Search results for 'pollution'

There’s always time for sunsets

1 Oct

Autumn is my favorite season in Shanghai.  The winds blow away the pollution, the nights get cool and there can be beautiful, beautiful sunsets.

The first glance out the window

The first glance out the window

We saw this one from our kitchen window on a recent weekend.  Dinner waited as we both stared in awe at the colors that splashed across the sky.  The sunset felt prophetic – the light leading into the heavens.

IMG_20140921_175855

IMG_20140921_180318

Ten minutes later – it was gone, only a memory.

Just before it disappeared

Just before it disappeared

I’m glad I took the time for this sunset.

Happy National Chinese holidays to you all.  Today kicks off a week of vacation during the best time of the year.  We’ll be staying in Shanghai – too much travel for me this year – and enjoying the fall.

Hopefully there will be some more sunsets soon!

Back to Beijing

28 Nov

I haven’t been in Beijing for about six months and recently had the opportunity to go back for work twice in the last month.  The first time I went I had heard that the pollution was bad, but I hadn’t realized just how bad until I landed.

Getting in to the car I immediately sensed a strange taste in my mouth.  It was as if a little bit of dirt had gotten into it.  I didn’t notice it at first, but even after a drink of water the taste just wouldn’t go away.  The visitor who I was accompanying took it pretty hard and I knew in his mind, Shanghai was a better city.  It’s funny how the pollution can change your view.

A perfect cup of tea - and a way to wash out my mouth from the grit

A perfect cup of tea – and a way to wash out my mouth from the grit

Because it was his first trip though, I was able to revisit some of my favorite places in Beijing – Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  Even with the gray skies, I still had a good trip.

Posing with Chairman Mao - note the gray sky

Posing with Chairman Mao – note the gray sky

The lions in front of the Forbidden City are just as imposing under gray skies

The lions in front of the Forbidden City are just as imposing under gray skies

This shot was taken just as we left the Forbidden City - I noticed the reflection in the water and thought about how I could capture it.  One of my favorite photos recently.

This shot was taken just as we left the Forbidden City – I noticed the reflection in the water and thought about how I could capture it. One of my favorite photos recently.

My more recent visit the situation was flipped – Shanghai has had high PMI 2.5 levels for the last week and Beijing was clearer.  I flew in the evening and I picked up the most beautiful sunset out of the window as I skimmed across the sky.

The sunset welcomed me back to Beijing on my second trip

The sunset welcomed me back to Beijing on my second trip

I’m happy I’ve made it back to Beijing.  It is a completely different city depending on the weather.  What places fall into that category for you and what times of year should be avoided?

Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo City View

29 Aug

On our last full day in Tokyo we decided to try to see the city from above even though it had turned cloudy and was threatening to rain.  There is a newer tower – the Tokyo Sky Tree, but we went for the old standard – the Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills.

Roppongi Hills is a high end shopping mall/residential complex in the heart of the city.  The upscale stores are framed by sculptures and modern art.  We did a little window shopping as we made our way to buy our tickets inside.  One of the unique elements in the complex is an enormous metal spider that takes over the entrance.  Of course – I had to get a picture with it!

What a spider!

What a spider!

I think I could be swallowed alive!  Look how long the legs are!

I think I could be swallowed alive! Look how long the legs are!

We decided we didn’t need to go all the way to the top for the open air view – it is really high and instead made our way to the glassed in viewing area on the 52nd floor.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo spread out below us – I could see the density of the city – the number of high rise buildings – small swimming pools on the top of some, others with gardens – trying to capture every single inch of space.

Green - in patches

Green – in patches

To the northwest a large park spread across the city – an expanse of green among the man-made structures.  Like Central Park in New York or People’s Park in Shanghai – the green becomes an oasis in the center of the city.

The helpful guide to the sights (in Japanese)

The helpful guide to the sights (in Japanese)

Different views pulled me in as I snapped photos. I even noticed the buildings under construction.  Because of the density, renovating a building is more dangerous in Tokyo than other cities.  That means that keeping all pollution – noise as well as materials – low is key.  The buildings are wrapped as tight as presents and then the construction can be done without disturbing the neighbors.

A main highway - flanked by tall buildings

A main highway – flanked by tall buildings

I enjoyed my visit up to the Tokyo City View and would recommend it for anyone who wants to see Tokyo from high above.

Posing over 50 floors up

Posing over 50 floors up

What do you notice high in the sky?  I realize I have been to towers all over the world now – Tokyo, Shanghai, Taiwan, Chicago, New York, Paris… What next?

Shanghai summer

30 Jul

This time of year the heat is overpowering – I’ve written about it before, but every year it comes back.

Since I have come back from Taiwan the heat has been almost unbearable – close to 40 degrees C or 105 degrees F.  I have gotten to the point where I have noticed that my earlobes are sweating.  That’s pretty hot!  Even the occasional thunderstorm doesn’t cool things down.

We have the air conditioning on the entire time we are in the apartment, even for sleeping, but the heat puts me into a daze.  Ick.

Looking at the weather report for the next two weeks there is no respite, just continuous high temperatures with the heat index pushing even higher.  It could continue this way until September.  I’m not sure if I can handle another month.

One positive is that because of the wind from the typhoons the pollution is blown out of Shanghai.  That means that the sunsets are truly remarkable – a beautiful close to the day as I make my way home through the heat.

The heat is almost worth it - what a beautiful sunset!

The heat is almost worth it – what a beautiful sunset!

Another good thing that I especially like about this time of year though is the summer peaches.  This year my husband had a colleague whose family has their own peach trees.  The colleague brought in over a dozen peaches for every person.  The night Li brought them home we feasted on the sweet summer fruit, juice dripping down our elbows and our chins as we enjoyed this symbol of summer.

Perfect summer peaches - soon after they were devoured!

Perfect summer peaches – soon after they were devoured!

My Shanghainese colleagues swear that the summers were cooler when they were children.  I don’t know if that is true or not – it’s difficult to tell, but I certainly hope so!

I am of the firm belief that many places in this world would not become what they are today without the invention of air conditioning.  I can’t imagine living in Dubai or even Singapore without its cooling breeze.  Our world would be different.  Even the Founding Fathers in Washington, D.C. had the good sense to exit the area in the summer because it was too hot.

Our ability to handle heat changes over time as well – I have a coworker who is Malaysian but he says he can no longer take the heat of his hometown.  Another friend who is Indonesian says the same thing.  Maybe air conditioning has made us soft?

What has been the hottest weather where you have lived?  I don’t mind heat during the day, but when it doesn’t cool off at night it is tough to handle.   Soon though I’m sure we’ll be saying it’s too cold!

Hope you’re enjoying your summer!  May August be full of friends, sunsets,  barbeques and beaches for you.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

14 Jul

My trip to Japan at the end of May was completely by the seat of my pants.  I had no travel material and did no research prior to landing at Tokyo’s Narita airport.

Why?

My best friend was there for work and I knew that whatever we did was secondary to having the opportunity to spend a few days together.  Of course, we had a wonderful time and the first full day I spent in Japan we decided to go to Hakone, a city outside of Tokyo to see if we would be lucky enough to view Mt. Fuji.

According to our internet research the night before, there were museums and mountain views, fresh air, boat rides and all kinds of good things to see.  It seemed like the perfect antidote to Shanghai’s traffic and pollution.  We were off.

We hopped a train and after sitting in the very front car, landed at the Hakone railway station about an hour later.  We took a type of gondola/sky train to the top of the mountain and decided to work our way down.  After a quick lunch of ramen at a small restaurant our first stop was the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

It was more than I could have hoped for.  The weather was perfect, not hot and not cold – the blue skies contrasted with the green of the forested mountains and the sculptures appeared as if they had been placed by a helicopter – such that each was in a spot that was enhanced by the natural beauty surrounding it.

Tumbling through the sky

Tumbling through the sky

And why is the face crying?

And why is the face crying?

We wandered up and down the mountain viewing each piece.  Some were surreal, others more classical.

The muses - protecting and inspiring thought

The muses – protecting and inspiring thought

Another muse

Another muse

A classic beauty - is she doing yoga?

A classic beauty – is she doing yoga?

Sculpture can be multidimensional.  Do you see me?

Sculpture can be multidimensional. Do you see me?

We saw installations intended for children to crawl through, which tempted me, but I thought I may get stuck inside the glass pyramid.

Who says children don't appreciate art?  This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Who says children don’t appreciate art? This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Ready, set, crawl!

Ready, set, crawl!

There was also a Picasso exhibition space where they focused on his later work.  Seeing Picasso half a world away from Spain/France was surreal, but obviously many people had come just to focus on him because that part of the museum was most crowded.

IMG_20130523_140644

Picasso-esque sculpture

Picasso-esque sculpture

After walking for more than an hour we soaked our feet in the hot spring that ran through the corner of the property.  Hakone also has many onsen (hot springs) perched in the mountains so while we didn’t spend the night, we did get to sample a touch of the specialty.

The last exhibit we entered was my favorite.  It was called “Symphonic Sculpture” by Gabriel Loire.  It was a tall tube which was completely covered in stained glass.  However, you viewed it from within and could also then climb to the top – surrounded by the colors and images from the walls.  Within the panels were classic symbols and new things like cars and airplanes that shouldn’t be in such a traditional medium, but they fit and they made me smile.

Viewing "Symphonic Sculpture" from the inside

Viewing “Symphonic Sculpture” from the inside

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

What modern images do you see?

What modern images do you see?

Any surprises?

Any surprises?

IMG_20130523_143151

I would highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in the Tokyo area with space for a day trip, even though Mt. Fuji remained elusive, it was worth it.  The museum was unexpected and alive and if we had a specific travel plan, we probably would have missed it.

Sometimes it is the things that you accidentally wander into that are the most memorable.  Please share any “unexpected” travel memories that you’ve had.

Wuzhen – a water village

23 May

In April we held a large event for our vendor community.  Because we called on resources all across China we decided to do a team building event the following day and take advantage of our colleagues from different places all being together.  The location of the offsite was Wuzhen – a water village about two hours outside of Shanghai.

I had been to another water village Zhujiajiao four years before, but that visit had occurred in January so I had never really gotten the full sense of the magic of the water villages before.

For the purist, Wuzhen is not a living water village anymore.  Most of the original houses have been turned into restaurants or guest houses and there are boutique shops that line the streets of the town.  There are myriads of shoe stores, sweet shops selling local delicacies and expensive water taxis that will take the well heeled tourist from one side to the other.  After seeing it though, that doesn’t matter to me – the beauty and peacefulness that I found there made it one of the least crowded and enjoyable mornings I have spent in China thus far.

It started the night we arrived where above the reception area were lanterns representing a dragon and a phoenix.  They illuminated the dark room and gave a sense of magic to the space.

The fire of the dragon

The fire of the dragon

was complemented by the beauty of the phoenix

was complemented by the beauty of the phoenix

That continued into my hotel room where the paintings and four poster bed grounded the space into traditional Chinese history.  From my window I could get a sense of one of the channels of the river running close by, but I couldn’t see into the darkness.  The hotel had planks embedded into the floor in the hallways which gave me the impression that I was walking over a bridge to my room.

Traditional Chinese art on the walls of the room grounded by the wood floors and carved pillars.

Traditional Chinese art on the walls of the room grounded by the wood floors and carved pillars.

The next morning before my meetings I went to wander the paths of the village.  I didn’t have a lot of time, so I tried to see as much as I could.

First view of the canal and the typical transportation by boat

First view of the canal and the typical transportation by boat

Peaceful water with reflection of the trees

Peaceful water with reflection of the trees

Mist rising off the water - the canals are fairly wide

Mist rising off the water – the canals are fairly wide

But the streets are very narrow - you can even touch both sides

But the streets are very narrow – you can even touch both sides

Bridges would cross from one side to the other

Bridges would cross from one side to the other

With gardens on some of the dry land, beckoning me in

With gardens on some of the dry land, beckoning me in

And scenes carved into the wall with bamboo behind reminding me of an earlier time

And scenes carved into the wall with bamboo behind reminding me of an earlier time

The mix of water and lanes and bridges with gardens just on the other side made me feel glad to be alive.  There was mist rising over the rivers and yet I could see the reflections of the trees in the canals.  It was a special place.

Wuzhen also happens to represent the elements which is the weekly travel theme at Where’s My Backpack – the Four Elements.  There is the water of the canals, the wood of the houses, the fire of the lanterns, earth of the bricks that make up the streets and the mist which rises through the air over the entire scene.   To see how others visualized the elements, please feel free to click on the link.

It also links up with the Weekly Photo Challenge this week which is Escape.  For that morning I escaped the loudness, the pollution, the busyness of Shanghai and was able to see a more natural world.  Wuzhen is a true escape from Shanghai.

Where do you escape to?

A final look

A final look

The bird flu and staying healthy

9 Apr

Shanghai has been in the news again recently – this time as the center of a new type of avian flu.  My sister sent me an article asking how I was feeling (knowing that I had been sick) and luckily I am feeling much better now.  However, things are a little strange here with the notice of the flu.  My colleagues are certain that the government is not telling everything – that there are really hundreds if not thousands of cases – and have started limiting their behavior in public.  It doesn’t help that we deal with insurance on a daily basis – so health is always top of mind.

The ubiquitous face masks are back – not against the pollution, but against the flu virus.   They are popping up on the subway – and even in my nail salon.  I figure washing my hands frequently is my best defense, but maybe I will get another one eventually.

Last week we had a holiday – Tomb Sweeping Day – and so had a couple of days off.  I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen for a while and we decided to eat at a new organic restaurant.  There are so many things that you shouldn’t eat now in China including chicken and duck and they even recommend not eating eggs at restaurants because you can’t guarantee the temperature was high enough.  Plus, at the beginning of March there were thousands of dead pigs found in the city’s water supply so many folks aren’t eating pork either.  We figured organic food – especially vegetables – was probably as safe as we could be.

Lots of fresh veggies - to lure you into the restaurant

Lots of fresh veggies – to lure you into the restaurant

Cabbage - the great green veggie

Cabbage – the great green veggie

Tomato plants being grown in a shopping mall.  Wonder how they taste?

Tomato plants being grown in a shopping mall. Wonder how they taste?

Staying healthy in Shanghai requires perseverance and luck.  I consistently practice my yoga, take a multivitamin, try to eat as healthy as possible and get regular sleep and exercise but sometimes I feel that’s just not enough.  Do you have any tips for increasing my own ability to battle viruses?

Cold storage

21 Feb
Which piece would you like?

Which piece would you like?

Over the holiday we went to one of the suburbs of Shanghai to have dinner with some of Li’s extended family.  They treated us to a very nice lunch but the above was outside the restaurant, quite literally swinging in the breeze.

I know that hanging meat increases its flavor.  In the US we talk about “aged beef” and the effects on a regular basis.  Shanghai’s pollution, though, makes this something that I’m not super willing to try – at least willingly, though who knows what was in the lunch that I ate that afternoon.

Would you have eaten that meat?  What kind of cold storage do you think is appropriate?

Breathing easy?

2 Dec

When my mother visited China several years ago she said she thought that she could live here, except for the pollution.  I know that Shanghai is better than Beijing, but there are still days here where if I really thought about it, I wouldn’t go outside.  I also have developed an obsession with blue sky days over the last five years as you’ve probably noticed from the photos that I post.

That said inside the house or office there are still things to be scared of.

Over a year ago I wrote that the office building where I work was under construction.  It is still under construction and is an absolute mess. The elevators are periodically closed, one of the temporary entrances is the freight entrance where they store garbage and no matter where you are in the building the smell in the office is terrible.

Sometimes there is a smell of paint or paint thinner, sometimes it smells like something is on fire, sometimes smells from people smoking in the stairwell.  The smells change by day – some days are ok, others really disgusting.

It has gotten so bad that we have given the team the option to work from home – assuming they don’t have meetings.  However, this time of year (our busy season) there are meetings just about every day so it is not really a realistic option.  I really respect my coworkers and their coping mechanism has been to buy face masks and wear them in the office.   Last week I finally bought one as well.

3M may have a captive market!

3M may have a captive market!

I’ve worn it several times, though can’t do conference calls with it as it muffles my voice and doing meetings where half the folks are wearing a mask is still weird.  The hour or so in the morning when I’m alone though – the mask is there and I believe it makes a difference!  I’m not sure if it is the placebo effect or not, but at this point I really don’t care.

As I’ve dealt with this issue over the last few months it has made me angry and it also makes me sad.  Anger that a building management company could be so incompetent and careless about the people inside the building and sad that my coworkers and I really don’t have much other choice.  It is a microcosm of the larger issues in China about quality and construction and whether people are most important or the bottom line.

My new accessory

My new accessory

Our office is looking for another building, but the way contracts go, that will likely be another year.  For the time being – I’m wearing my mask and trying to breathe easy.

What do you think?

Welcome home (上海欢迎我)

29 Jul

Returning to Shanghai on a Saturday afternoon (from yet another trip to Singapore) I happened to look out the window about twenty minutes before landing.

For the first time that I can remember, it was a clear day.  I could see the ocean, the coast, boats going through shipping channels.  There were even puffy clouds.  I was seated by the aisle and didn’t have my camera handy but the contrast to a normal landing at Pudong airport was enough to bring a huge smile to my face.

It was as if Shanghai was welcoming me, had spiffed up, “put on the Ritz” and was glad to have me back.

View from my apartment taken the day after I landed. It is very rare to see the Jin Mao and the World Financial center so clearly – and there are even puffy clouds!

During the taxi ride back to my apartment I kept looking at the blue sky.  From much farther away than normal I could clearly see the Pudong skyline – the Jin Mao Tower, World Financial Center, even the Pearl TV tower.  I shared my awe with my taxi driver and we talked how we didn’t think it had been this clear since the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.  The cab zipped along and before I knew it I was home.

I found out later from Li that it had poured in Shanghai during the three days I was in Singapore.  The rain had likely pulled down the pollution, the gray skies and left the brilliant sunshine and puffy clouds.  Because I had been away, I didn’t experience that part, instead only the welcome.  The wonderful weather lasted for me for several more days until I had to travel again for work to the typhoon zone in Shenzhen and Hong Kong.  That’s another story though.

Where have you been welcomed lately?

(The Chinese next to the title says “Shanghai welcomes me” – it’s a slight riff on the song for the Beijing Olympics – Beijing Welcomes You 北京欢迎你 which I learned after the Olympics for the first annual dinner at my employer that I was in China.  It seemed fitting with the London Games now in process to throw in a veiled reference.)

Enjoying now

Today is a present

The Mad Woman in the Attic

stories of a serial expat and solo traveller

Marta lives in China

Real life in China

Crazy Chinese Family

My crazy Chinese Family I married into...

Writing Between the Lines

Life From a Writer's POV

A Kick In The Butt

Advice on all things FITNESS by Personal Trainer Ariana Dane

Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life: passionate about food & wine | random moments | and travel