Close to Culture, Close to Creativity, Spot on Asia.

Articles tagged “china

Photo by Devon Wong
Photo by Devon Wong

Seeing Past Appearances: Lessons Learned in a Chinese Spa

Posted on May 9, 2016

“Bryan, you’re more Chinese than me.”

We locked eyes; his blue, mine brown. The moment concluded in an instant as we burst out laughing.

“Yes. I am.”

Here we were, two waìguórén (foreigners) sitting in an opulent dining hall wearing our respective blue and pink bath robes, exchanging stories about life abroad while we munched on pickled cucumbers, tofu noodles, and slices of watermelon. I looked more the part, with my jet black hair and almond eyes, pitted next to Bryan. But after one week in China, I could still barely mutter a xièxie without feeling like an impostor. Bryan had three years on me.  He’d mentioned some of Guilin’s local attractions during one of our lunch breaks at the Chinese Language Institute, and I’d been itching since to investigate this fabled “Chinese Spa”. 

For journalistic reasons, of course.

To date, I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for 4 years.  Dodging traffic and eating questionable street food rarely warrants novelty anymore, let alone an upset stomach.  It has become a way of life.   But walking off the cobblestone streets of Guilin and into one of the town’s most luxurious hotels for a night at the spa was almost…otherworldly.  I had spent a week sightseeing around this “small town” (a small city by Canadian standards).  But it hadn’t yet struck me that this was really it: The ‘REAL’ China, I’d set out to look for.

Photo by Devon Wong

0 Comments

+Read more

Photo by Gary Elsasser.
Photo by Gary Elsasser.

Hong Kong – A City for Dreams

Posted on April 14, 2014

When I land in a city I love, I feel nervous. My countenance turns eager as I try my best to drink in every second, knowing it can’t last forever. After the raw nerves settle, I become thankful for the sweet days I have and do my best to see, to experience, and to pocket away gems of inspiration for the future. A few weeks ago, I experienced this when I travelled to Hong Kong.

To me, Hong Kong is magic. The energy, the attitude, the frantic pace of the city will forever be charming. In most cities, I appear impatient, always trying to get ahead a little faster. “Don’t people know there are things to do, places to see?” I joke. There’s no need to explain this to residents of Hong Kong. Whether waiting for the exit escalator at the MTR station or simply walking down the street, they are the ones challenging my usually most-aggressive walking style and veering me out of the way. It’s a nice feeling, meeting a global counterpart.

In an unfamiliar city, there are certain aspects that are grounding. No matter where I am in the world, I always find inspiration in skylines. Their vast, expansive nature always awakes feelings of wonder in me. Little surprise then after a meeting in Tsim Sha Tsui  that I couldn’t resist walking across the road to the Promenade and staring across Victoria Harbour at the tiny lit-up boxes on the Island’s skyscrapers. Powerful lives and ideas packed together so densely. I wondered, what was being created at that very moment? Perhaps the joy of cities can be encapsulated as places where anything can happen. Cities are places for dreamers, both young and old.

In Sheung Wan.

In Sheung Wan.

2 Comments

+Read more

Men and Women

A Third Kind of Human

Posted on July 24, 2013

What comes to mind when someone utters the phrase “third kind of human”?

A 10-foot tall blue-skinned humanoid? How about a pale-skinned mind-reading vampire? On a recent trip to Shanghai, I learned that many Chinese believe there are three kinds of humans: men, women, and women with PhDs.

I was in Shanghai to participate in a 10-day program focused on higher education policy and planning. Participants came from highly ranked educational institutions from across the globe including Columbia in New York, Tsinghua in Beijing, and Nagoya in Japan. As a new Masters student, I was happy to learn from both my counterparts and seasoned PhD holders who challenged my biases and debated my thoughts. About two thirds of participants were female and I was encouraged that Asian educated and Western educated female students alike were unafraid to ask tough questions and be bold. Being surround by brilliant female minds was energizing; a scene like this is exactly what I like.

Imagine my surprise then, when an informal “get to know each other” session shone light on the elephant in the room: that some of our peers considered the female PhD students to be a third kind of human. At a later dinner in Shanghai, it was explained to me another way. It is also commonly believed in China that there are three types of women and they follow three distinct life paths: second class women marry first class men, first class women marry second class men, and third class women? They get PhDs. In a culture where many still judge a woman on her husband’s success, unmarried at 27 is practically considered a social disease. Parents become embarrassed if their daughters are “leftover” or “sheng nu”. If a woman is smart, and attractive enough to find a good husband, why would she waste her youth and prime child bearing years in school?

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

Source: Flickr, @USDAgov

1 Comment

+Read more

0 Comments

+Read more