Human Rights? A Hot Potato

Yesterday I was reading on The New York Times and article with the following title: China: U.S. Accused of Rights Violations
According to this article China accuses, in a report, The United States of promoting freedom on the internet to undermine other countries while they have their own campaign against antisicrecy website Wikileaks. This report also criticises the States in terms of homelessness, violent crime, the influence of money over politics and “ civilian casualties” in Iraq and Afghanistan. 
And what do you want me to say? Well, it is true. The report is totally right. But it is a pitty this compilation of accusations feels just like a reply to the annual evaluation of the Department of State which was, as usual, very critical with China. 
In conclusion, who’s right? Everybody... Who does something to improve things? Well, obviously nobody... And I’m not sure anymore wether the XXI century is the desinformation century or the overinformation century. We’ve reached a point where everything seems to be so obvious, and it is so easy for everyone to wash one's dirty linen in public, that the most used strategy seems to be the game of the hot potato. In the end, while one accuses the other, what must really be important is not known, The United States continue doing and undoing at will and if I write things on my blog such as revolution, Ai Wei Wei or Tian An Men, the most probable thing is that after a minute of publishing the post I lose access to the link. Anybody can tell me what we need to do?  


HongKong, concrete jungle

Victoria Peak

What does an expatriate do when the visa to stay in China expires? Well, there are several options, but the best well-known and used is to "leave" the country. And I write it between commas because the most common option is to go to Hong Kong which, even though has great autonomy, it's still part of the Popular Republic. And so that is what I did last week. Leaving aside the bureaucratic details, I'll tell you what I thought about the city in two days. Well, in a few words, Hong Kong is a jungle. It is a mixture of skyscrapers, exuberant vegetation, trams, buses, trolleybuses, taxis, corridors and people. A vertical puzzle where every piece seems to have its place and sometimes there seems to be no space for anything else. A controlled chaos with an exotic and tropical touch, but cosmopolitan and international at the same time. 
It’s necessary to take the tram up to Victoria Peak in order to see the sky, and at the same time enjoy the spectacular views over the city and the different islands. Once up there, it becomes really clear why the city owns the title of the most vertical city on earth and why it’s one of the cities with the most people density. And sincerely, if someone who lives in Shanghai is impressed by people concentration and skyscrapers it must mean it really is something, maybe even too much! However, when it looks like there’s no space for another building in the city, among towers several colorful cranes appear to start constructing. 
Walking around HongKong is fascinating, but from my point of view, thinking about moving there would be quite stressful... Hong Kong is probably the capitalism paradise. Between Skyscrapers, thousands of signs blind you with publicity of luxurious brands and thousands of products you will never need but that at first sight seem essential. And what can I tell you, I’m not gonna be a hypocrite either. Living in HongKong for a while with real money would be amazing. Walking around Soho district, culinary offer from all over the world is impressive, attractive and addictive. With so many giants around, these little spaces are like culinary shelters that take you away from the hustle and bustle and the neon lights to bring you back home to have a good glass of wine, stop in Belgium to enjoy a good Chimay, or fly you to Vietnam to eat a good portion of GỏI Cuốn. And if once full and fatter you decide it’s time to change your wardrobe, you only need to take you credit card out and I’m pretty sure it will lead you to the closest store itself...
Then, imagining I did have that much money, why would I find it stressful? Well, I think there were times my mind was telling me the buildings were going to fall onto me! And not due to bad construction (which is not the case), but due to the proximity of one another. I need my space! But hei, I don’t want to make it look dark... I have to say, as in the beginning, that Hong Kong is perfectly controlled chaos. To start with the city is also atop of the rankings regarding the use of public transport, which is extremely efficient. And second, the almost inexistent distance between buildings has allowed the metropolis to grow at different levels. At Hong Kong Island skyscrapers are connected by corridors at the second floor, which gives you the chance to walk around avoiding noises, traffic lights and even rain.
In conclusion, I cannot imagine myself living in HongKong for claustrophobia-related reasons, but spending there weekends and concerning cultural entertainment, culinary offer and shopping, it is probably one of the best spots in South-east Asia. So if you’re around the area, stop by! Those who’ve been there already, what do you think?


Blog en anglès / Blog only in english

Benvolguts i benvolgudes,
a partir d'ara, aquest blog passarà a ser íntegrament en anglès, per tal que aquells que no parlen el català, puguin continuar llegint les meves aventures a la Xina. La raó d'aquest canvi és que la variant catalana la podeu llegir ja al diari ARA, i per tant no m'és permès publicar el mateix a dos blogs. Feu clic a l'enllaç per arribar al blog en català:
Espero que el disfruteu!

Dear all,
from now on, this blog will be only in english. The reason why the catalan version will disappear is that it is from last week published in a new catalan newspaper, ARA.cat.
If you want to have a look at it, please click on the link:

I will try to start posting articles again soon.
Thanks for your patience!


1a classe de Kung-fu / 1st Kungfu lesson

En algun racó del blog, ja fa més d'un any, hi ha l'article sobre la meva iniciació a les "arts marcials" orientals, amb el Taiji. Doncs si la pràctica del Taiji ja requereix concentració i disciplina, ara ens hem de posar encara més seriosos. Ha arribat l'hora del kung-fu!

Art marcial, d'origen xinès, que constitueix una forma d'educació física i un esport de combat sense armes, similar al karate i on és important el joc de cames.

I sí, aquí dono la definició de diccionari, bàsicament perquè de moment poca cosa més us en puc dir, a part de l'experiència en sí de la primera classe. He de dir que tot va ser iniciativa de la Sophie, una amiga francesa, i em va semblar genial. Som un petit grup de 4 francesos, un alemany i un servidor. Les classes les fem a la pista d'atletisme de la Universitat de Nanjing, sense llum. I el nostre professor és un noi xinès de 25 anys que practica el Kung-fu des dels 8. Un "fiera" si em permeteu l'expressió. Veient aquesta combinació, hauré de demanar a algú que ens filmi, perquè de ben segur que fem patxoca.
Després de la primera classe he après que el kung-fu requereix molta força, flexibilitat, equilibri i control del propi cos. També he descobert que no posseeixo cap de les qualitats esmentades. La pregunta que em vaig fer immediatament després de la classe, i sobretot quan em va venir rampa fent un dels exercicis, va ser: 
- Què hi faig ben bé al gimnàs?
Amb tot, us he de dir, que és una manera apassionant de fer esport i descobrir músculs que ignorava que tenia. Més endavant en tornarem a parlar, quan sigui capaç de recordar el noms del moviments que aprenem i quan tingui alguna anègdota tipus rampa o esquinç. De moment us deixo amb la foto de grup, que gràcies a les instal·lacions on fem les classes, ha quedat una mica fosca...

Somewhere in the blog, more than a year ago, you will find an article talking about my iniciation to the martial arts through Taiji. Well, if practicing Taiji requires focus and discipline, now we need to get even more serious. It's time for kungfu!

Any of various Chinese martial arts, especially those forms in which sharp blows and kicks are applied to pressure points on the body of an opponent.

Yes, this is a dictionary definition, which more or less how much I can tell you about till by now, apart from the first lesson experience. I have to say it was all Sophie's idea (a friend of mine) and I loved it. We  are a small group of 4 french, a german and myself. Classes are taught at the University's athletism ring with no light. Our teacher is a 25-year-old chinese guy that has been practicing it since he was 8. A beast! And seeing these combination of factors, I'll have to ask someone to film us, because we are surely a great show.
After the first class I've learned that Kung-fu requires great strength, flexibility, balance and body control. I also learned I have none of them. The question that came to my mind right after the class, and even more after having cramps during one of the exercises, was:
- What exactly do I do at the gym?
In any case, I have to tell this is a great way to practice sport and discover mussels you couldn't imagine you had. Later on we will talk about it again, specially when I am capable of remembering the movement's names or whenever there's another funny think to comment such as an injury. Meanwhile I leave you with a group picture that, due to the facilities where we take the lessons, is a bit dark.


Migració interna: obrers a Nanjing / Internal migration: workers in Nanjing

De camí a la feina sovint em trobo imatges com les que veieu a sota: grans tendes de campanya on és evident que la gent no acampa sinó que hi viu. I on trobem aquests campaments? Doncs just al costat de qualsevol cosa que estigui en obres. En aquest cas, un carrer. Evidentment, i després de preguntar-ho directament als habitants de les tendes, treballen a l'obra del costat i no són autòctons de Nanjing. Aquest és un exemple del gran procés de migració de les zones rurals a les zones urbanes que està patint la Xina. La gent arriba a la ciutat buscant feina i millors condicions de vida i sovint aquest és el resultat. Amb tot, això no és un intent de crítica a les condicions de treball dels obrers xinesos. Perquè, tot i que té molt de criticable, Europa va viure durant la revolució industrial un procés similar. El que sí que em fa pensar és la velocitat d'aquest procés. Per tal d'entendre-ho millor, us adjunto l'enllaç d'un article de la BBC que, tot i que data del 2004, ja parla d'aquest procés de migració interna al gegant asiàtic que encara continuarà durant uns quants anys. 
Per aquells que no llegiu l'anglès, tal i com comentava, un fet a tenir en compte és que tot i que aquest procés té com a precedent la Revolució Industrial europea, al vell continent parlàvem d'un procés de 150 anys. A la Xina aquest procés s'intenta dur a terme en 15 o 20 anys. 
I ja a títol personal, quan veus aquestes estampes urbanes escampades per tota la ciutat i que de ben segur es veuen a tot el país, t'adones de com pot ser que la construcció i el país en general avanci tan de pressa. 
Beneficis, molts, conseqüències, més. Segur que en tornarem a parlar més endavant... 

On my way to work, I often find pictures like the ones you see below: big tents where it is obvious that people are not just camping. They live in them.And where exactly can we find them? Right next to anything under construction. In this case, a road. Obviously, and after having asked the people in the tents, they do work on the road and they are not from Nanjing. This can be an example of the great migration process from the rural areas to the urban ones that China is undergoing. People leave their villages to go to the cities and look for a better life and a better job, and this is often the result. However, I'm not trying to criticize the working conditions of chinese people. Because, even if it is very criticizable, Europe went through a similar process during the Industrial Revolution. What does make me think though, is the speed of the process. In order to understand it better I attach an article from the BBC, that even if it dates from 2004 it already talks about the migration factor that will go on for several years. 
One of the amazing and comparative facts is that the migration process during the industrial revolution in European happened in a time span of 150 years. In China the process might take place in 15 or 20 years.
And personally, when you see these images all around the city, and that surely can be found around the country, you realize how it is possible that construction and the country advance at such a fast pace. Benefits, there are many. Consequences, even more. I'm sure I will be talking about this again soon. 

article migració / migration article



Halloween + conducció xinesa / Halloween + chinese driving

Tot esperant que a la Núria li arribin els panellets des de Tortosa (espero que me'n deixi provar un...) per celebrar una mini castanyada ens "resignem" a celebrar halloween, que tot i que a Xina tampoc és popular té més tirada que la nostra estimada festa catalana, si més no entre la comunitat d'expatriats i estudiants internacionals. I precisament perquè aquí no és tradició, no hi ha masses alternatives a l'hora de comprar disfresses, amb la qual cosa l'opció més lògica és la producció artesanal... 
De què ens podem disfressar? Necessitem alguna cosa que faci realment por, i que no sigui un vampir,  una mòmia ni la Lady Gaga...
De sobte, l'Olivia, la meva parella "halloweeniana" va tenir una idea brillant:
- Ens disfressem de carretera xina!
I és que hi ha poques coses que facin més por a un turista o estranger quan aterra al gegant asiàtic que agafar un taxi i observar la conducció xinesa en general. Per aquesta raó i per si decidiu venir a fer una visita, seguidament us llisto les coses que crec importants a tenir en compte quan se circula pels carrers a Xina:

1. En cas d'anar a peu, el pas sebra no serveix per donar preferència al vianant. A la Xina serveix perquè els vehicles vegin a temps els vianants que s'atreveixen a creuar, ja que si ho fan tots pel mateix lloc són més senzills d'esquivar. En cas de creuar el carrer, l'expressió "mira als dos costats" no serveix... A la Xina mira quatre vegades i per tot arreu. Aquí sempre hi ha un tercer costat des d'on et podrien atropellar.
2. Les bicicletes són tant o més perilloses que els cotxes. Utilitzen carril bici, carril no bici, voreres... A més, evidentment sempre en massa.
3. Atenció les motocicletes. La mjoria són elèctriques i no fan soroll! El vianant no les sent venir. La nota positiva és que són un punt a favor de la reducció de contaminació a les grans ciutats. 
4. Els taxistes i l'abús de confiança. Canvis de sentit sobtats, ignorar semàfors en vermell, utilització de l'espai bici, accés de velocitat insultant... Anar de copilot i posar-se el cinturó és gairebé de mala educació. En cas d'obtar per anar a darrera, el cinturó senzillament és inexistent.
5. Atenció autobús: és la llei del més gros. Si veus un bus deixa'l maniobrar amb tranquil·litat i llavors fes el que creguis convenient. Sovint són cecs (siusplau, llegir sarcasme).
6. I el punt més important: a Xina, igual que gent, de vehicles de tots tipus, n'hi ha molts!

La llista és, des del meu punt de vista, infinita. Però crec que aquests punts són potser els punts més importants. Si a algú se li acud algun punt més, m'encantaria rebre els comentaris. De moment us deixo amb una foto de la disfressa de la festa i un exemple del trànsit a les ciutats xineses. Si voleu veure més exemples gràfics, podeu consultar els vídeos del viatge a Guilin. 

Bona castanyada / Halloween.

While waiting for Núria to receive the traditional catalan sweets to celebrate "la castanyada" (hope she lets me try some), we "resign ourselves" to celebrate Halloween that, eventhough it isn't popular in China either, it is much more celebrated among the expat comunity than our lovely "castanyada". For the same reason that it is not very popular, there are not many alternatives when it comes to buy costumes. Therefore the best option is to do it yourself...
What costume could we wear? We wanted something really scary, but we wanted to avoid being the classical vampire, a mummy or Lady Gaga. 
Suddenly, Olivia, my Halloween partner had a genius idea:
- We are gonna be chinese roads!
And the truth is that there few things in more terrifying for a foreigner who just arrives in China, than the way the drive. For this same reason and in case you decide to pay a visit, hereunder I write a list of the most important things to be taken into account while driving or walking around in this country:

1. In case of walking, pedestrian crossing is not meant to give priority to pedestrians. It is meant to make pedestrians use the same spot to cross the road so vehicles can avoid them more easily. While crossing, the expression "look both sides" just doesn't work. Here look 3 times, and everywhere. There's always a third side they could crash you from. 
2. Bikes are as or even more dangerous than cars. They use cycle path, non cycle path, sidewalk... And they obviously do it in massive groups.
3. Beware of moppets! Most of them are electric and make no noise. Therefore you might not hear them come. Good part of it is they do help reduce pollution in the city.
4. Taxi drivers and the confidence abuse. Sudden changes of direction; ignoring red lights, use of cycle path, insulting high speed... In case of being the co-driver, using sit belt is almost considered bad-manered. If you choose to sit behind, there is no sit belt.
5. Beware of buses: the biggest rules! If you see one, let it do its thing and then go or do whatever you consider safer. They are blind... (please,  read sarcasm)
6. And the most important thing: in China, as well as people, there are lots of vehicles.

The list, from my point of view, would never end. But this are to me, the most important points. If you think I am missing some, please don´t hesitate to leave your comments. Meanwhile I leave you with a picture of our costume and another one of chinese traffic. If you need further graphic proof, please check the Guilin trip videos.

Happy castanyada / Halloween.


Màquina expenedora de cranc viu! / live crab vending machine!

Què podem trobar en una màquina expenedora? Xocolata, patates de bossa, tabac, sandvitxos, begudes, profilàctics... Cranc viu? Doncs sí. A una de les estacions de metro més concorregudes de Nanjing, Xinjiekou, hi podem trobar una màquina expenedora d'aquests crustacis tan apreciats a la ciutat: el cranc pelut de Xangai. Aparentment, els crustacis es mantenen a uns 5 graus de temperatura, fet que els fa entrar en estat d'hivernada. Això sí, si l'animal passa d'hivernar al coma, mor i malauradament és el que compres, el propietari del negoci t'obsequia amb tres crancs com a recompensa. 
I ara ve la part més interessant. Tot i que no deixa de ser sorprenent, ens podríem imaginar la següent situació:
Un dia qualsevol, tornant cap a casa després de la feina en Weijie pensa:
- Ostres! m'he deixat el cranc per l'arròs tres delícies d'aquest vespre... Sort que han posat aquesta màquina a Xinjiekou. Sortint del metro en compraré un parell.
Doncs, tot i que podria ser, no és així. En general la situació seria la següent:
- Uf, fins a les 8 no arribaré a casa per sopar i l'estómac em comença a fer rau-rau. Em compraré un cranc pel camí...
Efectivament! Es menja, o es pot menjar, viu!!! No ho he vist, ni sé si ho vull veure, però el cert és que ho he confirmat amb el noi que es cuida de la màquina. El preu del cranc oscil·la entre els 15 i 25 iuans (2 i 3 euros). No és barat, però això sí, és ben fresc. Tampoc sé si les protectores d'animals ho veurien gaire correcte, però el cert és que sembla que bé han tret la "llicència" per posar la màquina en un lloc tan transitat. 
En tot cas, no deixa de ser sorprenent. I empès per la curiositat, me'n vaig comprar un. He de dir que de gust és bo. Això sí, jo me'l vaig bullir!
Us deixo amb uns quants documents gràfics.
Bon profit!

What can we find in a bending machine? Chocolate, chips, tobacco, sandwiches, drinks, prophylactics... Live crab? Well, yes. At one of the most transited subway stations of Nanjing, Xinjiekou, there's a vending machine that sells this much appreciated crustaceans: the heary crab of Shanghai. Apparently, the crab is kept at 5ºC, and at such temperature it hibernates. However, if the crab goes from hibernation to coma, from coma to death, and you buy that one, the owner will compensate you with 3 live ones. 
And now comes the interesting part. Although it is still surprising, one could imagines the following situation:
One day, coming out of work, Weijie thinks:
- Shut, I forgot to buy crab for tonight's rice! Oh well, luckily I can stop at Xinjiekou and buy some at the vending machine.
Well, eventhought it could be, it is not. En general la situació seria la següent:
- Mmm, I won't get home till eight and my stomach is already complaining... Oh well, I'll have a crab on the way...
Exactly, they eat them alive, or at least some do. I haven't seen it and I don't know if I want to, but the truth is I confirmed it with the restocking guy. The prices go from 15 to 25 yuans a piece (2 to 3 euros), which is a bit expensive, but nevertheless very fresh. I don't know either if the animal protection societies would be very happy, but it looks like they did get the liscence to place the machine at such a known place.
In any case, it is still very surprising. And pushed buy curiosity, I bought one myself. It tastes good, but I boiled it! I leave you with some images and a video!