China {take two}

Something mysterious and magical happened over here when Google packed up and left China last week… WordPress suddenly works?! I’ve been scouring CCTV for insight, but so far it seems to be an undocumented, unprecedented occurrence – perhaps there is still hope for free speech!

Heading into month three on my second tour of this wild and vast country… some food for thought (and digesting if you are so brave) from the studios of Broad Town where we are quickly cranking out a pavilion for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo to open in just 30 days:

The flight: Flying during the Chinese New Year means everyone except the hoards of screaming babies are in good spirits. Thank the gods Hong Kong airport has a Burger King.

Week One: I live in what is arguably the first truly sustainable building in China (not to mention earthquake resistant to a magnitude of 9!). My apartment is beyond gorgeous and spacious and the antithesis of what I see around me, but not SO far off  base from the Shanghainese luxury apartments designed by the likes of LV himself and selling for more yuan than you could ever withdraw from a Bank of Communications.

Week Two: Celebrating the “end of the new year” might seem like an oxymoron, but then again, have YOU munched freshly picked strawberries and sipped ‘Great Wall’ wine from a roof deck amidst twenty-some-odd firework displays? A celebration indeed. And this new year (The year of the tiger, aka the year of me and everyone else born under the 1986 stars) I made another resolution that lasted a week, if not less. I resolved to not eat chicken in China based on an early Saturday excursion to a market where I witnessed countless birds become de-feathered and much worse not inches from my face. As stomach-churning as this was, hot pot is just so wonderful that a soon broken resolution cannot be helped!

Week Three: The western world has taken hold of the east and it’s grasp is unshakable. We delight in McDonald sundaes, KFC Meal #2, and the world of Walmart where you can hand scoop rice, custom order sushi and buy a four disc collection of Elvis or the Eagles cds for less than two dollars a pop. Heaven on Earth?

Week Four: The pavilion changes daily. Hourly, even. New thoughts and new people are tirelessly thrown into the mix. I hear some architecture folk get tired of showing up for the same routine bathroom detail day in and day out. Well if this isn’t the furthest thing from that then I don’t know what could be! In addition to “architect”, I’m thinking “video editing/producing pro” might be in the cards.

Week Four-point-five: Strangest massage of my life: a room of a dozen “beds”, two flat screens and fully clothed. Not what you’d think, eh?

Week Five: Y2K came and went but when Google’s threats to retreat from the world’s largest and most likely powerful country it was like doomsday a-coming all over again. Gmail? Google Earth. What did these officials mean when they announced in Beijing that they would not even wink as Google packed up the billiards tables and colorful swivel chairs? Our work here depends on the good folks in California’s brain power as much as my projects did in Prague, when I was first introduced the ups and downs of Sketchup. And yet, just as surely as the Chinese had predicted, the internet but blinked and in a millisecond replaced “.cn” with “.com/hk”. And yes. Gmail and its entourage still exist. However big a deal this still is to people around the world, I assure you, 97 percent of people here hardly noticed the redirect. Chairman Mao is beaming. I’m sure of it.

Week Six: Flying by at the speed of the Maglev in Shanghai. Or greater. Now if only the rain would shimmy it’s way down to southwest China and help those poor drought victims. If only…

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