I love my summers in Traverse City. Guiyang is my second home. I think Traverse City and Guiyang should be sister cities.
On January 18 we cooperated with Bekaduo Coffee to host the book signing of Understanding the Unsaid, a new book by Syed Saalim Hashmi which highlights the Indian culture:
It is giving me immense pleasure in writing a foreword for the book “Understanding the Unsaid”, a novel with a collection of short stories written by my student Dr. Syeed Saalim Hashmi.
I’ve always seen Saalim very mch passionate about writing whether blogs, play scripts and other extra curricular stuff assigned to him.
He has been a good student and has hosted most of the programs organized by our medical school, given many presentations in the medical classes and won prizes since he joined Guizhou University of Midical Sciences.
On the behalf of our medical school I want to convey my best wishes to Saalim for his first book. We are proud of you!
With Best Wishes
In addition to a dozen or so Chinese, we had several countries represented at the event, with many of Saalim’s colleagues and other foreigners from Guiyang.
Two very special things happened this evening. There was a mixture of many cultures from all over the world, in a totally friendly atmosphere. Also, it was wonderful to find out more about the Indian culture. The book is a real eye opener. It has several short stories, each telling us something about the culture of India and the “modernization” of that culture. A fine time was had by all.
Bekaduo Coffee was a perfect host and an excellent venue for the event. Book purchases can be arranged by sending an email to: Diana at:
Property law appears to be changing and many foreigners may now be able to buy interests in real estate here in China. I (Jack) found some interesting information online. I can’t attest to the accuracy, but it appears to be quite informative:
[This information is not a legal opinion and I am not a lawyer 😉 ] Jack
Research buying real estate in China thoroughly as Chinese property law is quite complex.
There are now no restrictions on the types of properties that foreigners are allowed to buy in China, and they can buy through an agent or directly from the developer or owner. Foreigners need to have worked or studied in China for more than one year to buy a property in China.
It is important to be aware if buying an older property that developers or the government are entitled under Chinese law to make a compulsory purchase of the property if the land is needed for new construction work. The price they pay may be less than the price you paid for the property. New houses and apartments are not usually at risk. It is advisable to buy older properties only on a freehold basis, which requires higher buyout payments and is therefore less attractive to the government or developers.
The other categories of property ownership in China are Use Rights and Owning Use Rights, each of which require lower buyout payments. No one in China has full ownership of a residential property and the land on which it is built. Residential land is usually leased for 70 years.
The usual procedure for buying property in China is as follows:
* Find a suitable property and submit an official offer letter (through the agent if used). The letter sets out the agreed price, payment schedules and other conditions. When the offer is accepted a deposit of 1% of the purchase price is required.
* Start to make financing arrangements if needed. Some foreign banks provide mortgage facilities for foreigners purchasing property in China.
* The agency or legal representative carry out checks on the property and owner. In the case of some properties, there is at this stage a need to apply for the approval of the government and the public security bureau for the sale to proceed.
* The seller and the buyer enter into an “official sales contract”. Foreign buyers must have their contract notarized. At this stage, a 30% deposit is payable to the seller.
* An application is made to the government Deed and Title Office for transfer of the deed from the seller to the buyer, on payment of the relevant taxes and fees. Before this can be done, the current owner must pay off any mortgage that exists on the property. This process can take several weeks to complete. The ownership certificate is then issued, and the buyer pays the outstanding 70% of the purchase price and takes possession.
Sixteen years of coming to China and I still get this language thing screwed up. When you are talking to someone in English, make sure they say the information. If you ask a question, no matter how good their English may seem , the answer is often likely to be “Yes”. They often answer this way because agreement tends to end the conversation. I had no trouble going to Hong Kong by train, but my return trip was nightmareish via Zhuhai Airport, which my Cheapo Air website told me was near Shenzhen. When I bought my Octopus Ticket upon entry to Hong Kong, the guy behind the desk said that I could go to Zhuhai using the Octopus ticket. So I asked him if it was by train or bus, and he said either one, but train would probably be better. “Do I come back here and then go to Zhuhai from here?” . . . “Yes.” He suggested another 50 HKD on the Octopus card to make sure I had enough on there to cover the trip.
What a load of crap. One look at the map would have told me the nonsense I just swallowed. I was so confident that the guy was honest, that I didn’t independently confirm. Needless to say, if you are using the Zhuhai Airport for Hong Kong, it is wise to carefully check your itinerary in advance. By the way, after missing my flight, I got a new ticket the next night at no charge. Hooray for Air China.
Riding the bus in Guiyang gives a real view of the city, up close and personal, and sometimes a little gritty. There are so many situations that arise, unlike the taxi. A taxi ride to home from downtown can cost between 30 and 50 RMB, which works out to between $4 and $7. The bus ride is about 2 RMB and often involves a two kilometer walk late at night to complete the trip.
So a couple days ago I got on the bus at the “Big West Gate” bus station and I was greeted by a clean and well dressed young lady that had a full smile. It was the most friendly smile I’ve ever experienced when getting on the bus. So I stood near her and she reached out and grabbed my coat sleeve and gestured that I should give her 1 RMB. I said, “You recognize me don’t you?” She smiled more. I told her that I remembered her too. Her smile got bigger. I remembered the girl from a couple months ago (at Big West Gate Bus Station) when I saw her trying to wipe her hand on a bus sign. Then she had gone and sat on the curb, a little bit dirty on that rainy night.
I am not a soft touch for beggars in Guiyang. Most of the beggars seem to look healthy or are even faking their affliction. This relatively young and pretty girl was alone two months ago and wasn’t trying to beg. I had a small package of tissues and I put a 10 RMB note with it and gave it to her so she could wipe her hand. She took the 10 RMB note and one tissue from the package and gave me back the tissues. I tried to refuse the tissues but she insisted on giving the package back to me. So when I got on the bus that day I didn’t immediately recognize her, but when I realized she couldn’t talk, it all connected up. I remembered her.
She left me alone for a little while and then she tried to communicate again. She was holding my sleeve and pulling. I figured out that she was trying to sell me her seat for 1 RMB. So I finally said OK and gave her 1 RMB. Some of the older folks on the bus gestured to me that there was something wrong with her head. I just nodded slightly and went back to trying to get the girl to let go of my sleeve. She was standing and trying to get me to sit in her seat. I told her that I was getting down at the next bus stop because I needed number 69 bus. She let go. Some of the others on the bus offered their advice on which bus to take and so on. I got off at the next stop and said good by to the young girl. It was a very friendly and warm experience. It was nice to know that the little girl was sufficiently functional that she could move around the city and do OK.
I’ve been very involved in the local bus service in Traverse City since the beginning in 1985. I am one of the several people who can rightfully claim paternity of the BATA bus service there. It is a service that handles a lot of special needs clients, but is having a difficult time mainstreaming the general public to incorporate buses as part of their lifestyles. I like riding buses in both Guiyang and Traverse City. The interaction with the others on the bus makes life a bit richer. Let the bus driver fight the traffic. On the bus I can play with my cell phone as much as I want, guilt free.
When I first met the lovely Ms. Lui, Rebecca, from Hong Kong, the first idea I had was something like amazement. Almost all of my students have wanted to go overseas, or at least to Beijing or a coastal Chinese city. Why would a well educated Hong Kong born woman want to come to Guizhou? I’m not very subtle and that was my first question. She wasn’t hesitant. She said that she had had several opportunities to marry, but was never really interested in marriage until she met Li Ming Song (SanGe).
It was on a trip to Hong Kong, that SanGe met Rebecca. She had never met anyone like him, who embraced the danger of extreme sports. Rebecca had been involved in sports in college and she was immediately attracted.
Rebecca’s Hong Kong family didn’t understand her ideas either, but they were supportive and all came to the wedding in Guizhou. It was a traditional Miao wedding. SanGe is a “Miao” minority by birth.
Miao people have an ancient culture and are scattered around Southern China, Vietnam (Mong), and Laos. They speak their own language. It is a culture that embraces living within nature, respecting the environment. Many Miao never bother to learn Mandarin Chinese.
SanGe has always been curious about the world and the nature around him since he was a young boy. His Miao minority father could even communicate with the birds. SanGe served in the army as an artist soldier almost 30 years ago. After that he did lots of work related to music and art.
SanGe had seen a hang glider on TV when he was young and wanted to fly. He later learned to fly gliders and learned paragliding. Now he has become a professional sports guide and instructor. He works with all kinds of groups from all over the world. His company which was co-founded with Rebecca, is called The Hump Exploration Ltd. [TheHumpExploration] and is registered in Hong Kong and Guizhou. It offers outdoor adventure sports like tandem paragliding, caving, as well as rock and cliff climbing. SanGe even leaves the mountains of Guizhou to take his guests scuba diving when there is a demand.
Tourists like to come to Guizhou because of the beautiful mountains, caves, and rivers. Some of them get into trouble. SanGe is one that often gets the call when emergency services people can’t, or don’t want to handle a dangerous emergency. In their spare time, Rebecca and SanGe like to work on charitable projects such as bringing young people from Hong Kong to Guizhou for cultural exchanges.
Last year, while climbing with a group in Liu Pan Shui, SanGe heard music. It was so familiar, a sound from a dream that he’d had many times. The singers were singing in his native Miao language and he followed the sound. On top of one of the many mountain peaks he saw the little church. He said that he almost cried. They were singing Christmas carols in his native language. It was Christmas Day, 2016. He felt like he was walking in a dream. Of all the excitement in his life, this was one of his most memorable moments.
Youku: Mountaintop Holy Songs
When I first lived in Guiyang in 2003 I had a terrible time finding coffee, and I really need coffee. Even instant coffee was rare. Yet, there were massive tea shops, with several rooms filled with tea. I was so frustrated that I used to walk into the the tea shops alone to look around. Shop owners would immediately start showing me the most expensive teas in the store, thinking that they had a rich foreigner and no Chinese interlocutor. Then I would speak one of the ten or so sentences that I knew, “You meiyou kafei?” (Do you have any coffee?). When they answered in the negative I just said bye bye and would walk out.
Finding good coffee has been a challenge, but every year things get better. I recently found Bekaduo Coffee and just love this fresh roast. I have a cool Italian Expresso pot and the fresh, locally roasted coffee is noticeably better than anything I’ve had in China over the last 14 years.
The coffee pot is put on an electric hot plate. At boiling temperature water in the bottom chamber is forced up through the middle chamber that holds the coffee. Coffee is collected in the top chamber. It is very fast and convenient. Ideal coffee brews at below the boiling temperature, and there is a lot to learn.
It is hoped that in the future we can do some kind of event to find out more about how to make the best coffee.
Zheng Bo has some beautiful art in his magazine (City Archive) and when I met him he invited me to his CITY. I call it CITY because that is what is on the wall of his place. After going through it, I couldn’t really decide it as an office, or a publishing house, an art gallery, studio, or jewelry store. I just call it Mr. Zheng’s CITY.
As an amateur photographer I like to nose around, taking pictures of everything. As Mr. Zheng chatted with my friend, he said it was OK for me to move around and take some pictures. His CITY has a lot of beautiful art, and Miao jewelry. The best description of me, when I’m after a story, might be like a dog. A dog will sniff around everything, looking for any kind of scents that are a little different. The CITY provided me with a lot of very interesting photos. I imagine every piece of art has a story behind it. I don’t recall any blank walls or empty desks. Every wall has art, every desk has something pretty, or interesting.
I was fully engrossed in something when I heard the click of a camera. I noticed Mr. Zheng was there, taking pictures of me. So what, I was taking pictures of his stuff. He just smiled and gave a wave. I nodded as if to say, “Take all the pictures you want, fair is fair.” As a foreigner, I am often asked to pose for pictures. Foreigners are a bit rare in Guizhou, maybe like pandas. I forgot about Mr. Zheng and his beautiful camera.
As I was satisfying my curiosity about his CITY, I noticed Mr. Zheng’s technique. As I move a bit like a dog, nosing around, Mr. Zheng moves like a cat, perhaps like a cat stalking a bird, or a lion stalking a zebra.
He is quiet, inconspicuous, and always on balance. He holds the camera stable, and has a solid base. As he squeezes off a photo, he moves the camera slightly for the next shot, making sure that the light, framing, and focus are just right. He doesn’t take just one photo, but at least two or three from a position. He didn’t ask me to pose. He prefers a natural photo, with the subject unaware of the camera. That is why he learned to move so quietly, almost invisible to his subject. I forgot he was taking my pictures, but at the same time, I studied his technique. Just as I am an amateur photographer, he is a pro.
When I came to China I would often ask students what their parents did for a living. Almost always they would describe a parent as either a worker, or a boss. It is like there are only two jobs in China, worker or boss. In the West, we often make the judgment about a person based on what they do. A journalist tells a story and a reporter reports the facts. A college professor is an intellectual and a teacher, and a student is just learning, An artist is creative, and a publisher brings together all the pieces of storytelling, from recruiting talent to keeping finances in order. A photographer can be like a reporter, or a story teller. So I had a little trouble putting Mr. Zheng into a category: publisher, teacher, artist, journalist, businessman, or perhaps salesman. He is definitely a worker. He is all of the above. Perhaps a new category, Crossover Master, could describe Mr. Zheng. He has worn so many hats. Describing those activities is beyond the scope of this blog post. I hope to revisit this fellow.
As we were leaving I asked if I could have another interview, because I really didn’t seem to understand enough. He said OK and gave me his name card . . . College Professor Zheng. He said he didn’t have much time in Guiyang because he was busy with his job in Taijiang County. He is Secretary General there.
It has been one month since the election of 2016. This will be my first blog post that is purely political, something I have steadfastly refused to do on this www.tourguizhou.com website. So I have waited a month to decide whether this feeling of sharing my ideas to the larger community diminishes. It doesn’t. Fair enough. This subject affects the foreigner in China, particularly Americans.
After being forced (age limit) into retirement from my university teaching job in Guiyang, China, I have spent my time on the internet, tutoring children of friends, and travelling. I’ve spend about eight or nine months a year in China, and am prepared to continue this pattern for the “long term”, whatever the hell that means at age 66 (next month).
I made it a point to return to my home town, Traverse City, to make sure my vote got counted in the Presidential election. Two years ago the express mail lost my ballot. (see http://www.tourguizhou.com/archives/9934 ) Also, I felt an urge to be with “my people” (whatever the hell that means) during this crucial time in the history of my country. When I arrived, I was immediately besieged by my countrymen who told me that I “must” vote for ______ because if ______ wins, it will be the end of the world, or worse. I told everybody that I planned to vote for Jill Stein because I don’t have to vote for anybody I don’t like, and I didn’t like either of the major party candidates. Jill Stein is the leader of the Green Party, and Presidential Candidate. For the life of me, I don’t know why she couldn’t persuade Bernie to take her place and run for President on the Green Party ticket. Their platforms are almost identical.
So how I voted is really irrelevant to this post, but it exposes my bias for all to know. I like trees, and flowers, and chirping birds, and I like to swim in clean water with my mouth open, no worries. I grew up in Cadillac (Michigan, USA), an area of clean lakes and rivers, and never had a problem swimming until I swam in the ocean once and realized that I swim with my mouth open . . .
Back to the subject, it was two weeks after the election, and I was at an English Corner in Guiyang. (English Corners are places where Chinese come to practice their English.) It is an exceptional English corner in that it is patronized by young people with an exceptionally high level of English. Many of the 20 or 25 people in the room have lived overseas, or are just good students. The topic for discussion was the US Election, and I had just returned from the US. As a kind of a warm-up, they had a question about who the heads were on Mount Rushmore. Everybody was stumped about who was this Teddy Roosevelt guy. I explained that he was one of the most famous presidents in the US history and that he helped win the Spanish American War. If that hadn’t happened, we (America) probably wouldn’t be “over here” (an Asian power). Winning that war awarded the Philippines to the US. Roosevelt also broke up the big “Trusts” (corporations) that were controlling our economy.
After telling them about my experience in the US, a lot of people said their feelings about the election, and surprisingly there was a lot of Trump support. What I found most surprising was that nobody seemed to care whether anybody was right or wrong. In China the Communist Party is responsible for governing the country, not the people. The people in the English corner really had no incentive to convince each other who was right or wrong. It wasn’t their business. It was an extremely friendly discussion, just about the opposite of what I left in the USA. It was kind of refreshing to have an intelligent discussion about politics without anybody emotionally freaking out.
Then each person was asked who their favorite presidents were in all of history, anywhere in the world. It was a surprising list of very diverse opinions. Everybody seemed to respect each other’s opinions and there were USA Presidents listed, Chinese Presidents, and a few others from around the world.
Everybody seemed curious about who I would name as my favorite two Presidents. I said that I really didn’t remember the guy’s name, but if you saw “Independence Day” my favorite President he was the guy that got in the jet and went up to fight off the aliens. He actually united the world to fight the aliens . . . They didn’t buy that explanation, but it got a good laugh. I just said that he was the President that I wish we had. I went on to say that my favorite President was Ford. He was the only one that never was elected as President or VP. He pardoned Nixon, which was the right thing to do, and he defied Congress when he wanted to get the American babies out of Vietnam (Babylift).
I had a chance to explain how our system works a little bit. In 1974 Ford was in charge of getting the US out of Vietnam. Congress cut off the funds, saying that no money could be used for Vietnam. Ford was very strong. He said that American soldiers had wives and babies in Vietnam and the babies were American Citizens. It was our duty to bring them home. Congress had a majority of Democrats in both houses and was very happy to embarrass the President. Getting the GI’s babies home was less important to them than embarrassing the President. Instead of whining and complaining, Ford said that he was Commander and Chief of the military and he would get the money to bring those babies home.
Ford went around the country talking to groups of Americans and explaining that we had a duty to the soldiers and those American babies in Vietnam. He got the money privately and brought the babies home. Ford had the guts to do what was right. When Dr. Henry Kissinger, who the Chinese know well, was once asked who he thought was the best President of all that he had worked with, he said that Gerald Ford was the closest thing to a real human that ever occupied the White House. Abe Lincoln, who freed the slaves, and saved the Union, was my second choice.