Saturday, June 27, 2009


China in pictures (and some words):
Our airplane. Reminded me of a Chinese delivery truck...

Bad omen. First thing they did when we landed in Beijing, scan us for fever with this gun thing they point at your forehead. Ten minutes later, this dude shows up, escorts some guy off the plane. Reminded me of Monsters Inc when that monster got the sock stuck to his back... And apologies for my noob status at manual focus.

This is my ngay gung, Uncle Steve to make things easier. He's my grandpa's brother. He's really cool. He's always trying to convince me to become a doctor, lawyer, or businessman, reminding me that psychologists and social workers don't make any money. I keep telling him that I don't wanna do much school, that I wanna help people, and that I don't really care about being rich. He just says, "If you get rich, then you can help a lot of people! That's what Bill Gates does!" But that's just how he is, he exudes this entrepreneural mentality (which is partly why he became successful in America). A big reason my dad wanted to go to China again was because last time we went (when I was 11), we were with my grandpa, who isn't a real talkative guy. Uncle Steve, on the other hand, is filled with stories and jokes, which he always follows with an unnecessarily high pitched, almost childlike laugh.

All three of these pictures are from hotels we stayed in. Bougie much? Since Uncle Steve has money, we always stayed at these 5-star hotels. Pretty nice, but I couldn't help feeling a strong undercurrent of irony as we constantly encountered poor people in the streets.

The restaurants in Beijing were terrible. Straight up tourist treatment. What kind of self-respecting Chinese restaurant serves french fries?? Insulting.

We visited four main places: Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Toisan. Our time in the first three cities were completely taken up by sightseeing. It was exhausting, just one place after another. This is a picture from a temple in Shanghai. For some reason, I just really like it. The way the monk guy is walking just makes me happy.

Another shot from some temple. Thizzin Buddha. One of my faves.

This is a picture from a famous temple in Guangzhou. A lot of people were there offering up prayers and incense. I kinda feel bad for taking a lot of pictures of them bowing and stuff, but not really. There's something beautiful about people worshipping, even if it's something you don't personally believe in.

That's my mom. We're on a boat on some river in Guangzhou. This was her first time to these parts of China. You can tell her Cantonese is getting rusty.

McDonald's in Shanghai. They have delivery! That is one cool backpack.

Antannas on an apartment building. Poor people gotta get their cable.

Real people doin real things, just trying to make ends meet. To me, this was more interesting than the sightseeing.

Toisan was different. This is where my grandparents and older grew up. Uncle Steve and my grandpa donate a lot of money to this city. Primarily, they've given funds to build a community center and a school. As a result, we get treated like celebrities. Not even exaggerating. We also got a chance to see the old house where they grew up. Again, the irony... it's kinda like when rappers get rich and then visit the hood again. Ok well I'll just show the pictures.

Finally, some real food! Toisan had the best food. Don't drink the water though.

Fikes (fake Nikes) anyone?

These are REAL Chinamen from the village. Long nails, rotting teeth, no manners--that's how we do in Toisan. This is at the community center that some of my family paid for.

This is the old house where my grandparents grew up. It's freakin small. This is the biggest of three rooms. Two families live here. There's one faucet, one lightbulb, and I didn't see any toilets. There's been a lot of development in Toisan, but this house is pretty much exactly the same as I remember it eight years ago.

This is at the elementary school Uncle Steve donated to help build. These kids went crazy when they saw our cameras. Or maybe just the boys did.

In Toisan, money talks. We had people from the school always with us, willing to do anything for us, giving us special treatment only because Uncle Steve was a big donor. I believe he wrote two checks for them on this trip--one for $20,000 and another for $50,000. Ballin.

And what happens when you give hecka money to a school? They build a statue of you. Crazy huh?

And this last picture kinda just sums up the irony of the trip. At the end of our stay in Toisan, Uncle Steve held a banquet for a bunch of people from the village. This old lady sat at our table and took all the leftovers back in plastic bags (they don't have boxes in Toisan haha). She was thrilled when she found out she could take home the scraps, but I wasn't sure whether it was a happy sight or a kinda sad and pathetic one. But I couldn't get over the idea that in this big banquet there were a lot of poor people who probably didn't get meals like this, well, ever. And when we left the restaurant, it began to rain really hard. We headed to our air-conditioned van to go back to our bougie hotel while all the people from the village walked back to their houses in the rain.
On another note, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins got swine flu, which kinda put a damper on the trip. So they've been stuck in Beijing for the past two weeks. Two of them got released yesterday I heard, but two of them are still quarantined, so please pray for them. Scary stuff.
In the end, I guess it was a pretty good trip. I was trying to imagine what it would have been like growing up there, but it's too different. Less opportunity, less money, less comfort... I think we're all spoiled here in America. Maybe one day I'll go back, maybe I'll give some money so I can get a statue of myself too. Either way, I'm pretty sure my kids aren't gonna see much of this culture as they grow up. So sad. Maybe I'll take that Cantonese class...

How much of your culture do you still hold on to?


iamkatinthehat said...

Oh my goodness. First of all your photography has gotten WAY BETTER. And I love that they tell a story.

And about your cool Uncle Steve...I TOTALLY think about that all the time. About having money and helping people, or not having money and helping people. It still confuses me, but hey God can use rich people too...even though that statue is RIDICULOUS(ly cool).

Connie said...

nate, this has given me much to thing about. thanks! :)

aileen--♥ said...

I love your Uncle Steve!!
Funny thing,
I have TWO Uncle Steves!
One is actually related to me.
The other... is from my church. :)
But I totally feel ya about the irony of wealth... I feel that way ALWAYS whenever I got on my mission trip to the Philippines...
We get to stay in nice hotels. And drive in nice vans and jeepneys, while the people we go to HELP stay in their shacks and walk places...
And then we eat fast food, which is bougie in the Philippines, while the rest of them... eat their own homemade homegrown stuff..
I thought we were there to help them. Not to flaunt our wealth?
:) NATE your blog is a blessing! And your writing. I felt like I went on that China trip WITH YOU! And enjoyed it~