Mary Pal Designs

Homeward Bound

These two weeks flew. There is so much about Beijing I haven't had time to share. Like how inexpensive everything here is - taxis, restaurant meals, groceries. So we dined like kings and it was all super affordable. We sampled so many cuisines: Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese ... and of course, Chinese. And how Beijing is changing at a prodigious rate, possibly in anticipation of hosting the Olympics in 2022 but also because the city is expanding to include all the space between Beijing and Tianjin, with an anticipated population of over 80 million. That figure just blows this particular Canadian's mind.

But I leave you with some final pics to illustrate some highlights of the last few days:

Pojagi cat at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Pojagi cat at the Fashion Institute of Technology

A jacket made from bamboo!

A jacket made from bamboo!

Close-up of the bamboo

Close-up of the bamboo

I went on a Hutong tour with my friend, Megan. A shout out to our guide, Jeremiah!

I went on a Hutong tour with my friend, Megan. A shout out to our guide, Jeremiah!

Dumplings filled with soup? How do you eat those?

Dumplings filled with soup? How do you eat those?

Nibble an edge and slurp out the yummy broth, then eat the meatball inside

Nibble an edge and slurp out the yummy broth, then eat the meatball inside

Delicious Vietnamese iced coffee

Delicious Vietnamese iced coffee

Cool building called "The Pants" for obvious reasons

Cool building called "The Pants" for obvious reasons

Just had to buy some linen at the ginormous fabric market

Just had to buy some linen at the ginormous fabric market

This is just one of dozens of corridors in the market buildings

This is just one of dozens of corridors in the market buildings

Chinese Hospitality

As this is my third trip to China, I really should not be surprised at the gracious reception I meet everywhere. Of course, the organizers of my China Fashion & Colour Association hosts treated the artists royally, taking us to fabulous restaurants and on exciting excursions, and my family has toured me through all the hot Beijing spots, but everywhere I go, I am struck by the friendliness of the Chinese and their willingness to overlook my pathetic few phrases. I have to say this is the safest I have felt travelling anywhere in the world - the crime rate is super low and no one is afraid to walk the streets alone after midnight. I'm not saying crimes don't happen, but it is a far cry from what we experience in North America. 

That being said, the traffic is insane! I cannot believe I have not witnessed a single accident! Everyone weaves everywhere: cars, buses, scooters, bicycles, pedestrians.  No one wears safety gear: no seatbelts, no helmets, and only an occasional acknowledgment of the colour of the traffic light. And somehow it all works! But I have to say, I am terrified riding on the back of my son's scooter, dodging all the other vehicles and people, like a bizarre game of Frogger. Lots of horns beeping, but just to let the guy ahead or next to you know where you are. Crazy.

I have been so busy exploring Beijing that there hasn't been much time to blog, but here are some highlights from the past week.

I spent a day at the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology with Yuanshan Jin.

I spent a day at the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology with Yuanshan Jin.

...and a closeup of some of those petals made of folded organza.

...and a closeup of some of those petals made of folded organza.

Of COURSE I had to enjoy some incredible Peking Duck at one of Matt & Ching's favourite places!

Of COURSE I had to enjoy some incredible Peking Duck at one of Matt & Ching's favourite places!

The graduate Fashion Technology students made some very cool garments!

The graduate Fashion Technology students made some very cool garments!

This was an incredibly delicious dish!

This was an incredibly delicious dish!

Dinner with Miss Jin, Mr. Kane, Matt & Ching and two CFCA staff at a fashionable kebab place.

Dinner with Miss Jin, Mr. Kane, Matt & Ching and two CFCA staff at a fashionable kebab place.

Advisable to ask what it is you're eating ... like aorta.

Advisable to ask what it is you're eating ... like aorta.

One of Miss Jin's incredible quilts, in her studio.

One of Miss Jin's incredible quilts, in her studio.

Intended to resemble a brick of coal, this delicious rice side dish is served in a copper pan to resemble a coal scoop.

Intended to resemble a brick of coal, this delicious rice side dish is served in a copper pan to resemble a coal scoop.

And this yummy morsel is a silkworm bug. (Nope, didn't eat that one).

And this yummy morsel is a silkworm bug. (Nope, didn't eat that one).

Welcome to Beijing!

On Saturday in Shenzhen, after breakfast, we artists headed back to the exhibition hall and took down our quilts, packed them up, and with final hugs and farewells said, I was whisked to the airport to begin the next stage of my Chinese adventure.

I was met at the airport by my son, Matt, who is here on a three-year posting with the Canadian embassy. We took the rapid subway to the apartment where he and his girlfriend, Ching, have been living since last September. It is spacious and light and has all the amenities they could ask for, and with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, I don't feel like I'm in the way. 

And what a pleasure it is to explore the city with two such knowledgeable guides who speak Chinese! Hailing a cab or ordering a meal is so much easier when you speak the language or can read the menu. 

The next day was Sunday, Mother's Day, and they treated me to an amazing brunch: Eggs Benedict, with homemade hollandaise, served on delectable crab cakes, served with a Valencia salad and followed by a cheesecake with a speculoos crust and pomegranate coulis. Amazing!

Then we jumped in a cab and headed to one of my favourite parts of Beijing: the 798 Art District. We spent the day touring galleries and studios and taking in all the sights of this very cool neighbourhood. I commented on the clarity of the air and Matt explained that there was a big summit with world leaders - the Belt and Road Forum, fondly referred to as BARF - and the government had literally shut down all the pollution-spewing factories for a few days, to clear the air, so to speak. Amazing. And why doesn't the populace rise up and demand this happen every day? It is a trade-off: clean air or electricity ... which do they want? Anyway, it is proof that government officials are well aware of the damage these industrial plants are causing, and while they are trying to modernize Beijing's sources of energy, it is a huge country and these things aren't done overnight. 

But before I leave that topic, it is interesting to note that Beijing is not even in the top 10 or 20 of the world's most polluted cities. It's 57th on the list. Cities in Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia beat out China by a long shot. 

Note the beautiful blue sky!

Note the beautiful blue sky!

The likeness is noteworthy!

The likeness is noteworthy!

...a surprise around every corner ...

...a surprise around every corner ...

Outing to the Shenzhen Printmaking Facility

We hopped in our tour bus after breakfast on Thursday morning and headed beyond downtown Shenzhen to a printmaking facility, which hosts artists from around the world in residencies. It was built on the site of a 300-year old Haka village, which we were also able to tour. As we departed, we were each given a large numbered and signed framed print in a protective box - let's see if it can withstand the punishing journey through three airports getting back to Canada.

Playing here with various methods of posting photos. Try clicking on the second and third rows to see more pics from the tour.

Then we drove to a beautiful new art gallery of prints and here I will share with you some of my favourites:

No. 1 Growth Report of Durer Rabbit by Choi Bei

No. 1 Growth Report of Durer Rabbit by Choi Bei

One Hour and Nine Seconds - by Jim Honggang

One Hour and Nine Seconds - by Jim Honggang

Foggy Birds - by Zhong Qianqian

Foggy Birds - by Zhong Qianqian

So what's new in Shenzhen?

Lots is new to me. That is the best part of international travel - exploring a culture so very different from what we are accustomed to: tasting exotic new foods, seeing new ways of doing things, experiencing life through the uncomfortable perspective of the language barrier. But I won't make you wade through long paragraphs of my observations ... I'll use photos with short captions to let you see it for yourself.

I don't mind the step.  I just mind that clearly these were designed by men - efficient, yes, better water conservation, yes, but I am spoiled by North American standards.  However, when in Rome ....

I don't mind the step.  I just mind that clearly these were designed by men - efficient, yes, better water conservation, yes, but I am spoiled by North American standards.  However, when in Rome ....

Gan bei! means Empty your glass!

Gan bei! means Empty your glass!

No idea.  But it was delicious.  :)

No idea.  But it was delicious.  :)

 
Found two of these in my closet. Glad I didn't need to use it, but isn't that a great idea, so you don't succumb to noxious gases? 

Found two of these in my closet. Glad I didn't need to use it, but isn't that a great idea, so you don't succumb to noxious gases? 

Be adventurous when offered new foods ... like duck tongue.

Be adventurous when offered new foods ... like duck tongue.

Again, no idea, but I loved the cucumber garnish with the rose.

Again, no idea, but I loved the cucumber garnish with the rose.