Saturday, December 1, 2007

Jane Zhang: China's Mariah Carey?

One thing I've noticed in my travels is that every country seems to have its own American Idol type TV show. China of course is no exception which has its incredibly popular Supergirl show which started in 2005 which was reportedly watched by more than 400 million Chinese fans. Apparently, the show has since suffered some problems (see this article).

One of the problems for Chinese singers in developing any recognition and success in the U.S. and elsewhere is of course the language difference. Jane Zhang (Zhang Liangying - 张靓颖), one of the Supergirl Season #1 contestants may have a good chance of doing so due to her Mariah Carey-like voice, attractive looks and ability to sing in English. Ironically, although her choice of English songs and a Spanish-language song in addition to Chinese during the Supergirl competition impressed the judges, it may have alienated some of the Chinese voters who voted (by text messaging) for Li Yuchun.

Zhang's first album, The One, includes 3 songs in English as well as 7 in Chinese. I've listened to it and although its good, it may be a bit overproduced and doesn't seem to show off her vocal talents fully. On her 2nd album, Update, Zhang takes some risks by veering a bit away from tandard Chinese pop and experimenting with R&B and a little jazz.

Zhang is known, among other things, for her vocal range - from D below middle C to G above soprano C, as illustrated by her performance of Minnie Riperton's 1974 hit Lovin' You on the Super Girl show (see video below)

Here's a video of a live medley performance including Don't Cry For Me Argentina.

And, a Chinese song with a little hip-hop flavor:

One thing I can say for sure is that Ms. Zhang has more talent than anyone I've seen on that annoying America's_Got Talent/ show that they play here in Hong Kong. If that's really the best talent America's got to offer, I'd vote for Jane and I'm moving to China.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Hong Kong Turkey

Well, I missed out on Thanksgiving dinner since I'm here in Hong Kong. Turkey isn't extremely popular in China although chicken is extremely popular. Anyway, Happy Thansgiving to all.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chinese Hip-Hop?

Last week, Lingnan University hosted a Mass Dance competition with all 8 Hong Kong universities sending dance teams. Since I'm living on campus, I couldn't avoid the event since it drew a large crowd. Now, don't be mistaken - I'm not talking about any type of traditional Chinese dance - this was Hong Kong hip-hop_dance style. It was admittedly quite entertaining and obviously the dance teams put a lot of effort into their performances since they were all very well-rehearsed. While I have no problem with Chinese students dancing to hip-hop or any other music they want to, I found it slightly ironic that there wasn't anything the slightest bit Chinese in this entire performance which included lots of music, dance and costumes.

Anyway, this made me wonder where Chinese culture has gone. With 5000 years of musical history, is there not one Chinese rap song that could have been included in this performance. So I did what any inquisitive individual would do in this modern day and age - I googled. There is of course Jin, a Chinese-American rapper who's had at least some degree of commercial success who's had some degree of commercial success. But I didn't find much so I went to a deeper research source - Youtube. Not too much there either, but I did MC HotDog 姚中仁, a Taiwanese rapper who (based on my comprehensive Internet research) seems to be the closest thing China has to a rap star. So as they say in rapspeak- Yo! - check it:

Although I felt a little bit old watching all these young, energetic college students bustin' their moves (can you say that anymore?) to all the modern hippity hoppiest tunes, I felt better when the event ended with a dance to Earth Wind & Fire's hit Boogie Wonderland which goes back to my early youth.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Too Much Caution over "Lust, Caution"?

I haven't seen it yet, but "Lust Caution" (色戒 - Sie Jie), the latest film directed by 3-time Oscar winner Ang Lee, has become very popular in China, especially here at Lingnan University since the story features Lingnan students who plot to assassinate a Chinese officer collaborating with the Japanese during Japan's WWII occupation of parts of China. The film apparently features some steamy sex scenes which China's morality protectors at the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) found to be too explicit for Chinese audiences. As a result, a censored version is being shown in Chinese movie theaters (although I'm not sure if the uncensored version is allowed here in Hong Kong since it has its own spearate censorship laws).

Anyway, a few days ago a student at China University of Politics and Law, Dong Yanbin (董彦斌), sued the SARFT claiming that the censored version of the film (which cut 7 minutes of sexual oriented scenes) infringed his consumer rights to information and fair trade (see this article about the lawsuit). Apparently he's doing this to make a point rather than for money since his suit only requests 500 yuan (about U.S. $67)for emotional damages, as well as an apology and making the uncensored version of the film available to adult viewers.

Unlike the United States, China does not have a movie rating system. The SARFT decides what films are allowed to be shown in theaters and has the authority to censor films, as it did by ordering director Ang Lee to edit scenes found objectionable. Although Lee agreed to edit the film for Chinese theater exhibition, he claims that the sex scenes are a crucial part of the story rather than merely gratuitous. Lee says the relationship between the male character (played by Tony Leung) and the female character (played by Chinese newcomer Wei, Tang) "is like occupying and being occupied, prey and predator, under the backdrop of China being occupied by Japan" and "the irony is that you don't know who the occupier is, the man or the woman." In the U.S., you can see the unedited version, but its rated NC-17.

Reportedly, the court will not hear the case unless Dong provides an uncut version as evidence. If you like irony, you'll appreciate that the uncut version is illegal in China. Here's a promotional trailer for the movie.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Barbeque Hong Kong Style

Last night I got to experience Hong Kong style barbeque. While Americans love to barbeque as much as anyone, Hong Kong people have a slightly different sytle. They have large open areas, often in parks, where you pay a fee which gives you access to a barbeque grill and all the food you can cook and eat. Each person gets a two-pronged fork and you load up each prong with food of your choice then grill away.

You go up to a counter where all the food is stored and take your pick, from a variety including hot dogs, sausages, chicken wings, beef, pork, chicken, sardines, fishballs, meatballs. There are even some not-meat items available such as sweet potatoes, corn, eggplant and bread. Anyway, in addition to eating, its a good way to socialize while sitting around the BBQ cooking your food. I went with some of my friends from the Toastmasters group at Lingnan. Needless to say, a good time was had by all and a lot of food was consumed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

John Rabe - China's Schindler

Last summer, I visited several cities in China as part of a summer study abroad program with Belmont University. One of the cities we visited was Nanjing, an important city in many parts of Chinese history. One of the darker parts of its history occured when the Japanese invaded in 1937 and brutally massacred several hundred thousand Chinese residents which became known as the Nanking Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing (the title of the book by Iris_Chang). I was shocked, not only by the atrocity itself, but also by the fact that I'd never really heard much about it and didn't realize the extent and exceptionally barbaric nature of the Japanese troops which rivaled if not surpassed the worst atrocities committed by the Nazi's. None of the American students in our group had heard of it at all which seems to illustrate the overly Westernized version of history in the U.S. education system.

I bring this up because I just read about a movie being produced in Shanghai about John_Rabe, a real-life hero who most Americans have never heard of. Rabe was a German engineer (and Nazi party member) working in Nanjing when the Japanese invaded who refused to leave i n order to help organize a safety zone which protected a quarter of a million civilians. He also appealed to the Japanese and wrote to Hitler trying to stop the brutal treatment inflicted on the Chinese. The photo below shows members of the Belmont group at the Nanjing Memorial Hall.

The German/Chinese co-produced film, The Diaries of John Rabe is being shot in Shanghai as well as Nanjing and features an international cast including German actors, Steve_Buscemi (playing American doctor Robert Wilson), Chinese star Zhang Jingchu and Japanese actors Teruyuki Kagawa and Akira Emoto. It is scheduled for late 2008 release in Germany and China (American release not yet known). There are several other films dealing with the Nanjing massacre also being produced so it looks like this chapter of Chinese history may finally get some more international publicity.

Friday, November 9, 2007

China's NBA Championship

The NBA season has just started, but in China the championship is tomorrow when the Houston Rockets play the Milwaukee Bucks. More importantly (to the many Chinese NBA fans), China's Yao Ming goes up against China's rookie sensation Yi Jianlian. American basketball fans know that both are Chinese and both are tall although Yao has 6 inches over his younger compatriot Yi, who's only 7'0". Yao also has more experience and has proven himself to be one of the top centers in the NBA. Yi has just begun his first NBA season, but is off to a very good start. While the two Chinese players will be opponents tomorrow, they will be teammates next summer on the Chinese national team in the Beijing Olympics and should be a formidable frontline. The game will be televised in China at 9 a.m. and is predicted to be watched by over 200 million Chinese viewers. The audience will be much more than most of the world's biggest sporting events and I imagine the NBA is saying China, its 意想不到 (Fantastic)!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Hollywood Tries to Curb China's Movie Piracy

I found an article, Hollywood Tries to Curb China's Movie Piracy, about an effort by 2 of the major movie studios to offer low-priced DVDs legally in China. While creating a legitimate market is crucial, it will be very difficult to compete pricewise with pirate DVD sellers who have next to none of the costs that legitimate film companies have to incur.

The article also mentions that "film piracy in China is believed to have cost American studios US$244 million and Chinese studios US$2.4 billion in lost potential box office revenues in China in 2005." While these figures are merely estimates, if they're anywhere remotely close to accurate, it does show that the biggest loser the Chinese film industry rather than Hollywood which I think is believable since most Chinese people prefer Chinese movies due, among other things, to the language difference.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Holy Hong Kong Batman!

Hong Kong is China'a psuedo-equivlaent to the USA's Hollywood and one of the moviemaking capital of the world. Unlike other cinema genres, Hong Kong's action-themed movies were also able to achieve popularity in the West and stars such as Jackie Chan have found worldwide celebrity status as a result.

However, Hong Kong's film industry has experienced a downturn since the mid-1990s due to various factors including rampant piracy of movies and increasing competition from mainland and foreign films.

One of the ways the Hong Kong film industry hopes to reverse this trend is encouraging production of more foreign films in Hong Kong. That brings us to Batman who is currently flying around Hong Kong harbor (Warner Bros sent Hong Kong residents a warning notice of aerial filming). Despite his superhero powers, even Batman seems to be having a hard time with the Hong Kong air and water pollution (Warner Bros. decided to cut a scene due to pollution in Victoria Harbor), but the local film industry hopes he'll be able to breathe some light into the local film production inustry. Scenes are currently being filmed in Hong Kong's Central, Wanchai, Western and Tsim Sha Tsui districts.

The Dark Knight, the latest sequal in the Batman franchise is being filmed here in Hong Kong as well as many other locations around the world. This sequel, to be released in 2008, continues the vigilante plot developed in the 2005 sequel, Batman Begins, and stars Christian Bale as Batman and Heath Ledger as his wickedly humorous nemesis, the Joker.

Monday, November 5, 2007

What's in a 名字 (name)?

Next summer, the Olympic Games will be held in Beijing and China is understandably very proud and excited to be the host country. This sense of national pride is reflected in a news article I saw today which says that about 3500 Chinese kids have been given the Chinese name for Olympic - "Aoyun" which I think looks like this in simplified Chinese characters - 奥林匹克 (although I could be wrong).

Additionally, many Chinese have named their children after the Beijing Olympic Games mascots, known as the "Five Friendlies." These cute characters (and the corresponding number of people names after them) are: Bei Bei (880 people), Jing Jing (1,240), Huan Huan (1,063), Ying Ying (624) and Ni Ni (642). When the Five Friendlies names are combined, the phrase means "Beijing welcomes you!"

To the Chinese, names are very important and usually have some meaning associated with the person. Traditionally, certain surnames have been very common and it is estimated that about 87% of China's 1.3 billion population share just 129 surnames. That's why there are so many people named Li, Chen and Wang among other common names. Interestingly, there are about 5600 Yao Mings (姚明) in China due to the popularity of the NBA baskletball star. However, Chinese are increasingly trying to come up with unique first names (which come last when written or spoken) for their children in order to express more individuality.

On a more local note, I am one of 2 David Mosers at Lingnan University. In addition to myself, there happens to be another unrelated David Moser (also from the United States) who is an English tutor here at Lingnan this semester. This has been a source of confusion for both of us as students and faculty get us mixed up. I don't think its too likely that many Chinese people are going to start naming their babies after us though.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bredesen on China

Tennessee governor Phil Bredesen recently returned to Nashville from a 9-day trip to China with about 100 Nashville business leaders to promote trade between China and Tennessee. On his flight home, Bredesen wrote an article for The Tennessean, Nashville's main daily newspaper, to tell Tennesseans about some of his opinions of China.

"First, an insight about America: The Chinese are willing to do big things; we need to rediscover that audacity here at home. I've felt for a long time that we confine ourselves far too much to frittering around the edges of opportunities — in infrastructure, in transportation, in health care. This trip has crystallized this feeling. Hong Kong has 7 million people, a little larger than Tennessee; I flew out of a new Hong Kong airport this morning that cost $8 billion to construct. Can you even imagine an $8 billion public infrastructure project in Tennessee? With even bigger ones on the drawing boards?"

I've had the same type of observations during my experiences in China. The Chinese have probably become the greatest entrepreneurs in the world. They're willing to take chances and make major investments in projects they believe are worthwhile even though substantial risks are often involved. Americans, on the other hand, seem to have become complacent and sometimes even lazy, willing to blindly rely on the mantra that the United States is (and always will be) the most economically powerful nation in the world. While the United States certainly is still the world's biggest economy, China is gaining rapidly and its annual growth is about 3 times that of the U.S. China takes education seriously and is making an concerted effort to provide better educational opportunities while the quality of the American education system is stagnating if not declining. While I don't think its productive to view China/U.S. relations as an economic race or a competitition to see who can be best, I do think that the U.S. needs to get back to what made it such a successful country - motivation, serious work ethic, serious commitment to education, pride, innovation, etc.

"Second, China is enormous; 1.3 billion people is a quarter of the world. The refrain repeated over and over by our Tennesseans: "You just have to see it to believe it." There are cities in China you've never heard of that are bigger than any city in the U.S. And with that size, there is an astonishing amount of money in China. Shanghai defies description. A lot of what is going on right now has to be a dot-com-like bubble — but it's the underlying wealth to buy these assets that is the real story, and that wealth is definitely there and growing exponentially. China is having its coming-out party."

The enormity of China is one of the first things that hits you when you visit China, especially if you have the opportunity to travel around a bit. China and the United States are about the same size in terms of land mass. However, China has 1.3 billion population compared to The United States' 300 million (world population statistics) and there are many more big, highly populated cities in China than in the U.S. (world's most populated cities) The pace of growth in China is staggering with huge construction projects are going on all over in major cities.

"Third, the political system in China is unique and defies labels. It's not the gray communism that I knew in the 1970s in Eastern Europe; it's not Western-style capitalism either. My best one sentence description would be, "A one-party capitalist country with no Bill of Rights."

I agree with Bredesen that China's political system is unique and defies labels, but I don't totally go along with his description of China as a "one party system with no Bill of Rights." China is technically a one-party system. The Communist Party (CPC) is the sole party in China and, as a totalitarian form of government, clearly exercises a great deal of control over the country's affairs. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that the CCP) always acts as one cohesive political party. From what I've been told by some Chinese colleagues, the CCP is somewhat divided into liberal and conservative factions. Also, while China does not have a Bill of Rights like the United States, it has become increasingly (albeit slowly) more inclined to recognize and protect human rights. China has joined various international human rights conventions although China has its own views on exactly what rights should be protected and to what degree. Although he may not have intended it to do so, Bredesen's description seems to imply that the human rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution should be universal which would be a very arrogant assumption. From talking to many Chinese people, especially college students (who tend to generally have more liberal views than older people), I've found that the Chinese have slightly different ideas about what rights are most important and the extent to which government should protect or restrict those rights.

"And fourth, we need to work hard to open more doors to China. I want more trade missions, and I especially want more Chinese students here and more American students to go to China. For the past century, America has been the higher education destination of choice in the world. After 9/11 and the massive visa restrictions that were put in place, Chinese students looked elsewhere. Places like Australia and parts of Europe are now where many of them go. We lost an invaluable franchise, and we need to regain it."

I absolutely agree with Phil on this one. Educational exchange programs should be expanded since this is one of the best way for young people from both countries to learn more about the other. The Chinese want to learn about America. When you visit China, you'll find Chinese people who want to talk to you to practice their English. Students I've met while teaching here at Lingnan University tend to be very inquisitive about the United States and I've heard some very perceptive non-critical comments from them about differences in culture which American students are not likely to be aware of since most know next to nothing about China and its culture. We need to do more to encourage interaction, exchange, learning and cooperation. The United States and China are likely to be the two most dominant nations of the 21st century and the more they can learn from each other and act cooperatively, the better off both (as well as the rest of the world) will be.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Asia Photos

I've been doing some sightseeing here in Hong Kong and taking a lot of photos so I decided to put some online. Feel free to take a look at my Asia Photo Collection if you like. I'll be posting more as I get the chance. Since I've seen some great photos of the Hong Kong skyline and harbor taken from Victoria Peak, I went there with my camera a few weeks ago hoping to get some good shots myself. However, I found out that's impossible on most days due to the high degree of pollution in Hong Kong these days. From the peak, you couldn't even see the harbor with the thick layer of smog filling the sky. I've had better luck at some other locations though.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Chinese Students Choose EU Over US

An article in yesterday's edition of China Daily mentions that more Chinese students are attending universities in the European Union than the United States. While a few years ago, the U.S. was clearly thought to be the best place to get a college education, that view seems to be changing. Here in Hong Kong, students seem to talk about wanting to study in England, Australia, and Canada as much as they do about the U.S. While U.S. universities are still a fairly popular destination, they aren't by any means the only destination of choice.

I can't say that I'm too surprised since I've definitely noticed a decline in the quality of the American higher eduucation system over my 12 years teaching. Universities have become more business-oriented, focusing primarily on recruiting and keeping students (which translates into profitability through tuition) as well as fund raising. Obviously, universities have to be concerned with being financially solvent and there's nothing inherently wrong with that, but if its at the expense of educational standards, there's likely to be some negative long-term consequences.

I've personally witnessed a strong trend toward stressing entertainment in the university setting. What used to be considered "extracurricular activities" have risen to a level at least equal to (if not above) classes. Even in the classroom, there is a great deal of pressure on professors to provide entertainment in their courses. I'm by no means opposed to extracurricular activities (which can be a very important part of the college experience) or to making classes entertaining as much as possible. However, I think this can be taken to extremes which tends to result in less focus on academic rigor, dummying down of course content, and less educated graduates. As American universities are focusing more on entertainment and profitability, maybe non-U.S. universities have an opportunity to take over in terms of providing the best education. I've noticed during my limited experience so far in Hong Kong, that academic standards seem to be a bit higher than what I'm used to in the U.S.

It may be that trying so hard to satisfy students short-term interest in being entertained while in college may not be in their best long-term interest. Of course, if recruiting students and keeping them for 4 years is the overriding concern, then it may not matter so much what happens to them after the 4 years is over. I guess it just depends on what your priorities. are.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Asian Millionaires

An article in today's issue of China Daily describes the relatively high degree of growth in Asian millionaires. According to the article, Asia's economic growth helped 200,000 people enter the millionaire club in 2006. The number of people worth at least a million US dollars in the Asia-Pacific region increased by 8.6% in 2006 to 2.6 million, constituting 27% of the world's millionaires according to a study by Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.
Overall, the wealth of Asian millionaires was $8.4 trillion, with Japan accounting for 43% and China about 20%. Of course a million ain't worth what it used to be so for those of you who aren't impressed, the Asian region's share of super-rich (with assets over $30 million) increased by 12.2% to 17,500, exceeding the global rate of 11.3%.
What does all this mean? I don't know for sure, but it seems to be another of many indications that Asia is experiencing greater economic growth than the rest of the world. Also, maybe it means I should move here permanently to have better odds of becoming a millionaire.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lingnan Congregation

Lingnan University had its Congregation ceremony for last term's graduates today. I attended the ceremony for undergraduate and graduate students. Although the ceremony is very similar to what I've experienced at American universities, there may be a bit of a cultural difference reflected. While parents here are as proud of their sons and daughters as anywhere else, the audience applauds respectfully for each graduate as their name is announced. In the U.S., there's sometimes almost a competitive aspect to the proceedings as parents, relatives and/or friends in attendance try to outcheer or outscream others. Sometimes it even seems a bit like a circus with whistles and all kinds of other noisemakers. While this is merely a way of celebrating, maybe it also illustrates the difference between an extremely individualistic culture such as that of the U.S. and the more community-oriented culture of the Chinese.

In addition, Lingnan's new president, Yuk-shee Chan was officially installed in a ceremony attended by Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang, who put his foot in his mouth a few days ago by saying that democracy might lead to a Cultural_Revolution-like climate (see this article). Mr. Tsang kept away from such controversial statements at Lingnan.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Brits Get Rich in China

I found this series of videos on YouTube about British entrepreneurs seeking their fortunes in China. It seems a bit sensationalistic to me, but kind of interesting. It shows the naive "gold rush" mentality many foreigners have about doing business in China (very cheap labor & 1.3 billion people to sell to) and how they routinely find out that easy money isn't usually easy and doing business in China has many pitfalls as well as opportunities. Here's Part 1 of the series & the other parts can be found here.

Monday, October 8, 2007

China: Taking Over the Internet

Asia is already the region of the world with the greatest Internet use and this is extremely likely to remain the case for the foreseeable future. In fact, Asia's share of Internet use is very likely to increase as more and more of the huge populations of China and India (1.3 billion and 1.1 billion respectively) get connected. Here are some Internet statistics that I find very interesting. Based on the numbers, it doesn't take a genius to realize that Asia, and especially China, is the place to be for many types of Internet-oriented businesses.

China is clearly the country with the greatest potential for growth. There are already 162 million people in China with Internet access (not even including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), second only to the United States' 211 million. China is almost guaranteed to overtake the U.S. within a decade or so since the percentage of the population with Internet access is still only about 13%, leaving huge room for growth. The United States is over 60% as are other highly-developed countries Japan and South Korea. China's economic growth has averaged around 10% annually for the past 10 years (the highest of any country in the world) and this is resulting in a rising percentage of the population being raised out of poverty with discretionary income to spend on things like Internet access. China curently has about 1.31 million websites which is about a 60% increase from 2006 and continues to increase rapidly.

If all this isn't impressive enough, China currently has over 600 million mobile phones which means that about one out of five mobile phone users in the world is Chinese.

Internet statistics are available on the Internet at the Internet World Statistics website.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Special Olympics in China

Next year, China will host the summer Olympics which, in addition to its importance as an international sporting event, will also be a spectacular showcase for China to the rest of the world. However, there's been a lot of news coverage lately about the Special Olympics currently being held in Shanghai, China (see this article or this one for example). This year's Special Olympics will involve 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities, including 1200 Chinese athletes (the largest national team in Special Olympics history).

The importance of this occurence can't be underestimated for many reasons. For one, this is the first time the Special Olympics has been held in Asia where people with disabilities haven't generally received the same degree of support that they get in the U.S. and other Western nations. China, with its 1.3 billion population, obviously has a large number of disabled citizens - its estimated that there are over 60 million people with disabilities in China. Historically, the disabled were mostly hidden away at home in China and received little government support. Since the 1990's, that's started to change gradually with the enactment of laws protecting people with disabilities, government support programs and aid from private organizations.

Last Summer, while co-teaching a study abroad course from Belmont University, we visited a school for the disabled in Nanjing (see accompanying photos). Out of the many exciting things we saw in China, this was one of the experiences that seemed to stand out the most for the students. While the school was nothing special by American standards in terms of its facilities, it was clear from the dedication of the staff and the attitudes of the students that they were getting education, training and attention that could help them lead better lives. One of the teachers told us that some of these students were barely functional before coming to the school, whereas with the training and support they received, they could communicate and express themselves reasonably well, despite their disabilities. Hopefully, the publicity from the Special Olympics in China will lead to increased attention being focused on helping the disabled in China and elsewhere.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Lingnan Toastmasters

Yesterday, I went to a Toastmasters meeting. Toastmasters is an organization that helps people improve their public speaking ability. There are clubs in 90 countries that meet weekly or bi-weekly for 1-2 hours. During meetings, several members make short prepared speeches (generally about 5-10 minutes) and there’s also usually a “table topics” portion where people volunteer to give a very short (1-2 minute) impromptu speech on a topic chosen by the session host. Although this can be very intimidating, its great experience in thinking on your feet (both literally and figuratively). Since most people are afraid of speaking in public, Toastmasters provides a great way to conquer that fear and develop confidence since everything is done in a friendly way.

Anyone, the meeting I went to was at the Lingnan Toastmasters group. Several students and one guest from another Hong Kong Toastmasters club gave speeches on the topic of “heroes.” The standard superheros like Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman weren’t the wiiners though. Instead, it seemed that to the members, the biggest heros of the evening were anyone willing to take the chance to get up in front of the group to speak. As I was listening to the student speakers, I kept thinking how difficult it must be to make a speech in front of a fairly large audience in a language that isn’t your native language. All of the speakers were Chinese, but the speeches were all in English. Although many of the speakers were nervous, they all managed to get through it and do a good job, making some good points and even using some humor.
If I had to make a speech in Mandarin Chinese, I’d be pretty nervous and would probably end up saying something that no one would understand and I’d have a hard time filling up anywhere near 5 minutes. After all, there’s only so many times you can say ni hao (hello), wo shi meiguoren (I am American) before you have to just give up and say zaijian (goodbye). Of course, my fear of public speaking has diminished greatly since I started teaching since I speak to a classroom audience regularly, dazzling them with my genius and wit (as evidenced by the photo below).

Note: This photo is not from one of my classes, but I have observed this reaction on occasion. I gues that means there's always room fro improvement. End of speech - Until next time, Zaijian!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Freedom of Speech?

I'm teaching a class called Legal Aspects of Business at Lingnan University in Hong Kong and have been discussing the Hong Kong legal system with some comparison to China, England and the U.S. One of the things we've covered is the basic freedoms that are guaranteed in jurisdictions with a legal system based on a Constitution (or Hong Kong's Basic Law) . So it seemed a bit ironic when I just saw a new story about a student at a John Kerry speech in Florida who ended up being arrested and shot with a taser gun by police, apparently for exercising his freedom of speech. Like just about anything else nowadays, the scene was caught on video (see below). Of course, there are some limits on freedom of speech, but from watching the video, it seems like the guy was simply asking some questions although he may have been taking up too much time. He also might have been playing it up a bit as the police tried to escort him out, but it certainly didn't appear like he was inciting a riot or anything else that would be deemed impermissable forms of speech.

Freedom of speech under the First Amendment gives people the right to protest as long as they do so peacefully. There were some student protests against the Iraq war last week so maybe that's an indication that the Constitution still has some practical value. I particularly appreciate a quote at the end of this article which desribes a student protesting the protest with a sign saying "Get your ass back to class," but acknowledging that although he's opposed "to the ideologies of the protest, he still appreciates the fact that Americans are able to protest." Maybe our legal system still has some hope.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The public relations folds at Belmont University have put together a little announcement on my sabbatical here in Hong Kong at here. I went out Friday evening with some other Lingnan faculty members to a restaurant at Hong Kong Gold Coast, a resort area not too far from campus. We had a table on an outdoor patio with a nice view of Castle Peak Bay. Some of the Lingnan faculty live in the apartment complex there and its also home to Chinese pink dolphins (the sea, not the apartments).

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Chinese Movie Market Growth

According to an article I came across recently, Chinese B.O. to Make A Great Leap Forward, the movie industry in China is growing rapidly. By the way, the "B.O." in the article title stands for Box Office (revenue from movie theater ticket sales) rather than any other type of B.O. you might be thinking of. Its predicted that Chinese movie theaters will see a 15% increase in revenue this year, taking in about $400 million (compared to $340 million in 2006). A sizeable portion of this revenue comes from foreign movies shown in China such as blockbusters “Spiderman 3”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End”, and the recent Harry Potter, each earning around $13 million. However, domestic Chinese film also account for a substantial share. Chinese filmmaking also seems to be becoming more diverse. In addition to the martial arts-based epics, Chinese filmmakers are increasingly exploring other themes.

One recent example is Ang Lee's erotic, spy thriller “Lust, Caution” which recently won the top-prize at the Venice film festival. The film involves a student acting group in Hong Kong during WWII. The group's patriotism inspires them to assassinate a Chinese official who is collaborating with the occupying Japanese forces. The female star (played by newcomer Tang Wei) seduces evil official (played by veteran Hong Kong actor tony Leung). Moving from Hong Kong to Shanghai , the heroine becomes increasingly embroiled in her real-life role. The film also stars Joan Chen and pop star Lee-Hom Wang.

In addition to involving a serious plot, "Lust, Caution” also includes explicit sexual content and relaistically portrayed violence. Lust, Caution" is planned for U.S. release in late Septemeber and has received the most restrictive NC-17 label in the United States, banning viewers under 17. In mainland China, portions of the explicit content had to be cut for exhibition in theaters.

Monday, September 10, 2007

China's Loch Ness Monster

As a child, I was fascinated by legends of the Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as Nessie. While reading the China Daily newspaper today, I came across an article about China's Nessie (although they don't call it that so I'll dub it "Tessie"). It turns out that for over 100 years, there have been occasional Tessie sightings in Lake Tianchi (Heavenly Lake) which is located in northeast China's Jilin Province, bordering North Korean.

A Chinese TV reporter claims to have seen some of Lake Tianchi's alleged inhabitants a few days ago and shot a 20-minute video as well as some photos of 6 loch ness type animals. One photo supposedly shows the creatures swimming in 3 parallel pairs. There have been over 30 reported sightings by Chinese and foreign tourists in the past 20 years, some of which took photos and videos although apparently none are clear enough to determine exactly what has been photographed or recorded. Tessie has been described as a blackish green dinosaur-like creature with a round, black head with horns and scales on its back.

Lake Tianchi is a 1,243 feet deep, volcanic crater lake located at the foot of the Changbai Mountain. Rumors that the 373 m lake is the home of some kind of monster have existed for over a century although scientists claim the lake is too cold for large creatures to survive and that the lake's volcanic activity would not be too hospitable. Nevertheless, whether Tessie exists or not, like Nessie, the legendary monster is sure to attract tourists curious enough to want to get a look for themselves.

Friday, September 7, 2007

iPhones in China

Apple's iPhone (a combination cellphone & music/video player) is off to a mixed start. The iPhone apparently has not been selling up to the company's expectations in the United States so Apple reduced the initially inflated price by about $200. However, this angered people who had already bought iPods. Apple CEO Steve Jobs's initial response was basically tough luck, but after this further angered purchasers, he must have realized that pissing off your most loyal customers probably isn't the best public relations strategy and Apple announced today that it will offer $100 credits to people who bought iPhones at the initial $599 price (see Jobs Apologizes: Gives $100 Credit).

Ironically, while American consumers are griping about the iPhone price, some eager consumers in China have been paying about 3 times the U.S. price for iPhones that don't even work fully (Chinese are paying up to U.S. $1170 for phones that can make, but not receive calls). More ironically, Apple is not selling the iPhone in China yet and does not plan to introduce iPhones to Asia until 2008. The phones being sold are either counterfeits or legitimate copies being illegally sold in China (See Unauthorized iPhones on Sale in China). Here's a video showing one of the fake Chinese iPhones:

Apple's decision to release the iPhone only in the U.S. initially seems to me like a big mistake, reflecting a company that is ignorant of the Asian market and the reality of globalization. By ignoring Asia, Apple is passing up the chance to sell iPhones to the vast majority of potential customers for the device. Mobile phone use is extremely prevalent all over Asia, from highly developed countries such as Japan and South Korea to lesser developed countries including the India and the Philippines (see Cellphone Users by Country). China has the world's largest number of mobile phone users (around 500 million) and the number of Chinese mobile phone users is likely to keep growing substantially due the increasing middle class with disposable income.

Now I realize that Steve Jobs has a lot more money than I do, but being the profit-hungry, capitalist he is, I'd think he'd be working frantically to secure deals with Chinese (and other Asian nations) wireless service providers to offer the iPhone (which may admittedly not be easy). Consumers in Asia that want iPhones and can afford to pay for them are going to get them, whether they're legally available or not. Not having them available legally gives more time for fakes to take over and dominate the market. With the high prevalency of counterfeiting in China and other countries, businesses must figure out how to make their products legally available in all markets for their products in order to have a chance. Ignoring the majority of your customer base which results in buying imperfect, illegitimate copies just doesn't seem like good business sense to me. C'mon Steve, get on the ball or at least on the iPhone.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Beijing Pop Festival

Beijing will be rocking this weekend as the Beijing Pop Festival brings 30 bands to the stages in Chaoyang Park. Performers include foreign superstars as well as many popular, but lesser known foreign and Chinese bands. Saturday features performances by headliners Public Enemy and the New York Dolls as well as Chinese groups such as Joyside and Wang Feng. Sunday’s lineup features Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and the godfather of Chinese rock, Cui Jian (who was banned from performing in Beijing for *** years). Other acts include Brain Failure and bands from countries including England, Russia, Japan, and Sweden.
This type of event, featuring controversial artists like NIN and Public Enemy shows how much China has opened up in the past few decades. However, according to a Los Angeles Times article, this is just the latest in a series of social and economic juxtapositions that have become commonplace as China opens itself up to the world with increasing rapidity. They see government approval as official acknowledgment that Beijing, as it prepares to host the world at the Olympics next year, must expand its artistic offerings if it is to emerge as an Asian cultural capital.

There are still significant challenges to bringing foreign musicians to China since the Chinese government's Ministry of Culture must approve concerts by foreign performers and getting approval is anything but easy. The festival promoter, Rock for China Entertainment, had to submit detailed biographies of each group as well as lyrics to all of the songs to be performed well in advance of the concert. To gain approval for controversial rap group Public Enemy, promoter Jason Magnus described them as band with a ocial conscience and champions of America's black underclass. Somehow I can visualize Flavor Flav (at least in recent years) as a champion of anything other than himself, but who knows what the Chinese will make of him. Maybe the next thing will be a Chinese Flavor of Love TV show airing on CCTV.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Song of Pig: Over 1 Billion Served?

China probably has the greatest potential for growth of the music industry despite the huge problem posed by piracy. With its huge population (1.3 billion) and rapidly expanding economy which is resulting in more and more Chinese people with disposable income wanting entertainment, both domestic (Chinese) and foreign companies are hoping to sell various music products in mainland China.

One example of the great potential involves a Chinese young lady and a pig. 21 year old
Xiang Xiang became a famous pop star in China after writing a song about a pig which she recorded at her home with a computer and digital editing software, then uploaded to a Chinese free music site. Although likely an overestimate, one of the websites that hosted the song for free download stated that it had been downloaded about 1 billion times in China, Singapore and Malaysia.

Xiang Xiang didn't make any money directly from the many downloads of her song and she even stated that "It's unprofitable to publish a song on the internet . . . There's no money." However, the attention she attracted was noticed by a Beijing record label which signed her to a recording contract and quickly produced and released an CD.
Xiang Xiang's CD sold over 800,000 legal copies in China which is a huge amount in China (or anywhere else for that matter). So Xiang Xiang managed to make some money after all (royalties from CD sales). Of course, despite the large number of legal sales, there were undoubtedly many more illegal copies sold as well as downloaded (which Xiang Xiang receives no income from although others certainly do), but at least this proves that there is the potential for a serious legal music market in China. If a pig song can do this well, I'm getting to work on writing Song of Dragon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

James Clavell Asia Novels

James Clavell was a British author who wrote several novels set in Asia (Hong Kong, Japan & Singapore). Clavell’s interest in Asia was sparked by his actual experiences. He joined the British Royal Artillery at age 16 and fought the Japanese in Malaya where he was wounded by machine gun fire, captured and became a prisoner of war at Changi Prison in Singapore. This could not have been a good experience since Changi was notorious for poor living conditions and the brutal treatment of prisoners by the Japanese. Its therefore somewhat surprising that Clavell’s novel’s generally portray the Japanese in a positive light, especially the samurai culture portrayed in Calvell’s most famous novel, Shogun.

Clavell’s writing style was highly descriptive, enabling readers to visualize exotic places they’ve never been to and know next to nothing about. Although fictional, his novels are partially based on historic events and contain a lot of information about Asian history, culture and Western stereotypes. Although his book are very long (over 1000 pages), they're very east to read and hard to put down once you've started them.

Clavell also lived in Hong Kong in the 1960's where he wrote Tai-Pan, the plot of which involves European and American traders who develop the highly lucrative opium trade with the Chinese in 1841 after the first Opium War. Like all of his novels, Tai-Pan is loosely based on fact; in this instance Clavell fictionalized the story of Jardine Matheson's beginnings as an opium trader in Hong Kong (Jardine Matheson is still one the the biggest companies in Hong Kong). The book’s main character is Dirk Struan, an extremely ambitious, opium trader who helps found the British colony of Hong Kong and becomes Hong Kong’s "tai-pan" (supreme leader).
Although Struan is a ruthless pirate and opium smuggler, he also has more admirable qualities including loyalty, generosity, openness to cultural differences and willingness to learn from them. While many of the Western characters view the Chinese as inferior human beings, Struan develops much more respect for the Chinese and their culture - learning their way of doing business, having a Chinese mistress who he actually falls in love with and has a half-Chinese son with. Tai-pan paints an exotic and often realistic picture of early Hong Kong, many aspects of which are still present (relentless pursuit of wealth & power, free trade and business-friendly government, horse racing, mixing of Eastern and Western culture) into a highly entertaining adventure/love-story/pseudo-history.

Clavell also wrote a sequel to Tai-pan, Noble House which takes place in Hong Kong during the 1960's. The story of the Noble House business empire, founded by Dirk Struan, picks up with a new tai-pan, Ian Dunross, a descendant of Dirk Struan who has to rescue the family business from mismanagement by partnering with an American millionaire and simultaneously fighting off a competitor descended from Dirk Struan’s enemy in Tai-pan. Noble House became a best-seller and became the basis for a 1988 TV miniseries starring Pierce Brosnan.

Clavell is one of my favorite authors and I've read all of his Asian novels. I recommend them highly for anyone who wants to get a decent introduction to some aspects of Asian history and culture in a very entertaining way. Who knows, it might even lead you to want to know more as it did me (I've since read many books on Chinese history).

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hu's on 1st?

Found another funny video on YouTube about President Bush trying to find out who the president of China is (based on the Abbott & Costello classic Who's on 1st? comedy sketch). In order to understand the clip, you need to actually kow that China's current president is Hu_Jintao.

I remember watching the Abbott & Costello show reruns when I was a kid and even now, over 50 years after they originally aired, these shows are still hysterical. For those of you too young to remember, Abbott & Costello were a comedy duo who appeared first in live theater performances, then radio, film and television. Their famous Who's on 1st? routine involves Bud Abbott (the straight man) telling Lou Costello who the players in a baseball team are. The only problem is that each players name is easily misinterpreted (e.g., first baseman "Who").

Thursday, August 30, 2007

China's "Virtual Police"

Beijing police announced that they will start patrolling the Internet using animated "beat officers" that pop up on a user's browser and walk, bike or drive across the screen warning them to stay away from illegal Internet content. China takes elaborate steps to police the Internet for content that the government believes unsuitable, including profanity, nudity, illegal gambling, and of course pirated music and movies. Beginning September 1st, these animated cartoon cybercops will appear on many of China's top Web portals, including Sohu and Sina, and by the end of the year will appear on all websites registered with Beijing servers.

The cartoon cops are intended to get Web surfers attention and remind them that authorities can and do monitor Internet activity. The male and female cartoon officers (shown above) will give a text warning to abide by the law and tips on Internet security as they move across the screen in a virtual car, motorcycle or on foot ( guess they aren't yet equipped to give e-tickets and make arrests).

For more info., see this news story from USA Today. If you're interested in how China monitors the Internet, see a report on Internet Filtering in China for 2004-2005 (probably a bit out-of-date already).
According to a friend in Beijing, this blog is not readily viewable in China probably as a result of the Chinese government's filtering technology. They may be blocking access to all blogs since its hard to enforce regulations against anyone with a computer, especially if they're not even in China.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

America is Doomed

I guess a lot of people are already aware of this video, but I just saw it for the first time last night on the David Letterman show. I've had my doubts about the future of the United States in recent years, but if the children are our future, this is conclusive proof than a once great nation is doomed. When I was a kid, Americans feared the Soviet Union might supplant U.S. superpower status. In later years, we feared Japan might buy up the U.S. & now many believe China will overtake us economically with a few decades. However, I think our own ignorance is our greatest threat & if you doubt it, this Miss Teen USA contestant from South Carolina is living proof that the "U.S. Americans" education system is in serious trouble.

Although Miss Teen South Carolina has received a lot of negative attention as a result of her response, not everyone thinks she's that ignorant. In fact, she received a call from President Bush, who told her that he understood her response perfectly and offered her a job such as like Attorney General of the U.S. Americans.

For those of you that still don't understand Miss Teen SC's answer, here's a map that sums it up succintly.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

China's Oscars

Most Americans are unaware of Chinese movies other than the rare crossover such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the Chinese film industry is pretty significant (including films produced in Hong Kong & Taiwan as well as mainland China) and will likely continue to grow. China’s version of the Oscars (The Huabiao Film Awards) took place in Beijing, Aug. 26, 2007 and was attended by Chinese movie stars such as Jet Li and Zhang Ziyi as well as many others most Westerners have never heard of.

Romantic blockbuster
The Knot (Yun Shui Yao) was the big winner with awards for Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Playwright, and Best Film Technology. It is also the first joint blockbuster film production between Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. There were co-winners for best actor and best actress - Chen Kun (The Knot) and Fu Dalong (The Forest Ranger) for Best Actor & Li Bingbing (The Knot) (shown in photo) and Ding Jiali (The Lane Premier) for Best Actress.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Mandarin for Business

I just read this article about the increasing importance of learning Mandarin to do business in China. According to the article:

In China, the era when overseas executives could rely on translators is ending. Authorities now require top executives at securities firms to pass written and oral exams in Mandarin, the national tongue, and Chinese managers expect meetings to be conducted in their own language."An executive can probably get by without speaking Mandarin, but the one who does will have a much better chance of succeeding," says Helen Cheung, a director at Executive Mandarin, the language school where Image studies. "It makes you seem more intelligent, more involved than the foreigner who just sits
there and smiles."

Congratulations on getting rich

Saturday, August 25, 2007

See Hong Kong Video

Another gloomy day here in HK. It rained on and off all day so I stayed in most of the day since I'm feeling slightly sick. I did get a new refrigerator delivered to my flat today the old one died a few days after my arrival). So the highlight of my day was getting a few things at the grocery store, including another one of those dragonfruits since I've decided I like them. Hope I'll something more interesting to post soon.

Friday, August 24, 2007

One Country, Two Systems

One of the interesting things about Hong Kong is that, although its part of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC), it operates largely independent of the Chinese government. This is due to an agreement (the Sino-British Joint Declaration) reached between China and Great Britain under which Britain agreed to give Hong Kong back to China (it had been acquired in 1842 as a result of the Opium Wars). Under the one country, two systems policy, the PRC has authority over defence and foreign affairs, while Hong Kong has its own laws and is mostly self-governing. As a result, Hong Kong is a unique mixture of Eastern & Western cultures. I found this video containing part of the turnover ceremony as well as some scenic footage of Hong Kong on YouTube.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hong Kong Photos

Here's a couple photos of Hong Kong harbor I took from a hotel window. I'll have to try taking some from Victoria_Peak sometime.

Here's another shot.

Learning Chinese in Hong Kong

I'm sitting here listening to the news in Chinese. I don't understand much of it, but I can pick out a few words and phrases at least due to my taking 2 semesters of Chinese back at Belmont University. You might think that living in Hong Kong would help me learn Chinese, but its not as simple as that. Most of the Chinese people in Hong Kong speak Cantonese (common in southern China) rather than Mandarin which is the official language and common in northern China. Although the written language is the same, they sound very different. Plus the written Chinese language consists of characters and you have to memorize about 5000 of them to be fairly literate from what I've been told. At this point, it seems like I'll need a lot of luck (the characters above) to become anywhere close to literate.

I need to find a tutor (maybe a Mandarin-fluent Lingnan student) to work with while I'm here in Hong Kong or I think I'll forget most of the little I've already learned.

Zaijian (Goodbye) for now!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jet Li & Chinese Censorship

I came across this news story today about Chinese action movie star Jet Li, who is upset about his Hollywood-made movies being unavailable in China due to Chinese censors. The Chinese government still exerts very strict censorship on entertainment content (movies, music, books) made available in China. China also has market access restrictions on foreign movies (only 20 are allowed in Chinese theaters each year) and has recently instituted a pre-approval requirement for music offered online by foreign companies.

Of course, none of this means you can't find most of the banned movies, CDs, etc. in China - its just that you can't find legal versions. These regulations have the indirect effect of giving pirates a huge advantage over companies that want to sell their products legally in China. For example, a website illegally offering music downloads isn't going to bother with getting approval just as the vendoes of pirated CDs and DVDs all over China aren't concerned with which titles have been censored by the Chinese government (some of them are probably their best sellers). The article states that censors cut scenes from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," claiming the portrayal of Chow Yun-fat as a "bald, scarred pirate" insulted Chinese people. However, I'm sure many Chinese people purchased pirate DVD copies of the film which were probably available even before the film's offical release.

China certainly has the right to implement its own laws & regulations, even if they differ from Western legal norms. However, these censorship and market-access restrictions operate as a huge barrier to companies wanting to do business in China legitimately while giving pirating operations a big advantage and making pirate copies the only purchase option for Chinese consumers. Maybe if enough well-known Chinese actors such as Jet Li as well as popular musicians, etc. voice their concern, some type of compromise can be figured out.

Day 4 at Lingnan

August 17 - I got my Lingnan ID card today which gives me access to the library where I can check e-mail (haven't been able to get access in my flat yet). I checked my 4 days worth of e-mail messages & also checked out 2 books - China: A New History by John Fairbank & a book about Zheng He.

I hope to do some sightseeing soon, but the weather is a bit of disincentive. Its been raining a lot since I got here (remnants of the typhoon that's been hitting southeast Asia) and its extremely hot & humid. Hopefully, it'll start to cool off a bit before too long and be a bit more comfortable for exploring. There's a bunch of places I want to visit, but one that wasn't on my to-do list until someone here suggested it to me today was MongKok - known, among other things, for having the highest population density in the world. I'm not a big fan of crowds, but I guess its worth cehcking out just for the spectacle.

Day 2 in Hong Kong

August 15 - Went to the Administration office at Lingnan to have photo for ID card taken. As I was sitting waiting, 4 young Westerners came in (also there for ID card photo taking). Asked one where she was from and it turned out they were recent U.S. college graduates working as English tutors for a semester. When she asked me where I was from and I answered Tennessee, another young lady said "Are you Dr. Moser?" I was a bit taken aback since I apparently didn’t realize the extent of my worldwide fame, but it turned out she’s a Belmont grad & I had talked to her father at Spring graduation. We chatted for a few minutes and then went to lunch which was fortunate since I had no food and was going to venture out on my own in search of sustenance anyway. We took a bus to Tuen Mun Centre (about 5 minutes from Lingnan) where there’s a large shopping mall complex. Found a restaurant there, ate lunch, took bus back to another mall closer to Lingnan with a grocery store, then walked back to campus. Among other things, I bought a dragon fruit (native to southern China), lychee fruit (I love these), Chinese Oolong tea (the best tea according to many sources) and honey (to put in tea & relieve my slightly sore throat).

After putting away groceries, I headed over to the business college building. Being an Asia veteran, I’ve learned to take an umbrella whenever I go out in the summer and my training proved valuable as rain began almost immediately after I left the apartment. The business college here is in the Ho Sin Hang Building. I’m guessing Mr. Ho put up some money (the Jack Massey or Mike Curb of Lingnan?). Since classes don't start til 9/3, Mr. Ho’s building & the rest of campus is fairly deserted right now. Wandered around campus a bit in the rain (thank God for that umbrella) then went back to apartment.

So now I sit here writing this while sipping my tea. I wonder if putting honey in premium Oolong tea makes me a foreign devil in Chinese eyes, but regardless it does help my throat a bit. Besides, in some Hong Kong restaurants, when you order hot tea, you get tea with milk in it & a Lipton bag. I wonder if this is one of the imports resulting from British colonialization? Opium and Lipton tea with milk -what a proud legacy. OK, I'm sure I'll find some more positive British influences as well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Arrival in Hong Kong

August 14 -I arrived back in Hong Kong on 8/14 from Manila since I spent a few weeks there visiting friends, relaxing & doing a little scuba diving at beach resorts in Bohol and Subic Bay. Unfortunately, a typhoon hit during the last 5 days (almost constant heavy rain & wind). The good side is that it cooled things off a little bit from the normal oppressive heat & humidity, but the bad side is it limits beach & diving activity plus it made me sick (sore throat & cough).

I took a taxi from the airport to Lingnan University rather than try to navigate the buses since I had 2 large pieces of luggage. I had no problem finding a taxi, but the driver only spoke Cantonese (fortunately I had written out the Chinese characters for Lingnan University & Tuen Mun where Lingnan is located). No problem getting to Lingnan although since I couldn’t communicate with the taxi driver, the best I could do was have him drop me off at the university entrance. I said xiexie (thanks) and he responded with a look of surprise & a litany of what I assume were Cantonese words. I said "Wo bu dong, wo hui shua yidiar Putonghua (I don’t understand, I speak a little Mandarin). He seemed pleased with this and grinned so I uttered another xiexie & ventured off to the Security office & got the access code for the building & apartment I'm staying in.

The apartment ("flat" as its referred to here) is pretty nice - living room, small dining area, small kitchen, 2 bathrooms, one main bedroom with a small adjoining room with desk & huge closet room & 2 small bedrooms (probably for visitors with kids). The apartment has wireless Internet, but I’m not able to connect since I don’t have a password from Lingnan yet (will check on this tomorrow). TV gets 4 channels, but 3 are in Chinese (too bad I don’t know enough to understand much of it yet). Went to bed early (around 10) since tired and still a bit sick (sore throat a cough) from typhoon weather in Philippines.