端午节 Dragon Boat Festival

Been having problems with the old spam bots, and so this wasn’t posted when it was meant to.

So today is the Dragon Boat festival 端午节 (duan1 wu3 jie2) and it is marked by the eating of 粽子 (zong4 zi3) polished glutinous rice or better described as sticky triangular things that take forever to swallow. This festival essentailly celebrates the death of Qu Yuan, who committed suicide by drowning himself in a river.  Anyway, apart from the zong zi eating, most students that I know, woke up before dawn and climbed a nearby hill to watch the sunrise. So not to miss out, my first class was spent climbing that hill, which I’m told has a bomb shelter built under it as an expansion to the natural cave complexes allready there. 

As we walked along the busy road, stopping and covering our eyes from the dust every time a vehicle came past, I chatted with the students.  walking along the roadThe walk took us along this busy road, over a rather nice river,  and past thousands of discarded plastic bags and packaging that are sadly all too abundant throughout China.  It makes me annoyed that things are like this, the fact that nobody seems to give a monkeys.river  It seems the welfare of the environment is an alien thought to many, and the government appears to be obsessed with economic growth at all costs

The hill itself was very sandy in colour, almost like a beach and kind of reminded me of a quarry. The trees were yet to drop their cones and the grass was patchy, punctuated with lumps of red coloured sandstone.    the hill

Atop of the hill was a large pagoda like building and a Buddist temple or maybe a monistary, i’m not sure.   The walls were covered in graffitti  – something very unusual in these parts –  and the kind of graffitti you’d rubbishexpect back home: ‘He loves …’  ‘Call 13….. for’ etc…  In Changchun graffitti consists of peoples telephone numbers, as well as spraying a number there will also be a job – like plumber or plasterer or locksmith.  It’s like an advert for the unemployed wishing to get work. 


Here’s the rest of the photos for those that asked:

ditch  hill walking  trees  

 temple thing  temple front  dangerous steps 

class photo    zhong zi - sticky rice things, inside a leaf - tastes not good   more trees 

 on the way back


Yesterday was pretty hot day, shorts and sandals required. Yet you’re be amazed at how much clothing many Chinese still wear. Not many people wear shorts, very few show any sort of skin – even if it’s boiling outside. I found myself asking ‘When do Chinese people actually get hot?’

hot day, lots of clothes hot day, lots of clothes!
I remember being on the Subway in Beijing last summer and feeling like I was going to do die, and many of the Chinese were wearing long sleeves, jackets and trousers!
Maybe it’s different in the southern provinces? Is this something China-wide? I’d like to get an answer to this?

A good example of this happened when I was sitting on a bus, sweating and feeling terribly uncomfortable, and the man next to me was wearing a shirt and heavy jacket. He looked fine, and wasn’t even sweating.
He’s probably still wearing his long johns too! It annoys me a little, when it’s 25ºC and people close the windows on the bus because they feel cold from the draught,
or they might think they will catch a disease from the breeze through the open window. It’s all very strange and difficult for me to understand, but perhaps it has something to do with not wanting to expose their skin to the sun. I know many Chinese people dislike what the sun does to the skin, here pale is considered ‘more beautiful’. I’m no sun god either, I dislike being in the sunshine for any amount of time, but if it’s a hot day I will wear fewer clothes – beacuse I will feel more comfortable.
Maybe Chinese people more susceptible to the cold than Westerners? Or more afraid of ‘catching a cold’ and so over compensate by wearing too much.
Maybe there is something wrong with me?
I know generally Chinese people are smaller, slightly built and thinner than westerners and perhaps this explains the need to wear more clothes to keep warm. But I am just as thin as a Chinese person (though taller) and the heat really gets to me- It can’t be biological (we are all human), It has to do with something else.

To reinforce this point, people often come up to me in the street, and ask (almost every day someone will ask me this) ‘ 你冷不冷?’ or ‘你冷吗?’ Are you cold? – And when I reply with 我当然 不冷!Of course I’m not cold! It is met with a mixture of laughs and that “aren’t foreigners strange” look!  🙂


communist police

Took this picture as it’s very seldom that you actually see these people in  Changchun. 

 The soldier standing in the middle of the road with the white helmet is not regular PLA or police, he is one of the so called ‘elite’ communist party soldiers.  They answer directly to the communist party (unlike the PLA) and act to protect it’s interests.  I watched him for a few minutes and he was stopping only cars with white number plates, that is communist/government vehicles.  But what made me most interested was the respect this person commanded -probably generated through fear more than anything else- he would stand in the middle of the road and simply point at a vehicle and it would steam to a halt.  The soldier would march over to the vehicle, salute and I guess ask for papers.  Even those 4x4s that drive like maniacs and go through all the red lights and ignore every traffic law known to man, stopped. They must have been looking for someone or something, though I’ll probably never know.

 Even though I tried to take refuge behind a nearby tree, the chap with the bike is taking a long stare.  Look closely at the people on the bus, they are staring too.  The guy with the bike’s face says it all, curiosity, bewilderment and surprise.


Wrote this the other day, and posted it in the wrong place, so here it is now. 🙂

What is it with the Chinese and digging holes. I remember people complaining about road works back home, but you need to come here to truly appreciate holes. Every day is a guessing game. What way can’t I go today? Which road is closed? Can hole in the road I get home?

The other night I was walking back to my apartment and found that there was no possible way for me to get across the road (and to my home) as mechanical diggers had dug a huge pit; where the road once was, is now a mountain of earth -building rubble and dirt.

 It’s the same with buildings too. You never know when a building might just disappear. Workers with pick-axes and sledge-hammers taking each brick apart, one-by-one, ready to be re-used elsewhere. Such labour intensive work would never exist in the West – it’s just not economically viable. Where as here it is viable, wages are so low, and there is no shortage bricks left from a demolitionof labour.  However the work is shoddy, (like most construction in China) the work is often unfinished and the ground left strewn with bricks and various other bits of debris.

It’s amazing how things change so fast, but also disturbing.

No doubt, digging holes is a superb way of over-employing, just give everone a spade and that’s it. When there’s hundreds of millions of migrant workers looking for work, creating jobs becomes a priority.
Afterall everywhere has the potential to be dug-up, the options are almost endless.
Due to the extreme weather conditions in Changchun, nothing much gets done during the winter and spring. Then come May, construction starts again.  workers' tentsThere are hoards of migrant workers who come to Changchun during the summer months, they provide the labour that is needed if all of the projects are to be finished.  They must have a very tough life, they follow the work, if this means travelling 1000s of miles then so be it, they have little choice (600million of them! ).  The workers are put up in refugee camp like tents, that are erected at the side of the road or near to a construction site.   It shows just how messed up this country is, when the workers are building thousands and thousands of new apartments,  and they live in tents with no sanitation or electricity.  In Changchun there are thousands and thousands of new apartments being built, most remain empty.  Where I live many of the apartments are empty, and the price of them is too high for most to afford. Maybe they will become more affordable in the future, though I doubt it.  It seems that the Chinese property developers would rather leave an apartment empty for years than allow it to be rented or lower the price and make a lesser profit, i don’t think they really understand the basics of demand and stower block under constructionupply.

  This is a problem all across China, many of the tower blocks in the major cities (Beijing Shanghai etc…) are empty – there is not significant enough demand for so much office space – yet they continue to build.  To the outsider, one would think that this is an amazing rate of progress, and that China is expanding at a rapid pace – But personally I think a lot of it is based on a false economy, and that it only a matter of time before it all starts to crumble in on itself.  A common trick made by developers is to get bank loans to complete a building, and to not finish the building (pocketing most of the cash) then declare themselves bankrupt and or disappear.  Then do the same thing in another province, and so on.  There is no credit system in place, so loans are often given based on social status or relationships – guanxi  关系.    That’s one of the reasons why there are so many unfinished projects and half-completed buildings in Changchun, and all over China.


It seems that the summer is here for good now, no more cold days.  Had a heatwave for the last 3 days, got up to 31ºC yesterday, it’s a dry heat and so not so oppressive.  Just the wind whips up the dust, and things get very dirty very fast. 


exercise equipmentequipment for adultsRemember when first coming to China thinking that this was a playground for children.  Infact there are many of these public areas with exercise equipment, and they are for adults, not children as I first thought. The areas are often frequented by old folk – especially early morning – eager to keep themselves flexible.  I often see groups of retired people dancing to traditional music, or not so traditional music (phil collins, kenny G amongst others) in the evening.  Sometimes if i’m up and about (5-5.30ish so not very often!) you’ll see ceremonial sword dancing and 武術 wu shu – martial arts.  Wish I could get up reguarly at that time, as i’d like to find out more.

Power Cut

Just experienced my first power cut for a long long time.  Was in a net bar, and everything just went dead. Lights, computers, everything – off. 

I these parts power cuts used to be pretty frequent, but in the last few years the government has got its act together and  is generating enough power – infact (so i’m told) in a few years time there will be a massive over supply problem as many of the newly constructed plants come on-line.

I just wish they’d consider other alternatives to burning coal, as it’s so disgustingly dirty and bad for pretty much everything associated with the environment. It’s cheap and readily available and that’s it. I was thinking wind farms would go down a treat in dongbei, afterall, it’s windy all year, it’s flat and easy to construct here- and there’s no shortage of free space.  However renewable energy is a long term solution, and people in power round here are short term thinkers.



Had a good meal last night, sitting outside (yes it’s warm enough now!) at the side of the road perched on a wooden bench, surrounded by at least 20 others, all chatting away, drinking, laughing and having fun. 

It’s basically a makeshift BBQ, though smaller and -at just above ground level- everyone sits on small stalls.  You can get anything from mushrooms, peppers, sausages, corn-on-the-cob, chicken legs, bread (actually mantou -kind of a steamed bun), to  beef kebabs and bottles of beer. bbq

In warmer parts these are all over the place, all year round, but not here for obvious reasons. So it’s something to savour, only here for a few months.

I was thinking this would never be able to happen in the UK, besides all of the health and safety violations, I couldn’t imagine groups of people sitting at the side of the road, of all ages and backgrounds, mingling like this. Most evenings in centres of UK cities are not particuarly hospitable places, especially after dark- and it’s a shame.
It’s something that has to be admired about the way the society here respects it’s values. This was a family atmosphere, despite it being past nine and dark; there were migrant workers drinking after a hard day digging holes, students just home after the vacation, women and children out for a evening walk – all sorts.

Street Repairs

Over the last few days, most of Changchun has become a building site, with roads and the large squares/roundabouts 广场 everywhere being dug-up for one reason or another. wei xing gua

The aim is to do it all at once – during the holiday – and be done by the time everyone has to go back to work. The idea makes sense, however there are some terrible roads in Changchun that are nothing more than dirt tracks, and yet the government choose to dig up existing roads that are okay.

 more construction at satellite square

It’s something that could never be attempted in a democracy, no one would stand for it- I guess that’s one of the plus points of the government not being accountable to the people.
If i want to go down to the shops, I have to walk for 10-15 minutes just to get to a road that isn’t being renewed, and the bus takes twice as long to get to its destination as the usual way is also under construction. Nobody seems to know exactly what roads/roundabouts/junctions are closed – seemingly nobody (not even the bus drivers know where to go) is told in advance of this – it just happens.

  So the May day holiday is almost over and so – finally – is the end of the winter. Things have greened up almost overnight, flowers have appeared and trees are beginning to go into blossom. The long underwear has at last been consigned to the wardrobe. 

Been spending my free time eating/drinking too much, meeting up with friends, and generally relaxing.  

hong pi The zha pi 扎啤 (draft beer) is now available (it’s only available outside the winter for some reason) and for 1元 a glass you can;t go wrong.  It comes in three varieties; huangpi 荒啤,hongpi 红啤 or heipi 黑啤 – yellow, red or black beer.   The yellow is regular lager, the red is like a sweet red wine and the black is a dark stout – and my favourite.

Did manage somehow to burn my arm at a hot pot restaurant, now I have two small red lines on my left arm to remind me of that fact!