Reality hit me hard and I realized the other day I’ve been in China for about 2 years. That’s longer than most of my recent relationships. I may have trouble committing to a man, but a country seems to be an easy conquest.
In those 2 years, my Instagram became a photographic commentary on daily life in China, all that I’ve seen or experienced.
To pay homage to my last year in China and usher in 2014, I’ve amassed 12 of my favorite images captured through my Instagram feed and the stories behind them.
January 2013 – Coiling Snake
At Chinese New Year, it was officially Year of the Snake which foretold a rocky lunar year of upheaval and renewal. Snakes do shed skin, remember. Statues of the prominent zodiac animal for the new year are always scattered indoors or outdoors, a reminder to celebrate your animalness.
February 2013 – Fan Ladies
So this shot wasn’t exactly in February, but I love how it captures an accidental moment. It was my first time visiting Hangzhou, a city replete with picturesque mountains and calm, rippling lakes. I was walking along West Lake when I happened upon these elderly women practicing a graceful fan dance. My students always joke about ‘old’ people exercising in the fresh air, but it’s fascinating to me because this kind of activity is not encouraged in North America as much.
March 2013 – Blessing the Beemer
This was one of my most oddest encounters. Zipping on my ebike I passed a street where this juxtaposition caught my eye. The monks in the mustard robes laid out offerings on the hood of a BMW, while a troop of people who emerged from the car mere minutes ago watched in silence. Once the blessings were completed, the monks gathered their adornments and walked down the street, disappearing into the distance, they had evaporated and those left behind woke to reality, got into the car and drove off. In China, fortune is everything. If you want a business to succeed, getting it blessed, decorating it with wreaths and setting off fireworks ensures its prosperity.
April 2013 – Spring!
With the season of spring blooms the blossoms in China. This is the time when gardens come alive, when families leave their homes and spend hours among plum blossoms trees, tulips (Suzhou is famous for them) and native plants I couldn’t begin to name. It’s my time of year, where I revel in rebirth. Also, I was born on the second day of spring!
May 2013 – Pass Me the Sunscreen
People tend to forget the scale of China and its diversity. By May I took a short vacation to Sanya, a southernmost island surrounded by the South China Sea. It was a dreamy, breathy place where I’d plant myself in the morning to scenes like this.
June 2013 – Off Again
I took this one at Pudong Airport in Shanghai while in transit to Bangkok for the DIA Tourism Conference, but why I like it is how it captures the bold modernity of the city. It’s growing exponentially and is truly China’s business epicenter.
July 2013 – Pret a Porter
This was in the thrust of summer when the temperatures rose to 37 degrees for weeks on end. I use to moonlight at an engineering firm teaching business English and this was a student. Aren’t her sandals fetching? Chinese fashion is a simultaneous mix of comfort, boldness and audacity. Chinese women concentrate on grooming as proven by the numerous kiosks devoted to face creams and cleansers but ultimately with clothes — they don’t give a damn what you think of them. This also reminds me of my mother, she always wore nylon anklets. NOW I get it. China has solved SO many puzzles for me.
August 2013 – Foodporn
China is world renowned not just for ping-pong, but food! I eat this once a week. Dan chao xihongshi (fried egg and tomato), I found this gem in a small restaurant near my apartment, for only 7 RMB my stomach can already feel the pains of loss.
September 2013 – Enter the Sandman
One of the quirkier facets of Chinese culture is public sleeping. I’ve witnessed people sleeping at corporations, at the supermarket and even my very own students do it. Rest time at a company is deliberately allotted and sanctioned. How I wish North America would wake up and incorporate this practice. And yes, the pun I just wrote is not lost on me.
October 2013 – Red Wagon
In a country like India, this mode of transportation is the mainline for everyone, traveler or local, but in China this seems scarce where I live, due to the influx of taxi drivers. So when I catch a rare sighting, I tend to snap a shot. I’ve become the archivist for Chinese rickshaws.
November 2013 – Duck Anyone?
I’m not sure what is the most popular meat, but I’d say pork and chicken is number 1 and 2 respectively, with duck in third place. China just isn’t China without this visual reference. It’s almost comforting to see, grounding me on where I am. Oh yeah, here.
December 2013 – That Day I Saw a Camel
(This is an MOV, so click the image to see the slideshow!)
I seem to see the most interesting things when innocently riding my ebike. This day I had finished shopping at a glittering new supermarket when I stopped at a traffic light. Instead of seeing the usual throng of pedestrians and other ebike riders, this camel materialized. The Bactrian Camel is normally spotted in the desert regions of northwestern China so to have seen it among vehicles and towering buildings was a treat, or a mirage, I may have dreamed it into existence. This man and woman were selling rides on it and a little girl in one of the photos almost convinced her mother to fork over 10 RMB.
I tell you, it was very difficult to select the best, I’ve lived so many beautiful, sad, funny and educational moments in China. 2014 is looking to be a year bursting with change for me, with lots of movement, and exciting but scary ambitions.
I look forward to spending 2014 with you. Have a good one y’all!
Follow my Instagram feed because I publish many photos that are never seen on the blog or on my Facebook. You know, those extra surprises.