Thursday, June 28, 2012

Street Food Chain

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Years ago I saw an illustration depicting the food chain. It starts with a large fish (reading left to right) about to eat a slightly smaller fish and that one is about to eat another smaller one etc. until the last one is a very small fish.

After witnessing streets in numerous Chinese large cities in my 2005 trip here and this current trip there is two significant differences. First there are more vehicles and pedestrians. Secondly, there are more roads but still not enough. But what remains the same is the street food chain.

That food chain can be best described this way: at the top are large trucks, then buses, small trucks, 155 cc motorcycles (no fat hog Harleys), motor scooters, bikes (both 2 and 3 wheelers) and then you guessed it, humans of all ages.

The trucks, buses, and cars are seen as blending, weaving, cutting off and horn blowing.

The drivers' strategy appears to be get ahead of the next vehicle as soon as you can, so the option to cut off the driver behind is available.

Everyone knows how the food chain works on these streets.

Turning to pedestrians and how they fair. When people step into the street they go as far as possible, stop and wait for the vehicles to pass before continuing. They must have nerves of steel because I've seen cars pass by within inches with no apparent alarm. There were times my heart was in my throat when seeing such a close call.

Drivers either either slow down or speed up when seeing a person in front of their path. It appears that they don't want to leave their lane anymore than necessary.

I'm not sure this Chinese free for all on the streets and roads with little traffic regulators i.e. traffic lights and stop signs can be sustained. As more and more cars are added to the roadways and smaller motor vehicles too the traffic snarl will demand change.

But then maybe not as one driver said to me "The traffic moves now. Change would make it stop".


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Li River Boat Cruis

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...
June 26, 2012

Today's four hour boat ride from Guilin to Yangshou was picture-perfect. Take your best memory of a Lake Superior Picture Rocks boat ride and extend the rocky landscape by three more hours.  Mix in, if you can, views of the Pinnacles, Canyonlands, and Glen Canyon National Parks all covered in lush, tropical vegetation. What a treat! We took many, many photographs.

 Later this afternoon, we will go to the walking streets to see many local handicrafts and then we'll complete the day's adventure by attending a ballet light show, after dark, if the weather holds. Guilin and Yangshou are very special places, for Chinese and for visitors. The pace is slow and noticeably different from other cities we've visited.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scenic Guilin

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

The Guilin metropolitan area is over 4.5 million in population. It seems that every Chinese city has 5 to 8 million people. We are staying in a suburb about 40 minutes by taxi from the heart of downtown. It was raining when we arrived yesterday. It's the monsoon season with high humidity.  It has the feel of the current weather in Florida.

The area is surrounded by mountains with two major rivers flowing through it. The images in this Wikipedia page are representative of what we have seen today. Guilin, as every sizable city in this country, has a history dating back centuries. But I was surprised that it got its name in 1940.

I'm sure people who live in mountainous regions anywhere in the world would laugh to hear people call these foot hill size land forms mountains. But this city has a mountainous feel to it.

I've noticed that the drivers of motor scooters, battery bikes and motorcycles do wear helmets here. Well perhaps 5 to 10 percent do. Compare that to the other cities we've been, where helmet usage is almost zero. Why the difference here? My guess is it's due to the heavy rain fall, not because they are more safety conscious.

Talking about safety conscious, vehicle seat belt usage approaches zero percent. Well, maybe not that low, but I've been told seat belts are just not used in China. Maybe it's because most drivers are first generation and that car usage is relatively new to many people. There was quite a discussion in Chinese when I asked that our driver provide seat belts. The next morning all the seat belts were in place. Our driver actually belted me in as if to show me how it was done. That act brought an internal smile. But I did say thank you. I can just imagine what a laugh he and his buddies had chatting about this silly American wanting seat belts.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thoughts on Shu Yuanmen

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...

The street of brushes, Old City Xi'an, 21 June, 2012
I remember Shu Yuanmen from my two visits to it in 2005. Handicrafts and artisans fill these five streets with goods. There were relief carvings and soap stone stamps, exquisite cut paper rose windows and intricately cut shadow puppets, charms, bracelets of jade. Everywhere souvenirs and chatzkes were colorful and plenty.

Ah, but the brush stores. The brushes took my breath away. Imagine the front of a deep, narrow shop entrance hung with brushes neatly arranged by every size , including six foot brushes on the edges of the opened doorway. As you walk under this brush canopy you see brushes hung above your head- running the full depth of the small shops, the sides of which are filled with rice papers. How these shop owners make a living is curious as everyone seems to sell the same goods. I found my perfect brushes in a shop run by a young, smiling man who was gracious and patient, as I tried out the brushes with water and paper, but ferocious and stubborn when Jia Yue and Wan Huan ( Crystal ) tried to negotiate the price. I succeeded in convincing all that the final price was very satisfactory to me, although JiaYue is still certain that I overpaid. I now have three new calligraphy painting brushes to use in America.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning English at the Park

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

This time email from China brings a blog post from Nancy...

We are in Xi'an, this week, and then we will tour Guilin for one week before returning to Shanghai. Last night Hongying, her husband, and son took us to a neighborhood park for an after dinner stroll.  18 babies from one to two years of age were on a blanketed area, learning English to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. GymBaby was the name of the group of leaders. With clapping hands, stomping feet, touching noses, toes, it was quite a site. Learning English to music, who would have expected such a sight. This was a local neighborhood scene with no tourists. Jia Yue was asked if we are their tutors. He tells them that we are friends, and we are welcomed into the evening's events, openly.

Bullet Train in China

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Bullet Train - China
We arrived at the Suzhou Train station in plenty of time prior to its scheduled departure. Hongying assures us the trains run on time.

As we approach the entrance with our luggage in hand we join the crowd around the opening to the massive station. The guard allows only two persons to enter the area where four x-ray machines are in operation. In typical Chinese fashion there must be 40 or more people crowding around the opening without any line or sense of organization. Pushing with a hand or elbow is acceptable not to be taken for rudeness. It's just the way it works anywhere you would expect a line in the US. In China it's everyone for themselves.

We got to the turnstile twenty minutes early and we were second in line. Well it appeared to be a line. The turnstile lights up, and that is the signal for about twenty some passengers to form a clump of humanity around a machine that will allow one person at a time to enter. About five people cut in front of us. We all move about twenty five feet forward only to gather around the escalator to go down to the train loading platform.

In a few minutes a bullet train quietly zips into the station. It's on one set of tracks over from where we are waiting. This train looks sleek and streamlined. It was a preview of ours which shows up ten minutes later.

Our reserved seat tickets says car 8. We only have to walk about 40 feet and board this up to date train car. On time we pull out of the station. What a smooth quiet ride no rocking no jerking. All announcements are in Chinese and English. I think they are getting ready for the North American and European travelers.

After two smooth stops and starts we arrive at the Hangzhou station on time. Hangzhou's population is 8 million.

My overall impression is that this is travel at its finest. Well, I'm sure not all China trains are like this one but they have shown it can be done. If our government shifts some money from subsidizing air travel to trains then people will want to travel by rail.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Photo of Shanghai

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Here is a photo from Dad's trip. He posted this recently to his Flickr page.

Shanghai Pudong (new city)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Wuxi People Watching - Continued

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email. -Roger Frank

Wuxi Collage
Wuxi [woo-she] is a 2.5 hour drive outside of Shanghai. It has many, many high rise apartment buildings. My guess it has a few million in population. The smog here is worse here than Shanghai. The sun penetrates occasionally to cause some shadows. But it always feels like an overcast gray day.

We enjoyed a few hours walking around a large park at one end of a sizable fresh water lake. Since it's Saturday and the first weekend after student high school senior testing the park had more visitors than usual. A word about senior testing. This test will determine, in large measure, what career path the student will take. A great deal of pressure is put on him or her to be good enough for a college career. There are a few parents who think this an unfair way of determine the start of their child's career.

Back to the fun of people watching. Here are most of the tee shirts I saw with English words. Today I took notes.

A woman in her 30s walking at a  freeway plaza wearing white tee shirt with colored letters "Today I'm a Boy  No. 2"

A man in his 20's wearing a shirt saying "Keep the Party Going". Hey I agree!

Another man in his 20s his shirt stated "I Love Green Stop [pollution I guess]. Me too.

A woman's shirt said "Give Baby Love".  While another woman in her 30s wearing a very dressy shirt with a black cursive style wording that said "Perfectly". Another woman's shirt stated "Why Always Us?" I felt like saying to her "I agree!!".

A teenage boy's shirt emphatically said "Live Likes a Rock Star". Yes the word is "Likes". An 11 year old boy with high energy wore a shirt that said " Gridiron est 1984 pass throw". Another 7 year old had a shirt with "Frank Morrello Italy" on it. There was more words which I'll check my photo to see it.

Hongying laughingly told me "I think you like to watch people rather than the this beautiful park. Really I like to do both.

Photo Credit: JoniPoon,

Friday, June 15, 2012

Shanghai People Watching

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. The following is from his recent email.
-Roger Frank

To the Museum
Shanghai Museum
We took a 40 minute subway train to the Shanghai Museum which gave me an up close chance to people watch. While waiting on the platform two teenage girls were standing nearby. One wore a white tee shirt with large black bold letters "Why Not Love". She declined to be photographed. But later I snapped her photo on the train.

Another T-Shirt
Later in the day on the busy street another teenager's tee shirt read "I Didn't"  It's common to see shirts and sweaters with English words which makes me wonder does the wearer understand the meaning of them?

By the way all the streets are very busy, filled with people.

Photo by CyeZ,

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On the Way to China!

I am currently house sitting at my Dad's place while he and Nancy are traveling in China. He asked me to post emails that he sends to me into his blog in order to share his experiences and impressions of the country.  He can't post them directly due to the Chinese government's block on Google. (This blog is a Google product, so he can't access it.) While this isn't his first trip there, I'm sure he will have many new things to share. -- Roger Frank

Gate K12 Chicago O'Hare Airport - June 13, 2012

We had over 2.5 hours to wait for our next flight that would take us to Shanghai where we will begin our 18 day China adventure. While Nancy and I are not in China we both are in the spirit of having a good, no... outstanding vacation.

After a 15 minute walk to get to gate K12 where we are to board American Airline's flight 289, I started to read "Planet China" on my Kindle. Soon I started my favorite airport pastime, people watching.

Here are my thoughts and observations at gate K12:

* Where are all the pieces of wheel-less luggage? You know the ones you had to pickup and carry. I did not see one. You might find one in my basement. Nancy says she has seen them for sale at an Ann Arbor yard sale for 50 cents. I suppose they would be useful for camping trips.

* During a stroll through one of the many concourses  at O'Hare I find a Barbara's Bookstore. The store jogs a pleasant memory. While visiting John and Charlaine when they lived in Oak Park, IL they introduced me to Barbara's Bookstore. A real classy place. I find it too difficult passing a bookstore especially you have time on your hands. I'm attracted to a couple of hardcovers. Well I left my magazines and books (hard cover type) at home in favor of those on my Kindle and iPad. I wonder just how many books were bought at an airport and never finished? I mean those that were started while waiting at a gate then read on the plane but then shelved at home unfinished. While I can't recall buying any at an airport, I've got some unfinished ones on my bookshelf.

* While washing my hands in the Men's room, I look in this crystal clear mirror above the sink when suddenly my image dissolves into the face of a sexy young woman (hey, believe me I didn't touch a frog like those in a fairy tale) I'm not sure what the ad promoted aftershave lotion I guess. What a creative but expensive way to advertise. Sorry, no photo shot for this observation.

* Upon returning to gate K12, there's Nancy teaching a little Chinese boy how to draw using her colored pencils. In a few minutes the drawing session was over, and the boy returned to his parents who were sitting two in front of us. Nancy is in her element when teaching people to draw or sail a boat. After Nancy left for a walk, I asked the boy's parents if I could take a picture of him. Of course they were delighted. After I took three shots, I asked his mother his age. She and her husband beamed ear to ear as she said, "Four -- four next Sunday".

* My final observation was another unique ad as we got the call to board American Airlines flight 289 for Shanghai. This ad was from of all people the Peace Corps! When was the last time you saw a Peace Corps ad? It was on a lighted panel located between two boarding podiums. It said, "Never have to start sentences with "I should've…". While I agree, but I find that difficult to do.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Guest Writer

Hello readers of Eclectic World! I've been asked if I could do some guest posts here by the blog's author who happens to be my father. How could I say no? :)

My Regular Gig
I currently blog over at Detroit Video Daily, so if you're interested in the happenings of the Motorcity come on over and check it out. So enough of my shameless plug...

Okay, but Why?
Why will I be guest blogging here at Eclectic World? All I can say at this point is stay tuned, and you'll  find out!