Sunday, June 27, 2010

Keep On Coming. . .

I still can't post pictures on the actual blog site. This China internet stuff is getting old. . .Anyways, Im getting to the point of where I am of sick of the city commute. I really miss the South on that tip. Shanghai’s subways stay packed regardless of the time of day and it is getting to the point of where I hate leaving my block. But then again, why should I leave my block?? I got everything I need on this block that I have now claimed: restaurants, convenient stores, dry cleaner, office supply store, KFC, mobile phone store, and a point man ready to get me whatever I want in this city. He sits right outside the Palm Garden gates of which you know need an ID to enter. About the block, most of these Chinese old-timers have never left this block; just like some New Yorkers I know who have never left Queens. That always amazes me. How much do you think you really know if you never left the shelter that your city, state, and county provides? Think of that whenever you make a comment about something or somewhere you never been or make a statement about people you have never met or befriended. If I never left this Shanghai block my excuse would be the buildings and the 100x50ft HD screens featuring all type of psychedelic fireworks scenes and blooming roses that unfold and bloom in about every single color there is. It bugs me out every night as I look outside my window. Somebody is paying the light bill—wish I was that guy. But if you know me then you know that I am a traveler who has been around a little and around many that have been around alot. Shanghai is my reminder to continue to expand.
Yes, the subways are packed with people but I bet mostly everybody is on this train because they need to be. I have to get back and forth to the office and work on an important project. Oh, in project news, the Dutch Embassy will probably not fund the Law Center after 2012 and work has picked up as a result. Or strategy is shifting, but still remains focused on building up recognition outside of the city. And I found someone to help translate at the Center, so communications are getting better. The work has taken on a deeper meaning. There are still no guarantees, only possibilities.
That is what the great Prof. Singhal used to remind us in class. He is truly one of the most interesting and intelligent person I know and we were blessed to have him as a teacher. This guy is international connected on an extremely high level with people who are doing things Hollywood makes movies about. Singhal connected all of us all around the world with people he knows world-wide. One of Singhal’s good friends lives here in Shanghai, a guy named Arthur Wang, a native of Shanghai who is another globe trotter with businesses and interests in the U.S., China, and abroad. He is the man here and apparently other places. A true international success! We went out for dinner and even the food we were consuming was from everywhere. The salad was from Shanghai, the steaks were imported from the USA, the wine both red and white was from Chile, and the tequila was courtesy of Jose. We talked about everything from projects to golf and where we see ourselves in 5-10 years. We looked at pictures of private jets over shots of Jose and then the big question finally came when Mr. Wang asked: What can I do to make what you want happen? Really, I thought to myself, I thought I was dreaming for a hot second. Long story short, when I head home there are conversations that will take place with individuals I really want to talk to.
Shanghai is changing me. I feel myself undergoing a serious life changing transition. I have no tolerance for bullcrap. Ignorance, mediocrity, and complacency will not even get a hello from me when I get back. Yup, don’t get offended if I act brand new. People like Wang and Singhal play the star role in their own movie. The entire night we spent with Wang he laughed and smiled at everything, and anything. I thought to myself that is how life should be. I hope you guys are doing well. And good luck on the bar to Bowen’s 2010 class. Terry Reid said it best: “mellow is the man knows what he’s been missing many, many men can’t see the open road.”

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Link to Pictures and Comments Comment :-)

You should be able to view my pictures at the link below. . .please, if you are trying to post a comment and are not able to email me at and I will post your comments as an actual blog posting--if you want me to.

3 Pools Mirroring the Moon

I know I have been bad about posting blogs, but I promise from here on out that you will hear from me at least once-a-week. I know I’m mad late but I heard Memorial Day everywhere back home was off the chain from NYC to LR to LA. . .I take solace in the fact that America is where I will be going after here. . . . but Shanghai still remains fit for a King:-).

My Labor Law Service Center project experience is nothing like a corporate experience that one might expect in the U.S., or even here in China. Since my mastery of the Chinese language is non-existing, my “on-the-job experience” is a limited one. My main contacts speak English; however, they write it much better than they speak it. Communications in meetings tend to be nothing more than scribbles on a piece of paper—mines and theirs. It takes longer to get something done, but progress is being made nonetheless. We are braced to start applying for grants and the first organization on the list is the Dutch Embassy!! Everyone at the office can speak English; but most are either too embarrassed to try or feel as though since I am in China, I should be speaking Chinese. They got a point. I know most of you say that about folks back in the U.S. . . as long as you people are here, you should speak English!!

The Center’s hours are from 9am-5pm—just the same as governmental and non-governmental organization (NGO) back in the States. Of course, I do not get paid but after a conversation with a cab driver the other day, I’m starting to think that maybe I should be getting a slice of this Asian pie.

En route to club Sin, a cab driver who spoke good English just flat out asked me how much money I was making here in China. When I told him that I was not making anything he laughed at me and said that I should be getting at least ¥20,000 (Yaun) per month as a lao wai (which literally means foreign devil, the term most Chinese use for outsiders). He elaborated further. . .”anything less they cheat you!” He basically told me to get paid—or at least if he were me, that is what he would be doing. 20,000 Yuan per month averages out to roughly $3,333.00 USD (United States Dollars) which is a little under $40,000 per year which isn’t bad by our standards and in China that is plenty. I can eat each day for under $3 if I wanted to—and that is if I ate out every day! Of course it would be street food, but after 2 weeks your stomach gets used to it and you can hold it down for the most part. But just like the cab driver said and from what I have seen thus far, opportunities are everywhere here in Shanghai, especially for foreigners. They show face on every corner, in every shop, alley, and subway station. Fact: I have turned down two job offers already!! I’m here for an IPSP and I have to go back to Arkansas to finish up my last year of school. I’m wondering. . . what is your excuse? If it were not for the aforementioned, I would be getting it ya’ll. But enough $$ talk, let me tell you about where I live.

Directly above me on the 23rd floor there is this cute elementary age Chinese girl who can play the piano like it is no one’s business. Real talk, I just sit in my living room listening, relaxing and writing/working. She gets it in almost every night sounding like Fredic Chopin or Ludwig van Beethovan. I swear it puts me on a different mental wave-length. She makes me believe I can solve anything. . .I’m getting to maybe slowly but surely.

Both my mother and father have always told me to be careful of what and who I bring into my home. I was warned that every person I meet in this life is not meant to step foot in my house and that I should be careful of the items (including gifts, thrift shop purchases, etc) that I choose to bring into my home. There is energy in us and in things. . .and just as the earth has negative and positive poles, so goes the disposition and orientation of any and everything that exists upon it. I was taught that as a young boy by my parents.

My crib in Shanghai is littered with statutes of Terracotta warriors—actually they are replicas of Terracotta officers-high ranking officers-that served the very first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. More than 200 years before Christ these brave men served Emperor Qin Shi Huang and he buried over 20,000 of these soldiers including calvery and weaponry in his tomb to protect him in the afterlife. What is crazy is that not 1 of the 20,000 soldiers have the same faces! This dude was dead serious and obviously knew something about this transition we call death that most do not.
This makes me think hard though, because the ancient civilization of Kemet, or Egypt as it was later called, practiced this long before Qin Shi Huang built his elaborate grave. This tells me that there had to be some contact between the two: not only contact, but influence. This makes me smile because I know I have friends in the statues that are living with me. There is great peace in my place and I hate leaving the crib. Truthfully, I couldn’t ask for any greater protection—I’m safe in Shanghai friends and fortune is one my side.

2 classmates and I met up and took a high speed train to Hangzhou, China—a sub-provincial city located in the Yangtze River Delta about 120 miles southwest of Shanghai. Hangzhou is known for its wealth (for like the last 1,000 years or so) and the picturesque scenery of the great West Lake among other things. The scenery was beautiful and aesthetically pleasing. It was a great break from Shanghai. There are nothing but buildings for miles and miles in each direction you look and travel. I am not exaggerating. NYC has nothing on Shanghai in terms of what a concrete jungle looks like.

Back to Hangzhou . . . We had two locals, Roger and C, that Becca had met on her plane ride over show us around Hangzhou. I ate chicken feet (which Trinidadians eat too but its prepared different) and river snails. . .lol. I had a bowl of river snails on my plate ya’ll. I actually had to take the snail out of the shell and bit the head off and throw out the tail! I just had to try some traditional Chinese food while I was there!! It tasted like liver to me, but trust that would be the last time I eat anybody’s snail. I took pictures with random folks as they stopped me wanting me take a photo with their kids, children, and spouses. It was kind of strange but in a good way. I posted a link for you guys to view some flicks . . . please check it out. And as I promised in the beginning—I will be posting blogs at least once a week. I hope you miss me as much as I have missed you all. Ima holla. . .1.

***Getting to Maybe is a book introduced to students at UACS written by Frances Westley, Zimmerman, and Patton. I highly recommend this book. It will change your mind, perspective, and goals—assuming you have all, or at least one of the three.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Sunrise

Shanghai. . . fit for a King is the title that I—with the help of Ms. Byrd—coined for this landmark along the way. It is evidence that on the path in this life I am not lost. The script couldn’t have been written any better. . . and to think it all started on the ‘Stone’ in Boston. Anyways, it has been a week and a few days since I left the crib. Little Rock seems worlds away from this massive city of 20 million plus!! Each day in Shanghai has its own adventure and pleasant little victories—like learning how to use the public restrooms. This is no joke. I was running some ball down in People’s Square and needed a toilet and I was hoping that I could sit down somewhere and try to read the Chinese graffiti written on the walls of the stall of my choosing. I had to go bad. So I subbed out right quick and ran across the park a lil ways to the men’s room. By the way if you are wondering, these Chinese dudes can really run some ball and they are fundamentally sound. So boom-I’m in the men’s room opening a stall expecting to see a toilet but along with the fact that was no toilet, I looked around to notice that there was no toilet paper or graffiti for that matter. Just a porcelain hole in the ground-that’s it. I was like WTH is this and how am I suppose to use it. Long story short, I figured it out but I must admit that was the most awkward restroom experience to date. With that behind me I must say the hospitality that I have been receiving is rivaling the same love that I have been shown throughout the South—but nothing beats home and the South is still number one on my hospitality list. More on the Shanghai love later. For now, welcome to Shanghai. . .fit for a King.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t address the reason why I am here. For those of you who do not know, I am in Shanghai because The Clinton School of Public Service requires that each student complete an IPSP (International Public Service Project). Yes, it is mandatory that you work abroad for the summer in the field of public service in the country of your choice, so long as there are no active wars or any civil unrest in the land you want to work in. With the help of a classmate (Big-Ups to Mr. Todd Moore) I was able to locate a project in Shanghai that allowed me to use my law degree and master’s program at the same time. I’m staying relevant-that is the plan.
The Center, properly called the Labor Law Service Center, is a non-profit and is staffed primarily by lawyers and students of the East China University of Political Science and Law. We all work tirelessly with the 4 million or so Chinese migrant workers educating them on the rights that they possess. There is no other place of business that does the work of the Center in all of Shanghai. Many of workers have no concept of labor laws or that corporations have certain regulations that they must adhere to. Remember, most of these workers are from the surrounding rural provinces and many of them are former farmers and agriculturalist who are now taking jobs in the city’s factories. Also, labor law in China is still in its infancy and the legal practice is changing all the time because of the new laws are being written as cases arise.
The Center even takes certain cases pro-bono (for free!!) but offers to all free legal consultation. I’m helping the Center with its sponsorship (funding) and with marketing. The word is not out and the Center is known to relatively few people. What I have learned so far is that information has overtaken cash as king. I know see how not knowing can set you back to your detriment. But that is the work I am doing here.
Other than that, I have been meeting and making friends with people from everywhere: Belgium, England, Scotland, Brazil, Sweden, Australia, Columbia, Angola, France, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain and Jersey to name a few. Funny story about when I introduced myself to the dude from Jersey. After we both said our names, he was like “I’m from Jersey.” I said, “. . . oh, New Jersey, what part?” He looked at me with a straight face and said: “No, the old one.” I let off an uncomfortable laugh and I’m sure I had this dumb look on my face because I thought he was kidding even though he looked dead serious. Turns out he was dead serious. Jersey is an island country off the coast of France that I have never heard of until the other day and thanks to my boy from London who took it upon himself to give me a geography and history lesson, I now know they all carry French passports.
Everyone here, including the Chinese, speaks English and then several other languages. My Brazilian friend speaks English, Chinese, Portuguese, and Spanish and actually prefers to speak to me in Spanish because he understands me better. I can’t help but think that we all have work to do at home back in the States . The truth is we should speak at least one other language if we want to stay competitive with the rest of the world . . . or else, there goes your job to the Belgium born person who has the same degree as you but can speak 3 different languages. But don’t get it twisted; everybody here still views America as the Boss Hogg so we are safe, for now. I know you guys are probably tired of reading this so I will end it on this note. Since I have been running cats on the court, they have been calling me “Little King” after the one and only Labron James. So now I have a few Chinese guys, all who speak very limited English, promising to show me Shanghai (and other cities and provinces too) like they know it. All I have to do is keep on balling and speak some English to them. Not a bad deal right? I can’t wait to see that Shanghai. Of course I will tell you all about it—maybe not ALL, but I will give you a glimpse of what I discover. But first, I have to tell you about where I live and show you around the crib a little. Living with me are 2 Americans and 3 ancient Terracotta warriors that keep me on my toes. . .Until next time friends. I’m out. Peace.