Archive for June, 2011

North Tazewell, Virginia

I am home now. Linda and Michael picked me up at the Wash D.C. airport on Friday June 10th. I had two days that day. I left at 11:00 am and arrived at 11:00 am the same day. Now that was a little strange. Customs went well but getting my baggage was more difficult. One of my bags was a long skinny box that contained a Chinese wall hanging and 8 large sheets of rice paper. I had to put in a box because at the Japanese airport (China airport was fine) check-in they would not allow me to carry it on because it had a bottom plastic piece that was too long. I guess they thought it could be used as a club. Unfortunately this bag came down the unusual size package conveyor belt and it was not working properly. After a 30 minute delay two men finally climbed down the conveyor belt and retrieved my package. I saw Linda and Michael around noon and gave them both a big hug, it was good to get back and see my family. The six hour drive home I tried to sleep a little in the back seat because my body thought it was midnight – 6:00 am. We dropped Michael off in Blacksburg, picked up Sophie at the Kennel, and made it back home around 6:15 pm. It was a long day and I was in bed by 9:00 pm.

Saturday I cut the lawn and did some weed eating and Sunday I was dragging a little so I took it a little easier. Today (Monday) I have done some weeding in the garden (mostly the onions), cut some more grass, and several other small chores around the house. I have now come inside because it is quite hot outside and I thought I would write one last journal about the China trip.
First it was a wonderful experience and the people in China were very kind to me. I will never forget their kindness. The food was delicious although at times a little strange but I just went with the idea of “just try.” I did eat very little of anything that was hot or spicy. Sometimes I have stomach pains and intestinal pains after eating something spicy. I never got any type of diarrhea or stomach illness while in China so I was very happy about that. My favorite food was the Chinese dumplings since Linda and I have eaten these for years. Other favorites were barbecue pork, sliced cucumber, meatballs, and tomato sauce eggplant. Some of the unusual things I liked that I had never eaten before were lotus root, a thinly sliced marinated yellow radish, noodle broth, and sweet clear fungus soup. The fish I would have to say was my least favorite primarily because it was often very spicy, had bones, came out of the polluted river, was just the fish head, and many times I was just not sure what type of fish it was. Speaking of bones, almost all the meat had bones, sometimes it was 95% bone on the plate. The meat often had lots of fat on it, big chunks of fat. One time I had pig’s feet (I thought it was a chicken wing) and it was like eating pure fat. I did try turtle soup, just the broth; I did not get any of the turtle meat. Basically it was a whole turtle cooked in water. When frog was served I just never got around to trying it because there was so much other good food on the table. Luckily it never stopped in front of me. Remember all the large banquet meals were served with a lazy Susan. They would start with about 6 dishes and then the server would keep adding dishes until about 15 – 18 different dishes were served. When something made its way around to you, you would grab some with your chopsticks and put it directly in your mouth. You could put it on your plate but most people did not do this unless you wanted several servings of that dish. The last dish served was always watermelon, which was your dessert. Sometimes I would stop by the market before going to my apartment and get ice cream.

I got to see a lot of Nanjing often going to parks and seeing a lot of the historical sites. I became familiar with the buses but was not always sure where they were going. The bus stops only were written in Chinese. I did have a bus map but it was confusing at times. There just are a lot of buses, remember Nanjing has 8 million people. Nanjing does not have a lot of white people. I often would not see a white person for the entire day. Shanghai on the other hand had many white people. I got stared at a lot because frankly I look different. I am 6 foot 2 inch white man. This did not bother me but I did notice it.

The three campuses affiliated with Jiangsu Institute of Education were all nice and the students were very friendly. Most students would just giggle when they saw you unless they had met you before and then they would say hi. I always felt welcome.
The food in the canteen on our campus tasted good but it was difficult to order even with someone helping you. I usually would just try and point or if I saw something I liked I would say, “I want that.”

I guess that is all I will write for now. I have written more in my journal and might someday post some of those ramblings.

God Bless!

This is one of the oil painting rooms. I think it was on the 5th floor with no elevators. It was very crowded. The assignment was doing a full figure of someone including something interesting in the backfground.

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This is the oldest building on campus. My apartment was not very far from here.

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This bike/motercycle path got very crowded in the mornings and evenings. You could walk on it but you had to keep a look out. I almost got run over a couple of times.

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A couple of high rise apartments across the river. This was very close to the campus I was staying on. The river was very scenic lined with willow trees.

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Tokyo, Japan

My first earthquake. For about 30 seconds my hotel room on the 11th floor was swaying back and forth. It was like, What do you do, Panic, wait and see if it gets better. I turned off my computer as the battery was low and went out in the hall where a lady was also a little concerned. Luckily she spoke English. Then a loud speaker came on and said, “Do not panic, our hotel is Earthquake proof.” Yea right! It appeared to have stopped but I grabbed my key and took the elevator down to the lobby and sat down there for about 45 minutes eating my dinner of snacks,homemade bread from Shanghai, dried banana chips, a small Pringle box of wheat chips, and some M&M’s. I then asked the hotel clerk if it was safe to drink the water in Japan. He said, “yes”, I said, “I have been in China for a month and it was not safe to drink unless boiled.” I then went back to my room where my computer quickly died and I called the front desk and luckily they had a power adapter, yea! So that is why I am able to type now.

It was sad leaving Nanjing this morning but I am excited about getting home. My train to Shanghai went well, my guide met me there and then took me to the airport although he left me waiting in the wrong area to get my boarding pass. I sat there for 1 1/2 hours until I checked myself and it was 4 gates away. I cleared the Chinese customs and Japanese customs and now have to spend the night here before leaving at 11:00 am and arriving at 10:45 am the same day. How is that for saving time. Reminds me a little of the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray.

I am actually a little tired as I got up at 5:00 am this morning so I will write some follow up once I get back to the farm.

Amber and Lydia at the Ming tomb in Beijing. This is the 3rd emperor who moved the capitol from Nanjing to to Beijing. He built the Forbidden City and also was the son of the first Ming emperor but defeated the 2nd emperor who was the grandson of the first emperor. The first emperor liked his grandson from another son better.

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Dragon at Yuyuan Garden. This is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. The garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying.

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One More Day Before Departure

Today was a relaxed but busy day. I worked on my Power Point this morning and then worked on a couple of art projects. I ate lunch in my room: a strawberry jelly sandwich, an apple, and some Pringles. John my interpreter came by around 1:00 and we went over my lecture. The lecture to the art education majors went well and the students seemed to appreciate learning more about western art and in particular how it influenced American art. Afterwards Guelay walked over with me to the art supply store for a quick trip to help me buy a little more contact paper for the project I was working on. We found some quickly, it helped that I had an example of what I was looking for and I got a meter of it for $1.00. Then she walked me back to campus where I had a dinner with some of the art faculty of the college. Also, was a party chairman representative? I had met her before. She does not teach but I guess makes sure the right things are taught. Lynn called me later and said she got a phone call and that she needed to talk with me about something political. I thought, great, what did I say that is going to get me kicked out of the country one day early. It turned out it was about something completely different and Lynn said they really are not policing what you might be saying. After a great dinner of about 20 Chinese dishes, fried dumplings, burning red hot fish, vegetables, three soups, watermelon, chicken, pork, boiled dumplings, radish, peaches, prunes, duck, chicken, and I can’t remember what else, we toasted our goodbyes to each other. WOW, they really put on a spread of food. I then went to the art building where 3 students helped me work on a woodcut I was trying to finish. They don’t have a press but use a large flat wooden spoon to press the paper against the wood. I then come back to my room at 9:30 to take a shower and miraculously have been able to post my blog tonight. One more day before departure.
Lynn on train back to Nanjing.  I could not have made it to Yixing without her.

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Large pot at the Yixiag museum.

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This is part of a Ming dynasty park. It is one of the most beautiful parks you will ever visit. It is in Shanghai.

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Happy Birthday from China!

Happy Birthday in China! Yesterday I celebrated my 55th birthday in China. I would never have dreamed I would celebrate it here. I have been gone the last two days on a trip to Shanghai. Sunday I took the 8:00 am fast train taking about 1 ½ hours and Lynn said it used to take 5 hours. I went to see one of my former art majors from Bluefield College, Aya Ichikawa. She met me at the train station and we had a great time seeing each other again. She took me around town showing me a bunch of sites. We went to People’s Park, an art museum, the river that splits the city in half, an art district, an old Ming dynasty garden, and a new “rodeo drive” area. I never knew so many white people could be in China. You don’t see that many in Nanjing. Most of them were from Europe, I heard many speaking German.
On Monday I took the 7:13 am train to Wuxi with Lynn where we then got on a bus and went to Yixing, a town known as the ceramics capitol of China. There specialty are purple clay teapots. They come in all sizes, shapes, decoration, and colors. We went to the museum first and then shopping. Lynn bought eight teapots and I bought 3. Then we took a quasi taxi back to Wuxi and a train back to Nanjing arriving back at my apartment around 7:00 pm. Two students came over to cook noodles for my birthday (it is supposed to bring good luck in China), they sang happy birthday in English to me, we ate a rice birthday cake, and then went for a nice leisurely walk in the Stone City park. I got to bed about 10:45 pm. It was a wonderful two days in China.

Aya and Hede at the Hobbit Hole in the Shanghai Ming garden.

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Guelay and Sherrie helping me celebrate my birthday with a walk at the local Stone City Park. The lights are on the 600 year old Ming Dynasty wall.

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Two Yixing teapots from the museum.

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Nanjing Memorial and French Resturant

This morning I had trouble logging into my Bluefield email account so I tried the Yahoo email account and I had trouble with that also. It was strange it seemed everything else was working just fine. Later in the day the Yahoo miraculously opened long enough for me to send out an email to Linda. John (my faithful interpreter and maybe the faculty member coming in the fall) was my guide today and he took me to the Nanjing Memorial where they have a huge building dedicated to the victims of the Nanjing massacre by the Japanese in 1937. The best estimate is that over 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers were killed. Apparently the Japanese commander had said surrender of we will wreck havoc on you. That is what they did, killing ruthlessly and raping ruthlessly. They have many eyewitness accounts from both surviving civilians, Japanese soldiers after the war, and groups of foreigners who tried to set up safe zones in the city. It was very disturbing and moving at the same time.

Afterwards we walked across the street to the Brocade Museum which is a silk cloth making factory that uses gold in their weavings. It was very interesting to see all the beautiful examples of clothes, ties, table runners, etc. They also had about 12 looms that were operational. These looms require two people to operate, one person down low and one person up high. It looked like hot hard work. It was very interesting to see.

After that we ate lunch at a “Hot Pot”. This is a way of eating Chinese food where they put a pot of boiling broth on your table with a heater underneath and then you order various dishes to put in the pot to cook. We had shrimp, lettuce, bean noodle, shrimp dumplings, sliced beef, rice bars, and sweet potatoes. It was a very interesting way to cook your food and it was all very good. I have never eaten boiled lettuce before. They also had a cool dish that had some soy sauce and other spices to flavor your items as they came out of the “hot pot”.

We then stopped by a Wal-Mart as I was looking for some clear contact paper to finish up an art project, no luck at all. Then John drove me back to my room where I watched a movie on my computer and then started working on a woodcut I am trying to finish while here.

At 6:30 John met me again and we took a bus for dinner at this French Restaurant that Lynn had taken me to a couple of weeks ago. I had stumbled upon it last night looking for the Bank of China. John had lasagna and a salad and I had pork chops in a mustard sauce with a side of potatoes and vegetables. Yummy! I then came back to my apartment, took a shower, and worked some more on the woodcut. I am writing this before I head to bed. Good night!

This is John who I spent the day with. The is the back side of the Nanjing Memorial.

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Traditional loom in China using two people to operate at the Brocade Museum.

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Fabric at the Brocade Museum with gold woven in it. A dragon could only be worn only by the emperor.

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Good Morning!

Today I did a ceramic lecture at the Nanjing Arts Institute that is an art school across from where I am staying. My lecture was to the ceramic students there and I showed them images of my ceramic work from undergraduate school to present. Afterwards we went down to the studio and I made a couple of large pots on the wheel. They then invited me out to lunch at a nice restaurant that served great food. The students found out that I liked dumplings so they ordered this huge dish of Chinese dumplings. I also told them I did not like real spicy food so they ordered sweeter dishes. Chinese food comes spicy hot, spicy mild, and sweet mild.

Afterwards I took some photos of the senior artists who were showing their art work throughout the whole campus. I was interviewed by a campus news group and then a local television station. I hope they do some major editing as I ended up talking about being an environmentalist. They asked me what piece I liked the most and I happened to be standing by this sculpture that had 20 separate chunks of grass growing and about 6 bird houses. When you clapped your hands the birds inside would start singing. It was a very interesting piece. Everyone wants to know what the big white man is thinking. I hope I don’t get a knock on my door at 2:00 am and get questioned on China’s environmental issues, ha! The art campus is quite large and I saw graphic designs, ceramics, sculpture, glass blowing, jewelry making, architecture design, industrial design, both traditional and modern paintings, ceramic restoration, fashion design, printmaking, and any other arts that they offer. It was quite amazing. This is the same campus where earlier I attended a dance presentation and a bamboo flute concert. My lecture had started at 9:00 am and I got back to my apartment around 3:00 pm. I had a great time doing what I love in China.

I then took a short nap and worked on an art project for one of my English classes. Afterwards I went out to find a Bank of China and when I finally did find it they were closed for 4 days so I had to get some cash from another banks ATM. I was trying to see if the extra charge would be cheaper than the $10.00 I was charged two other times. My discover card said it had an agreement with the Bank of China so I was hoping the fee would be less. I got back about 8:30 and ate a dinner of crackers, street bread, watermelon, and a zone bar. I had gone to the canteen to eat but nothing looked appealing to me. One time they had chicken thighs that were barbecued and I was hoping they would have that again tonight. I then took a shower and am now ready for bed.

A lot of students have gone home this weekend as they get a 3 day holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival. Most families celebrate at home eating special foods together and then on June 6th they get out some dragon boats and parade in the water or have a race. I am not sure what they do since this is new to me and I can’t seem to get anyone to tell me exactly what they do except eating and spending time with their family. China is still beautiful!

Large ceramic wall piece at the Nanjing Arts Institute.

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Bird house with singing birds and grass on the floor.

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A modern watercolor on traditional Chinese paper.

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June 2, 2011

Yesterday was another busy day. I spent the morning working on a Power Point presentation I have to give next Tuesday to the art students here on campus. Then I worked a little on some art pieces I have started. When I went to buy some art supplies earlier this week I bought 7 paper masks. The masks are quite think and I have been putting watercolors on them. I thought I would give them away to some Chinese friends before I left China. Afterwards I called Wanghan at he met me at the canteen for lunch. It is nice to have a Chinese student with me so I don’t have to just point. I was trying to get the same meal I had the day before but I did not see the corn out so I was trying to communicate that and finally a lady said to Wanghan, “Does the tall dumb American want what he had yesterday”, he asked me and I said, “yes”. So she then opened a cooler and got the corn out. Yesterday it was on the table. Ah, life in China. Everyone says to me, “I don’t speak English well”, I say, “I speak Chinese worse”. After lunch I got on the bus to go to the Pukou campus to give my last lecture there. I had my students do an art project for part of the class. I put a long piece of paper on the floor and had each of the 30 students write their name in Chinese with a brush and ink. Once that dried I had them put some watercolors on the paper. I also splattered some ink on it to make it look more harmonious. After the lecture two students said your bus leaves in one hour what do you want to do. I said I would like to play badminton. So we went to the gym and played badminton. That was a lot of fun and then we even had time to play one game of ping pong. That is the national game of China, Ping Pong. They are very good at ping pong. I held my own and lost 21 -17. I think I surprised them that a tall white boy could play so well. Either that or they were being nice to me. When I would make a bad shot they would say, “the wind caught that one”. Ha! I then came back to campus, Guelay took me to a local place for dinner where they made fresh noodles, and then I played basketball with Wanghan and Leo and others. We played 4 on 4 and the big tall white boy could out jump flatfooted most of the other players. We even got a good crowd watching us. My team was actually pretty good and we won but it was close. I was beat afterwards and headed back to the apartment for a shower (without a shower curtain), a little reading, and then to bed.

These are the paper masks I am working on.

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This is part of the art piece we did in my last class at the Pukou campus. I plan on cutting it up into 35 sections and then giving everyone one piece of it.

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Another Busy Day in China

Today was a busy day. In the morning I decided to go visit the painting studios in the art building because I knew they were in the middle of classes. One student who I had met before took me on a tour and introduced me to some art teachers and the students. It was quite enlightening. They do a lot of copying of other art and traditional Chinese painting is very important. They are all skilled realist. One student was allowed to do some other work. He was doing an expressionism/impressionism piece and also had finished an abstract expressionism piece. I was glad to see that. Maybe he was inspired by my lecture yesterday to the art students. During the lecture they told me that they did not know what non-objective art was or what the term meant. I do realize China had an emperor until 1911 and they were living in an ancient world. They have come a long way in modernization but that really has not happened until around 1972. In many ways they have not caught up culturally with the US but in many areas they have.

They have huge shopping malls in Nanjing. They have huge high rise condominiums, they have a great bus system and they have partly built a modern subway system. They have Wal-Mart’s here; they have KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Papa John’s Pizza. They love to eat this food because they are always packed. I saw a line of 30 people outside a Pizza Hut one afternoon. I think like me they are sick of rice and noodles. Don’t get me wrong, I like rice and noodles but breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seven days a week. They do eat vegetables, fish, pork, beef, eel, frogs, turtles, shrimp, crawfish, and things you wonder what in the world that is. I have heard that when our Chinese students visit America they sometimes say the same thing, “what in the world is that.” They have many modern clothing stores. I even dropped my jaw when I saw a Nike store. But some of the side streets have mom and pop cookeries. Last night I saw someone selling a meal through an iron fence to someone who was just walking by. There are old people with sewing machines in the middle of the sidewalk and every street or sidewalk has a bicycle/motorcycle repair place. Ok, enough rambling.

After visiting the art studios, John my interpreter when I needed one, asked me for tea as his home. That was very kind of him. He had a very nice 11th floor condominium he said he owns and that it has increased in price. He has two bedrooms, an outdoor porch, a study, a dining area, a living room and a small kitchen. It was quite elegant although I told him he needed some art on the walls, ha! If you think that was rude of me I say that to my American friends also. We then came back to campus and ate lunch together before catching the bus to the Pukou campus where I was giving a 2 hour lecture. It was quite packed and I gave it my best. I was told afterwards I did well. Then I came back to the main campus where I live to use the internet at a friend’s house where I could check my Face book. Face book and YouTube is illegal for the Chinese people to use. They actually have their own Chinese version of Face book and you can just forget about infringement rights. I also uploaded some pictures on my blog and I was able to check my email as their internet worked like a rabbit.

I then came back to my apartment, ate some leftover dumplings, got an apple, a piece of bread and drink before heading over to the 7:00 closing ceremony for the Fine Arts department. I was considered a special dignitary so I had a special chair with the president and vice president of the college. Awards were given to students and then we saw many music and dance performances. Afterwards I was asked to accompany the president and VP to the stage to shake hands with the performers and lastly a photo with them. They are very kind people. I was accompanied by a student back to my apartment where I sit now and type this blog. Isn’t China wonderful!

Dance at the Fine Arts Closing ceremony. These were some small children.

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Choir performance at the closing ceremony. They sang one song.

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Another dance with teenagers.

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