I've never seen/heard so many fireworks for so many consecutive hours...at random times (even in daylight).. for 10 consecutive days...
02.25.2010 - 02.28.2010 50 °F
Hello friends and family!!
As my title says - Happy Year of the Tiger! In what I can only describe as the longest New Year Celebration of all time, we welcome in the Year of the Tiger with fireworks, red lanterns, bright (very bright!) colors and some incredibly annoying music that is still playing in the hotel elevator... The Tiger is a very important member of the Chinese Zodiac - known for bravery and competitiveness - typically quite charming and well liked by others. I know what you're thinking... I must be a Tiger, right? WRONG! I have the very exciting honor of being a Rabbit. Ok - doesn't sound exciting, but once you find out a bit more I suppose it's more convincing: "The Rabbit symbolizes such character traits as creativity, compassion, and sensitivity. Rabbits are friendly, outgoing and prefer the company of others. They also prefer to avoid conflict."
Now I also know what you are thinking... they had me until "avoid conflict". Ha ha! I suppose it can't say EVERYTHING about me!
That preface is to prepare you for the accompanying pictures - you'll see LOTS of Tigers and a rabbit or two thrown in to honor my Zodiac sign. Where you see dragons it's just because I like them.
To summarize so far:
Shanghai: I've already done some talking on Shanghai, so the only additional comments here are to say that I have done A LOT of shopping during my time in Shanghai. In my quest to have more purses than anyone in the universe I have managed to purchase...well, let's say a few. I've also discovered a love for tea pots, which will be a fun challenge for the packing and flight to Paris... then home. I suppose my subliminal goal is to spend all of my money here, so that I'm not tempted in Paris, where I really won't be able to afford anything! Ha ha! That said, I'm enjoying the city quite a bit.
Xi'an: Over the weekend I went with a colleague from Kohler, WI, who is on a 3 month assignment in Shanghai to a city called Xi'an. The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, had it right when he began planning his burial his first day in "office." Determined to be protected in the afterlife, he originally wanted to bury his actual army when he died, but he was convinced that Terra Cotta replicas of each of his men would be a better idea (certainly not bad advice considering the Empire would have been left unprotected... I guess that would have been "someone else's problem"). This was truly an amazing sight - a trio of farmers discovered the first set when digging a well... two of them ran away because they found only a head, which they took to be a bad omen, but the third stayed and turned the head into the Government. The Government Archeologist, realizing how important a find this was, offered him 10 Yuan (not very much money... at all... like 1 USD) for his find... and his land, which the Government then took possession of to begin excavating. To make matters worse, the Farmer's wife forced him to return the money because it was his duty to provide for the government! So, he spent the next few years living as a beggar to support his family, but happy to report that about 5 years later they began to invite him into the growing museum to sign autographs for a fee - enough to now get him a BMW (so our guide says) and live a comfortable life. The cool part is WE MET HIM! He was there to celebrate the Chinese New Year so I actually have an autograph from him on the book that they forced me to buy to get his autograph. $17 well spent!
Anyway, that's all based on what our tour guide told us, so hopefully it's true. For more history (and another somewhat credible resource) check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terracotta_Army
And don't forget to look at my pics! They are truly amazing...The soldiers are over 2200 years old... unbelievable. They are starting to restore them, which is why some are broken and others are put together.
Other Xi'an sites: This is one of the oldest cities in China so we saw some pretty amazing places. There is a village (Banpo) that is said to be 6000 years old, which are some of the less exciting "dirt" pictures. This site doesn't get much attention because of the proximity to the Terra Cotta Soldiers. About a mile away from the Terra Cotta Soldiers is the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, which seems far based on the protection aspect, but there used to be a wall in between so the soldiers were buried right outside of the wall. The tomb is underneath the mound that has a lot of stairs to the top. We also saw the Small Wilde Goose Pagoda - interesting history because 1000 years ago there was an earthquake that split it down the middle and then 800 years ago another earthquake put it back together! Hard to imagine, but that's what we were told... this is the big tower looking thing in my pics. We saw the wall of the city - walked on part of it - this is the area with the really brightly colored New Year's decorations.
I could go on for hours, but all in all, those are the highlights and it was a fun weekend!
Overall China impressions:
China is very different from India... The government here seems to have done a better job making sure that even the poorest of the poor have food and the infrastructure is much more manageable. Even during trips out to the countryside to visit a couple of our plants I've noticed a remarkable difference in planning and housing. I'm sure there are areas that are much less developed if I were to go even more remote, so not sure I'm making a fair comparison, but my impressions are based on what I'm seeing here. I'm also putting aside for a moment the years of study that I've done on the political system and human rights conditions in some areas of the country... so as not to offend I'm saving that conversation for another day!
In general, while I enjoy visiting Asia I'm not sure it's a place I could settle or live long term (probably a relief to my family to hear that!). I definitely look out of place here, which leads to staring and attention that makes me feel uncomfortable. (happens in India too) That said, the people are very nice, cabs in Shanghai are very cheap, so it's easy to get around, and I'm learning a lot about the country. From a work perspective it's been another great experience!
I'm looking forward to Europe and the adventures that Paris and the rest of France will hold for me. It's another place I've never been, so I feel very lucky to have found a job that enables me to discover new places! Even if it does sound more glamorous than it feels sometimes (e.g. I am TIRED of WORKING ALL OF THE TIME) - being in a hotel room it's hard to avoid the Blackberry and computer, so I never really shut down. In Paris I'm hoping to embrace the European concept of 'Work to Live'... it will be interesting to report on how that goes! I'm here in Shanghai for a few more days then off on Friday for a longggggg day of flying halfway back towards home.
Miss you all!