Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Anthropomorphic Case Study on Space

Among several things, Architecture is a study of space and how we move through it. We spend countless hours examining space trying to coax beauty, meaning and function out of our built environment. Yes, we strive for that perfect balance of that ethereal aesthetic in a functional arena that one can navigate with physical, emotional and psychological comfort to truly celebrate the space.

Then, there’s downtown Shanghai….a city of 18 million people with another 4 million that commute into the city on a daily basis. Space what space! I actually saw a sign on the back of the taxi driver seat that said “please be patient with me, I will be serving 3 million people this year”!! Space what space…Brain dump everything that you’ve learned about space and thrash the idea of your 3 foot radius “personal space”…It doesn’t exist here! This has been one (noticed I said one cuz there’s more to come) of the most difficult things that I have had to deal with so far.

Christina and I were at Yuan Gardens on a weekend (strike 1) because we wanted to go to this “famous” (the Chinese love this term so I will be using often) Xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) restaurant (strike 2). Anthony Bourdain featured this place on his No Reservations Show on the Travel Channel so it was crowded with both locals and foreigners. Needless to say there was a really long line. So like a good citizen I got in the back of the line to wait for my turn at a table. I swear I literally had about 8” to 12” between me and people still saw that as enough space to cut in front of me. I was dumbfounded. Christina keep saying stand closer and don’t let anyone get in front of you to which my response to her was “ I’m so damn close to the lady in front I think I’m having sex with her”!

In the end, “no soup for us”! We finally gave up getting pushed and shoved every which way and settled for a Panini at Starbucks (strike 3).

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

California Love

One of the things that I love to do when we travel is go for runs around the city, especially in the early morning. You get an opportunity to see an honest city, you know, like seeing your new girlfriend before she puts her make up in the morning. It allows a sneak peek behind the scenes of the back alleys and all those nooks and crannies that really define the city.

When we first arrived in Shanghai I took a week before I started working. Still jet lagged, I would go for runs in the wee hours of the morning. It was surreal. Shanghai is definitely a city with mask on, or as a good friend so appropriately put it …”it’s lipstick on a pig”. I tend not to wax such witty metaphors and simply say that this city is “wonderfully fucked up”. I’ll elaborate on this many more times…trust me.

Going back to surreal nature of my run; I’d suit up, do my stretches, pop in my IPOD and hit the road. No joke, the first song of my first run in China was Tupak’s “California Love”. I’m smiling to myself as I turn on Nanjing Road and see all the old Chinese folk doing their morning exercises. It’s beautiful…imagine the juxtaposition of Tupak’s lyrics “….California knows how to party….in the city of LA….in the city of good ole Watts…in the city…city of Compton…we keep it rockin’…we keep it rockin’…”

I turn my head to the right to cross the street and a scooter hauling slaughtered pigs almost knocks me on my ass. The next song that comes on as I pass all the early morning Xiaolongbao (soup dumpling) street vendors on Maoming Lu is (Hey Baby) Que Paso by the Texas Tornadoes. Now I’m laughing out load and thinking to myself “where the hell am I and how did I get here”…. Insert here….. “Once in a Life Time” by the Talking Heads.

Monday, April 28, 2008

disregard the date and time

Please disregard the date and time of all my postings for next few weeks. For those that know me I’m sure you understand and for those who don’t, let me explain.

I’m a product of the early 80’s so unlike today where 5 year olds are whizzing around laptops and negotiating their way around website to website I’m still trying to figure out where the on/ off button is. Hell, if it doesn’t have gears and pulleys I don’t want anything to do with it. I have the Midas touch in reverse. When in comes to technology, everything I touch breaks or simply goes haywire (I miss the typewriter). I promised friends and family that when I got to China I would begin my indoctrination into becoming “technopolized” (e-mail, skype, blogging,etc...) so I could keep in touch and let them know how we are doing here. I figure what better place to begin my decent and brainwashing into the “dark side”. I mean, I am in China for goodness sake! They do brainwash here don’t they? And it should be a haven for technology since everything is made here..right? With no family (other than Christina who is always working) and few friends, that made all the ingredients for a good time to delve into the world of cyberspace…..WRONG!

Not only is the Internet speed slow (I never thought that I would pray for dial-up speed!!) but there’s the Great “Fire" Wall of China. I think someone told me that we have 5 censor gates that we go through every time that we access a website. (side note: if some government official is reading this right now, I’m just kidding about everything I just wrote.) China is the most beautiful, wonderful, fantabulous-est place on the earth…. but I digress.

The point is I finally figured how to blog in China. I can write and post but I cannot access my own blog. Wonderful stuff huh? Anyway, I’ve been keeping a hand written journal and I am going to transcribe some of the more interesting stuff here….so please disregard the date and time of all my postings for next few weeks.

The Accidental Asian(s) in reverse

Before I start this blog I would like to give credit where credit is due. I've been tossing around a lot of different titles for a blog and I ended up being drawn to the "The Accidental Asian" which is the title of a book by Eric Liu that describes his life as a ABC Chinese struggling with his cultural identity. Although I can somewhat relate to the experiences that the author writes about, my experiences begin in reverse. What I mean by that is that my ambivalence of culture and self identity recently came to the forefront of my consciousness not as a child but as a "formed" adult and not in the US but just recently in China.

A little background on me to put everything in context:

I am of Filipino descent but was born in Oshogbo, Nigeria, raised in Mano River, Liberia (until I was 13) and went to school in Los Angeles, California. My wife Christina is half Swiss/ German and half Korean who was conceived in Vietnam but was born and raised in California. We are both living and working in Shanghai, China and these are our adventures......