this is the archive for the ‘in china’ category:


starbucks abroad


i have a starbucks travel mug, which i got in china. it says shanghai in big letters, and i take it to class every day, filled with tea.
one day, a colleague asked me if i’d gone to starbucks in china, to which i replied that i did. they looked at my mug with disdain, and told me that they’d never do that, their voice dripping with moral superiority… it struck me as an odd thing to say, “i’d never do something”… how do they know?

i didn’t feel the need to justify myself to an almost stranger, but thought about it for a while… and then i realized we didn’t go to starbucks because we particularly liked their coffee (though i respect any brand that has the talent to pull a ‘red bean’ frappuccino…). we went there because it was familiar, and consistent. you know what you’re going to get, and how you’re going to get it – which at times was more than you could say for the rest of the places in the neighbourhood. we went there because when you’re out of your element, feeling misunderstood and lost, you want what is familiar and comfortable. big brands do consistency perfectly, and it can be very soothing.

this is what i should have told him. damned esprit d’escalier!

the best description of stinky tofu, ever!

stinky tofu

“It’s late afternoon and you’re exiting the metro into a flock of hawkers; the lady with a bazillion different notebooks, the cart with cages of baby rabbits and birds, and if it’s winter, the yam guy. Then, before you even see the culprit, you encounter a stench that makes you wonder how a beached whale carcass managed to roll this far inland. You spot the source, an idle square of stinky tofu in a wok across the street. And even as someone who professes “don’t knock until you try” and “don’t be an ugly tourist,” when I first smelled stinky tofu two years ago, I just about blurted out, “who the f*** would eat this stuff?”

shanghaiist nails it! :)

we tried it back in 2009, at my chinese teacher’s insistence… you can read what we though of it here.

olympics

“and so the games started and the country went wild, as expected. for some reason though, i’m not feeling it. shanghai is hot, the media seems to only focus on what they see fit… maybe all this preparation time spoiled the fun of it for me, and after the apotheosis that was the opening ceremony, things somewhat diluted themselves under the intensity at which we are daily bombarded… olympics olympics olympics. so i don’t feel like watching tv or reading tweets about it. hope the portuguese do well, and totally subscribe the idea of nationalizing michael phelps. pretty please?”

i wrote that in shanghai, four years ago, in a draft that never made it into the blog. was that really 4 years ago? funny how time flies. we’ve changed countries and jobs meanwhile, yet this indifference towards the olympics remained. plus we don’t even own a tv this time!

the price of ignoring the elephant in the room

“But the missing from this official story, as it was missing from official reports on the Tibetan riots, is any acknowledgment that Uighurs in general might have legitimate grievances. Grievances about the influx of ethnic Han, the relative lack of economic opportunity, demolition of their traditional cities, limitations on their right to freely practice their religion, or whatever.

That’s a serious omission because, while it is made with an eye on propagating an official story of the spread of development and prosperity, it comes with a long-term price: it inflames the very tensions it attempts to paper over. And it, with marvelous efficiency, it inflames them on both sides. Uighurs are given the impression that their concerns are considered unworthy of acknowledgment by the State, a situation that is a classic recipe for convincing people to take extreme measures. Other Chinese, meanwhile, are deprived of any context for the riots, which feeds into a colonial attitude toward Uighurs that I have experienced firsthand. If you believe that you have given a people nothing but development and progress and economic opportunity, and they rise up against you, then you will come to see them as at best treacherous and untrustworthy and at worst as less than human, with predictable consequences. Legitimate grievances or not, the riots are almost certainly doing terrible damage to the Uighur cause in China.”


“Collective violence is a funny thing. Grievances, hatreds, jealousies, and resentment can linger in the collective consciousness for a long time without being expressed through bloodshed, but the longer it simmers the more extreme the reaction when the barrier is breached and violence enters the repertoire of resistance.

I personally found the wanton violence on the part of the rioters in Urumqi to be abhorrent. But it’s also important to remember, as too many people in the United States failed to do in the aftermath to 9-11, that seeking to understand WHY somebody would commit acts of violence is NOT the same thing as condoning those acts.”

quotes from 2 sensible pieces on the most recent urumqi riots, by Imagethief and Jottings from the Granite Studio, very much worth reading for some context on the situation.
for twitter updates, follow @malcolmmoore and @melissakchan.

bye-bye shanghai!

KT
hello europe! :D