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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I Blog

So, it's been a while since I posted anything!

Now.....I could write stuff like "I've been busy" and "I forgot", but really, I haven't felt like it.

The main reason that I started blogging was to help people keep up with what I was doing while I was in China.

Immediately after I got back to the States, I blogged to help me cope with being back and to help people understand the ways that China had changed my thinking.

Now that I'm adjusted and things are getting back to "the old grind",  I either have been busy or just haven't felt in the mood to post stuff.

But this is, by no means, the end of my China obsession!

Right now, I'm applying for the Peace Corps and I've requested to go to China, but since the Peace Corps puts you wherever they need you, I may not go there, but since I have the language experience, I'll probably end up there.

Trust me, if I'm going to be in China for 27 months, then you'll see a LOT of blog posts!

From now on, I'm going to update when I have something to say, not because I feel like I have an obligation to churn out generalized China information because I'm worried about losing followers. I would rather do the posting out of a sincere desire to do it rather than try to rack up every follower on Earth and treat it like work.

I do have something in mind for this week, but I've got some stuff I have to take care of first.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Blog Fail.

I'm really sorry that I've been completely failing at posting these last few days. I've been working like crazy.

When you're doing media work full time, it's hard to think about anything else.

Working full time on stuff like this is new for me, and I'm usually too tired to do anything after I get off (at 1am or 3am or whenever we finish) to do anything else.

It's a really big shift going from setting up cameras to thinking about the Drum Tower in Xi'an (that's what's pictured here).

I know it's not really an excuse, but I promise that I will be updating from time to time on here.

My dad said that the hardest part about blogging is "feeding the machine" - it's true. If I was a "professional" blogger that was paid, I'd definitely be able to write daily, but since I'm just a recent college grad working a freelance video job, it's tough.

But still.....though I'm busy, any time that I'm not at work or sleeping, I'm thinking about China and what kind of stuff waits for me upon my return.

I've got this application for the Peace Corps, but inexplicably it just keeps sitting here waiting to be submitted. I've done all the major things; I just have to tweak some stuff and it'll be ready.

What I'd really love is to go back to Lanzhou and take my family with me - I think that'd be really interesting. Sometimes they'd love it, and sometimes they'd hate it, but it'd definitely be fun for me!

(Right - In a park in Jinchang, Gansu Province)
(Below - Maiji Mountain outside of Tianshui, Gansu Province)

Until next time - much love, 


Monday, November 7, 2011

Beautiful China, Part 2

(this is Part 2 of a series - for Part 1, click here)

 Again, we are going to start with mountains! There's just something majestic about them. Seeing mountains reminds me of [insert a profound realization about the nature of life that I cannot really express here] and I'll always keep that with me.

(Left) The flat mountain here is Maiji Mountain in Gansu Province. (Below) Taken from Maiji Mtn itself.
Although you can click on these pictures to make them bigger, something is lost when you take a picture of mountains which are surrounded by the early morning's fog. 

Although you can look at the picture and say, "wow...", it is a truly awesome thing to actually experience. Awesome as in the original sense of being full of awe. 

For me personally, there is nothing better than a combination of three things which I love most of all - mountains, cultural history, and China.

And Maiji Mountain gave me all three at once! Buddhist carvings dating back over 1000 years on a mountain in China! How about that?

As I walked along the side of this mountain, I was once again reminded that I was in China - sometimes I forgot that I was on the other side of the world in a country that I technically didn't belong in, but felt like I belonged in.

Sometimes it takes something truly foreign and unique to remind us of where we came from and how we got to where we are today.
When I think of something beautiful, normally I think of the mountains or somewhere far away from the city. But beauty isn't just about mountains and nature. It's about something that is stirred deep within you and reminds you of your humanity and your fleeting time on earth.

(Lanzhou University of Technology campus)

It's not limited to Tianshui, Lanzhou, Beijing, New York, Colorado, or any place.

Beauty is everywhere - you just have to be aware of it, I guess.
To me, the beauty of these places is that all of these places are special to me because I got to Rest. 

That seems to be something that's largely been lost on humanity. The ability to just rest and reflect on yourself. Now life is all about doing and planning, but rest and reflection have been all but forgotten.
(Lanzhou from Bai Ta Shan)

Sometimes you can find the most peaceful and beautiful spots in the unlikeliest of locations....would you care to guess where this is?

Downtown Beijing.

Yep - this is at the Old Summer Palace! It's not exactly downtown - it's north of downtown, but's in the smack middle of one of the biggest cities on the planet.

Who would've thought it?
Despite its location, it was a great place for introspection and soul-searching.

This was the point in time when I was nearing the end of my stay in China - I had maybe 1 week to go. It was the perfect time and place for me to rest and reflect in the disastrous humidity.

The world is a beautiful and wonderful place, and I've done my utmost to never foret it.

Just try and tell me otherwise.

What do you think? Feel free to leave comments and responses! No sign-up, just leave your name and your comment! I love hearing from you :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

No Education, No Upward Mobility

(My "Beautiful China, Part 2" post is having some serious issues with uploading pictures...I'm not such a huge fan of Blogger right now. I wrote this post a couple of days ago and I wanted to share it because it is a huge part of Chinese society today.)

Chinese society places a great deal of importance on education. A great deal.

From elementary school until high school, students study, study, study. It is not unusual for a student from late middle school all the way through high school graduation to study until around 11pm or midnight, and then wake up at 6am the next day to review before going to school. They take the same basic classes every student in the world takes: math, science, history, etc., with the exception of English. From primary school until high school graduation, every Chinese student must study English because English is an international language. 

All of this is done for the chance to go to college, which is an opportunity that a lot of students will not be able to realize. The Gao Kao, the Chinese college entrance test, is probably the biggest and most important event in the life of a Chinese high school student who wishes to go to college. 

Every year, millions of students take this test and those who were unlucky enough to pass suffer the disappointment of the failing score and the knowledge that all the work they did for their entire life could not be rounded and filled out by their college education. It is possible to retake the exam, but few people do. 

Without a college education, there is little to no hope that a person can live the successful, comfortable life with a high social status that they dreamed about when they were growing up. The best hope that a Chinese person can have for their life is to open up a small shop or business and make enough money to pay the bills. There is very little hope for a really comfortable life. 
For the fortunate few who are very street smart, they are able to build a decent company that is capable of moving them up, but in China, much fewer opportunities for this kind of thing exist without an education than in America.

(Me with one of the fortunate few - my friend Benjamin Xi's uncle started a water company, 黄河原, with customers all over Gansu and branching out to Ningxia and other regions!)

In America, one can make a comfortable and happy life for themselves without a college education. They can become singers, interior designers, real estate agents, businessmen, entertainers, sports players - any number of careers are open to the non-college educated. In China, these careers also exist, but they are for the very, very, very privileged and elite of society.  

Chinese people know this and it is one of the defining characteristics of Chinese society. Upward Social Mobility exists in China, but it is only real to very few people. In  more developed areas of China such as Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou, this mobility exists in greater numbers because of the Westernization, development, and greater opportunity of these areas. 

It's a sad fact of life, but it's just the way life is in China. But I guess that means there are less Justin Biebers in Chinese society...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Beautiful China, Part 1

Today, I just wanted to share some pictures of the natural beauty I experienced in China. As I'm thinking about it in my head, I don't think there'll be a lot number-wise, but the things I did see were beautiful. Most of you will have seen these pictures before, but I wanted to put them all in one series of post that would make it easier for you guys to find them.

Mountains. China is full of them. It would be impossible to do a blog post about China's beauty and not talk about mountains. There's just something about them that stirs something deep within us.

(Mountains surrounding the Great Wall at Mutianyu)

The Great Wall was one of my favorite places not only for the history of it, but for the natural beauty that surrounds it on literally every side. It's just beyond words. 

Even though this was intended as a military location to protect from enemy invasion, it can't be denied that it's seriously beautiful. 

This is probably one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

I'd take mountains over the beach any day. You? would.
Now for a drastic change in environments. 

 We are now entering the mountainous deserts of the Northwest - specifically Gansu Province and Ningxia. Map here.

Just imagine nothing for as far as you can see......


Just mountains covered with desert scrub for miles and miles.....

somehow, people manage to do some kind of farming.And now - another change!

Now we've arrived at the Temple of Heaven Park. It's not exactly in the mountains or plains of's in downtown Beijing. But if you go on a day without a lot of tourists, it's a nice place.

The trees are green and lush,

the walkways are empty and beautiful in their loneliness, and they are good places to sit and think about what you've seen and done and how that's brought you here.

Like I said, beautiful in its loneliness.

A beautifully lonely place is a hard place to find in China - so much of it is crowded and characterized by the go-go-go attitude of city life.

But once in a while, you can find find that solitude and wrap yourself in it.

But we can't forget the beauty of people and the innocence of childhood. Although solitude is sometimes desirable, you cannot forget the beauty of humanity. Like that billboard I saw, "The earth is surrounded by your beauty."
A Lanzhou sunset on the Yellow River. What a way to end a day, isn't it? 

That's the end of Part 1 - be back with Part 2 as soon as possible!

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