Sunday, July 17, 2011

A gorge is a gorge is a gorge

In yet another exciting adventure of foreigners being herded into a giant bus and shuttled to the outskirts of Beijing, we non-Chinese workers at CIPG, Beijing Review's parent group, and a few Chinese interpreters found ourselves outside the barrier of the capital city's perpetual smog. The skies were clear, the sun shining (and my skin burning) as we enjoyed a field trip -- which even at the age of 25 are still amusing -- to Longqing Gorge and Yeya Lake.

But, there was a catch, as there always is when the Chinese treat us to an all expenses paid excursion. Not only would we be visiting these locales, we were expected to photograph them as part of a photo competition for foreigners. The Chinese (in general, not just those on our trip) and their super duper high tech cameras were excluded from participating. This was a relief, since my rinky-dink little Canon 500D is no match for the awesomeness of Canon 5Ds or 7Ds or the firepower of most upper model Nikons.

The gorge was impressive. To reach the river portion we had to ascend a staircase in the shape of a dragon, walking through its bowels to reach the peak. A small boat ferried us up and down the reaches of a small river running between the intricately carved mountains that formed the rocky throughway. Then we had to get out and walk, a not so fun turn of events since i was beginning to enjoy the cool gorge river breeze.

We then stopped by a polo club, for reasons unknown, to enjoy a light snack of tea and biscuits, or as we in the States properly call them, cookies.

Then it was off to Yeya Lake, which means Wild Duck Lake. The lake was wild only in the sense that the ducks were tethered to poles out in the middle of the lake. Actually, they seemed quite tame, briskly walking past foreigners and quaking loudly, as if to say "HEY! I'm waddlin here! I'm waddlin here" before snapping their beaks at someone's leg. A few were brave enough to allow a foreign to pick them up for a photo op. And when someone brought out a bag of biscuits, ahem, cookies, the pond, quite literally, went wild with ducks scrambling over one another to get a quick treat.

I do enjoy these infrequent chances to get outside the city on the company's dime. They could have said we were going Beijing's enormous, and almost never seen, garbage relocation facilities (that's what they call them here) and I still would have been excited. It's a chance to see a different part of China -- and, more importantly, to learn how to use my 500D. Cameras these days are so complicated.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Party's Party

I finally made it down to Tiananmen Square to see the decorations the Communist Party of China had put in place for its own birthday -- which was last week, July 1. I'd have visited sooner, but I was too preoccupied with choosing a place to celebrate a more important birthday: America's, on July 4 (it was good, by the way -- burgers and beer, what could be more American?).

This year, the Party turned 90. For such a momentous occasion -- there aren't that many communist parties left that can boast the kind of success, at least economically speaking, that the CPC can -- I'd expected there to be the same revelry and in the streets celebrating like there was for 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic. But alas, no fireworks. My Chinese colleagues were amused when I asked if we got the day off. Silly foreigner, holidays are for special occasions.

I would have enjoyed watching a few hundred Chinese dressed in red singing the national anthem and condemning capitalism at one of the gala events at the Great Hall of the People but I somehow managed to get left off the VIP list. Maybe they'll remember me for the big shebang centennial celebration in 2021.

RED AND BLUE: I'm not sure what's more impressive about this photo: the giant hammer and sickle or those blue skies