Monday, March 26, 2007

Chinese Homeowner

International Herald Tribune
Chinese homeowner stands her ground
Monday, March 26, 2007

CHONGQING, China: For weeks it has drawn attention from people all across China, as simple homeowners stared down the forces of large-scale redevelopment that is sweeping this country, blocking the preparation of a gigantic construction site by an act of sheer will.

Chinese bloggers were the first to spread the news of a house perched atop a tall, thimble-shaped piece of land like the Mont St. Michel, surrounded by a vast excavated ditch. Newspapers dove in next, finally to be followed by national television broadcasts.

The story of the "nail house," as many here have called it because of the homeowner's tenacity, like a nail that cannot be pulled out, has a universal resonance in a country where developers are seen to be in league with officials and where both enjoy unchallenged sway. Each year, China is roiled by tens of thousands of riots and demonstrations, and few issues pack as much emotional force as the discontent of people who are suddenly uprooted and told they must make way for a new skyscraper, golf course or industrial zone.

What drove interest in the Chongqing case was the uncanny ability of the homeowner to hold out for so long. Stories are legion in Chinese cities of the arrest or even beating of people who protest too vigorously against their eviction and relocation. In one often-heard twist, holdouts are summoned to the local police station and return home only to find their house already demolished. How had this owner, a woman no less, managed?

Part of the answer, which takes only a moment to discover upon meeting her, is that Wu Ping is anything but an ordinary woman. With her dramatic look of precisely combed and pinned-back hair, a form-flattering bright red dress, high cheekbones and wide, excited eyes, the tall, 49-year-old restaurateur seems to have missed a calling in the theater.

On this day, she kept a reporter waiting for a half an hour and then led him on a brisk walk through Yangjiaping, a neighborhood in the throes of redevelopment, with broad avenues, big shopping malls and a recently built elevated monorail line, from whose platform nearly everyone stops to gawk at the nail house.

"For over two years they haven't allowed me access to my property," Wu said, arms flailing as she walked.

Within moments of her arrival at the locked gate of the excavated construction site, a crowd began to gather. The people, many of them workers in grimy clothes, regarded Wu with expressions of wonderment. Some of them exchanged stories about how they had been forced to relocate and soothed each other with comments about how it could not be helped.

From inside the gates, a state television crew began filming.

"If it were an ordinary person, they would have hired thugs and beat her up," murmured a woman dressed in a green sweater who was drawn by the throng. "Ordinary people don't dare fight with the developers. They're too strong."

Another woman, an 80-year-old who declined to give her name, calling herself Wu's former neighbor, described another kind of outcome. "In the past, they would have just knocked it down as decided," she said. "Now that's forbidden because Beijing has put out the word that these things should be done in a reasonable way."

Between frenzied telephone calls to reporters and to city officials, Wu, who stood at the center of the crowd with her brother, a decorative stone dealer who wore his brown hair curled, stated her own case with a slightly different spin, one geared for a new media age in China, where people leverage public opinion and appeals to the national image to influence the authorities.

"I have more faith than others," she began. "I believe that this is my legal property, and if I cannot protect my own rights, it makes a mockery of the property law just passed," she said, referring to landmark legislation approved this month by the National People's Congress on the protection of private property.

Tian Yihang, a local college student who spoke from the monorail station overlooking the site, was full of admiration. "This is a peculiar situation," he said. "I admire the owner for being so persistent in her principles. In China, such things shock the common mind."

In the end, however, Wu may not win her battle. After she and her husband repeatedly turned down offers of compensation, developers appealed to the local housing authorities, who recently obtained a demolition order from the district court.

"During the process of demolition, 280 households were all satisfied with their compensation and moved," said Ren Zhongping, a housing official. "Wu was the only one we had to dismantle forcibly. She has the value of her house in her heart, but what she has in mind is not practical. It's far beyond the standards of compensation decided by owners of housing and the professional appraisal organ."

With the street so choked with onlookers that traffic began to back up, Wu's brother, Wu Jian, began waving a newspaper above the crowd, pointing to pictures of Wu's husband, a local martial arts champion named Yang Wu, who was scheduled to appear in a tournament that evening. "He's going into our building and will plant a flag there," Wu Jian announced.

Asked how his brother-in-law could get inside the locked site and scale the peak where the house is perched, he said, with a wink: "Magic."

Moments later, as the crowd began to thin, a red Chinese flag could be seen fluttering from the roof of the home along with a hand-painted banner that read: "A citizen's legal property is not to be encroached upon."

Foot Binding

AFP Graphic - Sat Mar 17, 5:50 PM ET

AFP/File - Sat Mar 17, 5:50 PM ET

These photos located in Yahoo! News.;_ylt=Am5i9QLMiaRUnbH14NJulJ4mWccF

Surprise! Surprise!

This weekend was one in which I ventured outside of my normal solo escapades and spent quite a lot of time with other people. It was lots of fun, and there were even a few surprises.
First, on Saturday a group of us went bowling. I was the "coordinator", and as such invited people from my three different social spheres. My friends from work couldn't come, mostly because they are on vacation right now. So, there were "the boys" from TongJi (3), my black Canadian friend and her Nigerian fiance, white American girls from TongJi (2), a German guy from TongJi (white), and the friend (from Cameroon) of one of the boys. Oh, and me, that makes 10. The first surprise was that ALL of the black people arrived before the white people. How's that for CPT? The second surprise was that everyone divided along racial lines. We had two lanes next to each other, with the computer screen in the middle. The white people sat on one side, the black people on the other, and me in the middle in the chair behind the computer screen. Now, some of that was because the black people arrived on time, and started bowling, while the white people arrived late. (LOL) But, it was still interesting that race was more important than language (4 of the black males spoke French with one another, while everyone else spoke English), continent (except Africa, but we didn't have any phenotypically white Africans), or association (most of the people know each other from TongJi, but they didn't cross the racial divide after "hello"). Afterwards, the white people left, and the brown people all went out to dinner (yay Punjabi's, 50 块 buffet...and TMW, it was good this time, even on a Sat. night). Then we went to my friend's apartment. We hung out, the guys played a video game for a little while, and then we all watched Babel (interesting but frustrating movie). And the third surprise of the evening? The boys got to see me do something they've NEVER seen me do before. Flirt. LOL. Yup, with the friend that one of the boys invited, who is cute and employed and over 25. I had lots of encouragement too, from my friend who kept forgetting that they all speak English (now that was funny) to the boys who made sure we there was never a dull moment, and ensured that we sat next to each other and walked alone, etc. It was really cute, actually.
Then, on Sunday I went to dinner with my former classmate from Turkey. And, when I went to use the restroom, I encountered this:
Yup, with the warm seat, spray, bidet and drying features.
We also watched a Chinese girl do a 马马虎虎(Chinese for so-so) Belly Dance. And because I know you all want to see it, here's a clip. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


"You see, hope is cumulative. A little here, a little there, until it becomes something toxic. Denial."
- Jeffrey Ruddell Under the Influence, as heard on

I often feel like I have toxic hope. At what point did hope stop being something soothing, encouraging, uplifting, even inspiring? When did my hope turn into this toxic thing that I see before me? At what point does hope become denial? How do you know when to stop hoping, when to give up? How can hope be like a drug? The high is good, but the damage it does is incomparable. I feel like I have hope scars on my spirit. Hope bruises in my brain. Denials damage has been done, and I am standing here, trying to learn the lesson, trying to move on, trying to figure out how to walk through my life. I am working at treading water, keeping myself afloat. I am trying not to feel like my blessings are all tongue-in-cheek, trying not to wonder if the joke is on me. I am failing. I am so tired of trying, I wonder if I can just give it up. Can I kick the habit? Can I be happy without it? It is possible for me to live the rest of my life hope-less?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Putting Up Resistance

Today I updated the song on my Myspace page to an old Beres Hammond song that fits the way I feel about life in general right now. Some of you don't have myspace, and even those of you that do might not have any idea who Beres Hammond is, or know the song. So, here are the lyrics.

Putting up Resistance

Pressure, pressure

No I never can understand it
The way the system plan
There’s no hope, no chance
No loophole, no escape for a suffering man
Cause every time I leave my head above water
And try to save myself from drown
There’s an overnight scheme all worked out
Designed to keep me down

Still I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’m ah gonna work it out
You know I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’ve got to work it out

No window, no window
I want to stay home tonight
I long to spend some time with the family
But staying home won’t make it right
Sometimes the pressure make me feel like murder
When every sign says no way out
Breaking my back to make an overtime dollar
That just goes from hand to mouth

Still I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’m gonna work it out
You know I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’ve got to work it out
Lord I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’m ah gonna work it out
You know I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’m gonna work it out, Lord!

Got to fight it
Got to fight it

No I never can understand it
The way the system goes (pressure)
I don’t know how they do it
There’s only one way things flow
I don’t know how they do it
Cause every time I leave my head above water
And try to save myself from drown
There’s an overnight scheme all worked out
Designed to keep ah me down

Still I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’ve got to work it out
You know I’m (putting up a resistance)
I’m gonna work it out now
Putting up a resistance
I’m gonna work it out

No window, no window
I want to stay home tonight
I’d like to spend some time with the family
But staying home won’t make it right
Sometimes the pressure make me feel like murder
When every sign says no way out
Breaking my back to make an overnight dollar
That just goes from hand to mouth

Repeat Chorus

Putting up some fight
Gotta fight it

Repeat Chorus Out

(Please note: These lyrics were transcribed whilst listening to the song. They are not in any way official and may perhaps contain unintentional errors.)

Friday, March 16, 2007

One Who Is Loving

What is friendship? Well, according to my google search, friendship is:

  • the state of being friends
  • Friendship is a type of interpersonal relationship that is found among humans and among animals with rich intelligence, such as the higher mammals and some birds. Individuals in a friendship relationship will seek out each other's company and exhibit mutually helping behavior.

    And when I looked up "friend", this is what I discovered:

  • This Anglo-Saxon word was originally derived from a verb form meaning, literally, beloved, or, one who is loving.
  • a person you know well and regard with affection and trust; "he was my best friend at the university"
  • ally: an associate who provides assistance; "he's a good ally in fight"; "they were friends of the workers"
  • acquaintance: a person with whom you are acquainted; "I have trouble remembering the names of all my acquaintances"; "we are friends of the family"
  • supporter: a person who backs a politician or a team etc.; "all their supporters came out for the game"; "they are friends of the library"

  • a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?

    Word History: A friend is a lover, literally. The relationship between Latin amīcus "friend" and amō "I love" is clear, as is the relationship between Greek philos "friend" and phileō "I love." In English, though, we have to go back a millennium before we see the verb related to friend. At that time, frēond, the Old English word for "friend," was simply the present participle of the verb frēon, "to love." The Germanic root behind this verb is *frī-, which meant "to like, love, be friendly to." Closely linked to these concepts is that of "peace," and in fact Germanic made a noun from this root, *frithu-, meaning exactly that. Ultimately descended from this noun are the personal names Frederick, "peaceful ruler," and Siegfried, "victory peace." The root also shows up in the name of the Germanic deity Frigg, the goddess of love, who lives on today in the word Friday, "day of Frigg," from an ancient translation of Latin Veneris diēs, "day of Venus."
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    So there we have it, that is the definition of a friend. Reading that reminds me that some of my relatives are also my friends. And some of my friends, well, they are actually just people I know. And as I sit thousands of miles and at least 12 time zones away from my loved ones, feeling sometimes excommunicated, often out of the loop, and frequently unable to help in any meaningful way when help is needed, it forces me to once again remind myself what friendship is. As I watch my closest friends struggle with depression, lack of accomplishment, feeling unloved, raising children alone, vanquished dreams, loss of loved ones and a myriad of other damaging and disappointing circumstances, I am faced with the reality of my own humanity. You see, if I could, I would raise the dead, make dreams come true, change people and heal bodies and hearts. But, I am not Jesus, nor am I a genie with three wishes to grant. I am a supporter, a person you know well and regard with affection and trust, an ally, a person on good terms with another, one who is loving. I am a friend.

    If you ask my mother, she would say that I have always had an unhealthy reliance or dependence on people, and this was especially problematic when it came to my friends. She tried, fruitlessly, to break me of this in order to spare me a lifetime of pain. Friendship brings pain. Loving hurts sometimes, and the people you love have access to hurt you like none others. They know just where the knife cuts deepest, and when they pick up that knife, well, we all know what happens. And even the things that aren't related to you can hurt. It hurts to see the people you love hurt themselves in order to try and ease their pain. It hurts just as much to see them struggle, and still come up short. It hurts to stand by as they make decisions for the now that bring damaging repercussions in the later. It hurts that they are in pain, or struggling, or barely keeping their head above water. It hurts to have people you love walk away. It hurts when you are the one that has to walk away. Friendship, good, tried and true, down for the count, got my back, laugher doubling, tear dividing friendship - it holds potential for amazing amounts of pain. And like any good parent, my mother wanted to spare me of this pain.

    But alas, here I am, at least 12 times zones away, crying tears that are not my own. These are not tears lamenting injustice in the world, or my own helplessness. These are not tears full of words, tears meant for other ears. No, these are the tears that one cries alone. Silent tears. Hot tears. And each teardrop is so heavy with pain, my tear ducts are straining under the weight. And I wish I could take the pain away. But I can't. Somewhere in the back of my mind, there is a voice saying I should pray, but I can't. I am trying to find the right words to say, but I can't. If could I'd fly and be there the next day, but I can't. And in my list of inability, I search for something to remind me of why these people, any one of them, has chosen to remain my friend, and why I have chosen to remain theirs. Because for each of us, this friendship was a choice, and there was some logic, some thought, behind this choice. This decision to remain a part of one another's lives.

    And this empowers me. For a friend is one who is loving. And so, I think of the things that mean love to them (flowers, notes, e-cards, phone-calls, gifts...the only one I can't do right now is a hug), and I speak to them in the language of love. As I said to a friend the other day, my loving them doesn't change a thing, except me, and sometimes, them. And she reminded me that sometimes, it just feels good to be loved. And maybe feeling loved is just what they need. And even if it doesn't change things, it is always a good thing to give, 'cause who ever complained about having too much love?

    And as I try my best to love you, I would just like to thank you. Thank you for all of the moments when you stood by me when you wanted to walk away. All of the times you kept suicidal demons at bay. Thank you for every time you wiped my tears and every occasion you calmed my fears. Thank you for every smile you put on my face. Thank you for every time you brightened my day. Thank you for forgiving my wrongs. Thank you for the times when you watched me hurt myself to try and erase my pain, and stood there until I was ready to hear what you needed to say. Thank you for loving me in spite of me, because of me, unconditionally. Thank you for every moment of tried and true, down for the count, got my back, laughter doubling, tear dividing friendship. Thank You.

    Sunday, March 11, 2007


    So, how was my month off? GREAT! So great that I did NOT want to go back to school. Still don't, but I'll have to get over that pretty soon, eh? My month in Shanghai helped me to realize that I LOVE Shanghai (that's the title of this post). I didn't get to leave China, but I did get a pleasant surprise. My godsister came to visit for two weeks. Yay! I spent a lot of time exploring this wonderful city, making new friends (great folks, really good people), visiting nearby towns and generally enjoying myself.

    So, here are the highlights:

    Chinese New Year - was GREAT! Maybe I need to tap into my extensive vocabulary and use a word other than "great". Naw. LOL. For the eve of Chinese New Year, I went to the home of one of my students. It is the way that the Chinese spend New Year (with family), and it was a good way for me to bring in the new year. We ate LOTS of food. Including a few traditional dishes for luck and prosperity. There was also lots to drink, and I watched a 22 year old small Japanese girl out drink every single person in attendance, including her dad. And she was chillin', her father was so proud of her, talking about how well she holds her liquor. And the firecrackers! Oh my gosh. EVERYONE sets off firecrackers, in order to bring luck and wealth to their households. Then, most people sit on their balconies like we did and watch the multitude of fireworks displays and shows. There were the official ones sponsored by the government, ones put on by companies and businesses, fireworks at the temples, and, of course, the ones from the neighbors (big fireworks are a demonstration of wealth, because everyone knows how much they cost and so people often use them to inform the community that they had a prosperous year). The sky was blue and yellow and orange and green and red and gray. The noise was deafening, often compared to a war-zone, though that has entirely different connotations, I'm sure you get the point. And they went on for over a week. Fireworks going off at 6:00am, 6:00pm and any hour in-between. You can only imagine what the sky, street and Shanghai streams looked like, from the smoke and firecracker casings/wrappers. Nasty. But they got it cleaned up. The city was FULL of tourists here for the holidays while a lot of the residents were in other cities/towns with their families. As a result, the tourist spots were insanely crowded while the local haunts were deserted. So, I avoided the tourist spots like Japanese Encephalitis and went to the places I'd love to have all to myself (including the museum and a few restaurants that are usually crowded). I discovered new places to eat and shop and occasionally wandered aimlessly around the city, talking to random people, trying to practice my Chinese (most frequent topic of conversation: my hair). And I went out with some friends that I don't get to see often, as everyone had the week off. It was a wonderful time. Can you tell I thoroughly enjoyed my Chinese New Year week? It was stupendous.

    The beginning of the month - Great also. There's that wonderful vocabulary. Truly. It was the best kind of vacation.I slept late, enjoyed the sunshine, and learned more about this wonderful city that I live in. I sat in People's Square for an entire afternoon, enjoying watching and talking to people. I went to Shanghai Museum and took pictures. I went out to lunch alone and to dinner with friends. I watched a lot of DVD's. I read three books, maybe it was four, no wait, five. LOL. I read four books before Chinese New Year, and one more during the last week. What else did I do? I went to Zhujiajiao, a nearby water town, which was a nice day out. Oh, and I went to work, of course. I took new routes to old places, and sat on buses from the first to the last stop, just to see where they went. I throughly enjoyed almost every minute of it, and was quite content.

    The end of the month - Having my godsister here for the last week of it (her second week was my first week back in classes) was wonderful. It was fun to show someone else around this city that I live in, to share my favorite spots and general knowledge. And bargain! She is a good bargainer, and we had great fun yelling (me, in Chinese "WHAT! That is too expensive."), claiming discrimination (me, in Chinese "If I was Chinese you would give me a better price", "I want the Chinese price, not the foreigners price", "I'm not a foreigner, I'm Chinese - can't you tell?" LOL), walking out to be summoned back ("okay, okay, I give you"), having the shop owners get angry ("I loose money for you"), making faces (pouting works well for me, because I look like I'm 17) and finding cool things and good deals together. We went to Beijing for two days, which was great. Yup, GREAT. We also took a public bus because it looked like it had the longest route and rode it to the end and back. That was a wonderful way to see the city and we didn't spend a lot of money to do it. We walked through a hutong area, which was interesting. I learned that I am NOT hostel material (go ahead, laugh, I know all of you knew that already, but I tried), and that I am so glad I live in Shanghai. Beijng is nice, but Shanghai is fabulous. We went to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, which was awesome. Quite an adventure getting there, but worth the frustration in the end. It is dramatically less "touristy" than the Badaling section, and quite picturesque. Hard work though, the Great Wall reminds me how out of shape I am. Now I've been to the Great Wall twice, who would've thought? Not me, I tell you that.

    And now, being as school is back in session, and they are providing my visa, I need to STUDY Chinese. I'm working towards fluency y'all, slowly but surely.

    And in case you missed it -

    Friday, March 09, 2007


    What Kind of Crocheter Are You?

    You appear to be a Crocheting Adventurer. You are through those crocheting growing pains and feeling more adventurous. You can follow a standard pattern if it's not too complicated and know where to go to get help. Maybe you've started to experiment with different fibers and you might be eyeing a book with a cool technique you've never tried. Perhaps you prefer to stick to other people's patterns but you are trying to challenge yourself more. Regardless of your preference, you are continually trying to grow as a crocheter, and as well you should since your non-crocheter friends are probably dropping some serious hints, these days.
    Take this quiz!

    Quizilla |

    | Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    I'm back

    First, I am alive. No internet connection for over a month for various reasons. I apologize if any of you were worried.
    Second, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Chinese New Year was great, I loved it and had a great time.
    Third, I have a LOT of work to do, so I'll be back this weekend and tell you all about my month.
    Until then...