» China: By Journalists Eye XXIV - How to get the picture in Shanghai
China: By Journalists Eye XXIV - How to get the picture in Shanghai
The second day in Shanghai. I slept great, the apartment from Chinese Ministry in one of the most modern hotels in Pchu - tung district, hardly compares to the most luxury holiday model.
Bed for three basketball players, duvets as breath bathroom for princesses, plaintive music, soft carpet ... just deserved relax after all those rushing tours, lectures, visits potentates, hourly crossings, all under the watchful eye of our guide.
But it is the morning and everything starts again. For today, the program is turned slightly and we have 90 minutes of "personal time off". Hooray! I run between all that marble and gold in a circular reception, ironed Asian footman opens the door to me and bows, I choose the direction of the left and walk the nearly empty sidewalk between skyscrapers. Around me everywhere are giants of glass, steel, stone and concrete. The sun's almost has no chance to push the ray down to the ground.
Just a ten minute of walk and the average height of buildings reduced to half. Also street meanwhile are quite full. I watch the garbage collector who honestly classify and treat their catches in bags on shoulders, wealthier on carts behind their wheels. Passersby tie men and ladies with parasols on them or does not establish eye, fortunately they won´t suffer even pair of policemen standing nearby.
Collecting garbage is in China basically a profession, of course, belongs to one of the poorest social class. The government so far has tolerated and silently why: collectors with their catch alive, so it is classified into the last piece of the material was liquidated. Education in this area is in the middle ground yet far behind the poor but is catching their work up that, what the government can´t teach people.
I´m walking between businessmen and officials of both sexes in business suits and costumes and with the necessary cell phone close their ear. All those people flowing into their offices are not up then 1980. Chinese youth ahead! I concentrate on their unreadable faces, I'd love to talk to someone, but there radiates to me the general rush, so I´ll let it be.
"Hallo! Do you speak English? " suddenly hear a voice somewhere behind me. I turn back to see smiling girl that her question really aimed at me. Well, probably not surprisingly, I'm the only white face. I say yes and girl companies me - that would supposedly like to take the opportunity to talk in English and accompanied me everywhere. My journalistic ear is ready and my head formulates the questions.
A young Chinese woman tells me that she studies in high school. It is said her whole life and she does nothing else than to be carefully taught and learned. We want to travel to Europe or America. And the only way, he says, is through excellent academic performance, knowledge of English and certainly another language. She plans study French. I'll listen to a story that comes from poor conditions somewhere in the countryside.
“Did you see the slums of Shanghai old poor district?" asks me the girl and I'm surprised that something like that unleashes the street from her mouth. I have answered in the negative and, unfortunately, also refuse the offer, her to take me to these places. My time limit slowly gets shorter and my group program is waiting to me, that show us China as a beautiful, clean, humanitarian, prosperous and rich. Damn, how much I would like to see the counter...
With thanks, I want to say goodbye and turn it toward the hotel. Student but smiles and cadges from me few minutes more. We are only a few meters from her school, and she can show it to me. It can´t resist a hurry with her. Practically around the corner we really set foot in the alley, cross the sort quadrangle and I find myself in a room full of paintings. School? I do not understand much.
All pupils paint pictures, we have it in the curriculum, this is our studio, the girl says to me and starts to explain what symbols are elements in paintings. Crane - a bird with a long neck, long legs and beak - symbolizes long life, purity lotus flower, bamboo honest man, mei flower that blooms in winter, is a symbol of courage ... in the meantime, in to the door enters another Chinese girl.
How do you like our pictures? Would you like to get anyone? Which one do you think is the prettiest? Questions begin to be ruder. The pictures are really nice, sincere praise all and then show you the one that spoke to me the most. Girls shine and that he took it from them, I can buy it and support it as their school. Damn ... now what? It costs only 200 yuan, we are students, that's a great price!
Those girls probably read from my eyes that I have a weakness for pictures. The one that I showed, I really can imagine at home wall. Time pinch me. Girls are grinds. I have a problem to refuse them and for haggle I don’t feel the right environment. Therefore I open my wallet and the picture is mine. We change our email address and I'm quickly going back to hotel. I have a nice experience, a beautiful memory and good feeling.
Minimalist oil with the face of the Chinese woman sitting behind the desk hangs in my living room for 2 years. I am pleased every day and even blog of travellers to China, which I found a few weeks ago, my happiness won´t take me. Humorously depicts how in Shanghai is possible to get the picture...
Text/photo: Andrea Fantová
The third day we devoured spell of western China and the knowledge that we have somewhere "behind" Tibet is our "ugly," said attractive. There, under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, certainly can´t go, but Tibetan culture we meet at every step.
Qinghai Province fascinates me at every step, or rather at every kilometre. A mixture of Buddhism and Muslim world humbly exist together is incredibly interesting phenomenon, especially for journalists from far, accelerated, often impersonal and intolerant Europe. This time we are heading into the valley that lies in Rebkong area, the centre of Tibetan art in the province.
Till the start of the World's Expo remains less than 11 months. Here in Shanghai the word Expo is inflected to suffer. Sky blue mascot of Hainan - pao exhibition more than a year before the outbreak this exhibition´s madhouse smiles from windows, posters, winks from light boards, and I decided to bring one teddy home.
The first ever Chinese word that I learned, and it still did not forget, is the "pi-jo". If you seem familiar, you are right - though vastly different languages, for favourite golden-coloured brew has phonetically very similar name as Czech and many other Slavic languages. Drinking beer is a hobby that is definitely common with the Chinese.
In China, people drink really everything you can think of. Everyday drink is inherent tea, whether green or black, fermented or semi-fermented. Water and hundreds of species of non-alcoholic beverages are part of food as well as beer or very popular traditional rice wine. On the tables of local "higher" classes but there are also wine from grapes, until recently marginalized drink.
To move on the other side of Euroasia is nothing easy for those who don’t know how. Especially when they are going to have a personal contact with a Chinese family, business partners, or politicians and officials. For such a stay it is good to make some little preparations, otherwise you will experience more than one faux pas.
Walks and rides in Shanghai are an infinite fount of learning unknown and different no matter where it is. I manage to sit down and observe rush around me for half an hour on one very busy avenue.
We have all this Christmas martyrdom behind us, more or less. New Year’s eve after-effects are the past now and everyday life came back again. Far in the east of our planet the holiday season is getting to its peak.
We had many formal meetings during our journey in China with government officials or top managements of some companies that tried to make themselves more visible through us, European journalists. In a hurry after these precisely scheduled meetings I always gathered prepared business cards and carefully placed them to my notes.
We all got used to all these superlatives surrounding China. I wouldn’t exaggerate if I said that she achieved some primacy every week.
If we set off to China it is almost imposible to miss out its capital - Beijing. Beijing is full of traces of history but Beijing also lives in the present and future in every of its wide avenues and narrow streets. Beijing is full of fabulous food, noisy traffic... And so on and on. Where would you look for peaceful moments in busy metropolis?
Our bus finally stops at the end of a long, dirt track, in which about an hour ago has changed as if by magic a modern six-lane highway. My worries we will finish up on the roof, fortunately not materialized, we drove past woods and gouged out before us, football pitch right and green has left. Everything was dominated by ground shabby, battered gray building - school.
Profane language and pornography shouldn’t be on the Internet. We would certainly agree with that if only this wasn’t just a cover for endless clutch of the Chinese Internet censorship. Under the cover of a protection of national cultural heritage, and public interest and prosperity the Chinese government tries to hide its rough cleansing.
Finally Beijing. Our journalistic team has battled a series of security checks and we find ourselves in an endless airport lounge. The feeling that the local crowd have to absorb us was not correct. Then we see a smiling Chinese lady and in minutes everyone sit in a luxury air-conditioned bus.
We are in Shanghai, in a metropolis shrouded by hundreds of "firsts" that is, in the largest Chinese city. One "the best" there certainly lacks – the historic one. Shanghai, unlike many other Chinese cities has relatively short history, after the Middle Ages, you won´t find any foot mark.
China - land of unlimited possibilities, a country which, unlike the developed world is growing and whose economic growth in today's world seems like a miracle. Country with many cultural and historical monuments, a country, that sends a man into space.
China's hard work and discipline accompanied us at every step and a visit of Beijing Foreign Studies University just confirmed it. Here we had a chance to appreciate even more characteristic of Chinese - adaptability.
We are still in the far northwest of China, in the region, which is interwoven with Tibetan culture and history. After dense doses our Beijing hosts are served us bait to persuade Europeans ignorant about the interest of the central government in the development of local underdeveloped economy, improving people's living standards while maintaining support all the attributes of the original culture
From the bus window, we could see Beijing crisscross, authentic atmosphere of the streets and alleys and hundreds of thousands of people in them, but we sucked up in the role of hikers and then of course after "bedtime" is ended with an official dinner with selected potent and our tired guide disappeared behind hotel room door.
Huge China is a country of contrasts. It consists of several climatic zones, there you can find a noisy city full of glass skyscrapers and smog, but also the traditional mountain village with mud houses and rice plantations.
Being in China and not visit the Great Wall is equal to savagery. The official program that the Chinese government has prepared us is this trip only alternative and we have to earn deserve it. From early morning we sit in the Red Hall headquarters of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China and pretend to listen to propaganda papers enthusiastic speakers.
We "elect" could see the Chinese megalopolis through largely a luxury air-conditioned bus with a smiling dude behind the wheel. It is also part of local standard, certainly not just for a small group of natives and of course for wealthy tourists.
When I looked at the city in evening from promenade of colonial Bund, Oriental Pearl enchanted me with its graceful shapes, and I watched long how at it clothed in new and new colours in regular intervals. I do not know, which one suits her most...
After four days in Beijing we packed suitcases and with our guide got on the plane. Before us is a big unknown - we are moving into one of the poorest provinces of China to west to the Tibetan border. It won´t be surprise just for us, but also our girls will visit Beijing - Ai Qing the first time in their life.
Classical Chinese carpets have described Marco Polo in his travelogues, but till today in the world are still not too much to seen and know little about them. I look forward to our visit carpet factories in the province of Qinghai, Xining on the outskirts of the city, to widen my horizons. The lives of local workers I try to plug deeply into the subconscious and try to see the beauty around.
The first dining experience in China didn’t impress me too much. Five stars beautiful hotel, a lot of fuss on arrival our journalistic delegation - a bow and waving fans welcomed us beauties in traditional dress, from the table.
Ancient city of Xian, or Si-an is about 3000 years old. It is one of the most important places throughout Chinese history, since it is here that housed 11 Chinese imperial dynasties. At the time when Beijing was a mere village, golden Si - an shone by bright colours of temples, wide boulevards and architectural excesses.
Morning view from hotel window in Xining reveals a breathtaking backdrop. The city is surrounded by high mountains, over which the sun shines and I'm really looking forward for today's trip, which has sometimes copied the former trade artery between Asia and Europe - the Silk Road. The fact that I wet my feet in the Yellow River, it is still like science fiction.
World media today proclaims that the Chinese state television CCTV triumphantly finished its job and officially opened a new headquarters in Beijing. The futuristic-looking building that should symbolizes the emergence of China on the world stage, journalists dubbed it - thanks to the remarkable shape for her grace in the world called the Chinese "Great boxers."
Exploring the China is join with infinite variety of impressions, perceptions, experiences and surprises for Europeans often shrouded under a veil of mystery, many time but just ignorance. I did get out of this country dominating feeling - China is incredibly colourful. Colourful from drab uniform gray to a beautiful rainbow combination.
Beijing is for us concentration of paradoxes. Endless skyscrapers, luxury living residences, shops of all tech brands on one side and then thousands of artifacts, ancient Chinese culture. We are interested in both of it, but the traditional one is but much more interesting.
Our bus goes on the perfectly smooth highway, where we ones a time meet some man in a hat, with a scarf over his face and a broom in his hand - he is alone, far from him you can´t see anything of civilization, the high mountains on both sides, and he sweeps the shoulder.
If you would like to have a stop in a locality, where the time is passing in another rate of speed, where everyday hunt for activity and stress do not have any chance, so, you arrived to the right spot. It is Yangshuo, small Chinese town, situated in nature karst along Li and Yulong rivers.
To leave the province of Qinghai and thus few days of life in the past, sometimes the century before, it was the more sensitive nature really hard. Local on many places the virgin nature, proud mountain ranges, deep green valleys, vast dry plains, miniature boxes, herds of yaks and colourful mix of nationalities, often pristine civilizations us captivated, amazed, left imprint on the hearts.
Visit of Beijing food market and edibles of all kinds, shapes, smells, often of unknown origin and a long life even more dangerously we were really stunned for a moment and quietly wandering Chinese traders staring at the blonde, which move at a rate of marathon runners. Phew. We are off and miraculously in front of us pleasantly familiar signs shucks "Starbucks Coffee".
Photo: Amy Challen a Jan Lidmaňský