Creepy, Crawly, Icky & Gross!

Save some tentacles for me!

Just in time for Halloween, we’re purveying a tired colonialist trope (the gross-foreign-food), yet ever so reanimated by a visit to Beijing’s famous Wanfujing Snack Street, where the devilish snack foods include dried scorpions.

Mmm, dessicated lizard!

Love them larvae.

…And slaughtered baby duckies. Sorry, vegans.

The British Curriculum (could not find a better name)

Sanya Island, Hainan, China

We are back again! Just got my tan at the beach in Hainan. If you were going to a sucky American public school on a hike, they would be on you like #$%^&*+=;%. When I went hiking in a rain forest, we got split into three teams for a scavenger hunt. You were allowed to go anywhere in the rain forest, and come back at 4:30. You were alone.

Rain forests are very nice. I recommend going to one. So on my team, we took pictures of everything we saw on the list and we walked up 3 mountains, 2 caves, and 5 scary rope bridges. But luckily, we won. And best of all, no tutors [teachers] on our asses.

So we also went sailing. If you’re thinking a big yacht instead it was a 2-person sailboat with no instructors. I have very little sailing experience but luckily I did fine anyway. Most people had never sailed in their life. The instructors said, ‘This is how you put the sail up. Go out there and have fun.’ Everyone flipped over at least 5 times in the Southern China Sea, which is part of the Indian Ocean. Luckily I did not get bitten by sharks. It’s shark-infested waters. Most of the sailing instructors were Americans. They gave everyone a sailing certificate for making it to Level 2. So I guess if you had fun you really did win! True Americans.

Now unfortunately I’m back in cold, depressing Beijing. The next morning I was at a friend’s house and on the way to breakfast I saw the headmaster and his wife zooming by on a Harley Davidson. I’ve never seen a principal do that!

I now see why China is beating us. Here are two examples. Number 1. We go the the snack bar near our apartment. Ethan and I buy a Coco-Cola. We had our tennis racquets to play. We see two Chinese kids with a Coca Cola, no racquets–they’re studying. Example 2. There’s a Chinese kid on our football [soccer] team. He had to leave early from the tournament where I injured my chin…for math tutoring!

So you’re thinking, ‘Oh my god there can only be Halloween in America!’ Well you know what? Halloween came early this year at River Garden compound in Beijing, a very big, fancy walled neighborhood. We went to a billionaire’s mansion & they let us take 2 handfuls of candy! Damn! And it was good! There were 500 kids trick-or-treating and I got over 100 pieces. And the best thing is, there was imported candy, it’s the best candy. And if you’re thinking ,”Eew, I got coconut chocolate in my bag’ well you know what I got? I got sea weed!

What I got in my trick-or-treating bag

Hiking With (100,000) Friends

All together now

Aaaah: the fall foliage hike. Today we and our friends shared this pleasure with a few (million) other people. This is Fragrant Hill, or Xiangshan.

Sharing the journey

It’s half an hour from our apt. Climbing Incense Burner Peak was a real Chinese mountain experience: Stairs, a sea of fellow hikers, stops at man-made features en route (pavillions, pagodas, gardens built 800 years ago). Nearby is a closed military shelter for national leaders in an emergency, attached (they say) by secret tunnel to Tiananmen Sq.
Another difference from hiking at home is how people hang blessing ribbons on trees–for longevity, a happy marriage, prosperity. The mountain isn’t quite 2000 feet in elevation. Still, tiring. Amazing: he found a solitary rock above Glass Pond.

Clothes! Clothes! Clothes!

Central Authority permits heat on Nov. 15. Till then, we’re trying. A fleece blanket, bought on the street ($5, autumnal, with text, “Leaf of flower Leaf of flower”) helps.

Since this is China, clothes are pretty easy. The ‘Zoo Market’ is opposite the animals. It’s also, in fact, a zoo: Five 7-storey buildings of factory-fresh flea market and plenty of shoving. Lacking stamina, I did one floor.

Luckily it's 'empty' midweek

Winterwear is here, in every color.

The tiny shorts (trimmed in fur) are THE hot look on campus among the under-20s.


Most tops are ungapotchka: “a Yiddish word that describes the overly ornate, busy, ridiculously over-decorated, and garnished to the point of distaste.” Leopard skin and glitter trim and mettalic chain and lace and some fur balls and giant black rhinestones and a panda adorn a single sweater. I’m not so big on adornment so it took a while…

Lace fringe, chain, panda

… but I scored 4 long, cozy sweaters and 2 pairs of pants, about $60 for the haul.

I save for another day the quilted, padded, embroidered, patterned, fur-lined story of Northern China’s incredibly elaborate long underwear. And the omnipresence of the panda applique.

Occupy Wall St…& Other Educational Fun

Poster in my department.

My School of English & International Studies is talking about Occupy Wall Street. I didn’t attend this lecture last week (the potential impact on China/Chinese-U.S. relations). But in class discussions, my students commented:
(1) The demonstration has a message for Chinese youth: ‘Exercise your free-speech rights, too!’ (Not that they could organize online — thanks, Bill for pointing out “Occupy _____” with any Chinese city name has been banned by censors here.)
(2) Chaos may be looming; demonstrators must remain peaceful.
(3) The blatant alliance between U.S. politicians and big business is surprisingly shameless.
(4) The demonstrators could use some advice. Turn to us! We comrades are experienced at organizing disciplined political rallies!

More serious educational fun in China: Friday’s all-Beijing, intercollegiate Movie Dubbing Competition. This is a popular (& educational!) event for university Engish majors–like karaoke, but with movies. I’m on the judging panel! They’ll live-dub excerpts, in 2 events: With scripts, and total improv without. Don’t know which movies yet. Last year “Garfield” was among them.

Recess equipment for Ethan's grade.

Other seriously great educational news: Ethan has an all-day international school soccer tournament…on a Wednesday! Kenny’s class, 7th year, is a 4-hour flight away this week, on the tropical island of Sanya, sailing and camping! And one of my top students, a senior, just learned his father’s employer, a mineral company, will 100% sponsor his graduate studies in the U.S.!

In other politico-educational news, a colleague in the School of English and International Studies, who did his graduate work in Chicago, is in the last, heated week of his upstart election campaign to represent this area in the local/district People’s Congress. He’s something almost unknown: an independent. He’s a cult figure to students, his sharp Weibou (Twitter) feeds have been banned. When the new American Ambassador Gary Locke came here to speak, during the question-and-answer session he asked, “Have you visited the Great Wall — and have you been to the Great Firewall?”

There’s a shoo-in appointee/candidate the area’s powers-that-be have named, to run and win. So this bold campaign has angered the university entities concerned with such matters (control mechanisms the workings of which I don’t really understand). His campaign has ignited electric excitement among my students, and those few colleagues I’ve gotten to know wish him well! My inbox is flooded with his earnest and positive campaign messages (in Mandarin).

Good luck, Xiao Mu!

Lambie’s Point of View

Hey! Stop mooning me!

By Ethan

Lambie thinks that tushies should not be legal in China! They should be put away!

Just kidding. Lambie says that tushies are fine in China and she doesn’t mind seeing them around. In America you’d probably get told off by the police for having tushies around. But tushies in China are just fine. It’s much less expensive than diapers, you just go wherever you feel, some babies don’t even wear pants! Lambie’s glad to have her tushy covered by all her wool. That is, if she had a tushy.

When Lambie grows up (that is, if she does), she wants to move back to China and she wants to become a lamb in a herd out in the countryside.


Lambie thinks that it’s time to go to bed.

Chinese Politics = “The Glee Project”

Vying contestants...

On “The Glee Project,” 12 finalists (whittled down from 40,000) compete to be on “Glee.” In the coming leadership turnover in China, 70% of the ruling cabinet will be replaced. OK: the kids worry mostly about sore throats and catty remarks, while China’s future leaders confront brutal income inequality, rampant corruption, energy scarcity and environmental destruction. But I see similarities. And not just that Party members get purged and these kids get cut.

As it’s not just about singing on “Glee” (though you’d think at first it would be), rising to power isn’t just about leadership ability. Nor is it dancing on “Glee”–which is to say, ability to jockey politically. Personality matters, “It”-ness. You need (as the “Glee Project” producer explains) to be “someone viewers will want to watch and love every week.” China’s next leaders must project an appealing life story–with charisma, the common touch (as Wen Jiabao is said to do).

Ethnic issues come into play. “Glee” fans know the show covers its bases (Jewish, gay, African-American, Asian-American, Latina, overweight, handicapped–we saw the Irish-accent guy’s advantage early on). Likewise with China’s emerging leadership–though there’s more tokenism with just a couple of rising leaders’ gender & ethnic diversity.

Also consider:

–Leaders must survive intra-Party elections : Contestants survive being pitted against one another.

–China’s emerging leaders must be distributed among the leading factions, elitist and populist : “Glee” contestants must likewise bring balance (classically-trained NYC sopranos, self-taught street toughs).

–Being a protege confers advantages in a system built partly on patron-client ties : Being the producer, choreographer or singing coach’s favorite helps (though in neither case offers a guarantee).

–Chinese politics favors so-called “princelings,” sons of Party powerful : “Glee Project” featured LA show biz veterans.

–In a financally integrated world, trade experience is valuable : In a licensing-driven world, contestants’ crossover appeal is valuable (Broadway, branded merchandise, stadium events, Christmas specials).

Playing the ukelele isn’t running the world’s second biggest military and financial powerhouse. Hitting a high-B flat isn’t like facing down natural disasters, coal mine fiascos, counterfeiting, a real-estate bubble. But being a star in a 24/7, Twitter-fed, market-driven, always-close-up world possesses multifaceted dynamics of a sort Barbra Streisand never knew. China’s profound challenges are 360-degree and ever-emerging and will demand so much more of its rising generation than would have been required just a few years ago.

British Curriculum continued yet again

Before the tournament

By Kenny

Hi folks BSB curriculm is back yet again!!! Whoo hoo!

So there was a Halloween disco and all you people at Glenfield are thinking, “No way, there was one at Glenfield, too, what a coincidence!” On the bad side it had ear-deafening music for 3 hours. On the good side, it was not just middle school, it was all of secondary school year 7 through 13. It was older music and there was dirty music. If you played it in Montclair they would sue the d.j.!

If you’re thinking, “Oh no, help! Montclair is so polluted what are we going to do?? Oh, I know, at the Science Fair my darling can do a Going Green project.” Well you know what? In Beijing it’s so polluted sometimes we have to wear an air mask. Do we have to do that in Montclair? I didn’t think so. And if it gets over 250 on the air quality, we can’t go outside for break. It’s not too snowy, it’s not too hot it’s too much pollution. So you know what Gray Russell, it’s pointless. You don’t need to clean up Montclair we need to clean up Beijing!

So if you’re wondering what it’s like for some of the kids at my school. A driver might pick them up from school in a Mercedes and after a drive to their house there is a big gate and there is another door. If you ring the door bell a lady could open it who is one of their ayis (a maid, ayi means “auntie”). If you look around you will see another ayi in the kitchen, and an ayi cleaning up stairs. WOW i wish i could have that.

Back to actual campus guess who’s coaching volley ball, the teacher who calls me “Sweaty Boy.” I don’t want to know what will happen if we lose a game.

But here’s the grand finale at a big football (soccer) tournement in the semifinal game i get tripped dribbling the ball, my jaw goes into a guy’s shoulder. He starts fake crying and i get a %$*#($&^! yellow card and the thing is, it hurts when I talk but I keep playing. We lost that game but we had to play one more game for 3rd place. And the thing is, I am centre of defense so I have to talk a lot and I still play and we won 3rd place!!!

That concludes for today time for lunch bye.

Smiling (Non-)Buddha

Lue Mnjun's enigmantic grins are everywhere.

The smiling work of leading Chinese contemporary artist Yue Minjun is everywhere–huge, grinning self-portraits, often in bubblegum colors. Taking Kenny to an all-day football (soccer) tournament yesterday, passed this. Ethan felt the smiles were genuine, goofy happiness. The Times piece linked above suggests the smiles may be the “illusion of happiness headed toward extinction.” Lue is part of what some call China’s Cynical Realism school, which meets the despair of contemporary urban China sardonically, with a sense of the absurd. Take it straight or metaphorically–Yue’s famous smiles are referencing Buddha’s smile. I don’t pretend to get Beijing life today. But I often think of a student, native of the city whose home was razed as part of the rezoning of low-rise alleys so high-rise towers could rise, who said, “I’m homesick every day.” And of an Edison, NJ dad born here and now back several years, for a hedge fund, who gets lost driving his own hometown.
My students’ latest sets of writing have wrestled the inexplicable delays in banning waste (“sewer”) oil from returning to the food stream; the wrongness of not letting a good candidate who wasn’t hand-picked run for office, and the anger on campus when hundreds of students were forced to “volunteer” for the administration, with work sometimes lasting until midnight, under penalty of disciplinary action. And there’s this. The smog (using the Embassy’s Air Quality Index, or AQI) has been above 400 this week & today, a multiple of emergency health conditions almost impossible to express. I didn’t put Ethan in his mask yesterday because our Chinese playdate didn’t have them. My friend said it was just fog, rolling in before the rain.

Forest Park, beside the Olympic stadia

The British Curriculum, Continued Again

National costume, true Americans on International Day.

By Kenny
The suspense is over the number 1 most popular post is back. So if you are a Montclair person, you must be thinking, “I moved my family to Montclair so my sweet little innocent child could go to a good school. And so my cupcake could have great diversity here.” Well you know what I would think again!!!! At the British School of Beijing most people’s first language isn’t even English!! I have friends here that are really African, no offense to all of you that are African American! So if I made a list of countries you would probably be asleep by the time I finish but I can tell you that there are over 30 different countries. Like a few of these countries that my friends are from: China of course, Taiwan, South Korea, Finland, Argentina, America, France, South Africa, UK (well of course i will say this what school do you think I am in the German School?!?!), Mongolia, Canada, and Germany.

Also Belgium, my friend from Belgium is nicknamed “French kid,” poor French kid. Sometimes when we play rugby people yell, “Go French kid” and he yells, “I’m not French!!!” But I later learned that he is a little bit French.

I’m sorry folks I have to go to bed don’t ask me why but I do so long for now folks, bye bye!!!! (It’s not over yet there will be another one coming up next time and i beg you to like us on Facebook and follow us on


Front of campus is jumping at 7:15 when the kids get picked up for school. The action is breakfast. Having caffeinated at home, commuters & students line up for porridge cups, smoothie man, pickles in grilled dough, and famous jianbing (crepes filled with eggs, bean paste, crispy stuff, etc.). It’s a bus stop. Along with my university, there are several publishing houses here. Snapped these with my phone just now. One of a hundred million little neighborhods waking up to something warm.

I am into leek and egg steamed buns, about a dime. She deserves more money for them.
Thank you!

Devotion (Lambie Discovers Buddhism)

Lambie visited the Yung gang (“Cloud Ridge”) caves, and saw that devotion moved mountains.

Lambie was happy and astonished to see how Buddhism flourished here.

She learned that the ancient Silk Road passed by, carrying goods and gods. While trading foods and fabric, the road carried culture from India, flowing robes of Greek sculptures from Rome, artistry from Iran. Turkestani rulers, who unified northern China, embraced India’s Buddhism, and melded it all together. Here is a great world religion at its height.

Lambie is pumped to see what happens when great civilizations meld.

The giant Buddha caves of Bamyan, Afghanistan were destroyed. These remain, surviving 2,000 years of erosion, corrosive pollution, vandals, political attacks, and millions of visitors.

Lambie was sorry to see holes and some broken caves.

Lambie knows about Pharoahs. The giant Buddhas were Pharoanic in a way, offering worship to Buddha and glorifying the ruler.

Indian monks, Turkic kings, Hellenic motifs...yet distinctly Chinese Buddhism.

Lambie hopes to become more like Buddha by following his example: Meditation, morality, insight, generosity, patience, and kindness.

Lambie is happy.

The British Curriculum continued

By Kenny Coplan

Ok back to the curriculum. So we had International Day, you’re guessing, “Wow, its like Global Adventure.” But luckily we actually learned things and tasted real international food. Luckily we missed a WHOLE day of classes and explored the countries. And did I tell you that we didn’t have to do projects on countries. Instead of presenting our country to our parents, all the moms cooked traditional food and you had to dress traditionally and they presented their countries to us. Russia (their bread’s amazing), Finland (where Angry Birds is from), South Korea has good food.

So this is what I dressed up as: sagging skinny jeans, USA shirt, black hoodie, and backwards flat brim hat. So I went around like a gang member. It was fun.

Next you’d think, “Woo hoo, we got Sandy Hook for a day, awesome, the only trip the board has approved, ooh, it’s very educational.” What did we do? They gave us a talk, we had to collect shells, and we got to go fishing with a net for two minutes and got nothing. Well check this out. At the British School of Beijing our residential trip (a field trip) we’re going hiking in a rain forest, we’re going surfing, We’re going camping in a jungle and we’re going sailing. We’re taking a plane to an island off the south coast of China for FIVE days, FIVE DAYS. And guess what? We can actually get wet.

OK let’s get down to business so in school one of my teachers has some funny things to say. When the whole class got a question wrong he said, “You’re all idiots.” I don’t take it personally. He has a new nick name for a kid, it’s “The Boy Who Can’t Be On Time.” He gives him a lunch time detention every week. He says I”m way too tall and way too loud. He says I should combine with my friend who’s small and quiet.

Well that concludes for this but i can assure you the British Curriculum will continue, zai tien or bye.

Hangin’ at a Hanging Monastery

By Ethan Coplan

Seen from below.

I really enjoyed the hanging monasteries because it looked really scary from the very top.


I really liked the view from different spots.

Filing through the cliff dwelling.

Since it was so freezing, people were wearing big green Chairman Mao army coats. It was really cold there because of the high altitude. We paid 20 kuai (about $3) to rent them. It was the best 20 kuai my mom ever spent.

The Xuankong Si hanging off Mount Hengshan was built in 491. We heard Taoist monks lived here until a few hundred years ago. Fall has arrived.

Big, Big Buddha

We rode a sleeper train to see Buddhas, carved inside mountains, in human-dug (not natural) caves (or shiku), on the Silk Route. The Yung Gang Shiku were created around 400, funded by a Northern emperor. Carvers roped themselves up high, dug a hole, and began with Buddha’s face.

There are hundreds of caves, large and small, filled with Buddha and carved tales of his life. Some Buddhas were destroyed by water, coal dust from nearby mines in Shanxi (a rather poor, mining area with distinctively eroded white cliffs, almost like the Badlands), and vandalism during the Cultural Revolution. Some were colorfully painted about 600 years ago during a restoration.

Some Buddhas were painted outside the caves.

A lot is going on inside these caves.

Preservation is a huge challenge with millions of visitors.

A cave beside Buddha was a good place to meditate.

In all, there are 55,000 Buddhas here.

A few more pictures:

We were told it took about 40,000 people about 60 years to carve. A few weeksago, the Chinese government opened a sprawling complex of Buddhist temples, ponds and pavillions as an entryway. There, the Great Hall Buddhas are molded of plastic.

Lost (a personal post)

About having a complete break down and crying in public.

I was to meet my boys after Kenny played a baseball game against the German School, at a spot none of us had ever been to before. We were arriving separately (nearly an hour from my university). My phone ran out of juice. Ethan’s phone was lost. Two different cabs tried to find the spot and both got lost. I wasn’t late, but could one or both boys have been early? Since the spot was hard to find, had Ethan’s driver gotten lost? He’d never been there. He doesn’t speak English. I couldn’t be reached — with a dead cell phone.

I found the spot–another outpost of the British School. My instructions were to find Ethan by a Construction Bank of China “across the street.” There wasn’t one.

How would I find him? Where was he?

And did Kenny really play a game? What if the bad pollution cancelled? Where was he?

Beijing (counting outlying areas) is 90 miles wide. And if he’d played, where would the baseball bus actually stop? School, yards, parking, covered a large area. Sightlines were blocked by office towers and garages. If he’d arrived and not seen me, maybe they took him to the next bus stop–an hour away. How would I know?

Where were my children?


After calls by lovely people still working at school at 6 pm and many tissues, about 45 minutes later, they turned up. Ethan’s driver had, in fact, gotten lost. And Kenny’s team had lost the game.

The Sun’s Gonna Shine

After a rain, the sun just came out!! View from our balcony.

Beijing city gates throughthe smog, yesterday, AQI around 385.

In Los Angeles, air pollution rated 90 on the AQI (Air Quality Index) has been shown to hurt kids’ lung development. Over 100 in most places is called “ozone alert day,” unsafe for sensitive people, like those with ashthma. The danger here is ultrafine dust. The same EPA index (there’s a monitor on the rooftop of the American Embassy) rated Beijing’s air the past few days over 300, or “Dangerous.” “Emergency” conditions occurred, with AQI over 500 (also called “Beyond Index,” and “super crazy bad”) twice this fall. Once was Sunday.

Note that 200 is four times worse than 100, and Beijing is only China’s fourth most polluted city.

Expats are obsessed with this. We “splurged” on a Swedish air purifier for the kids’ room. The international schools use air purifiers and cancel recess and sports over 250. Our special Japanese “Totobobo” masks required a daytrip to the 1 store that carries them.

China Daily today reports today Chinese lung cancer rates up 50% in the past decade, nationwide. (Pancreatic cancer, newsy after Steve Jobs’ death, was reported, in Shanghai, to be up 500% in 2010, versus 1980.)

Considering the lavish love given to [only] children here, the carefree attitude about kids’ seatbelts & helmets surprises. Brilliant academics don’t have air purifiers at home.

And I have never seen an air mask on a child.

Soul in a Jar

National Museum of China

The National Museum of China, on Tiananmen, may be the world’s biggest museum. Or just the hardest to get into (5 security checks), and the emptiest –cases are installed half a room apart. To accommodate crowds, or isn’t there enough treasure? Reopened, post -renovation, it’s China telling its cultural story.Anchor exhibit: Contributions to civilization, Neolithic through the Qing dynasty (1911). Now it’s also hosting the ‘First Beijing International Design Triennial’–favorite curatorial category: “Rethinking Bamboo.” (The irony of the cultural ambitiousness is that in a museum full of Chinese, it’s me whom the tv crew approaches for a comment…politely declined.)

The narrative starts 5,000 years ago with decorative jade (knives, burial necklaces, pots), ivory and bronze. And several cong tubes—also called zhung or tsung (I had to look it up: symbol of heaven) –looking remarkably like a new Beijing apartment complex.

Cong (zhung or tsung), symbol of heaven & earth--the only photo I could find.

An ability to control flood damage made China’s first dynastic leader—the original technocrat. From whom regional dynasties emerged, & trade (food, crafts). Soon it’s rising wealth, annexation, and a quick millennia later, unification—embodied in gorgeous carved, sculpted, filigreed bronze trunks, vessels and tools. By 1600 BC, complex jade phoenix-and-dragon burial amulets, and bronze pots teeming with teeny dressed figurines 3” high marching around the edges with rams, wearing almost microscopic hats and jewelry, playing teeny instruments. And “Soul Jars,” or hunping.

By the year 100, scrolls and printing. By 500, silk brocade — and Buddha, in ceramics, paintings, precious metals.

Chinglish has been made fun of well enough elsewhere (actually that’s mostly from Japan). Given its ambitions, I wish the museum’s texts were lit. Peking Man’s predecessor, Yuanmou Man, lived 1.7 million years ago, but where, I don’t know (map, key weren’t translated). There’s nowhere to sit and contemplate (Anna, my Italian professor friend, said it’s because sitting is bourgeois).

Intriguing finish: At the museum’s Bulgari jewelry exhibit, of insanely over-the-top jewelry spanning 80 years of opulence and sapphires the size of oranges, crowds of young people, bent over the cases, focus intensely, some composing ing photos with huge cameras. Art students? Aspiring designers? Nouveau riche?

Says Anna’s husband Frank: People planning to copy them.

Water Wheel

By Ethan Coplan

In Shanghai I went inside this kind of weird thing that spun around on water that was hollow in the middle and on the sides were two holes big enough that you could fit in. You kind of ran inside it like a hamster. Me and Kenny went in one. When Kenny kept running, I would flip over on top of him.
And in Shanghai, I went up the Pearl Tower and I was the bravest, I stayed on the glass floor. It looked you were about to go crashing down like 80 floors. And I went up a tower the World Financial Center) that looked like a beer opener. It had a glass floor also but you saw part of the building under you, so it didn’t make it as scary as on the Pearl Tower.

Shanghai Pearl transmission tower

The Bund at night

The Bund is really cool. There was an island in the river with all the tall buildings. It kind of looked like the circle with the tall buildings was New YOrk, and where we were was London.


My students complain that post-graduate education isn’t strong in China and want to go overseas. In rural areas, the elementary level is much worse…

China’s overvalued currency has inflated a real-estate asset bubble. Lending to developers has been riskiest (not surprisingly) by the least-regulated nonbank lenders who offer the highest returns. How it may blow up…(Thanks for this, Annie Levy) By a smart prof at Tsinghua with whom I sat on a China Radio International panel on the 9/11 anniversary…

Brookings’ 5-part series on many facets of the 2012 Party Congress, at which like 3/4 of China’s leadership will turn over. The rising leaders are from the “lost generation,” those sent to labor in the countryside instead of to school during the Cultural Revolution, and bring an unprecedented diversity of experiences. And because once they finally got to study they really dug in, they bring comparatively very high levels of education (PhDs) in diverse fields. The technocratic engineers in charge today, their time is over….Many thanks for this to Harry Williams of Carleton College, my Fulbright colleague now up north.

My Students, in Their Own Words

Beijing Foreign Studies University

“I have often thought about what makes me different from the millions of the others who also got the same name. I believe, it is those people who raised me. My family is not a well-off one. But through my parents’ love and care I learnt about faith and trust. Through their examples of reading at night I learnt about the power of knowledge. Through their everyday housekeeping, through every meal, every outing, every call, I learnt responsibility and happiness and love. And my grandma, who regards me coming first in everything I do, never have doubt on my capabilities, she is my inspiration…I am glad to be myself. I am the Yang Yang who is like no one else.”


“For me, English is the best friend and teacher I ever had. It showed me how beautiful a language could possibly be, and it changed my perspective of certain issues like democracy.”


“I have experienced the atmosphere of overcoming difficulty after difficulty. Thousands of tests have effectively shaped me in calmly tackling barriers.”


“I come from a very traditional Chinese family with no siblings. To some extent, it results in the loneliness and independence of my personality. And I am somewhat grateful for the small size of my family because I can receive all my parents’ attention.”

“My choice of journalism major was not something random. I’d get moved by stories told by journalists and journalists themselves who fought for causes as human rights, peace and democracy. I can feel the language and I feel its power. It is my will to wield it as sheild and sword to preserve the many things worth fighting for.”


“Though I love it, I have never made up my mind to be a journalist, part of the reason for which is the objection from my parents. They don’t want me to be in danger but unfortunately, journalist is never safe.”


“Unlike most children around me, I was brought up by my grandparents. My parents have been away from home to make a living. They came back home twice a year, leaving my brother and me growing up independently. I always hoped summer and winter vacation could come soon, because only then could I get a chance to see my parents. Because of this unforgettable experience, I have been dreaming of becoming a teacher. I hope to get an average income from this stable job and use it to support my family. I dream that one day my parents no longer need to struggle alone.”


“I hope to be an international NGO worker, a member of the institutions under UN, to be someone speaking for our people, fighting for the promising future of the entire human beings.”


“I hope that I can be more critical and analytical every time I read some materials especially news reports and articles about current affairs. I hope to sharpen my thoughts so that I can see the essence of the events better.”


“I was raised under the influence of Chinese Confucianism and hold the faith in the ideal of ‘cultivating yourself, managing your family, governing the country and chase global peace’ proposed by Confucius thousands years ago. Thus I do not desire a life simply driven by money or fame but one with inner peace.”


“My ultimate goal is to do something good for the whole society. I can be a politician or a diplomat, or a employee in cross-continent corporations, or even a part-time writer. No matter what job I do, I will always remember to make this world better.”


“It is very hard for Chinese to make our voice heard. That is a big problem. And I want to be one of the journalists to introduce the wrold to China, as well as introduce China to the world.”

Chinese Jewish

It’s Yom Kippur in China.
Yesterday in Shanghai, we visited the Jewish Refugee Museum and synagogue, Ohel Moshe. During WW2, a few Chinese consular officials in Eastern Europe gave visas to 30,000 Jews fleeing Hitler, and Shanghai became their wartime home–when no other country would offer refuge. They set up a little Viennatown, complete with coffeehouse. (Ethan enjoyed a graphic novel about it, A Jewish Girl in Shanghai by Wu Lin, 2008; it’s also an animated film.)

While there, we bought a book about the legendary Chinese Jews of Kaifeng: a 1,000-year-old community that’s mostly disappeared. (Originally emigrants on the Silk Road from Turkey, escaping the Crusaders, they intermarried over the centuries.) It’s a big, old hardcover collection of Kaifeng-Jewish folk tales a Chinese anthropologist gathered from the elderly a generation ago.

So it’s Kol Nidre services. Kehilat Beijing, our synagogue. And the rabbi invites up to the bima 3 young Chinese Jews from Kaifeng to say a few words! They were recently back from a few years of religious training in Israel. We couldn’t believe it! They were swamped afterwards as total celebrities.

May you be inscribed in the book of life!!

The People’s Favorite International Sport

By Kenny Coplan
The people’s favorite international sport is the NBA. I asked a few people what their favorite NBA teams were and they said: the LA Lakers, the Celtics, and the Heat. I am honestly not suprised why they picked those teams because they are 3 of the 4 best teams, but of course the Knicks are better then them all. And when Chinese commentaters talk about players they call them by their surname like Anthony, Bryant, James, and Rondo.
In Bejing you see a lot of basketball courts. The funniest courts I saw was the Forbidden Basketball Court. I call it this because in a part of the Forbidden City, you suddenly see a basketball court. Which I later learned was used by the security guards, military men, or something.

Lambie Goes to Shanghai

Lambie (Ethan’s favorite puppet, formely Kenny’s favorite puppet but we won’t discuss that) has been enjoying China. During this national holiday week commemorating the founding of the Republic, she took the bullet train to Shanghai. It went pretty fast, about 200 m.p.h. We’re pretty sure it used maglev (magnetic levitation–almost no-friction, using less energy, which Ethan studied for a Bradford Science Fair project) but Lambie has some questions as to whether every bullet is maglev, or whether it’s using maglev all the time. Lambie is looking into it.
Lambie enjoyed two of China’s most famous gardens, built by Ming dynasty officials who retired to Shanghai and Suzhou, another city an hour away: the Yuyuan in old Shanghai, and the Lingering Garden in Suzhou. They were similar, full of mazes made of rock. Lambie climbed around and noted the balance of four elements: rocks, plants, buildings and water.

Later Ethan and Kenny and I will write more about Shanghai. (Some French Concession architecture was sort of Parisian and the new skyscrapers in Pudong have fanciful Jetson’s flourishes. Nearby water towns, like Venice, had so much commerce, as canals ferried wealth to the emperor, they were richer. To commemorate riches, the boys bought silk pajamas.)
Finally Lambie enjoyed hearing people sing national songs, in casual groups in Fuxing Park to celebrate the holiday.

She can’t sing, but she joined the little children doing arts and crafts.

Funny Chinese jokes on things

PRC the Peoples Republic of China “Im lovin it.” I bought this shirt but mum says i cant wear it untill we get to America beacause she says it’s offensive.

A funny joke in Chairman Mao. I think its funny because Mao is the cat and change the name to Meow since cats meow.

Contermporary Art

The 798 Art District is no longer cutting-edge, but still, it’s a glimpse into Beijing’s world-class art scene. I saw both documentary frankness and irony; a multi-pronged social critique. One show depicted a warehouse full of headshots of a sex worker, taken every few minutes all day. There are tons of Mao quotations for sale (on posters, shirts, bags, mousepads). I’m told this is nostalgia (hard for outsiders to understand) along with the irony we get immediately.

“Being a man of ‘noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, and a man who is of value to the people.’ ” As a China scholar said during my orientation — Mao didn’t send his son to Harvard Business School, but to die on a battlefield in N. Korea. There’s a KFC logo shirt rendered PRC (People’s Republic of China) with Mao as the Colonel. We liked Chairman Meow, where Mao is a cat.

Good-bye for now.

…Until January.

We love and miss you.

Your bike is waiting in the livingroom to get back to the mountains & Fragrant Hill.

We somehow managed a 3-roller-suitcase, 1700rmb shop at Carrefour without you.

Western Things You Will See in China

By Kenny Coplan

You will find Coca-Cola in every restaurant. It’s a popular soda.

You will see a lot of KFCs. It’s cheaper. They have french fries, and they serve a little less food. And they also have pork on rice and some other Chinese things.

You will also find Sprite in every restaurant. I drink about a bottle every two days since it may not be healthier but it’s safer than the water and I’d rather be safe than sorry.