Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three groups of people and the one animal you're likely to see in Beijing

 These 4 groups are ubiquitous all over the city. Whether at the public parks, public square, public transportation of the streets, it's almost impossible to not come across these cohorts at least once a day.

So, who are you likely to come across during your day to day business?

1. Babies (includes toddlers and young children)

They are cute and plentiful. They might smile or cry when they see a foreigner. And need I mention they don't wear diapers? 

Cheering for a team. Head band reads "Let's Go China"

 2. Pregnant Women

Even those in the early stage of their pregnancy can be easily recognize by the pregnant uniform they wear, which is an apron and a pair of crocs. It's a bit more difficult to spot them in the winter season, unless she happens to be at a later stage of her pregnancy. You can easily spot them indoors due to their pregnancy attire.

 3. Seniors

Chinese seniors are active and therefore healthy. They like to go for walks, go for morning and evening exercises at public parks and public squares, take their dogs for walks or just engage in a conversation with their neighbours. In other words, they like to spend time outdoors. Seniors can be found performing Taichi early in the morning, participating in ball room dancing at a public square or using one of the exercise equipment at a neighborhood park.
Picture of Chinese seniors performing their public daily workout or fitness exercise on the city square of Xi'ang, Shaanxi province, China, on 2006/07/09.

4. Small dogs
Due to regulations, residents of Beijing are only allowed small dogs, although I've seen a few big dogs.  I'm not sure if there's a limit on the number of dogs they can own, but it's not  unusual for your neighbor to have about 3-4 tiny dogs, such as the case with one of my (senior) neighbours. I'll also suggest you exercise caution around these dogs, as many dog owners tend to walk with the dog leash in their hand or pocket while the dog just runs around free. Though I've never been attacked or saw anyone attacked by a dog, so I'll say the dogs are generally harmless.

So, there you have it, my list of Beijing's major residents

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gifting on Your Travels- Testing this out in Cuba

While preparing for my trip to Cuba in February,  I read online that it's nice to bring some items to gift to Cubans during ones stay in the country. The reason is because items in our home countries that we take for granted such as soaps, diapers, kids toys and the like are in scarcity in Cuba. Sadly, due to the political situation in the country, the only way locals would have access to such items would be through relatives abroad who sends these items through a friend or another relative or just through tourists who brings these items with them to Cuba.

Because I planned to travel light with just a carry on for my week long stay, I looked around my room for new items I haven't used and also purchased additional items to take with me.
I also took some hair beads with me which I gave to a lady who has two little girls. The black flip flops are actually mine :)

I gave all the items to women I came across while I was there. I also gave 2 pencils and a ruler to a 4 year old who was on his bike enjoying the evening breeze at Plaza de Armas with his father. I also gave some pencils to a man who was asking for money. I have to confess that he didn't appreciate them because he would have preferred money, but since I didn't have any change on me, I tried not to leave him empty handed.

While travelling in Cuba, you'll be approached by many locals who would try to trick you into some kind of scheme or just ask you for money. So, it's advisable that you carry some change with you at all times for this purpose. However, if you happen to be uncomfortable giving out money or rarely carry small change on you, you can instead take some items with you in your bag to give to little kids, women or anyone else you feel might use the item. And don't feel shy about it, infact,  I saw a tourist give out a soap bar to a man on Obispo Street. Just make sure you carry multiples of those items with you because the local might end up sending his/her friend to come get his gift from you.

I would go out each day with some of the items I brought with me in my bag.

All the items were well received, infact, I was surprised at the reaction I got because I wouldn't think they would appreciate the pencils that much, but the women I gave them to were surprised that I actually brought them something.

Who should you gift?
Your waiter, waitress, hotel staff, tour guide, museum and other major landmark attendants and just about anyone else in general.

What should I bring with me when I go to a developing country?
I'll recommend doing a research on what's in need in those countries and then take those items with you. Consumable items and other necessities such as hygiene products, clothing, stationery and kids items will be the safest choices. These items doesn't have to be expensive or be the "latest" in style as anything useful will be greatly appreciated. And if the person you give the item to doesn't have a use for it, he/she can always give it away to someone else or even sell it!

Do you take gifts with you when you travel? Who are some of the gifts you've given to locals and  how are they received?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Site under ANOTHER construction!

El Moro, Havana, Cuba
I apologize for any interruption. But please feel free to read previous posts :)

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Myth: Chinese in China are all skinny and with skin

After several months of Hiatus, I have finally decided to get off my lazy butt and revive this series.

For those who are just joining, Fact vs. Myth China is a blog series that I started a few months ago to discuss some of the stereotypes, assumptions and misconceptions about the world's most populous and mysterious country.

So a big misconception in western countries is that Asians, particularly those residing in their home countries are all petite and fair skinned, with tiny eyes and tiny feet. Well, this is completely not true!
I mean it might have been true prior to three decades ago before China opened it's gates to the outside world for International Trade. See, before this change occurred  China was just like any other socialist country, where every thing was controlled by the government, from your place of work to your diet! So them being small back then was not genetics but a result of the social, political and economic circumstances they had to live in.
Now, fast forward to the 21st century where people are now free to go wherever, eat whatever and have the freedom to be in control of their own lives. This means many can now enjoy different variety and quantity of food if they wish. Infact, the younger generation are now eating too much food (mostly junk food) that childhood obesity is now a big issue in the country.
Generally, most Chinese are still smaller in comparison to other races, but they are definitely not as small and tiny as outsiders might perceive them to be.

But do they all have tiny eyes and small feet? No! they don't, this is because China is a big country with multiple ethnicity. So, people from the North tend to be taller and bigger than the rest of the country. While those from the south tend to be darker and with rounded eyes.  
I also saw (tall) women with an average (size 8-9) sized feet while I was there.  

I myself was shocked by the variety of shapes, sizes, skin complexion and dialects that are present in the country. Because I had thought everyone would look the same, which wasn't true at all!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Chinese New Year! It's the Year of the Snake

Chinese New Year is Finally here! 2013 is the Year of the Snake! This means anyone born in the year of the snake will wear something red (bracelet, necklace, underwear and whatnot) all year round to attract good luck.

This festival will be celebrated over 15days and will be concluded with the lantern festival. I will be taking part in the festivities in Toronto. Hmm I if the shops in China town will be closed during the entire celebration.

If you happen to be in China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and other countries where the Lunar New Year is celebrated, please do make sure you take in as much of the festivities as you can!

Congratulations! Gōngxǐ gōngxǐ (恭喜恭喜)
Happy New Year! Xīnnián kuàilè (新年快乐)

To read about what I wrote last year about the few things I learned about Chinese New Year, please visit my blog post here

Friday, February 08, 2013

Are there a lot of Black People in China?

Yes! a lot, a whole lot! I mean there are so many Black people in China that a major commercial city in the country is referred to as "Chocolate City" due to it's large population of Africans in the city. The Canton city of Guangzhou is considered to have the largest population of Africans in Asia.
About how many Black people are there in China?
Truth be told, no one knows. In Guangzhou alone, there are about 20,000 registered Africans living in the city, but then when you add the majority who have overstayed their visas and are stuck in the country, the numbers quickly add up to well over 200,000.
 Now, lets add up the entire black population in the country, which includes students, diplomats, business men and women, children and tourists. But wait, there's an important cohort we almost left out, which is sadly, Black men and women in Prison. There are sadly tens of thousands (again, the exact number is unknown) of Black people who were locked behind bars for one reason or the other.

So if we include our locked up brothers and sisters, the combined population of Blacks in the city can be as close to half a million.

This is not to say that you'll see Black people on every street corner when you go to China. China is a huge country with almost 2billion people, so half a million is a small fraction of 2billion, which means that many Chinese are still yet to see one of us face to face or even come close to us. Even though I lived in Beijing, I still had locals, including my neighbors point and giggle each time I walked past them. Sometimes I felt like I was living in a small village where I was the only minority.

By Blacks, I mean anyone with an African descent, including those with mixed ethnicity.

Now, how are Blacks perceived and treated in China is a completely different story which will be discussed in a later post.

So, If you have been thinking of visiting or living in China but haven't gone because you're afraid there might not be a lot of  people like you around and even worry you might be treated like an Alien. Well, let me just tell you that there are loads and loads of people like you there, as long as you're in a metropolitan city.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lookbook: Natural Hair in Beijing

 Forbidden City, Summer 2011

Wow! What a long overdue post. I just realized I drafted this post last October, talk about procrastination.
Anyway, back in December, I said I will be posting some pictures of some of the styles I wore my hair in while in Beijing. Since I haven't opened a photo sharing site yet, I decided to give you a sneak peak on some of the styles.

So, here they are and Enjoy

Shrunken Fro

A blow out to make the hair "easier" for my stylist to work with later that day

I got this hairstyle from YT. I did the "Banding Method" to keep my hair stretched over night

"Twist Out" at Old Summer Palace

Fro Hawk. I don't get great twist outs regardless of how long I kept the twist in my hair for. My hair tends to frizz out and revert to its original texture when I untwist the hair. But I'm working on this :)

A kinky twist I did in march 2011 in Canada  I kept it in for 2 months. Took it out few days after this photo was taken during a 24hr train ride from Hong Kong to Beijing. Don't ask me how I did this in public.

Flat Twist with an Afro Puff. Afro Puffs use to be my go to hair style when my hair was shorter but I don't do it anymore.Go here to read about my staple hair style now

I enjoyed these up-dos, however, they take a while to install and I lose a lot more hair with these styles because I have to use a tool to part my hair, which results in a lot of breakage. So I went back to my lazy twists, plus I got tired of locals always asking me how I achieved the hair style, lol!

 I believe this was on my Birthday :)

Decided to put my cheapie conair hair straighter to use. I skipped the stretching/blow out step and just dived into straightening the hair. Nevertheless, it still took me three hours to straighten.
First time I could put my hair into a pony tail, though it took me two years.It's better than when my hair was relaxed, I could never put the hair in a pony tail even after 7years! Also I was proud with the slick and smooth look. Slick hairstyles are one of the styles I can't achieve because my hair is too thick at the roots.

So, there you go. Which style is your favourite? I gotta admit,  I am not as adventurous with my hair as I use to, mainly because my hair has grown long enough to be put in a bun and I am currently working on techniques to reduce hair breakage and combat dry hair, which unfortunately restricts me from being too adventurous with my hair.

For those who lived or are living abroad, would you say you played with your hair as you would in your home country or did you let your hair take a back seat?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Chinese New Year is almost Here!

If you live in a big city with a large Chinese population, you're probably aware of this. Here in Canada, I'm always reminded of major international holidays through a quick flip through grocery store flyers.

While many across the world are preparing to resume their normal schedule after a short holiday, many East Asian countries and businesses are just getting ready to start their LONG holiday. By long I mean an entire month of winter holiday filled with feasting with closed family members, singing, dancing, travelling and exchanging red envelops.
Last year, I wrote about 10 things I learned about Chinese New Year, i'll encourage you to read it in order to gain a fuller understanding of this piece.
A wish/luck tree

If you are currently living  in China, have a friend or family there or may be thinking of moving there someday, here are some tips to help you prepare for the Biggest Festival in the Orient.

                                       Finally leaving my cold apartment to go check out the fair 
Alright, so you've got two options

Try your best to leave the country if you can, just make sure you get your tickets months in advance, because ticket prices goes up in the days leading to Chinese New Year (CNY) and in some cases, non existent. It been said that the largest human exodus takes place around CNY, with about 4 Billion people travelling by air, land and sea. I know what you're thinking 4billion? There aren't even that many Chinese or East Asians living on the planet earth. Well, you know the press these days! So take the opportunity to go visit family back home or be a tourist in a foreign land for a while.
                                                              Closed shops 
2) If you aren't fortunate enough to get an affordable ticket to go back to your home country or to a tropical destination; or may be you're like myself, curious to see how the Chinese in China celebrates CNY, then I suggest you stay to "enjoy" the festivities.

                        I enjoyed my walk to the supermarket and back on this clean and empty street :)

However, if you're gonna stay, make sure you do these things

1) Stock up on groceries, water, get your dry cleaning done, ship out packages and make sure you do everything that's needed to be done before the holiday starts. Because once it starts, almost everyone goes back to their hometown to spend the 15 day holiday with family. This means that small shops and businesses will be closed
This Supermarket was open during the Holidays :)

2) Make sure you've got a pair of ear plugs, because those fire crackers just doesn't stop! especially at night when you're trying to sleep

3) Bundle up, it get's really cold in the winter months and if you are unlucky like myself to be living in a poorly insulated apartment, then you'll need to make sure you layer up, even while indoor.
Spring Festival Fair at Chao Yang Park

4) Have a nice collection of music and videos to listen to and watch during the cold and idle days of the holiday. It wouldn't hurt to have a good book to read as well.
I noticed this book vending machine in my community upon my return after my Christmas Holiday in Canada

5) Go for a walk, big migrant cities like Beijing are like ghost towns around CNY, so take the advantage of nearly empty streets and parks to play catch with a friend while enjoying the (not so) fresh air.

6) Make sure you have a good working camera to capture the festivities at night

7) Attend the fairs at public parks which has many vendors, games, good food and performances

8) If you are lucky enough to be invited to go with a friend to her hometown to visit her family, seize the opportunity and go! Just make sure you improve on your Chinese a little bit and be prepared for awkward situations and compliments like "oh, you use the chopsticks so well!"

Chun Jie (Spring Festival)

9) And finally, like in many countries around the world, theft around a major holiday is very high, so be extra mindful of your belongings when out in the public. Also make sure you lock your doors at home, especially if you live in a shared apartment

Alright, I hope you're a bit more prepared for the holidays now.

再见 (zai jian)