Friday, May 28, 2010

Rest at the Temple

Our rest stop on the hike up the plank staircase through Huanglong (黄龙) in Sichuan province was the Huanglong Temple. It was impossible to stop to rest anywhere else as it was the May holiday and the tourists took up the benches along the routes to rest and use their oxygen tanks that were purchased upon entering the park.
The temple was quiet as most tourists walked around the outside, spinning the prayer wheels. It was an enjoyable moment of rest before hiking the rest of the way up the mountain and looping back down to catch our bus that would take us to Jiuzhaigou. Unfortunately, we walked back and forth between the two parking lots at the entrance searching for that mythical bus--everyone seemed to think the bus we wanted was at another location. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Even the Losers

My apologies to Tom Petty...

Chinese media is buzzing with stories of a few losers. The first comes as a bit of a surprise: unpopular micro-bloggers are paying people to be their fans. These people are paying others to manipulate the number of followers to their micro-blog on Sina.

I know that there are a lot of people whose social skills are lacking, but is it really that difficult to make friends online? To add some perspective, I use the Chinese micro-blog and have 124 followers. That's not bad considering how infrequently I use it and the fact that I write 90% in English (I originally planned on using it to improve my Chinese).

Our next candidate comes from Shenzhen. Shenzhen Daily reports that a man blames a Jissbon condom for ruining his sex life. While using a condom that supposedly would help extend sexual performance, he suffered pre-mature ejaculation, followed by depression. Jissbon refutes the man's claim that it was a faulty condom. As proof that China is opening up to Western ideals, the man filed a frivolous lawsuit against the condom maker.

Note: Jissbon is a Chinese condom brand made in Wuhan. They have the most amusing logo of a smirking condom wearing sunglasses.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dying for a Job

I've tried avoiding writing about this topic, but I can't ignore it any longer. What is wrong with Foxconn? It was reported that yet another employee committed suicide by jumping from the factory in Shenzhen. That's the 10th confirmed suicide attempt by jumping and eighth successful suicide since January. The seventh suicide at the factory was just over a week ago. Never mind that Foxconn had a history of such problems before this year.

Just this year Foxconn established a suicide hotline--a service that was long-overdue for a company that employs 420,000 people in Shenzhen. It also encourages employees to regularly work 12 hours a day to earn a decent wage in one of China's most expensive cities. Never mind that Shenzhen is a very difficult place to make real friends among the throngs of migrants all hoping to make quick money and return home.

When you combine long working hours with an isolated lifestyle (most employees live in dorms on the factory grounds) and employees under the age of 30 who are probably away from home for the first time, depression is likely.

It has gotten so bad at Foxconn that the state-run newspapers are writing editorials about how to fix the company. The government is investigating the company and attempting to prevent future suicides.

Unfortunately, suicide among the young population of Shenzhen is not uncommon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spirited Odyssey

Sunday I joined the Micro Spirits Odyssey, part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic, courtesy of In With Bacchus and Dave from Orange V Vodka. It was an all-day event with tastings, seminars, and food at Butter restaurant.

I'm not much of a cocktail or liquor drinker--I do enjoy bourbon and Scotch every now and then, but a bottle will last six months in my house--so, this event was not necessarily geared toward my tastes. However, I was surprised by what I found. All of the spirits being tasted were produced by small distillers (mostly from New York), and most of the people working the tables were the distillers and owners of the spirits.

There were a lot of fruit-flavored spirits and cordials at the event. I never realized what a difference real fruit makes in the distilling process--it tasted nothing like the flavor liquors I'm used to; it was far superior. Thanks to Philadelphia Distilling for providing me with my first taste of Absinthe (Vieux Carre), which was a fairly enjoyable spirit. Unfortunately, it's difficult tasting straight liquor all day and only the Macchu Pisco table had a cocktail ready for tasting. I had to go to the bar for the rotating cocktails.

The cocktails being served were nothing like what I've seen at the bars. They were muddling fresh fruit like blueberries and strawberries and adding flavored bitters. Some of these drinks had six or seven ingredients. One in particular had too many flavors. The only one I really enjoyed was the Darling Clementine, made with Colorado rum. Of course, I also missed out on trying a few others.

The biggest surprises I had during the day were courtesy of Greenbar Collective and Long Island Spirits. Greenbar makes Crusoe organic spiced rum, which was the smoothest rum I've ever tasted. And it had a great mix of distinct spices. They also make Jasmine and hibiscus liqueurs, which are quite sweet but would make great cocktails. Long Island Spirits changed my opinion of vodka--they produce LIV potato vodka (made from Long Island potatoes). I was resistant to trying vodkas because I don't really like the taste. But LIV had a light, smooth, and pleasant taste--a vodka I would actually enjoy drinking every now and then.

Unfortunately, most of the spirits at the event are not available in New Jersey yet. But I now know there are spirits out there that I can enjoy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Contrasts Among Mountains

I wish I had more time in Songpan. It's a beautiful, quiet city in Sichuan. But, we only had a few hours to walk around as we arrived late in the day and left early the following morning. We did hike a little way up the mountain before it got dark. If there weren't so many other places to visit in China, I'd like to revisit Songpan--it's a nice place to relax.

Some places are amazing as you see the contrasts of the old and modern.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Joys of Social Media

I can now add social media consultant to list of job titles that includes writer, editor, publisher, proofreader, professor, and a few other things I haven't done in a long time. Social media doesn't sound like anything important, but it has provided some great opportunities in the past. I have also met a few people whom I wouldn't have otherwise encountered.

Like most people I started out using social media to catch up with friends--moving across the US and then to China created some distance, and social media allowed me to keep in touch with a lot of people. Twitter came out while I was still in China, and I managed to find a lot of friendly and helpful people. It was because of people I met through Twitter that I was able to create a functioning Web site for Terracotta Typewriter. Many of the same people have also helped to promote the literary journal.

When Jia had her visa interview in Guangzhou, I was able to meet up with one such person. We met at the foreign-friendly Ikea cafeteria for coffee (that was the first time I ever set foot in Ikea anywhere in the world). I met him again at our favorite Guangzhou restaurant a few months later as Jia and I made our farewell rounds. I was then introduced to another person I had "met" through social media.

Most recently, I met with a larger group of people (most of whom were connected with Twitter) at Congee Inc. in Chinatown (who knew I'd find congee that I actually enjoyed eating). Everyone at our dinner meeting had spent time in China (at least one was on the way back to China).

I'm certainly looking forward to TBEX in New York (though I waited too long to buy my ticket and it's sold out) so I can meet a few of the travel writers I've encountered online. And if anyone can get me a ticket for TBEX, I'd be even happier.