Friday, October 24, 2008

Flatheads go to China

so last week, my boss told me that i was going to china, so i got my visa and plane ticket 2 days before i left.

i flew from SF -> Beijing -> Xining (Qinghai province). Qinghai's economy is amongst the smallest in all of China, contributing about 0.3% to the entire country

then we drove to the countryside:

getting closer to our destination:

getting closer.........

you might have noticed that several of the people in these pictures are wearing those special hats. that is because majority of the people in this area are Muslim.

goth muslim ninja woman

Almost at our destination.......

so you're probably wondering why i went to the countryside of rural china .....

they are the reason:

the organization i work with builds elementary schools for less-fortunate areas of china where the government doesnt give them enough funds to build or repair schools. i was out there to check out different locations where we could potentially build new schools for them, and also to participate in the opening ceremony of two of the schools that have already been finished (i'll post those pics soon).

you may have noticed the cheeks of these many of the kids are darkened... thats because this location was 2100+ meters above sea level, in hills where the sun is strong and air is dry. Look at their faces... how could you not want to help them!

the next morning, i wandered around Xining city briefly before getting ready to go to another airport

got myself a morning snack, xiao long bao, little steamed pork bun/dumpling things... i got 6 of them for about 50 cents total

after lunch, i was on the road again, this time a 4 hour drive to Lanzhou airport. in the van, listening to one of my life's biggest inspirations on my ipod:

at Lanzhou airport, next stop Dunhuang (Gansu province):

arrived in the tiny airport in Dunhuang (our plane was the only plane/flight there) in Gansu province, late in the night

Dunhuang is located in the northwestern China situated on the Silk Road where it was a key point of transit for over a thousand of years, resulting in melting pot of culture, religion, and knowledge.

one of the most well known places in Dunhuang is the Mogao Grottoes ("Thousand Buddha caves), there used to be at least one thousand caves but currently there are about 500 caves, each with Buddhist statues and murals, that were made over one thousand years ago.

the symbol landmark of dunhuang, flying goddess playing the pipa behind her head

i hadnt eaten a dinner that night so i looked for a nearby night market

stocked up on a few fruits

went here for a bowl of noodles

got a big bowl of knife carved noodles 刀削麵 for like 75 cents. they take a big chunk of dough and slice off strips of thick noodles, really good for its chewiness.

went back to my hotel room, photographed the jeans

photographed the view from my room

and got some rest for the next day...

our next stop is a small town called Yang Guan 阳关 where we funded an elementary school there to have new a campus, classrooms, dorms, and cafeteria built. today was the opening ceremony and the first time the kids get to use the classrooms. we had to be there by 9am for the opening ceremony, that meant we had to wake up hella early, because to get there we would have to drive across a section of the Gobi desert.

we got there a little late, and the kids were already waiting for us!

after the ceremony (firecrackers, speeches, cut the ribbon, hanging new sign, etc), we browsed the new campus to check everything out.

checking out the new classrooms

look how happy they are! our philosophy is... grades isnt the most important, the most important thing for the kids is to have an interest to learn, to genuinely want to go to school. when new classrooms are built, it gives them more motivation to want to spend time there.

pedo bear approved.

she kept following me...

after leaving the new school, we drove back across the Gobi desert and stopped by a "ancient city", where many movies were filmed

we stopped by a grape farm for lunch, we ate at the farmer's house, where we were served over 30 dishes.

after lunch we checked out a few other school locations where we could potentially rebuild/repair. on the way i saw many cotton fields:

for dinner, we went to another "farmer's house"
folks playing mah jong in the yard:

this place was cool because there was a band that played chinese opera-like music with the chinese classical instuments (erhu, pipa, guqin, drums, cymbals..)


celebrated the opening ceremony over 30 dishes and several bottles of wine... and then had to go to the airport to fly back to Lanzhou . we reached lanzhou around midnight...

the next day we drove out into the mountains to see other potential hope school sites.

we drove for hours in these mountains (dirt roads), we were pretty high up and the whole time i kept thinking "Who the hell lives up here?"

we reached the school:

the classrooms were crumbled or in very bad condition (dangerous for kids), walls were on the brink of falling over, holes in roofs, etc. So the kids were having class in their tents, with no lights....

the sound of my camera made the kids fill the room with laughter

we decided we're going to help this school.

next stop... Shanghai

Flew into Shanghai in the morning, where i stayed for a day and a half before flying back to San Francisco. The weather was perfect so for these two days i literally walked around all of over the city for the entire day/night (in the Flatheads!)

Shanghai's most recognizable landmark:

Pearl Tower in Pudong

beautiful tree lined streets of the French Concession area

Stop by Wujiang Road to grab some snacks

one of my favorites:

Xiao Yang's Xian Jian Bao

went to Xin Tian Di during the daytime to see whats new

then continued walking towards the Bund..

the bustling pedestrian area that is Nanjing East Road

day turns into night

In the evening, i met up with an old buddy of mine who i used to room with when i was studying abroad here 4 yeras ago. we met up at Xin Tian Di, one of the more expensive areas of Shanghai.

looking at this menu, you wouldnt think this was China. a big reason why this area is expensive is because many restaurants here caters to foreigners.

we had dinner at Ding Tai Feng, a taiwanese restaurant that serves excellent xiao long bao.

wallpaper there cracked me up, there was paintings of every chinese celebrity eating xiao long baos... if they really did come eat here they would sign there names next to their drawings.

after dinner, my buddy convinced me to see at least one club before i had to leave town

that concludes my time in Shanghai and trip to China. hope you enjoyed the flathead's tour of China

the Flatheads smell like alcohol, tobacco, sweat, and dirt right now, so i'm going to wash them this weekend... will post pics of jeans when they are dry!