Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hangzhou


The other day was filled with a day trip to nearby Hangzhou. We woke up early to head Shanghainan station to pick up tickets, but had trouble finding our gate. So, in an international covert operation, I posted myself near the ticket booth until a passenger purchased a ticket as well to Hangzhou. After the unsuspecting couple had ticket in hand, we followed them through the station at a comfortable ten meter distance. Almost lost them once on the escalator, but my extraordinary mysterious assassin skills locked them in sight and we were able to successfully follow them to the appropriate gate without blowing our cover. Turns out we walked past the gate twice, no matter.


Hangzhou is the most pedestrian friendly city I've found in China with walking paths everywhere and multiple bike rental stations. We filled up on some jiaozi and then meandered through shopping stalls before a leisurely stroll along West Lake. Dotted with temples, pagodas, and parks; it was bliss to get out of the giant city and intake some relatively clean air.


We abandoned bipedal motion half way round the lake and picked up a couple of bikes to head out to the nearby temples and tea houses in the rolling hills just west of the lake. Hangzhou can appropriately (I think) be compared to the Sonoma Valley. While the Californian visitors get raging drunk on the wine produced by the fields of grapes, Hangzhou denizens and visitors enjoy some of the finest tea that China has to offer- longjing. For five hours we biked along the terraced fields covered in cloud and mist, along groves of bamboo, and past historic temples. It was a much needed respite from the bustle and groan of Shanghai.



Monday, February 16, 2009

Updates...

It has been a while. I've been busy. Things have finished up in Jingdezhen and I've returned to Shanghai for the time being.

The cloudy dust of clay, glaze, and smog from Jingdezhen has settled into the recesses of my nasal passage and larynx and I have taken it with me to Shanghai. The relative safety from exacerbating the onset of silicosis that I began in Jingdezhen is a comfort but the dust, dirt, and diesel continue to wreck havoc on the upper 1/7 of my body. Good thing I brought two boxes of Cold-Eeze with me and a box of Emergen-C. In lieu of this, I have not been able to return to my vampiric nature that exists while I'm in Shanghai. The residents of apartment 5F, Ruijin Gardens, Jianguo Lu only exist as functioning humans on an every other day basis as one day is completely overtaken by hangover slumbers in a dark and cavernous living room with the only light emitting from the flashing of the TV screen. Rarely do any of them leave the apartment during the daylight hours. That is what staying at the Shelter until five or six in the morning will do to a person. I have not yet been able to partake in any of those activities due to my inability to breath at the moment, but it is getting better. I'm getting stronger and stronger to prepare my body for a pounding of drinks, techno, and cigarettes. Funny how that works. Get healthy to get sick. We did go see some music for VD Day. I think the band's highest aspirations are a Putumayo disc. Cubano/African/Reggae/Boys
II Men/French Pop/Smooth Jazz/Jam Rock/Xanadu; I could barely keep a straight face.


My friend Evan Blackwell got here the other day, he used to work at OIP. He'll be teaching at The Pottery Workshop in Shanghai. Same company I did my residency with. He is a great sculptor, check out the link on his name. Before going to see XanaMarley, I met up with him and some other employees of PWS and we went to KTV for some wholesome karaoke. Most of the Chinese songs are slow and depressing, and most of the Western songs are-- you guessed it-- slow and depressing. I sang Yesterday, Leaving on Jet Plane, and Right Here Waiting. It was at least equally or a little more pathetic than my attempts at the Lower Tavern.

While I wait for my visa to process, I'm planning some day trips around Shanghai. We went to Hangzhou yesterday and I'll post info and photos of that tomorrow-- I don't have my camera now.