinner is to celebrate success.

We're Back!

Close your eyes and imagine when you open them that you are up on stage, surrounded by tons of cheering and dancing Chinese AIESECers, doing roll calls you have never seen before, cheering things you don't fully understand, but smiling and having the times of their lives...This was me at the July National Conference.

I have just returned from chairing the longest conference in AIESEC China's history - 6 days! For the first time AIESEC China had an Official Dinner, first time they've ever had Dragonboat Races at a conference and a first time experience for so many other things.

For me, this experience was invaluable. Completely and incredibly invaluable. I would not have traded this opportunity for anything! For Chairing a 6 day conference, I really had to tap into my memory of old AIESEC roll calls to do in Plenary which included everything from 'Baby Shark', to 'Bohemian Rhapsody', to 'Rum Sum Sum'...but the delegates loved learning all of these new roll calls!

There were too many special moments to recall in this blog entry, but it is such an amazing feeling to leave a conference feeling satisfied and knowing that I have had a strong affect on motivating and changing the career path of future AIESECers...

I would like to end this entry with a huge thank you to Leon (MCP of China) for giving me this opportunity and to the delegates of the July National Conference - Thank You.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Conference Preparation Meeting

We were just missing Primrose (who has now arrived safetly to Beijing) and Yi (the national support team Information Systems pro). As you can see we were all a little tired - it was the 5th straight hour of our meeting!!! Hopefully it all pays off this weekend :)

Wish Me Luck!!!

In approximately 2 hours we will be leaving for the National Conference in HuaiRou (2.5 hours northeast of Beijing). I will be there chairing the conference until next Wednesday when I return.

What do I feel? Excited, anxious, unexpecting....I think I will begin to feel much better once I get the general feel for the energy level and atmosphere from the delegates. I still don't know what to expect and so much of my energy feeds off of the energy of the delegates. After having one bad experience with delivering a session with an extremely low energy level - I hope that it is a little different this time around.

I'm excited though and instead of being 'reserved' and sitting back and waiting to feel the energy - I need to provide it!!! I'm going to go in with all guns firing - dancing and cheering my ass off and hopefully it gets a good response :)

Wish me luck!

P.S. To all Canadians - I am going to have the SWEETEST global village booth! I've got maple cookies, peanut brittle, canadian pins, a map, flag, montreal canadians jersey, my Canadian top hat, a book on all the provinces and territories and yours truly will be providing line dancing lessons every 10 minutes to those interested :)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Beer Shampoo Anyone???


Beer Shampoo Anyone???, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

Would you like to revitalize your hair? Would you like to give your hair a new refreshing smell? Well - then you should try the BEER SHAMPOO I found at the grocery store today! As it says on the bottom of the bottle, this is a 'nutrition enhancing formulation'.

What classifies as 'nutrition enhancing'? Are they good nutrients? What kind of beer would they use? Tsingdao, Beijing or maybe a classy international beer like Heineken or Corona?

You'd definitely get a good lather going that's for sure!

Calling Out To All AIESECers!!!

Alright AIESECers - here's the deal. I'm chairing the July National Conference here in China and I am absolutely PUMPED about it! What I'd like is to get some ideas from you guys on international roll calls or fillers that chairs have used in the past that you have really liked. Also, if you have chaired in the past - I would love your advice on what worked well and what didn't work.

I've got a good list going already, but I'm looking for any and all ideas - please comment!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

My Desk at Home


My Desk at Home, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

Welcome to my desk :)

This is where event agenda's are created and training materials are developed...and lunch is eaten...and movies are watched...and books are read - hehehe.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

'Nightswimming'

"Nightswimming deserves a quiet night, deserves a quiet night." REM

As I sit here on a mid-Thursday afternoon, half way through my CEED exchange here in China...I reflect...

'Nightswimming' by REM has just finished playing on my laptop and it makes me think about how my life here in Beijing has finally become comfortable.

At night, when I feel I need to get out and do something, I go down to the gym a few blocks away and go swimming. At 10pm there aren't very many people and I am lucky to get a swimming lane all to myself. I swim my 1 km. and leave the pool feeling refreshed. I have now gotten into a rythm with my swimming that really represents my time here so far in China - when I first started swimming, my breathing was way off and each lap was difficult...and now, as the laps become easier and easier, my days here in Beijing become better and better.

I am enjoying my surroundings more, not just observing anymore, but actually enjoying them. Instead of judging the way of life here - I am beginning to live it.

On Tuesday afternoon as I was walking home from the bus stop by myself after an AIESEC presentation at the Tsinghua Science Park, I caught myself smiling. Not just a regular smile, but a purely happy and genuine smile - I am happy. I consider myself lucky. I feel comfortable. This is home...for now.

I have one month left. Holy crap - time has flown. I would not trade any of this past month for anything, but there is still so much more I have to experience. So much more I need to see. So much more I need to do. How do I do it all? I'm shaping my China experience into the experience that I would like to have - and that is to absorb every bit of chinese culture as I can in a very short amount of time. Two months is not enough. I wish I could stay longer.

Jack Johnson is just starting up on my laptop...and I am smiling.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Shanghai: Night Lights


Shanghai: Night Lights, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

This is the view from the Bund boulevard across the Huangpu River towards the downtown core of Shanghai. Lights galore!

Workers at the Yuyuan Garden

These were two workers that were part of a performance put on every half an hour at the Yuyuan Garden.

New vs. Old


New vs. Old, originally uploaded by johnnyringo82.

I will be submitting a paper that I am writing while I am in China on the difference between traditional China and all of the rapid change that is occuring here. I think this photo describes these two things perfectly.

Shanghai: "The City of Lights"

When you're in Shanghai....it can be midnight and the sky will still be beaming colorful lights everywhere! Standing on the Bund and enjoying the Shanghai skyline will definitely be a sight I will never forget.

This weekend, Kim, the VP Outgoing Exchange for AIESEC China and I took a 12 hour train ride Friday night from Beijing to Shanghai. Upon arrival on Saturday morning, we took the subway and went directly to one of the two SJTU campuses in Shanghai for a facilitators preparation meeting for a Culture Shock presentation we were running on Sunday.

After the meeting, we all went out for some sichuan food - mmm - and I got to have boiling fish for the first time! This is a dish, where fish is boiled in oil and peppers. The entire dish is then brought to the table and the peppers are then scooped out by the server. Talk about spicy! (But soooo yummy!)

On Saturday, we also went to Yuyuan Garden which was built during the Ming dynasty in the mid 1500's. There are many large padoga styled building that have loads of little silk stores and touristy shops all around. It really was beautiful - apart from the fact that it really seemed targetted at tourists as all of the street vendors spoke english and there were the usual Starbucks, McDonalds and Hagen Daaz inside the garden. David was a great guide and bought me a map of Shanghai as well as explained alot of the history and meaning behind the buildings we passed.

That evening we went to dinner with a group of AIESECers at a Thai restaurant called Banana Leaf (excellent food with live music and dance). Around the table was a variety of people (trainees, past and current - LCP, MCVP, MCP and AI members as well)...and we discussed everything from the history of Nomadlife to international travels. Of course - as typical AIESECers, we realized that we had alot of common friends in other places throughout the world.

This amazing night was topped off by a visit to the Bund, where David, Peter and I took a walk along the promenade...and I would safetly estimate it was 36 degrees at 10pm with 45% humidity (ie. It was hot!) Although it was just a quick stopover, the bay and skyline of the downtown buildings is definitely a mental picture I will hold with me forever.

The next day, Peter, David and I were up bright and off to SJTU for the Preparation Seesion. This for me was a bit of a culture shock - as the SN's didn't arrive on time and we started 45 minutes late and it was like pulling teeth to get a response to questions asked. It was definitely something I just took with a stride and dealt with in the best way possible. The session was overall successful, but with the feedback we recieved - there are lots of changes that need to be made from the session to make it more interactive and to allow more time for experience sharing.

We were right off to the train station after that and 12 hours later we arrived back in Beijing.

Interesting Comments/Observations:

There is a strong rivalry between the people in Shanghai and Beijing. (A conflict that probably started back in the late 70's and early 80's when Shanghai began to undergo extreme economi changes and developed itself much faster than Beijing. Now though, Beijing is trying to catch up to Shanghai in terms of city development...but I can forsee this being a long process). This is a rivalry that will continue for decades to come.

There are half as many vehicles in Shanghai as in Beijing (and they follow the driving laws!)

Many more international people live in Shanghai, as it is such a large international business hub within China.

There is a subtle European touch to some areas of downtown Shanghai - especially in the nouveau-riche areas.

Shopping in Shanghai is incredible! The amount of stores, shopping centres and street vendors is incredible...selling everything from silk fabrics to mp3 players to cosmetics.

Many people from outside of China have the misconception that China is a developing country - and in some aspects it still is, but Shanghai is light years ahead of many other cities around the world.

Tomorrow afternoon Leon and I will be presenting AIESEC to the companies at the Tsinghua Science Park in hope of raising some Traineeship Partners. Wish us luck!