Protests in Istanbul After Police Crackdown on Activists

The events in Istanbul have escalated incredibly quickly in the past few days, with a revolution now at hand. There are many interesting underlying stories about the protests, including the silence of the traditional media and the coverage of these events by internet sites like reddit and imgur. But what is most interesting to me is that all this started because the government was going to destroy one of the last remaining green spaces in the city to make room for a mall. Obviously the people of Turkey are angry about more than just the building of one more mall; they are fed up with the entire regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But it should not be overlooked that the last straw, the thing that pushed them over the edge, came when their last remaining park was threatened. It is symbolic, I believe, of increasing worldwide frustration with governments that continue to destroy natural environments and green spaces for the sake of development and urbanization. At the very least, it is a powerful message about what people truly value: open community space, fresh air, and a direct connection to the earth.

World

Activists agitating against the construction of a shopping mall in a park in Istanbul were violently dispersed by Turkish police. The move triggered mass protests in Turkey’s largest city as well as demonstrations elsewhere, now channeling widespread frustrations and anger with the rule of the government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Guizhou (Only A Month Late)

I know I’m late but…

At the end of March I went back to China, only this time the Tufts group travelled to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou province. And while I had been to Beijing and Shanghai a month earlier, somehow this was more ‘real’ China than before. I thought that because I had already been to China that culture shock would not be so bad, but it was still a slap in the face. One of the poorer regions of China, poverty is a lot more visible than Beijing.  

We were part of a tour group, with the Tufts students taking up 80% of the spots; I feel bad for the few other women who were stuck with the loud Americans. Our tour guide did not speak english, but for some reason we still had to pay her. I would’ve liked to have known what I was looking at as we drove through the countryside but most of the time I just ended up sleeping. The first day we drove 3 hours out to a government-sponsored minority village, which was uncomfortable at times. The first thing we saw was rows of older women dancing; or rather shuffling their feet to the dissonant, spine-tingling music being produced by some kind of devilish chinese violin. I honestly thought one of the women was going to cry, the look on her face was so upsetting. Luckily, we quickly moved on.

just casually hammering some dough

just casually hammering some dough

Next we saw a show, where chinese singers and musicians acted out, as far as I could tell, the story of a drunken feast. Well, turns out that is a common event here, as we were ushered into a local home (super cool) and promptly forced to drink some rice wine with our lunch. The women working (living?) there literally brought the cup up to your mouth and if you didn’t open up they probably would’ve poured it down your chin. My friend and I, trying to avoid these mandatory noontime shots, finished ours before they had worked down the table. Our hosts were undeterred however, and simply refilled our cups and made us drink anyway. Oh well.

Inside a local home

Inside a local home

We walked up to the top of this village to a pretty unbelievable view; the mountains in this region are surreal. On the way up we passed a elderly lady strolling down the hill with her arms behind her back. When we looked back, my friends and I swore she was holding a submachine gun behind her back. We were too far away to tell if it was real, but I wasn’t about to find out. Only in China.

Village

The Village From the Top

The Village

The Village

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At night back at the hotel we went to the grocery store to grab some beers and stumbled upon these gems:

PBR World War II Veteran Edition Beer

PBR World War II Veteran Edition Beer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, those are PBR cans commemorating the American Veterans in WWII. Again, only in China. The next day we drove (only 2 hours this time) to walk through what I’m convinced was Jurassic Park. It was this awesome park with 365 steps (1 for each day of the year) across the water through spires of rock and giant ferns.

If I were a dinosaur, I'd live here

If I were a dinosaur, I’d live here

Next we visited Huangguoshu Waterfall, a 255-foot tall cascade with an awesome cave where you can basically walk underneath the thundering curtain of water. Again, surreal is about the only way I can describe it.

looking out from the cave

looking out from the cave

Huangguoshu Falls

Huangguoshu Falls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few other oddities during the trip:

– Immediately after exiting the airport, Vera wasted no time in telling us where we could buy some dog meat. I looked for dog jerky as a souvenir but no luck.

– Everyone smokes cigarettes, everywhere. In the elevator, at the restaurants, in the hotel lobby. Even at 7 am during breakfast people were smoking cigarettes. Yum!

– I received a fortune cookie said, “You will have further progress in your career.” Still waiting for that one to pan out…

– In general, bathrooms are a bit of an adventure, and half of the time you are standing or squatting in a puddle of well…something. A lot of the time I felt better not washing my hands (yes, that bad).

It was a short trip, but pretty eye-opening and based on the looks people were giving us, not many westerners get to this part of China. I consider myself privileged to see how ‘real’ China operates. Plus not so bad when the view outside the bus window consistently looked like this:

typical geography

typical geography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t know if I’ll ever be back to China, but I won’t forget it.

Oddities, Encounters, and Buddhist Dating Advice

I decided to compile a list of the strange experiences and sights I’ve encountered in the last few weeks. Oh, and some wisdom from my Buddhism Professor.

– A pack of meowing girls. Yes, that is correct. Upon returning from China, we were walking through the airport when a group of 5 or 6 girls walked towards us meowing in unison. It almost sounded like they had practiced it before, it was pretty impressive honestly (and a little scary).

– A man pushing a pink stroller with 3 tiny dogs inside, all wearing pink articles of dog clothing (is there a technical term for that?).

– According to my Buddhism teacher (who is a monk) the best way to get over a break up is to “write a poem or a song about your feelings, get it published, and then move on. Find someone else.” Is Taylor Swift actually an expert buddhist? Unclear. But next time someone asks, buddhism condones rebound dating.

– A solitary man eating his pizza next to me who made grunting and what I can only describe as “mooing sounds” and laughed to himself as he ate.

– An impromptu wedding photo shoot in the middle of a Soho alleyway

– Standing on a highway overpass and counting 41 Mercedes-Benz’s and 38 BMW’s go by in about 5 minutes. Plus several Porsche’s, a handful of Audi’s, Maserati’s, and Ferrari’s.

– Someone in a Giant Panda costume dancing around campus. He was a big hit with the girls

– Perks of abroad: when you do job interviews through video chat no one knows if you’re wearing pants or not.

– Seeing two men on tiny little bikes biking up a giant hill at midnight on a friday

There are more but they often slip my mind right after they happen. As I remember/experience more I will update. Sadly I don’t have photos of any of these events, most of them happened too quickly or I didn’t have my camera. I’ve posted some older photos from various activities, just to keep you interested.

On the Prospect of Being in a Chinese Family’s Vacation Photo Album

It’s been over a week since I returned from China, and life is busier than ever (I even have some homework to do). After developing, scanning, and editing the 5 rolls of film I shot while in the mainland, I’m going to do my best to describe my ridiculous, sleep-deprived, cold, and overwhelming week in China.

Shanghai was first. We arrived on new years eve, and after a couple quick touristy sights we went to a restaurant for a new years ‘feast’. For all of you who were wondering, jellyfish does NOT taste anything like jelly or fish; it’s crunchy (ew). Luckily, the pepper beef and steamed cabbage was insanely good, so we didn’t starve. That night the group went out and were seduced by a deal where it was 100 RMB (16 USD) for an open bar and entry to 2 clubs. I mean what could possibly go wrong with 15 20-something-year-old Americans in a Shanghai nightclub with an open bar on Chinese New Years Eve? I won’t bore you with the details but it involved a lot of dancing, stuffed snakes, cigarette burns, and an extravagant (and potentially unsafe) amount of fireworks being set off in the street at midnight. In fact, from that night on, it was normal for people to launch fireworks whenever and wherever they wanted. The first few nights we kept thinking the city was under attack, but by the end of the trip they had become so common that I was beginning to wonder if China had permanently ruined 4th of July for me.

Despite our successful first night, the rest of our time in Shanghai was kind of a bust. Because of the holiday, everything was shut down the next day, and on Monday the museums and other cultural areas were still closed. Shanghai has undergone extreme growth in the past 20 years or so, and you can tell a lot of thought went into the planning of the city. Even so we heard horror stories of the traffic jams, and apparently despite the 4-lane highways and well designed roads drivers still sit in 2 hours of traffic regularly.

Up next: Beijing. I was unsure how much I would like Beijing, but I have to say it was amazing. Our four days there were a whirlwind of amazing food, ancient temples, bartering for knock-off Ralph Lauren shirts and propaganda posters, unsuccessfully googling “Tiananmen Square,” bizzarre modern art, more delicious food, climbing the great wall, sledding across a frozen lake using fire pokers to push ourselves, and fighting through swarms of chinese trying to follow our tour guide as she led us into oncoming traffic. For some reason I thought that because I had already been in Hong Kong, the culture shock wouldn’t be so intense, but it was just as extreme (maybe more) as when I first landed in HK. It’s just hard to get used to driving past giant Apple stores, Maserati dealerships, Gucci stores and Burberry shops, then turning a corner and finding yourself at an ancient temple gate.

After a while it was difficult to express anymore astonishment at our surroundings. “OK, China” became a common response as we just accepted whatever ridiculousness was thrust in front of us. Mao looked back at us from our money and on every corner you could find someone wearing a big furry hat with a red star on the front. People asked to take pictures with us, and I’m pretty sure my friend was proposed to by a waiter. One parent even thrust his daughter into our arms, claiming it was her homework to have her picture taken with foreigners. She looked terrified. I can’t help but wonder how many of us will end up in a family album somewhere. I could go on, but there is too much, so here is a list of some remaining highlights:

– green tea + oreo blizzards at Dairy Queen. Seriously delicious and they don’t exist anywhere else

-communist puns: “Mao Money, Mao Problems” and “Commi Maybe” (I can’t take credit for either of those)

– FOOD: the best kung pow chicken ever, bullfrog, delicious tofu, pumpkin cakes, some fusion that I could never classify, and a million other things I can’t remember. More adventurous people ate scorpions and grasshoppers at the street stalls

– Getting in the elevator and seeing the chinese news station showing footage of the Russian comet and thinking that north korea had launched a missile and freaking out

– The Great Wall. One of those things that neither words nor photos can do justice. Oh, and to get down we took a GIANT METAL SLIDE. It’s awesome and fast and guards jump out and yell at you to slow down (ha).

Check the pictures below.

Hong Kong

10 days ago I debarked a plane, bleary-eyed from spending 16 continuous hours trapped inside a metal tube that managed to be impressively large and sufficiently cramped at the same time. I had lost an entire day of my life, thanks to the mechanisms by which our earth rotates the sun. Yet that one lost day suddenly paled in comparison to the realization that I would spend the next 5 and a half months of my life in the place I had just arrived: Hong Kong.

Part of the reason it has taken me so long to sit down and write since I’ve arrived here is that for almost a year, the concept of studying abroad in HK was no more than a vague abstraction, a small speck on the horizon that I felt I would never actually get to. Perhaps that is why since moving into my dorm not a morning has gone by where I haven’t awoke with the sudden realization that this is indeed my current reality.

If I try really hard, sometimes I can convince myself I’m back in my room in Somerville, or even in a dorm room of a friend. But then I get out of bed and the view out my window (below) shatters any illusions that remain.

View from my WindowThis is not to say that I am unhappy. On the contrary, when I look out that window every morning, I cannot help but feel a smile creep onto my face as I shake my head in wonder. And I don’t think these feelings of awe will diminish any time in the near future.

Friends and family back home have asked me to describe Hong Kong. Well frankly, that is impossible. Even pictures, which I might even argue is my preferred medium of communicating the true nature of a place, cannot do HK justice. Sadly, this response does not please anyone, so I had to come up with something.

If you can imagine the tallest buildings in New York City, shoved them closer together on the side of a mountain that rises out of the ocean, and replaced the tidy grid of streets with raised highways and curving, circuitous roads filled with taxis, buses, mopeds, and 7 million people rushing around as fast as they can, you’re getting close. But you’re still missing the dull groan of traffic, the background ticking of the crosswalks that overlap each other to create syncopated city music, and the ever-present grinding of construction. Then there are are the medley of smells that will assault, if not overpower your nose. Many will make you stop and look around desperately for the source, trying to remember it for the next meal. Just as often you will cringe in horror as your eyes water and you swear you’ll never smell anything again.

Sometimes you turn a corner and there is a hill rising straight up into the sky with stairs so steep you don’t know why they even bothered. Random patches of overgrown vegetation and bamboo are common, and trees grow sideways between the buildings that threaten to block out the mountains. Mercedes, Ferraris, BMW’s and Porsches zoom around the minibuses. Old ladies walk tiny pomeranians and other floofy dogs down the crowded streets. On every corner someone is selling something they claim came from the ocean but you can’t figure out why anyone would want to put it anywhere near their mouth.

And even if you can imagine all that, you’re still not here.

There is much more for me to discuss, like elevator and escalator culture, the fact that people here might be more materialistic than in the U.S (at least some of them), struggling with chopsticks, and the memory-sucking blackhole that is LKF. Oh yeah and Hong Kong University, where I’m supposed to be studying for the semester…

Stay tuned.

My “Home Works”

After my last post about Joakim Eskildsen’s “Home Works” (see below), I though about my own pictures from “home.” Unlike Eskildsen, I have not moved 5 times in the past 6 years, although I have called many places home. Most of the following photos are from Connecticut, where I have grown up in three different houses all within 3 miles of each other. However, others are from places where I have spent a lot of time over the course of my life and therefore come very close to being considered “home.” I could go on a lengthy exploration of what the word “home” means, but I’ll let you think about that for yourself. I will mention, however, that the idea of home directly relates to my own thinking about family photographs, which I explored in an earlier project.

Hair

Taking a history of photography class and really questioning/thinking about my work and what I want out of it. Here are some of my photos of hair and the various things we do to it.

UGallery