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Participate along with Champlain's MFA in Emergent Media at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver!

Follow their activities and participate along with the MFA program! They will be posting on their Tumblr account, from their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/champMFA , and on Twitter using the hashtag #champMFA . You can also follow @EMCchamp, @anndemarle, and @sarahjerger. They will be displaying your responses to their questions on white boxes all around the exhibit, collectively creating a huge group art project! We hope you join along!

China is Unique.

Well, the reason I haven’t blogged any updates from Shanghai lately is…it was one of those weeks. One where bad things come in threes. Unfortunately, one of those things was the drowning of my laptop. Thank goodness for my mom (whose birthday was the other day - Happy birthday mom!); she had the bright idea to back up my laptop on an external harddrive before leaving for China. Phew!

So! Back to China. It is unique. I would say weird, but people seem to be sensitive to that word even though it’s not in a negative sense at all. I just wish there was a way I could share my experiences with you all and do them justice.

I really want my boss at the animation company to make a short about Chinese transportation, specifically bikes and scooters. Chinese bikers and scooter-ers are incredible. They carry bundles of 12-ft long bamboo over their shoulders; you can often find them selling animals such as baby bunnies and guinea pigs in cages, and snakes in mesh bags from their bikes (photo via Kaity Roberts ‘15 instagram @kaitygirl16)

Riders wear bike ponchos which cover the handlebars and read “rain coat" across the back; often this look is enhanced by a construction helmet on top. Sometimes I even see four people on one bike. They often ride while holding umbrellas for protection from rain or sun, and quite frequently have many boxes strapped to them. It’s amazing how they keep their balance, avoid cars and pedestrians, and cover such a large and populated city by bicycle.

Another reason why China is weird, for lack of a better word because this really is bizarre: they cancel MAJOR holiday celebrations with no explanation. A couple weeks ago we were given Monday through Wednesday off of our internship due to the Dragon Boat Festival. Although this meant we, and the rest of China’s workers, worked the weekend, we were excited to see this national celebration.

The festival is a time where most Chinese people spend time with their families, but our friend Cherry’s family is back in Beijing while she is working on a year-long project at Shanghai GE. Therefore, she spent the holiday with the next best thing to family - us! Alaina and me, American expats. Wonderful! 

It was truly a win-win. She had “family" and we had a tour guide. 

So Wednesday we set off to the park where the dragon boats were to race all three afternoons. Upon our arrival after an hour-long commute across the city by metro and taxi, we stood at a gate with a number of expats, tourists, and locals. All of us were confused. Beyond the gate we saw decorations and tents, a venue staged to host many guests for a national holiday completely deserted. Were we early? Was there an accident? I know it wasn’t closed due to inclement weather. I was dumbfounded. Cherry asked others, read a small posting in Mandarin on the temporary gate, and even asked security. She returned to us saying, “It’s closed.“ I wanted to say, “No sh*t Sherlock” and let the other non-Mandarin speaking expats and western tourists know that there was no sense in waiting around, but it was pointless. There was no explanation for the event to be called off.

Perhaps this is why, days in advance when we asked our co-workers about Dragon Boat Festival events and activities we should check out, they said, “Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the days off, they don’t come often.“ So instead, we filled with day by touring art galleries, browsing shops, trying traditional foods, and checking out Chinese graffiti. (photos via instagram @kaylahedman)

Although the Dragon Boat Festival races and other activities were canceled on Wednesday, it didn’t mean that we couldn’t celebrate and be festive!

And now, here’s 18 more unique things about China:

  1. Although people in China eat a lot of rice, they never heard of putting a water-damaged electronic in rice to dry it out. “Geniuses” at one of Shanghai’s Apple Stores said, “Are you sure this is a laptop? Or is it a Transformer?“ I just responded, “After drinking all that water, it got hungry." 
  2. The cleaning ladies in our hotel refuse to make Alaina’s bed if she leaves even one pair of shorts or a business card on it. Now she strips the entire bed to ensure they make it.
  3. China has no services for disabled folk or homeless citizens. Americans should be grateful for the services we and our loved ones have access to.
  4. Hostel website reads, “Chinese nationals can only stay with foreigners if they are married and have a licence.”
  5. One word: FIREWALL.
  6. What we saw: Man walking down sidewalk where there is outdoor dining. He stops at a cooler full of crayfish on the ground, dips his hands in and rubs them together as to wash them, shakes them off on the sidewalk, and walks away. That’s hygiene and clean cooking practices for you!
  7. Another: An old man in a wife-beater tank with lots of keys on his belt loop walks backwards down the busy street our gym is on. There are also a lot of tourists here visiting Century Park. Sometimes, he claps his hands with every step.
  8. Taxis say no a lot, even when you have the address written in Chinese or speak Chinese. Because the city is simply so big, sometimes the drivers don’t want to go that far or they just don’t know where your destination is. They have a star rating system that shows how well the know the city… we always end up with 2’s or lower…
  9. People’s “trendy" clothes. Just imagine. I really appreciate the ability to express yourself, and it’s so fun to go shopping here!
  10. People’s “trendy" haircuts. Even wilder. My personal favorites: the Chinese mullets, rat tails, and boy-band bangs. The girls get upset because they all have straight black hair and want to differentiate themselves with hair dye, permanent texturing, and off-beat cuts and styles.
  11. Speaking of beauty, some girls wear white stickers on their eyelids to create an illusion of a second crease. I think their eyes are beautiful just the way they are!
  12. Men often don’t wear shirts, or just roll them up over their [beer] bellies because it’s hot - but believe me, this style is not!
  13. Pretty sure Chinese people don’t get sick of Chinese food, although it’s very oily. Perhaps I’m just not used to it. Yes, there are many different dishes to choose from, but it mostly is made up of the same staple ingredients. If they do tire of vegetables and rice (they don’t consume large quantities of protein), sources (my local friends) say that they just eat soup.
  14. They love serving animal proteins with all the fat, bones, feet, heads, everything. They just spit it out. No worries.
  15. Just imagine Downton Abbey with chopsticks. Hahahaha. I love these utensils. They make me eat slower because otherwise my napkin-less lap would become a masterpiece of food droppings.
  16. WeChat: an app that makes meeting strangers online cool again - except this time they’re within 100m of you. Yikes! Also, shake your phone to meet people who are shaking their phones at the same time! It’s a helpful app to have though because it allows you to text users you know when you have WiFi. This is an international app, but I have observed how popular it is here.
  17. Not only do things mysteriously get canceled, but often get canceled, postponed, and forgotten about. Here, it’s NBD. Just never expect to have any plans set in stone. It won’t happen.
  18. Disney’s Mulan: accurate on a few accounts. 1) women are often treated like they have no importance, even though Chinese women are very independent and strong willed, 2) honoring one’s family is very important.

More to come! 

Nothing in this post is meant to be degrading or imply that one culture does things right and another, wrong. I am simply sharing differences between Shanghai, China and my home in the United States with other readers so they understand the unique things I am experiencing from day to day. Thanks for reading.