As with every weird sight in Hangzhou i didn’t let the first impression get the best of me. After the thousand baby butt on public display though, something started smelling, metaphorically and literary. Was this some strange plot we couldn’t comprehend? Were all Chinese babies enrolled in a rapid potty training national program? Was this a carefully thought and designed system to eliminate the need of diapers? Apparently it’s a common method for babies as you can see them all wearing clothes with quick release embedded exits which allow fast & convenient disposal of smelly substances. I have only observed the middle to end result but the basic system works like that: The parent / carrier senses through some invisible way the exact time frame milliseconds before explosion, he carefully lifts and aims the baby at a convenient location and delivers a controlled detonation with as less victims as possible. If done correctly this is a sustainable and rather clean system that uses the cradle to cradle principle following the natural circle of things and providing good fertiliser for plants (and not creating redundant waste in the form of diaper mountains). As every delicate and unstable device though, there are numerous drawbacks. Instability of babies can lead to undetected explosions either on the mothership / parent / carrier or in some inconvenient place (super markets / shops etc.) either way the result is messy. Babies seem quite happy though, being free of the diaper humiliation / constrains.


Peripheral vision is a great evolutionary trick, you gaze forward but scan motion to a wider angle, i suppose old desperadoes had mastered this skill. If you are a foreigner walking around Hangzhou you need to be prepared for regular shootout attempts. Usually you get attacked from sideways or behind, the Innocent looking opponent pretends to shoot squirrels in west lake or garbage binσ until you let your guard down and BANG! he got you, another laowai bites the dust. Everything lies in concentration and precise, rapid, hand/eye coordination. As you scan the area for possible hostiles, a group of photography students on the loose, cute couple giggling on the bench, you turn on the camera, holding it facing the ground. Staring far away till you detect motion, SNAP, twist like a professional tango dancer while bringing the camera to eye level, single shot mode, auto focus and crack, shutter down. This gives you the element of surprise and a nice counter collection of natural expressions of people caught red handed. Of course the excitement can die prematurely if people ask permission to take a photo of you which is an equally frequent possibility.

I read that doing something you hate yields more potential for satisfaction if followed to completion. Timed running was enforced by authoritative figures in the past making it an absolutely unsatisfactory ordeal. I despised running in school and loathed it in the army. The exact turning point is not clear but after i removed the elements of screaming orders, sprinting and confinement it actually started becoming more enjoyable. You always have to drag your body for the first kilometers, but after the muscles warm up you just run like a fine tuned machine. Summer night runs along the river eluding fishermen, electric scooters and backward walkers while you get drenched in ridiculous amounts of sweat. Autumn and suddenly you run alone breaking the tranquility of couples in parked cars. Marathon comes somewhere in the process like a distant goal, uncharted territory of body and mental limits. Plans, runs and destruction of cheap imported shoes that takes a toll on knees. Trying to find a no. 46 pair of running shoes proves to be harder than anticipated, solution comes from taobao (Chinese e-bay) and a fine pair of fake Nikes with rough stitching arrives shortly after. The anticipated time arrives and i found myself squeezing inside a bus at 6:00 A.M. heading for Yellow Dragon stadium in a fine Sunday morning. The empty streets / full bus paradox ends when i start spotting red running bags on the shoulders of every passenger. The stadium is in full fledge party mode when we arrive, sponsors, music and a sea of people, i got the familiar giggling and wide eyed staring although there are a few more laowai participants. I gulp down a banana which later will stubbornly try to ascend into daylight for at least an hour through the race. It is then that a repeating squeaky sound emerges from the front of my right shoe (photo).

Read the rest of this entry »

Staying in China for more than 3 days and you ‘ll encounter random explosions around houses, gardens, outside supermarkets and inside river banks. Usually there is a lack of time planning (aka it can happen anytime) but given the state of public amusement it produces you understand the reason why. Duck and cover is not necessary as local detonators have good aim after so much practice. Trying to find a pattern is meaningless, here you light the skies to celebrate small, trivial everyday things, like a successful bunch of fried dumplings or a perfect cup of green tea. Another possibility is that all explosions are but a meager target practice for Chinese new year which, if i take the rumors seriously, might feel like the bombarding of Dresden… The title is dedicated to an overzealous neighbour that decided to test his arsenal at 7:00 A.M., only to get a morning shower of Chinese curses from Jeff.

Read the rest of this entry »

In a Chinese phrase, Hangzhou is described as heaven on earth. (more precisely, in air you have heaven and on earth you have Hangzhou), this proved to be a very successful pitch. Not only did it made the city one of the old capitals of China but it also skyrocketed the place as a major tourist spot for internal travellers. Multiply this fact with some million people cramped in buses and you know why you should avoid West lake on a sunny Sunday.
Once you cross the bared cultural wasteland (but technological breeding ground) of Binjiang, the road towards city center is full of sights, retreats and natural escapes depending on your choice. Tiger Spring was always the epicenter of controlled tourist explosions. Small armies from the outskirts of China constantly disembark from their vehicles, stretch, and immediately assume carefully planned formations for maximum efficiency. Equipped with small flags, valor, energy, water bottles, matching uniforms and a fearless leader that screams in shrivelling (ear torturing) bursts, they attack every chosen landmark on sight. Amid tourist guide battle cries, marching flags and rhythmic songs you, the lonely mercenary that just happen to be on the wrong place at the worst possible time, have to reach the ticket booth, pay the ticket, (if you are below 1.2meters entrance is free) and push your self inside the gates.
Read the rest of this entry »

Waiting for the bus, small rectangular patterns on a poster draw you closer through familiar optic recognition, it is indeed a collection of mug shots on public display. I didn’t have any bilingual friend nearby to explain the description, wondering about the nature of their crime, something more intriguing than pickpocketing. Some funny faces, does it actually serve any purpose, nobody seems to give a damn, just another clutter of information tugged away inside distant neurons. So far i haven’t seen any cruel crimes, on humans at least, cause i experienced a brutal murdering of mice while cycling to work (a group of people were sadistically burning their mousetraps full of live mouses inside) animal rights are nonexistent in China… At least it gives me comfort to see some happy stray dogs and cats roaming around without the fear of ending up on a dish, maybe it still happens further to the west. Read the rest of this entry »

I am reading a lot lately about the emerge of digital nomadism. It is possible to escape the fixed position working routine. Of course you need money to fuel a lifestyle like this which is the main problem, but there are various ways to acquire them, you just need to monetise your skills somehow… Trying to short a tonne of photos, stories and loose obligations i tossed the laptop in my bag and left home. Being nomad means that every time you can choose your location, I opt for Starbucks, it is close by, has free Wi-Fi (prerequisite) big shinny windows and interesting people. First thing you do is scan for plugs, to my surprise there are quite a lot of people working here, the only empty socket confines me on the lobby in a short table which gives a weird working position. Coffee grinding pierces the earphones but cute smiling Chinese girls working alone on their mac compensate for the lack of comfort. Being uncomfortable makes you more productive also, having the same routine, the same position, the same office chair which is moulded to your body just makes it easier to procrastinate. Being on the move wakes you up, breaking your routines creates synapses, being restless makes you move… I have a feeling this is just the beginning…

edit.. (i just discovered the first problem of digital nomad life. The: What to do with the laptop when you have to go to the toilet dilemma, pack everything or ask the mac girl to keep an eye?)…

After i renewed my low class F-type tourist visa for the 3d time it was time for a more permanent solution. The rest of team was in an equally pressing possition with Clara bribing her way out of a month old expired visa in a: “only in China” turn of events. Having submitted our blood, urine, heartbeats and beeing cleared from S.T.D.’s Infectius deseases and other employment happhazzards, the road seemed clear for the much anticipated Z type working visa. Only for the small detail that, to stay in China you have to leave China… A Catch 22 directly from the heart of Beurucracy. But this time unlike any other paperwork cases that used to madden me in the past, the deal was frightfully good for us, a trip to Hong Kong just to apply for the visa. A twist in a system that had tortured you for a life time can be mind blowing, but i guess after all the fights, sour morning faces and countless lost hours in Tax offices and public sector services you get the sweet taste of revenge, a little cold but nonetheless existent!

Roaming around a massive shopping mall fighting agoraphobia, triskaidekaphobia and koumpounophobia i come to the realisation that i like driving, give me the opportunity in the form of a free test ride and i would gladly loop around on tricycles, pogo sticks, space buses, tanks, hovercrafts or any other transportation device. The sight of a Segway tryout setts me off and i fixate my gaze on the family man that drives it, telepathically ordering him to step down and let me try. Controlling a vehicle through balance is quite funny, despite the reverse which needs some getting used to, learning curve is fast, dashing through shoppers with the lightning speed of 20km / hour, impressing old ladies and gaining an unfair additional height advantage. That said i miss driving a motorbike, the wind the smell of burned wood on your clothes in the winter, the twist of the wrist… Electric scooters are just not the same… Read the rest of this entry »

Build during the Song dynasty this octagonal field is quite unique in it’s design, rumor has it that the emperor himself used to go down there and initiate the harvest season through working on the land. It is still functioning today both as an attraction and as a living field with people employed to harvest the various crops through the seasons. Getting up close and personal with rice fields makes me wander how interesting would it be if we could grow pasta. Papardelle trees, fusilli bushes, rows of tagliatelle, gnocchi and farfalle flowers the possibilities are immense! A few more photos of the eight diagrams field here.