Before filming this most recent short film, I had a lot of doubts as to whether or not we were going to be able to pull the film off. Would I get kicked out of China for saying something bad about the country? Would people allow us to film in some of the settings I was envisioning? Would we be able to get enough help?
My most recent trip to Hong Kong included swimming at beach known as Sai Wan in the northwest of Hong Kong’s New Territories. Despite a little bit of rain, and no-shark-net swimming, there was still a good amount of sun and warm water to be enjoyed. None of the other twenty people swimming yelled “shark!” even once.
Early May, 2013: In the mountains of old Anhui province, my friends, brother and I navigated the ancient merchant trail used for transporting goods between Anhui Province to Zhejiang Province. Known as the Hui Hang Caravan Trail, or Huihang Gu Dao (徽杭古道) to Chinese people, the trail is now a travel destination complete with rustic lodging along the path. Owing to hiking during the week, the trial was pleasantly mostly empty, save for old women selling nuts and water. Here’s how the adventure went.
I didn’t find Jiaxing to be so hot when I first moved here in 2011 but it grew on me as I have met more people and developed myself here. Located at the nexus of four major Chinese cities: Shanghai, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Suzhou, Jiaxing will boom in the next five years.
You know when you keep jumping back and forth about whether or not you want to do something for months and never take action? Good times.
I thought about leaving my now-former employer to pursue my own interests in writing and film for six months before finally doing it. When you fear doing something though, as I did, your mind subconsciously sabotages you so that you don’t take action (at least mine does). The mind is very clever in how it preys upon weaknesses to get you to not take action. Below are some counterproductive self-talk techniques my mind employed in order to prevent me from taking the leap of telling my employer, “Well I’ve learned a lot here but I think it’s time for a change…”
One question I sometimes get asked by the townspeople is, “How did you learn Chinese?” or “Where did you learn Chinese?” It is hard to sum this up in only a sentence or two, but usually I tell them 到处都学 (dao4 chu4 dou1 xue2): I learn everywhere. Many of them may be expecting an answer like, at Bejing Language College or Shanghai Foreign Language University. I tell them that I learned most of it from my friends and colleagues and practice it on everyone I meet. Which is true, though some of my friends have definitely taken on a teacher role for a month or year at a time and that is how I really learned. I have also taken a few classes at language training centers these last couple years, some proving more beneficial than others.
I spent Christmas and New Year in Hong Kong and Zhongshan respectively. Christmas in Hong Kong was relaxing with my aunt, uncle, cousins, and brother. We were able to spend a lot of time together enjoying western food cooked by my aunt, whose food easily ranks among world-class chefs’. Our uncle takes great pictures and so we talked with him about how he gets his photographs. He said he spends a lot of time at it. One could definitely learn a thing or two from him about this. My cousins were home from college so it was great to hang out with them and catch up.
This is a list of my top ten favorite things to do in Zhongshan. As I find is true of most places, it’s mainly the people make that place, so be sure to make an effort to meet some locals, many can speak English, and even if they cannot you can still make friends. My favorite place to meet people is walking through the malls around Walking Street. It’s very easy to strike up a conversation with the shop owners here.
European Architecture In Jiaxing
I once argued that Zhongshan was changing fast in a documentary I made on the topic three years ago, and it seems Jiaxing too is changing fast with tales of shacks to superstructures galore in a mere couple of years. This is the story all over China though. In the city of Jiaxing there are more new businesses and building projects on my block in a month than there is in my hometown in an entire year. Easily the best building projects in Jiaxing however, are the apartment complexes of Paris, Rome, and Venice.
Zhejiang to Guangdong
Zhejiang (Juh Gee-ang) 浙江 Province where I am living currently is a cold forty-something degrees Fahrenheit when I wake up in the mornings, but a thousand kilometers to the south, where I spent last weekend, it is a comfortable eighty degrees. It took twelve hours in total transit time but it was worth it to have some late night dinner outdoors with my old friends and enjoy the tropical Zhongshan evening.