Tuesday, April 30, 2013

On a serious note, Chinese-Japanese relations…

When I came to China, I really didn't understand the complexity of the relationship between Japan and China.  Even now, I think I can only scratch the surface.  As a Japanese-American, I never knew why there was tension between the two countries.  I realized that some Chinese people hated all the Japanese.  I've heard of cab drivers who abandoned passengers in the middle of nowhere when they realized they were Japanese. Also, that some landlords here would not lease to a family if they had a Japanese surname, even if Disney was paying the expenses.  In the US, I was so bliss-fully unaware.  I mean, I was Japanese, AKA the "good" Asians.  If others had stereotypes of us, they were "positive" stereotypes.  We were clean, paid our bills, were good at school, quiet.  I must admit, many Japanese quietly felt that somehow, they were "superior" to other Asians.  But that was a long time ago.

The current controversy is over which country has claim to a small island in the Pacific - called Diaoyu Island to the Chinese and Senkaku Island to the Japanese.  Which country has mineral rights, etc.  Now, this is the tiniest of tiny islands, and up till now has been owned by a Japanese man, who sold it to the Japanese government.  Seems simple, right?  But he would not consider selling to the Chinese, even thought the Chinese have been fishing on this island for generations.  Right-wing politicians on both sides became involved, fanning the Nationalistic pride.  There were some protests here in China, and some violence and vandalism toward Japanese owned businesses.  I was told by the US Consulate if anyone should ask, I should tell them that I am a US Citizen and nothing more.

I am aware that some Asian countries still hold hostilities because of long ago wars.  In the early part of the 1900's, Japan tried to take over most of Asia.  I had always thought this was more "arrogance" by the military and the Emperor, but never considered the actual violence that had been inflicted by soldiers during wars.

Then I read the accounts of the "Rape of Nanking", this is the occupation of the city of Nanking, then the capital of China, after the fall of Shanghai to Japan in 1937.  I won't go into details, but it is beyond horrific.  The Japanese and Chinese numbers conflict, but somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 people were massacred, many in the most brutal ways.  Many stories were recorded by US and European missionaries, and blurry black and white photos were taken.  Honestly, it made my skin crawl.  The son of the Emperor supposedly gave the order to kill everyone, and no POWs would be taken.  What was done to the people is as bad or worse than what was done to the Jews in Poland under Hitler.  Many people were tortured before they were killed.

The reason that the massacre in Nanking still resonates, is the Japanese government has until recently refused to acknowledge it even took place.  It's like if Germany said the Holocaust never happened.  Now, the Japanese government condemns Nanking as the doings of a small group of soldiers, or as an unfortunate war-time occurrence. They try to downplay how bad it was.  I think the politicians feel their country cannot admit to this "losing of face", that their soldiers did these horrible things.  But by doing this, the other Asian countries especially China and S. Korea, feel Japan is minimizing the incident.
     I've read articles by Japanese scholars that encourage the government to admit to the horrors, and then  move on.  Germany has owned up to it's own history, and has since taught tolerance in their schools.  This might be the way to move away from the past.

During the recent earthquake in Sichuan, the Japanese government offered assistance, but the aid was refused.  The on-line postings went both ways.  Some felt that because there were military bases near the earthquake site, it was unwise to let the Japanese too close.  On the other hand, many felt that since Japan suffers many earthquakes, they have lots of equipment, expertise and building techniques to share.  And that the Chinese government should put the immediate needs of the victims above old politics.

Many Chinese have a "love/hate" relationship with Japan.  They love Japanese TV, pop culture, movies and food.  There are many products that people will only buy if they are imported from Japan (milk, eggs, baby food, cosmetics).  But most of the TV villains are Japanese - like in the US all the villains for a while were Middle Eastern.  Very subtle, but widely accepted.

How do I feel?  I was sad and ashamed when I learned what the Japanese soldiers did in Nanking.  Not only because I am Japanese, but because I am a human person.  I know that many men actually become something other than human in war situations.  That does not excuse anything.  In Iraq, in Haditha, the murder of a village by US troops is beyond understanding as well.  But of course one incident, no matter how brutal, does not define an entire group of people.  All we can do is try to understand, and accept the past.  And teach our kids that relationships between countries are only as good as between people.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Shanghai International Auto Show

Chris attended the show on Saturday, and took some great pictures.

This is a partnership between
German and Chinese manufacturers
Ford focus race car

Urban Assault Vehicle?
Blue chrome Mercedes

smart car
and why?

Buick concept car,
models look like they're not getting along
car or robot?

very futuristic
cool rolls

Bugati - most expensive car

Friday, April 26, 2013

Babi Mantou

 This is a Babi Mantou shop.  This is a chain that sell a variety of Chinese buns.  I always saw people lined up, buying them by the dozen.  They sell for 1.50rmb which is about .24cents.  Both a bargain and decent snack.

spinach and onion

pork meatball

mushroom and burdock

Things I saw in Shanghai this week…

 Ok - so I've written many times about the air quality in Shanghai.  And yes, many people wear face masks because of the smog.  But I thought it was odd that the only pictures on the packages are of non-Chinese people.  I bet they're smiling under those masks too.

 This week the Shanghai Auto Show is taking place at the Expo Center.  This is just down the street from us, and is the biggest show of the year.  For weeks the street has been very, very congested - first with stage and set deliveries, then car deliveries, and now with people attending.  The luxury car market in China is the largest in the world.
 These are baby eels that were for sale in front of a local wet market.  While I was taking this picture, they were trying to flip themselves out of the cooler.  Very slippery devils.

 New flavors of potato chips seen recently.  American companies are trying hard to break into the snack market here, but the Asian palate is very different. So in the end, I think they just taste strange.

spicy seafood hot pot

Texas BBQ
Italian Red Meat?

Earth Day 2013

Yesterday, I attended the SCIS Earth Day assembly.  
best tree in the 2nd grade
The 2nd grade performed a play about a girl who is taught to care for the Earth by the Lorax.  The students all played different elements of nature.  Some were the air (they wore white), some were the ocean (they wore blue) and some were the trees (they wore green).  Katie was a tree who gets chopped down - trĂ©s dramatique. 

very fashionable
The 5th grade presented the Annual Recycled Fashion Show.  The show was great.  All the 5th graders picked teams and worked really hard for weeks on their fashions.  The "clothes" they made reflected who they were.  Some kids made costumes: cheerleaders, robots, acrobats.  Some made accessories: hats, purses, jewelry, goggles.  But all the outfits were made using cast-off items: old ties, DVDs, trash bags, paper cups, egg cartons, magazines, etc.  They all walked the runway with their teams and strutted to loud music, just like real models.  At the end, all the 5th graders jumped on the stage for a final dance and applause.  Very, very fun.

(Emily can be seen at the end of the video in her goggles)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Buddy's blog

So I've been on vacation - went to see my fellow top dogs at the Buddy Dog Boarding.  Yea, we hung out.  We played, we sniffed, we peed.   Good times.
There's a guy named Tony who sorta hangs out with us.  He's awright.  He gave me my bath while I was there.  I smelled and looked good.
Life is not so easy while a dog's in China, and I need some "me" time.  There's alotta pressure on me to keep the family happy.  I'm always havin' to be cute, and be available for pets, and waggin' my tail is wearing me out.
Besides, I keep hearing about how China is not so "animal-friendly".  Sick birds - dead pigs - it's crazy.

I did have to go Midieval on a frog the other day.  I couldn't help myself.  He was there, trying to get away.  Before I knew it, I was rolling on him.  Squirming my doggy back, squishing him.  It felt so wrong, but yet…so right.  I don't know what happened.  It's like the Wolf in me took over.  Maybe I'm overreacting.  Woof.

I did hear Mommy say that someone new was moving in next door, and I think she said something about a dog…  Hmm.  I'll have to investigate that rumor.

the frog
imma gonna getchu
must you?

Back to reality…

While we are living in Shanghai, we have realized it's important for us to have short "getaway" vacations.  Living and working in China is easier than expected in some ways and more challenging in others.  Our brains and bodies needed "down" time, and that's hard to accomplish when actually in China.  Sigh.
The Good
1.    Some services are VERY inexpensive.  Having a massage, facial or any other spa treatment is a fraction of what it is in the US.  An hour foot massage is less than $20.  Most salons and spas offer memberships, and will then offer additional discounts on services.
2.    Having an Ayi is a luxury I could not afford in the US.  An Ayi is a helper, house-cleaner, nanny, whatever you need.  Translated it means "Auntie", and some families have full-time, part-time or whatever you need.  I have an Ayi that comes in 3 mornings and cleans, and costs about $20 a day.  I will not have to clean a bathroom the whole time I am here.  Awesome.
3.    Grocery stores offer same day delivery at no charge.  I can go to the CityShop market, pick-out all my items, pay for them and be on my way.  They will deliver to my home at whatever time I request.  IKEA also delivers same day here at no charge.  You can pick-out a bed in the morning, and it will be delivered to your home that afternoon.
4.    Emily & Katie are able to go to an international private school.  The education they get is not really better, but maybe more well-rounded than at home.  In the US, they learn more specific math and language arts.  Maybe that is because they have to learn skills that are "test-able".  Here they learn a wider variety of things.  Music, art and sports are a bigger part of their week than in the US, and they have better access to equipment.  They may actually be behind their US peers in writing skills. But being here, they meet and work with kids from other countries.  I have to believe the exposure to so many different cultures, as well to China is a plus.

The Bad
1.   Immediately upon landing in Shanghai from the Philippines, we encountered rudeness.  I know that some people are not taught manners as children, but adults constantly cutting in line gets old really fast.  And this happens everywhere:  airport lines, mall, bathrooms, ice cream shops, etc. Most people don't say anything, and so of course, I always do.
2.   All expat parents are aware of the daily air quality.  We have Aps on our phones that inform us if the air is healthy, unhealthy, poor, etc.  Good air is 50 or less PM2.5 - this refers to the particle count in the air.  Today's count is 123 PM2.5 and is listed as Unhealthy to Sensitive Groups.  The air is rarely listed at 50 or less.  I think this is like "smog alerts" were when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles.  We would have stage I, stage II and stage III alerts.  If there was a stage IV alert, we were not allowed outside for recess or lunch.
3.   Shopping is inconvenient.  I cannot get everything I need in one spot - there is no Shanghai version of a Target store.

Bird Flu
So far, it seems the current strain of bird flu is only transferred from bird-to-human contact.  So for the time being, we are not eating chicken, and all eggs have to be fully cooked, not raw.  The kids' school has stopped serving all chicken and egg products for the time being.  There is a lot of information circulating around the expat community, and it's hard to tell what is real and not. I spoke to several other parents who were in Hong Kong during SARS and the previous bird flu outbreak.  The consensus is first,  take all the same precautions you would take during regular flu season, but with more diligence.  Keep our hands and faces washed, and avoid being in crowds of people coughing.  Second, wash all fruits and vegetables really well, and best to buy imported meats and seafood.
Lastly, don't panic.  The people that have all gotten sick were exposed directly, and had weakened immune systems and were either very old or very young.

So all we can do is try to take the best care of ourselves as possible while we're here.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Vacation in the Philippines Part 2

We had great food at the hotel, and they even had my brand of Bourbon - Crown Royal!  My brand is not available in China, so needless to say, I had to take advantage while on vacation - only makes sense right?  Every morning after breakfast we would go down to the pool or the beach, and relax and swim. And we would end most days having dinner or drinks, watching the sunset.  One night we went to the BBQ on the beach, it was a lot like a luau, but with more seafood.  And I gotta say, the Philippino musicians and singers were all pretty amazing.

Hotel pool
Chris, Katie & Emily
crown royal
Awesome band
having dessert
BBQ Shrimp
Roast Beef, whole fish


Vacation in the Philippines Part 1

     Boracay Island is one of the thousands of small islands in the Philippines.  We left Shanghai on Friday morning, and checked-in at the Shangri-La on Friday night.  It was a long trip - we took a taxi, train(Maglev), bus, (2) planes, van and speedboat to finally arrive at the dock at the Shangri-La Hotel.  But the minute we arrived at Kalibo airport from Manila, the Shangri-La had people there to take care of us.  The hotel staff was so incredibly kind and warm, that any extra we paid to stay there was well worth it.  Several people we know who had come to Boracay before all said that it was the "most beautiful beach in the world", and everyone said that we would love it. They were all right.
     The town of Boracay beach is very crowded, lots of small hotels line the sand, and tons of shops and food stands.  Lots to see.  
     The tourists were from all over.  Many visitors were Koreans, Russians and Australians.  And lots of expats like us from America and Europe, all living and working in China and Hong Kong.  We even met several families that go to the same school as the girls.

me & E

feeding the fish
feeding the fish

What?…it's non alcoholic
Sweet Katie
Not-so-sweet Katie
enjoying the sunset