Wednesday, June 27, 2007

260607

It's summer time and the XiNing is alive with activities! People want to be outside, as the weather is marvelous here. Sunny and cool, dry with little humidity, they call XiNing the 'Summer Capitol of China!' I certainly am in the right place in China for me! However, this took almost two years of traveling all over to discover what was desirable and not (don't like eastern China, as low, wet/humid and green).

Saturday we had no 'English Club' session, cancelled because of final examinations at the University. We had planned this to be the last session before summer vacation, but then came the late word (it's always a surprise in Asia!).

So, on Saturday XTRicha and I went off to the Wangguozhang Bicycle Club to register for the races the following Saturday and Sunday! We had also planned to ride the mountain-bike race course, but no one knew about it. Yao Guo Hui, the race director was out of town.

But, XTR had the idea to go up Nan Shan, and have lunch outside. We ended up staying all afternoon, as so nice. You sit at tables under canopies, and 'fu yuan' (waitresses) bring you food and drink. Other vendors come by and sell yogurt or sing you a song. We both had the great homemade yogurt of Qinghai, then paid a young man 10RMB to sing us a song. I had my favorite ba bao cha (herbal tea). And since we were early (few people) the food came quickly!

Afterwards XTR invited two friends, Xiao He and 'Lisa' (both students and friends from 'Haaqi's English Club'). They came and we sat, drank, danced, and played with the children (that are everywhere in China).

Then XTR had to return to the office and meet our accountant. I stayed and enjoyed doing nothing but watching Chinese 'party.' They love to play games, and dominoes seemed to be the most popular.

In a nearby pond a vendor had setup his equipment (life-size plastic sacks that blow up into balls) and was selling 'time in a ball!' I've seen this before in the U.S., but very popular now in XiNing. We put Lisa in, and she floated, rolled, and fell over inside this zipped-up 'boat.' Of course we videotaped her bouncing around as XTR and Xiao He had fun yanking on the rope, then shoving her out away from the 'dock.' Crazy the ingenuity of mankind, devising these diversions in order to pay the rent. I think it cost 40RMB / $3.00U.S. for ten minutes, and he had no shortage of customers (mostly kids).

I headed down the hill when the daily 'monsoon' storm blew in, and 'snow' fell! Well, it looks like it's snowing as millions of these fuzzy seeds blow out to make more trees. The last few days the area has been thick with them, the wind (feng) coming up every afternoon (showers).

Sunday I cranked out alone in quest of a building on a southwest hill. I never found the road up to the building, but discovered a new apartment complex reminding me of Scottsdale, Arizona (there in 1989). I'm thinking I've written about this in a previous 'BLOG?' I'll have to check, as I can't keep things straight anymore.

I ended up in West Park, sitting in the sun! Ah, that was heaven to me, as it's been cloudy for one solid week. I keep asking the locals if the weather we're having is 'normal' and they say yes! So, Spring and early summer turns out to be the wet time of year in XiNing. But, Sunday afternoon was just perfect, me sitting on a bench facing the setting sun! Chinese people don't like strong sunlight and were sitting in the shade, some flying kites, some dancing, and kids running, jumping, riding, skating, and never still! Me, I hardly moved (my age)!

Monday, we went to see a 'show' ('program') in the Qinghai Theater. XTRicha had informed me Mr. Du's Government 'group' was putting on something that I never quite understood. XTRicha had put his Chinese into the software translator, and 'Sanitation,' came back, so I was expecting something about garbage.

The 'show' turned out to be well produced, but overly long. I don't know how many song and dance numbers most having to do with the virtues of modern medicine. It was really a three-hour AD (commercial) for a hospital! But, we had friends involved so we wanted to support (Mr. Du's free tickets). 'There's no business like show business!' But, in China it's all Government business!

I was impressed with the dancing, and one female singer, but the actors need to come to our class! It's all melodrama in China, as the audiences are very unsophisticated (but not unlike Broadway actually).

There was one wild musical number with 'laowai' (foreigners) that I couldn't figure out. I first thought maybe African or Jamaican, but then later was informed, 'Guba,' XTR said. I finally figured out 'Cuba,' remembering the Spanish lyrics! It turns out that the Cuban Government runs an 'eye' hospital here in XiNing. A total surprise in a production that included mostly red flag waving, and white crosses!

After more than three hours, however, I was happy to get outside as stuffy in a 'packed house.' Outside da feng and grey clouds, but delightfully cool as we walked 'home' in some rain!

But, the rain here in XiNing, Qinghai, it's that 'desert kind of rain,' the kind that rarely gets all the way to the ground! It's not like Shanghai, where it can rain hard for days…

How people can like eastern China, is beyond me… It would be like living in the southeastern part of the U.S.! Ugh!

Tuesday, Zhayer came to town. XTRicha went to the RR station on Tuesday evening and picked him up. He lives and works in Urumqi, Xinjiang, A.R., that we are so familiar with (where XTR and I first met). We met Zhayer at the Giant Bicycle shop in U-town a year ago. He turned out to be a very good bicycle mechanic. Originally from Uzbekistan, he's mute (can't hear or speak). So, XTR writes Chinese notes and he responds. He has a fancy mobile that can write and display Chinese. He also know 'sign language, ' and has taught us to 'sign, 'I love you!'

We are glad to have him here, as he came to compete in the two bicycle races coming up this weekend. He had sent his bicycle earlier, so we went to WCC and retrieved and he put together again. Note: When you ship on the CRR you must box up for shipment.

Then we cranked up to Nan Shan for lunch and a view of XiNing. The girls came up and we ate and danced. It was a lovely afternoon, sunny and cool, perfect for me.

Later we had our 4th acting class at the dance studio. There had been some debate as to how I should teach acting to young Chinese students. XTR and 'June' both conveyed what they thought should be done, but only confused me. People, who have never done this, don't really know. I'm not really teaching 'acting,' but how to overcome your fear of performing and develop confidence. What I teach is 'life,' and how to be a success at whatever, which is the most important thing! 99% percent of the people who come to 'acting,' class won't even pursue a career in such (it's too challenging)! One out of one hundred will, or try to. I'm really interested in the other 99 that won't! The entertainment industry sucks!

The trick in performing (e.g., public speaking, etc.) is relaxation via breathing, which leads to concentration, which leads to the ability to perform. You have to get to the point of 'not caring' what others think of you or your performance! It took me years to discover these simple 'tricks.' But, mastering this takes much practice.

Anyway yesterday a good example, a young girl who was so shy she could hardly remember her name in front of the group. By the end of the session she was singing a song! Turns out she had been in the City only three days from a small remote village. No wonder so shy! Can you imagine? You there in the West have no idea of how these young girls grow up (subjugated) in remote China. Thus, I can hardly convey what a triumph this was for her! It does my heart good to witness these kinds of things (the reason I make the effort).

Giving is living to me!

Today we're off to check out the mountain-bike racing course!

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

240706

Summer is here!

You know it takes time and the change of seasons to learn about an area, where you travel to... I would say something like six months to have any idea about the culture, weather, terrain, etc.--better two years! That's why I live in other cultures, not just travel there for two weeks! All you learn in two weeks is where the tourist sites are located! And do I ever avoid the tourist sites in China--try to, at least! And speaking of those tourist sites…

I'll never forget Tian Chi (National Park) near Urumqi, X.A.R.! I thought I was cycling to a primitive mountain area only to be greeted by hundreds of buses and thousands of Chinese tourists! Same was the case in Kanas Sur, one of the remotest National Parks in all of China (only 30KM from the Russian border). It too was overrun with tourists!

Remember there are 1.3+ billion (I don't think the Chinese Government really knows) people living in this country!

Nothing is 'free' in China (for the 1.3 billion)! So much for Mao's concept of 'Serve the People!' Oh well, and yet another idea used to manipulate the people, only to ultimately exploit them (for a smaller group's gain)! Such has been the story of human history!

Friday we cranked down to the 'New South Development,' some ten kilometers south (of course) to participate in our third 'Job Fair.' This was a big deal as part of a larger conference on Economic Development (of Qinghai Province).

XTRicha and I are a good team at Job Fairs as I attract attention (only 'laowei' - 'foreigner') and then he explains in Chinese. But this one, not quite as good as the first two. We were lucky, however, as it began to rain at 12:00 noon just as we'd planned to depart. Our new friend, who teaches in the area, Zhongwen Li, escorted us to a nearby restaurant for lunch. Later Chen Qing Zhi joined us.

We were cozy inside a restaurant when it unleashed a downpour that included hale! XTRicha said 'snow,' but I corrected him (as you could hear it).

However, I read just two days ago where it snowed in adjacent Gansu Province (unusual). What's this about the world getting warmer? It's been cold here in Xi Ning, but that's inside (concrete buildings). In the sun it's nicer!

After lunch XTR stayed for the business fair, but I returned to our 'flat' (place of business). The girls were still 'at it,' so I said 'no more,' and took them to 'Government's Park!' Note in China it's always the 'People's Park,' but who do they think they're kidding? Not me! If it were the 'People's Park,' it would be free!

The afternoon was intermittently sunny and cloudy, a summer storm passing through. But, again we were lucky until the Monkey cage. The Park, with all its trees reminded me of Holland (when the sky turned gray). It's huge with a boating lake, amusement park, and zoo. We rented a boat and cranked around. We went to the zoo.

The Zoo, such a sad 'sight!' The animals are caged on concrete, reminding me of a prison! I don't think the Chinese very 'hip' about this kind of thing! What China needs is personal and social 'development' versus 'economic' development. They're way behind the West in this category (enlightened zoos for example)! But, the girls, never thinking about such, had a good time anyway!

Yesterday (Sunday), we got invited to attend a lecture by Zongpengrong, a renowned economist from Beijing (gives president Hu Jintao advice). These 700RMB each tickets courtesy of Du Kuan Liang our landlord. Of course, I would never had paid $85U.S. for tickets to hear a man speak Chinese for three hours (I didn't know about before). But, the event turned out very beneficial! Especially for XTR, as he got quite a good lesson in finance and economics!

Mr. Zhong said, translated by XTRicha, that basically 'Small is Beautiful,' and to learn from America! He cited Dell Computer Company and another unnamed in Germany as examples. He also cited two provinces in eastern China, Jiangsu (Nanjing) and Zhejiang (Hangzhou) where 'it's happening!' (Many little companies creating jobs and wealth!). He cited Qinghai Province, as being 'top heavy,' (too much wealth concentrated in the hands of the Government), and thus dangerous. Also, that in Q.P. computers/Internet should be used to learn about the world! Of course, all of this confirmed what I already knew! But, I was amazed that he would say this, and directly to some Government 'biggies' sitting right in front of me!

Afterwards I went up to Mr. Zhong and handed him my business card. I shall now develop a relationship with him by sending a copy of E.F. Schumacher's 'Small is Beautiful,' hopefully translated into Chinese!

Afterwards, we went with Liu Zhi Gang to lunch (Mr. Du elsewhere). Unfortunately, this was one where he was meeting his old classmates, and we ended up in a small room with smokers and drinkers! It's hard to explain, and even harder for Chinese people to understand why I don't want (and like) to do this! I sit in a smoke-filled room eating too much of the wrong kind of thing; listening to Chinese talk and joke! I'm not interested in 'socializing' anymore, unless there's a business goal!

I did learn one good thing, however! (Note: There's always a little good in something 'bad,' and a little 'bad' in something 'good!'). I learned that Hawthorn berries (I thought good for the heart.) are primarily like prune juice (good as a laxative). The women (four of them) had brought two large bottles of such, and I had many cups full. At 0300 in the morning I ran to the toilet! So, good to know about!

Summer is here! I sat out in the sun yesterday, it felt good directly on my face! Note, generally Han Chinese avoid sun, particularly Chinese women! White is good in Chinese culture, including rice! As windy, even had been stormy earlier, men were flying kites from the park ('shot' some video). Note: Kite flying in China serious business!

I was going to stay and meet XTRicha there at 1930 hours as planned. But, since I'd been up since 0300, now relaxed, I cranked back to 'hit the hay,' as we say.

I had been out cycling in a new part of the City, as I was trying to get up to a building seen on a southwest hill. But, having gone south and up a road to a garbage dump, and then west up to a park, I never got where I wanted. I will have to ask directions. But, now I know Xi Ning fairly well. Having gone south adjacent the Expressway (no bicycles) I discovered an apartment complex with the name, 'City Garden,' whose architecture reminded me of Scottsdale, Arizona! That's what's so interesting about contemporary China… You can be in China one moment, Scottsdale the next!

With summer comes Rotraut for her annual visit, and this year Ujwal from Nepal to work! Prior, the three annual bicycle races!

I'll be taking Rotraut up to Lhasa on the train. Lhasa, the Jokhang Temple, the Potala Palace worth seeing in China. Plus, the scenic beauty of Tibet!

Before that there will be much cycling, which makes me the happiest of all! There's nothing I like doing better than exploring on a bicycle!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

190607

190607 'Du Wu Jie Kuai Le' ('Happy Dragon Boat Festival!')

Today China celebrates the Dragon Boat Festival! The Dragon Boat Festival is about many things, depending on what you want to believe. And, of course, a time to visit family! Here's all about it according to one WEB site (thank God for search engines):

"Dragon Boat Festival is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and together with Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival forms one of the three major Chinese holidays. Since the summer is a time when diseases most easily spread, Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion for driving off evil spirits and pestilence and for finding peace in one's life. The festival was later enriched by the legend of the patriot Chu Yuan.

Dragon Boat Festival is highlighted by the dragon boat races, in which competing teams drive their boats forward rowing to the rhythm of pounding drums. This lively and colorful tradition has continued unbroken for centuries to the present day.

The festival's significance as a time for warding off evil and disease is symbolized by a number of customary practices such as hanging 'calamus and moxa' on the front door, and pasting up pictures of Chung Kuei (a nemesis of evil spirits). Adults drink hsiung huang wine and children are given fragrant sachets, both of which are said to possess qualities for preventing evil and bringing peace. Another custom practiced in Taiwan is "fetching noon water," in which people draw well water on the afternoon of the festival in the belief that it will cure illness. And if you can successfully stand an egg on its end exactly at 12:00 noon, then the coming year will be a lucky one.

The most popular dish during Dragon Boat Festival is 'tzung tzu' (rice dumplings), originally eaten in memory of the patriot Chu Yuan (who drowned himself in a river to protest corrupt government).

Of all the major holidays celebrated in China, Dragon Boat Festival has the longest history. Occurring at the beginning of summer when insects thrive, the festival was distinguished from other occasions in earlier days as a time for reminding family members to take care of their health. The Chinese continue to heed this wisdom, however, by replacing the traditional customs of hanging calamus and moxa, drinking hsiung huang wine, and giving sachets, with more advanced methods for protecting one's health.

To 'protect my health' I've been fasting. Of course, the Chinese think this strange, as I explain not for religious reasons. Why in the world would I stop eating when every problem is solved with food (a joke)! I found out fasting is 'feng zai,' in Chinese, so I just repeat those words. But, I do this every year about this time, when it gets warm enough, as without food, the body is more susceptible to cold. Little did I know it's called 'Duanwu!'

So much is going on, besides the Dragon Boat Festival ('Duanwu'), fasting, etc… Too much and I'm not happy about it! On the other hand, I've worked very hard to create it! I'm a fool! I wasn't thinking when I started all of this!

Not only have we launched www.haaqi.com and all that starting a business entails, but also now we've got English Club on Saturdays and acting classes on Wednesdays. As the 'teacher' this requires preparation (work). In addition, I'm writing two columns for a local paper ('Travel Notes,' and 'How to Learn English?'), and on the radio, a food show (of all things) once per week. Again, all of this requires research, preparation and writing, in a word, work!

If that isn't enough I'm writing a proposal for Qinghai TV entitled, 'Faster, Higher, Stronger!' about Chinese athletes training for the Beijing Olympics!

When all I really want to do is get on Ms. Fiets and head for the hills! …Which we did last Sunday, and what a wonderful day except for the rain!

Interestingly, it's been raining for the past several days, and colder in our flat than in January! (Note: In China all of these concrete block buildings are heated like the ones in N.Y.C., with steam piped from central boilers. This is good. But, it's only on 8 months of the year.).

We, because Mr. Du had suggested, we cycled down to Kumbum Monastery, some 25KM southwest of Xi Ning. Again so you have some background, here's what a WEB site says about it:

"Located 26km south XiNing, the sacred Kumbum Monastery (Ta'er si), is the best of the sights in the Xining area. This attraction is generally acknowledged to be one of the six most important monasteries along with the Ganden, Sera and Drepung monasteries in the Lhasa area, the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse and the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe. The ancient monastery, built during the 39th year (1560 AD) of the reign of emperor Jiajing (Ming Dynasty 1368-1644 AD), boasts a Tibetan name, Kumbum, which means a grand place housing 100,000 Buddhas.

The sight (sic) is most sacred due to the personages who have graced it with their presence. It was originally built upon the birthplace of the founder of the Gelukpa Sect (Yellow Hat) of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsong Khapa. Two of his disciples from this region also went on to become famous in the Buddhist world, one becoming Dalai Lama, the other the Panchen Lama, both great living Buddhas. The present Dalai Lama, now in exile in India, also studied and lived here.

Constructed on a slight mountain slope on the edge of a wide valley, the monastery consists of a number of different prayer halls, an exhibition hall, the monk's dormitories and various pagodas. There are a total of around 20,000 religious paintings and embroideries within, as well as numerous yak butter sculptures and idols of Buddhas past, present and future. Despite the destructive climate (? - 'dry' actually good for preservation) and an earthquake in 1990, the monastery has been well preserved in parts, and well restored in the rest. In total the walled monastery covers about a quarter of a mile squared, making it hard to cover all of the sights within and nearby in one, or even two, days."

I had heard about it for the first time when we were through Xi Ning last October. Until last Sunday, June 17th, circumstances haven't provided the right opportunity. But, this day did, and so with Mr. Du, Xu Tan, 'Judy' (Zhang faju) and a newcomer 'Ma Min,' we headed south in the rain. See image at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery We had rented a bicycle for Ma Min (20-year old Chinese girl), as is our goal to make the world available via bicycle (we take groups every Sunday somewhere).

I wasn't expecting much of Kumbum, as didn't know nor really care to investigate as I've been in many T.B. monasteries in both Nepal and Tibet. But, Mr. Du insisted, and following him we got to partake of some amazing things! For one thing the site is a cornucopia of sensory delights, particularly the aromas: the familiar juniper burning outside, inside: yak butter lamps, and the smell of the wooden interior (some 500-years old). The sounds too… there was the sound of monks debating in a court yard, chimes, gongs so familiar with Tibetan Buddhism. Additionally, the visual, soon online at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery . All the colorfully and intricately carved wood, thangkas, and maroon robes (of the monks). Tibetans much more variegated than Han Chinese in terms of decorating their buildings/homes.

Kumbum is vast too, more a 'town' than one building, with narrow cobble stone (bumpy for bicycles) lanes!

Since it was a Sunday when we visited, there were many tourists (one reason I avoid such places). They come in buses, these groups with a Chinese 'guide.' Funny too because the guides all carry flags for the 'sheep' to follow!

I also noticed some foreigners ('laowai'), and I walked up to ask a nearby group where they were from. Unfortunately, for me I just happened to ask a French man who retorted aggressively, 'I don't speak English, but French, ask the guide!' (gesturing). French people, by in large, hate the English, and particularly Americans! His behavior reminded me once again why I live here and not there!

If you ever want to know the difference between westerners (Occident) and easterners (Orient) this is a good example. If they had been Asians they would have replied hospitably, and without agendas (no guile)! Westerners always have something to prove, something to protect, something to project! Ah, am I one of those, God forbid?

In the middle of all this we cranked (gilded as downhill) back into Huang Zhong to have lunch. I didn't eat, but drank 'lu cha' (standard Chinese green tea). The group, however, was unhappy with the food/restaurant, and Mr. Du chagrined I left a 10RMB $1.25U.S. tip. If he could speak English I would explain to him, I like giving money to those who have little (good food or not). I sure he thinks I'm crazy and thus my new Chinese name: 'happily odd/strange, different or unique. In Chinese: 哈奇!

My old moniker from my ABC Sports days, courtesy of Paul Simon: 'Still Crazy After All of These Years!'

After lunch we visited a metal working shop (more images at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery). There are millions of these little 'factories' in China, all exploiting workers. I cite the current expose of brick factories in eastern China treating workers like slaves!

At this point, after drinking so much liquid at lunch I was desperate for a 'W.C.!' Luckily tourist sites have them!

Afterwards we cranked around Kumbum visiting the temples, and spinning many prayer wheels (sending our prayers up to heaven). This courtesy of Mr. Du, as I wouldn't have known where to go, or if it was permissible. Many of the monks (lamas) we came in contact with are obviously tired of dealing with tourists.

But, one lama was particularly gracious, unlocking a door and allowing us a tour of their living quarters. It was interesting to discover, in one of their little cubicles, the latest flat display with computer. Such contrasts in China, in Kumbum the very old juxtaposed the very new!

At one point we were accosted by Chinese tourists who wanted a photograph with me! One, dressed as a Tibetan monk, seemed especially happy to meet me, saying he'd 'heard my story!' Turns out he, from Beijing, was visiting his parents in XiNing. I gave him my business ('name' the Chinese call them) card--such a nice guy (compared to the French man).

On the way back to Xi Ning, Mr. Du's 'new' Chinese bicycle developed a problem causing him to seek a bicycle shop in Huang Zhong. Parts of the pedal had become disengaged. I cranked ahead with the girls. But, it wasn't long before the boys zoomed past us. We never saw Mr. Du again, until the next day. He asked us, 'Why didn't you wait for me?'

Chinese people don't like to be alone, like me!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

150607

I don't know how many movies I've watched since arriving in Xi Ning, but upwards of 100 maybe (now we have quite a film library)! And this thanks to pirated copies available to purchase all over China. For example, one movie/DVD costs anywhere from 8 to 20RMB, or from $1 - 2.75U.S. (depending on the packaging). To rent for an evening, a mere 1 RMB, or .13 cents U.S.

And recently I've seen some good movies, you've no doubt seen: 'Cold Mountain,' 'The Good German,' and 'The Bridges of Madison County.'

'Cold Mountain,' was nominated for 'Best Picture,' back when? 2003? It's a wonderful love story (of separation) set against the backdrop of the Civil War. It reminded me of 'Gone With the Wind!' I'm increasingly impressed with Nicole Kidman's acting ability, in this movie her character a 'southern belle' and thus she had to speak 'Southernese' (and she's from Australia!). Jude Law played her lover/soldier (Inman) gone off to war after just meeting. Renee Zellweger won 'Best Supporting Actress' for playing the lusty, outspoken town boy character of Ruby (who gets married and has child at the end). Additionally, the movie has some of the most realistic footage of Civil War violence ever cast on celluloid!

Talk about 'hell' the Civil War, must have been pure hell, even people on 'your side' killing you (for being a 'deserter')! Man's great inhumanity to man!' Many Americans don't know that 600,000 people died horribly in that war!

I cried at the end of 'Cold Mountain', as the Nicole character (Ada) voices some wonderful words about having to 'go on!' It's a wonderful affirmation of life! Here via the Net (Imdb): Ada: 'I looked once more down Sally's well, and this time there was nothin' there to haunt me. Just clouds. Clouds, and then... the sun. Would you believe the Carpathian Mountains of Romania 'doubled' for the Smokeys of North Carolina?

'The Good German,' has George Clooney playing a military journalist in Berlin right as WWII ends. This a 'knock off' of 'Casablanca,' in fact 'shot' in black and white old style! It evens ends with a parting scene at an airport, and that has 'The End!' in text! Not very good in my opinion, except for the theme of survival: What people will do to survive (a Jewish woman turning in 12 other Jewish people to the Nazis).

Finally, 'The Bridges of Madison County,' a film I never watched when I should have for the following reasons. I met the author of the novel, Waller, when I lived in Big Bend, Texas in 1995. I attended his daughter's wedding with Hallie Crawford Stillwell (95-year old matriarch of West Texas). Waller had just cashed in on the movie rights, and bought a big fancy ranch just outside of Alpine where he intended to 'play' cowboy!

Talk about a strange affair, this marriage/wedding reception, where the hip and chic (Waller's friends) met the straight and conservative ranchers. His daughter was marrying a black man from New Jersey! Of course, at the marriage (in the patio) and party afterwards, the blacks were on one side and the Waller group on the other (no doubt retiring into a room in the house for a 'toke' or 'snort.' Ranchers drink tough-guy whiskey! Never the twain to meet!

Clint Eastwood's movie (based on the Waller novel) turned out to be pretty good, with Eastwood finally learning to act a little. He even cries in this movie! Although, it's always hard to get past the 'movie star!' Meryl Streep must have been daunting to play opposite, as she's so naturally talented (not a 'movie star').

The plot, a love story of chance meeting, and how one deals with such! Again, heart wrenching as 'Francesca,' (Meryl Streep) decides against going with him (Eastwood character, Robert Kincaid), and deserting her family for love. It was the denouement that was heart wrenching to me, of how the characters responded to these circumstances and their deaths! It's parting and death that are so poignant in drama (at least to me).

And some unknown trivia, except by a few, about the creation of this work: 'The Bridges of Madison Country.' I know as close to the family in Big Bend. Supposedly, Waller got the idea for this work (original novel) from his wife of so many years. Then after the success of it, he divorced her! So much for marital loyalty, an odd twist on the fictional version!

Marriage is such a bad idea in modern life (in my opinion)! But, you go ahead and have many children for me! You will find out! Of course, in literature and the movies it's romanticized.

Haqi is both on the radio and writing a column for the 'Qinghai Radio/TV Daily' now! Some progress in moving www.haaqi.com forward! This will give us a platform from which to promote our efforts!

On Monday I wrote a two-page (roughly 500 English words) introductory column ('Haqi and Ms. Fiets'), this for her 'travel page,' in the 'Weekly.' Of course, this had to be translated into Chinese. Now, we're having a meeting, as this isn't what she wanted (although they never explain).

The most challenging aspect of starting a business (or working) in China: communication between 'East and West,' and getting accurate information! I'm always surprised as it always seems to change, or be different from what I knew in the beginning.

On Wednesday, XTRicha and I cranked (go everywhere on our bicycles) to the Qinghai Radio Broadcasting building, and recorded the first two segments of 'What's Cookin'!' In the beginning, however, and as far as I knew this was a segment teaching English to taxi drivers. Suddenly, and surprisingly, it had to do with food! Oh well, not a problem for me, as I can write or talk on just about any subject… I just need to know in advance to meet the deadline!

Zheng Li, the host of this hour-long program on food/cooking is a 25-year old 'live wire,' and fun to work with (even though 30 minutes late to our first session). Interesting too in 2007, how they record sound! It's all computerized of course, and easy to edit! There wasn't much preparation or explanation, we just began, she asking me questions… A 'stop and go' process of recording bits and pieces which they will edit together. My short, 5-minute 'segment,' ('What's Cookin'!') is a westerner's view of eating and cooking in China, and how different from the rest of the world!

I'm immanently qualified for this too, as having eaten all over the world! Turns out, China has consistently the best restaurants in the world! By this I mean, you can go into any 'greasy spoon' in China and it will be freshly cooked, hot, and pretty good. The best restaurants in China are in Shanghai, where you can get any food, from French to Mexican!

Of course, the best western food, in my opinion, is French and Italian! The best wine is French! The best pastry is found in Belgium, and the best chocolate is from Switzerland!

The 'piece de resistance' in China are noodles (面条), Beijing duck (鸭子) and dumplings (饺子). Surprisingly, rice is only a 'staple' in southern China. You can only get 'mi fan' (cooked white rice), in the cities. My favorite food in China is 'zao fan' (the Uyghur rice pilaf), but without meat, and that is really 'middle eastern.' I've also discovered a wonderful corn dish 'yu mien' with pine nuts. Who would have ever thought I would discover pine nuts in Qinghai Province, China? China, full of surprises!

Here we are talking of food and I'm in the middle of a fast. Of course, Chinese people don't understand not eating for health reasons. The Hui Chinese and other Moslems understand Ramadan, which is their fasting 'month,' for religious reasons! But, for health…? 'Wo bu ming bai!'

I try to explain this is particularly helpful for older people. Younger people need not apply! I encourage XTRicha, who's underweight and always hungry, to 'eat, eat, eat!' But, at the same time I try to explain to him that not eating is useful for older people.

There's an old expression… 'For longevity, systematic under eating!' (when older)! Ask my friend Eric Kaldor in L.A. He understands!

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

120607

We met our first potential client yesterday, a 19-year old girl named Jia Ru. She's a singer with some talent having watched her music video. She attends Xi Ning's Art High School, and appears to be bright enough to challenge the entertainment industry. We had a meeting with her and her mother. The most interesting discovery… Her English name is 'If!'

Of course, I was immediately reminded of Lindsay Anderson's movie 'If,' based on Rudyard Kipling's Poem:

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!"

Every young man (and woman) should read this!

For a Chinese girl to choose the English word 'If,' as a name… Well, I find this very interesting! Thus, I become interested in this girl, and helping to develop her career. She didn't, however, show up at our acting class on Wednesday as she said she would. In fact, XTR gave directions to her taxi driver, but she never appeared, a little strange...

Chinese people (and China), always full of surprises, the unexpected, for example showing up unannounced, or hours late!

Recently I had a Chinese girl confess she liked 'foreigners' because they're 'on time,' and Chinese people aren't!

Beginning now to understand China after living here for two years; the Chinese language, I'm come to purport, 'So many people, so few names and syllables! There are only five primary Chinese family names: Li (Lei variation), Wong, Wang, Zhang and Zhao! Recently there was an article at www.jongo.com in which it said this was somewhat of a 'crisis!' For example, did you know there are 93,000 Wang Taos alive in China? I think this is a basis for a movie, a comedy, where they all meet at the 'Wang Tao Convention!' 'Hi, I'm Wang Tao!' 'Hi, I'm Wang Tao,' ad infinitum!

In fact, I want to meet them all, recording each of them saying, 'My name is Wang Tao!' 93,000X! If each took 2 seconds to say, we'd have to cut it up into a weekly, year-long series, as the total time would be 52 hours. Of course, we wouldn't be able to record all 93K Wangs, for obvious reasons. But, think of the media attention trying to find them!

Additionally, for 1.3 billion people, the Chinese language has only 400 syllables. Whereas, English has thousands! This is why Chinese linguists invented the 4 tones, to increase the number of 'different' syllables to 1,600. Depending on how you pronounce 'ma,' changes it's meaning.

To speak Chinese all you need only to know, 'ma, ba, la, and 'ah!' and you can 'fake' the rest. This a joke, of course. But, when I listen to XTR speak Chinese, in many ways it sounds like Italian to me, as Chinese always tend to add a vowel sound at the end of a word or sentence! If XTR had to refrain from using 'ah,' in his conversations he'd be severely restricted in communicating.

Additionally, it appears to me the Chinese language is very inefficient! The conversations I observe seem too take forever to make a point, or maybe this is a culturally thing. And this is not to criticize (Chinese people), just an observation. It may be that Chinese people just like to converse, as I do not!

And thus ending this for now…

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

100607

We had 61 people at 'Haaqi's English Club' yesterday! We're making progress in Xi Ning! Plus, it was our best 'HEC' session (the 5th), I felt. We were organized, and everything worked! Well, almost, as the sound system still needs to be improved. But, it seemed like everyone had a good time!

As I tell XTRicha, 'Some good days, some not-so-good days,' but if you have two arms and two legs, can enjoy food, go to the toilet by yourself, every day is good!' Good health is wealth!

Additionally, I'll be writing a travel column for a local (Xi Ning) travel 'magazine.' This courtesy of new friends John Zhang, and Li Hui!

But, still waiting to hear from the XiNing 'radio woman,' (Zheng Li) as 'very busy!' We're suppose to record a 'pilot' for a series entitled, 'Everyday English!'

We had a busy week in Xi Ning: many meetings, plus we visited Xu Ming's father in the hospital.

We met Liu Xi Gong and Chen Xing Zhi at the 'People's Hospital' (everything is the 'peoples' in China, but what a joke!).

Xu Ming wasn't there (in his father's room), but we met his younger brother, a man who has a job of making all the electrical power work in Qinghai (a good man to know). He said the U.S. the 'best,' in terms of power distribution, but China catching up rapidly. I tried to convey my working for the 'Bonneville Power Administration' in Portland, Oregon, but they never understood. It's only possible for me to communicate the simplest things in China, and thus they miss out.

His father turned out to be 81-years old, and looking (and acting) much healthier than expected. His 'ailment' described to me as 'diabetes.' God knows what he thought of all the commotion (we captured images) around his bed, an IV 'drip' in his leg. He's taking some pharmo. drug for the affliction, but what a mistake! Diabetes shouldn't be treated with drugs! Better to adjust with a better diet and exercise!

But, sometimes older people just need a 'rest' call it what you want (labeled as a 'dis-ease').

I can tell you I hate being in that 'pharmo.' environment, but 'sacrificed' for the cause (helping others). Although Chinese hospitals nicer than American ones!

Personally, I don't use hospitals unless unconscious and taken there, and then leave immediately once I can walk! Hospitals are dangerous places, where people die (everyday). I won't die in a hospital! In fact, my body will just 'disappear!' Best to create a 'mystery!' 'Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?'

What else…?

I got my Chinese visa 'renewed!' This thanks to XTRicha's (and the company's) good work! Now, I have a 'residence' visa good for one year! I don't have to renew this until May of 08! The cost, 800RMB / $100U.S.

We now have more 'employees' at www.haaqi.com, two more young ladies discovered at 'HEC' ('Haaqi's English Club'): Hu Yan Yi ('Avril') and 'June' (Ju Gui Yin). They both act as 'translators' as wanting to learn English, but they do everything including cook our lunch! Both are good, 'Avril' cycling with us last week up to Bei Shan (she had to push it, but got to the top!: Note; on the back of her t-shirt, 'Find a Way!' See at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery).

www.haaqi.com is growing! We now need more office space! If the BOD will just be patient (the usual 'doubting Thomases,' having never been entrepreneurs before)…

On Friday, we had our second 'Board of Directors' meeting. This at Wang Jiang's school, a man I've come to like very much. We met in one of his school rooms with children's drawings on the walls (see at www.cyclingpeace.org/gallery).

Wang hengsheng was 20 minutes late, and Xu Ming 'slept' (eyes closed), but ever cheerful Mrs. Zhang from the Agri.Bank of China was there on time. Thus, when Chen Xing Zhi launched into a 'tirade,' about how 'important' Wang hengsheng and Xu Ming's time is, and how we must be more prepared I responded with the following (I won't have translated nor send to them):

"To the Board of Directors:

I feel compelled to write this, after understanding what Chen Xing Zhi said during the last meeting: how professors Wang and Wu's time is so important, thus soliciting specifics (as to not waste theirs!).

I believe everyone's time is valuable, that is why I try not to waste theirs! I always tell people, 'Pay me in time, not money! I can always make money, but can't make time!' 'You can buy a clock with money, but you can't buy time!' goes the expression.

You may or may not have noticed but I am always on time to meetings, gatherings, whatever… If I'm late, there's a serious problem!

I recently taught over 400 acting classes in the U.S.A. (from 2000 to 2004). I rode my bicycle some 7KM each way to and from my house to work. In the four years, and for the 400 classes I WAS NEVER LATE ONCE! How is this possible? Time discipline, and also the desire not to waste other people's valuable time! Punctuality is the 'courtesy of Kings,' the expression goes.

Mrs. Chen in her 'speech,' did not mention that Professor Wang was 20 minutes late to the BOD meeting. I consider this a breech of equity (courtesy)--wasting my time. If you can't be on time, stay home! Find another endeavor, or you're going to lose me!

When I teach classes I allow students to be late only three times. If they are late more (without calling and explaining), they go! I have no patience for what is called (in the West) unprofessional behavior! And in the world I grew up in, there are no excuses!

Additionally, I consider everyone in the world equal! To me, the beggar on the street is just as important as Hu Jintao or J.W. Bush! I judge everyone by the contents of their hearts not their minds! Maybe president Hu is a good guy, I don't know? I know president Bush isn't!

Regarding: www.haaqi.com (China's www.makemagictogether.com) - call it what you want.

My partner in Germany (Rotraut Boyens) and me, have spent 100,000RMB ($13,000U.S. dollars) in China to get the organization this far (basically started). I've devoted two years of my life to developing the means (primarily Xu Tan, friends, what we call 'good will') to launch this business in China.

In the U.S., speaking of time, I earn 400RMB PER HOUR! I've devoted hundreds of hours to the development of this organization in China! If I added it all up (my fifty-year experience in the entertainment industry), only 'Buddha' would know how much the company owes me! But, I don't want to be repaid! All I want is your motivated interest in making YOUR COMPANY a success!

I'm here to help, guide, offer suggestions, and expertise! I'm willing to consult, teach (for no money), to ensure that the company is a success!

I think about the world, you tend to think only of Xi Ning, Qinghai, and China! And if our 'vision' is so different, and you (the group) want to go down 'another road,' I will simply move on (to another country)!

I don't really want to do this (be in cities doing business)! I don't need the money! I don't need neither fame nor fortune! All I really want to do is ride my bicycle around the world, learn about other cultures, meeting people, taking images, and writing about my discoveries!

I sacrifice my time for you, www.haaqi.com (here in China)!

I expect you to do the same for the company!

F.A. Hutchison"

But, don't get me wrong, I like Wang hengsheng and Xu Ming! They're genuinely interested in the company! Like so many times in China, this is probably a cultural misunderstanding!

Professor Wang has introduced us to potentially our first 'client,' a 19-year old singer, named Ru Jia. We've looked at her music video, and this young attractive woman appears to be talented.

The Board also discussed, among other things, the abandoned building up on Bei Shan (mountain). I have an idea to turn this abandoned building (built as a hotel in 1994) into the 'Bei Shan Institute of Arts, Music, and Culture.' And good news… The man who is currently in control of the property (six acres) is in trouble with the Qinghai Government, as not about to meet the payments. So, we will acquire! Then, I'll be able to bring people from around the world to Xi Ning, Qinghai Province.

But, first we'll have to get a loan from a bank to renovate, and this will cost millions of RMB! But, I have no doubt, WE WILL (acquire the building)!

We also attended a press conference (like I said… a busy week!) for the Wangguozhang Cycling Club's 'Tour de Xi Ning' Bicycle Race coming up on June 30th. Yao Guo Hui asked me to speak and accept a plaque (award) from a bicycle company in Shenzhen (name?) who is one of their sponsors. Thus, we had the opportunity to pass out information about www.haaqi.com. The net result, an article in a newspaper about me/us/www.haaqi.com.

You might wonder how to start a new company, or promote yourself! You have to 'get out there,' and do it! You have to make the effort. You have to help others, and then good things happen to you!

'Just get out there and do it!' from a song in the movie 'O Lucky Man!' Note: Nike stole 'theirs' ('Just do it!' motto) from this movie/song by Alan Price.

But, I think it was Mark Twain (?) that said, 'Without plagiarism there would be no culture!'

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

080607 (or 060708: June, 8, 2007…)

From Xi Ning…

Three (DVD) movies I've watched recently are worth mentioning…

The first two, a new genre, better known as a 'two-hour long commercial:' 'Cast Away,' with Tom Hanks, basically underwritten by 'Federal Express!' Even Fred Smith the founder/CEO on camera for a short bit! But, this story inspite of its obvious commerciality worth watching, as about the serendipity of life, time (clock time) having no meaning in certain situations! Of course, Hanks, worth seeing as an actor! The second, was called just 'Cellular,' and even though no specific manufacturer was mentioned, no doubt sponsored by the 'Cellular Telephone Association!' But, again speaking of the 'lead' performances in such commercial efforts, Kim Bassinger, did a good job as a kidnapped mother!

Kim Bassinger used to be just another body to disrobe ('Nine and one-half weeks!'), but now in middle age learning to act--having to make money as in a court battle with ex-husband Alec Baldwin over custody of their daughter.

Finally, the best 'Hollywood' movie I've seen in a long time, and one you're probably gotten around to (if you're into movies like me), 'A Beautiful Mind,' with Russell Crowe as John Nash (famed mathematician/Nobel Prize winner). It brought tears to my eyes at the end! Crowe, with Ron Howard's (director) help, did a heck of a job, as this story 'ages' (and thus the character must). What John Nash went through… What pressures and pathology modern life presents us with…

Just yesterday I visited a Middle School about ten kilometers south of Xi Ning. We'd be invited to 'lecture' some students by our new friend/translator Li Zhongwen ('Jerry'). He teaches English at this Middle School (Hua Lou Geng). But, I didn't realize there would be many classes together (audience of 100), and I was the 'star attraction!' Wow! But, this has become easy for me, as Chinese children so respectful and delightful to speak to! I talked about my life and America, plus we showed some images of our cycling trip around Qinghai Lake.

Afterwards a strange feeling being (literally) 'mobbed' for autographs! At one point I realized what a 'movie star' goes through. I think my situation in China is similar as Chinese children so 'desperate' for contact with 'foreigners!' This is what happens when you are so isolated from the rest of the world (China is famous for 'insulating' from outside influence, but media has changed all that!).

Then 'Jerry' introduced us to the 'headmaster,' and images were captured of the group in front of the school. By then it was 4P.M., and we needed to cycle to our 'Dance School' facility where we were initiating our first acting class (for free).

I've started a 'free' acting class in Xi Ning. Interesting, as I've taught acting for a long time and easy in English, but this is the first time in my life I've ever tried to teach acting to foreign (Chinese) people! Luckily, I had 'Avril' (Hu Yan Ni), a 20-year old Chinese English major, as translator.

I kept the exercises simple, just trying to convey that 'relaxation,' and 'concentration,' are the two 'keys' to performing (in front of an audience), and ultimately 'the secret' is to 'not care' (so much about what others think of your performance). New acting students have to learn how to 'take the pressure off themselves!' Thus, I spend much time on this, getting them to where they 'don't give a shit!' Sound stupid? So is the entertainment industry!

Amazingly, 13 people came as you're never sure about such when 'free' (no charge). Actually, it's better to charge, as they realize they better not waste money by being absent. Thus, we will see how this goes. 'We will find out!' as our German friend Rotraut is famous for saying!

But, anyway, www.haaqi.com is making progress! Little by little we grow!

Today, is a media conference about the Wangguozhang Cycling Club's Bicycle Race on June 30th. Even though this is not ours, another opportunity to mention www.haaqi.com, and our search of 'talent!' For example…

Several days ago (at a meeting with professor Wang hengsheng) we discovered a 19-year old girl, who was 7th in a Western China singing contest. Now, to see if she might be the first person 'we sign' to develop!

'We will find out!' as Rucha (Rotraut's Chinese name) says!

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Friday, June 01, 2007

010607 - 'June is busting out all over!'

Yesterday, so many people in and out of our office (rising moon), but interesting… And always, two out of the three people that 'came,' a surprise to me--as in China they don't really plan ahead, just go or arrive spontaneously… When? Now! Everything is 'now' in China! And if not 'now,' It's never!

The first encounter was the first surprise, as XTRicha told me 'Swallow' (Li Yan) would be arriving soon (with boyfriend). O.K., no problem, but why? I guessed she, who lives 30KM north in Da Tong, had time off from teaching, and drove down with her boyfriend to pick up the photographs we'd taken when there on Sunday. But, I never did learn why, just assumed.

No Chinese person ever explains much in China! So, I'm constantly surprised. Some surprises I don't mind, others I do!

Then later at 2:30P.M., a planned meeting with Wang Jiang, the musician who'd invited us to his 'school.' He was one of the two who performed at last Saturday's 'Haaqi's English Club!' And going to his 'school' turned out very well!

It turns out, that his 'school,' is near us (walking distance), and in the 'heart of Xining.' But, up five flights of stairs to his floor where he has his office, classrooms and a terrace.

We met in the music room where he serenaded us by playing the piano, three songs, two which you would know: 'Silent Night' (the Christmas Carol) and 'Auld Lang Syne,' ('Old Times' Sake') the traditional western New Year's Eve song. The latter sad, yet a favorite of mine. I sang as he played his out-of-tune piano. 'Should 'auld acquaintances be forgot…?'

From www.dictionary.com:

['ohld lang ziyn'] A Scottish song, sung communally with arms crossed and hands linked at moments of leave-taking or at the end of the year. The words were adapted by Robert Burns in 1791 from an earlier lyric, and later fitted to the pentatonic tune (of uncertain origin) to which they are sung today. The title (literally ‘old long since’) refers to past times.

"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup !
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne."

'Ah, laddie… If you take the #7 bus to Dundee!' Overheard at the British Open Golf Champ. At Carnoustie in 1971! This is response to Jack Nicklaus' drive, as went so far you could not see where it landed. Note: It's strange what you remember and don't in a life time… This line, as I was in the crowd that day, has stuck with me all these years!

Turns out this Chinese guy (Wang Jiang) is very talented (plays the piano/'Auld Lang Syne,' violin, a professional photographer and martial arts black belt), and he is even interested in cycling. He and Xu Tan talked and talked, me listening to the never-ending stream of words (in China).

He said we could use his facilities any time (M-F) for 'free.' But, I always want to pay. Nothing is 'free!' You pay in some way! But, we will do something with this guy, 'free' or not, as we both liked him.

Afterwards we 'wondered' around the little enclosure below, discovering one of the cities ancient buildings (part of some enclosed 'palace').

We also stopped in at an interesting shop selling framed items, and other interesting objects. There was one framed poster on the wall, 'Shit Happens!' They should also have one that says, 'Good Things Happen!' (as well). You'll be surprised what you discover in China. It's not how you think!

Walking home XTR got a call from a man he referred to as a 'musician,' that we'd met at one of the 'Job Fairs' we'd attended. He was coming to meet us at the 'office' (second surprise of the day). Not knowing who this was I was unhappy, as I don't like people coming spontaneously (want them to make appointments)! But, he turned out to be 'John Zhang,' a young man interested in www.haaqi.com Initially, I was completely confused as his email address is frankxining@163.com But, after some initial 'chat,' I realized who he is!

We sat out in our 'sun room,' and discussed how he might participate in www.haaqi.com He speaks good English, plus had read some of my BLOG entries (few Chinese people do). The only 'negative,' he smokes cigarettes! But, 90% of Chinese men do!

'Help keep the population down! Smoke cigarettes!' (I'm going to produce a T-shirt.)

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