Fragrant Harbour

WARNING!!! This blog is picture-heavy.

so i might as well jump the chronological order of my time in china.  i’ve done a few extra things and had a few more interesting experiences.  but since i was in hong kong over the weekend, from where i was able to use Facebook for a mass shoutout, let me just jump to that.

according to wikipaedia, “The name “Hong Kong” is an approximate phonetic rendering of the pronunciation of the spoken Cantoneseor Hakka name 香港, meaning “fragrant harbour”.  the truth is, i wouldn’t recommend swimming in the harbour right now… but that’s a different story.



these are images of hong kong harbour. the one with dawn and this are looking from the island to the mainland.



we only made a short visit to the island and really never got further than the ferry port. aah, next time.

we were invited on the hong kong trip by the previously mentioned professor and mrs darby.  both have had a long previous history there and not only wanted to go back there to reanimate memories and stuff, they were kind enough to invite us to share the experience.

it was a long trip, which ate into the weekend that we would have.

road travel to the tianjin airport was nearly an hour, and the flight to shenzhen was almost 3… just like traveling from new york to ft lauderdale. in fact, there were other such similarities.  tianjin is breaking into the spring much in the way that ny is.  tianjin, remember, is in the north.  shenzhen is in the south and its climate is more like that of south florida.


at shenzhen airport


ode to elle schorr

ode to elle schorr

mock battle at one of shenzhen attractions

mock battle at one of shenzhen attractions


breathing in shenzhen kind of reminded me how much more noticeable fresh air is when you don’t have it for a while. it should be said that when the media speaks about pollution in china, the idea that comes across is that this is nationwide.  that’s far from correct.

shenzhen struck me as a place i could live… but thats really an impression based on instinct rather than a deeper investigation.  but the roads are lined with mango trees which were in blossom, so…

anyway, from shenzhen, we have to pass thru immigration to get to hong kong.  this is really an interesting experience.  read up on hong kong.  it was under british ‘ownership’ for a long time until they were ‘forced’ to give it back to china in 1997.  they however negotiated some special accommodations which came to be known as ‘one country, two systems’.  in this, hk was to remain a separate country with its own borders, even for mainland chinese citizens.  administration remained with the hk’ers for now but that will soon change. overall control lies in beijing, something the hk’ers resent.

anyway, from shenzhen we crossed the border into luohu (china)/lu wu (hk) for another 1 hr metro trip to hung ohm, which is the last stop and is regarded as hk.  there also, is the island of hong kong, just across the bay.  check wikipaedia (hong kong, kowloon, the new territories).

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA                          GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA 100_1977a                                100_1975a 100_1965a


inside the well known salisbury ymca


construction always going on


pubs off nathan rd

pubs off nathan rd




hk is regarded as a shopping destination for mainland chinese.  however, as is not unusual for those colonized by the british, there is major contempt shown for ‘others’.

that’s one of the legacies of british colonialisation… leaving behind them a hot bed of confusion, destruction, mistrust and self-hatred.  many of us think that as one-time british subjects, we are better than those who managed to keep free of british governance.  aaah, how we  fool ourselves. we, the consequence of british rule, need to recognize that the sun has long set.

there might be a saying, ‘when the dragon is inevitable, feed it… don’t antagonize it’.  something the hk’ers seem not to grasp.

as we were there, there was a story in the hk newspaper about the need for legislation restricting the amount of tourists who ‘clog up the streets making it difficult for hk’ers to walk’.  those words were aimed at tourists from mainland china.

however they will tell you, “the british have no money, the australians have no money, the americans have no money etc.  the only ones with money is the mainland chinese”.  there is some irony when those you are most contemptuous of are the ones who put food on your table”. ironical, yes. but not strange.

and then there is the politics of the whole issue.  but that again, is another story.

so shopping is the thing in hk and the mainland chinese flock there.  prices apparently are great.  actually i found a few things i couldn’t find on the mainland so i was glad to visit there.

there are a couple interesting phenomena.  on the streets, well tailored men will flock around wanting to make a suit for you.  i doubt there is any other country that has this concentration of tailors.  and they will make your tailored suit in  hours, good cloth, at great prices.  so if thats what you want, make sure to figure that in your visit.

another one is there is widescale fakery here in premium brands of bags and watches.  touters will approach you telling you straight up that they have the best in fakes.  they are not trying to con you, just making you know that you can con your friends for a great price lol.

another interesting thing brought to my attention, was that the scaffolding used in building these huge skyscrapers, are made of bamboo.  think about that.


nathan rd (once known as the golden mile), where we stayed, is the main thoroughfare of hk, and i’m told that there is not many times when the streets such as nathan road isn’t crowded.


just off nathan road


nathan rd at night


an alley off nathan rd

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA             100_1979a              100_1981a            100_1980a

there were some other attractions but the short time and the weather (slightly foggy) made it impossible to visit.  would i like to come back?  of course. but i’m happy enough that that’s off my bucket list.


GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA   So we left hong kong and its back to tianjin via shenzhen.  the  long journey begins in reverse.  but its not without some interests.  this time we are travelling in the day and i gots a window seat.  i’ve been in china

since what? february? yes… and this is the first rain i’ve seen… at shenzhen airport.  i’ve seen rare droplets in tianjin, but this was rain, south florida/jamaica-style rain (awesome?).  the weekend before, it was pouring in hong kong, so i’m glad we missed that.  timing is everything.



as the plane drifts into tianjin airport, i was able to get my first view of tianjin by air.  yep, it was no shenzhen.  but then the air quality has been worse.  i was able to see more of this large city, and its layout.  being the end of winter, i’m sure the view isnt as sparkling as later in the spring.GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

i noticed the large tracts of unused land and hoped that they were used for farming.  one of the issues of china currently is population drift. china is busy building new cities all over the place, and this is causing the youths to leave the countryside to seek better opportunities in the cities.   history tells us where this is headed.  many are urging that something is done to stop this drift of youth and labour by refocusing on the agricultural areas.  but sometimes the obvious never gets done.

by the way, these cluster of buildings, are blocks of apartments, often as high as 20 storeys. these are not luxury apartments but housing for those perhaps considered middle class.  GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAand the concentration of people  in one of those blocks could probably overrun the city of lauderdale lakes, south florida.

Bye for now.  louis




design matters

one of the first things i noticed here in china, is how much they put in design.  i must say that i’m more than impressed by the measure they go to make presentation an important part of their products.  Traditionally the guidelines on packaging in China are always “for the convenience of the users” and “pleasing to the eyes”. i think american marketers could learn from this.




better still, the package does not seem to affect the price too much.  were we to buy such packages in florida, we would pay through the teeth for something as tasteful and unique.

and great presentation isn’t limited to expensive stuff.  even the simplest of products are handled with a flourish, as if they were presenting diamonds to royalty.

the pack of cards here only cost 5 yuan or a whopping and mind-boggling 80 cents. so the question is, ‘why is the same pack of cards, sans packaging, so expensive in the states?’.  hmm.



bye for now

louis davis


So spring is here… sort of.


it was with a certain amount of subdued joy that i greeted the first signs of spring. after all, i was told how beautiful it is, and i am looking forward to it. So of course the first signs has excited me. when the first blooms showed, the day was bright, the sky was blue.  but the winter gray is not done, and the days are a mixture of fog and smog, with low visibilty.  i can tell only by the acridity in the air which it is.  never thought my nose would become so important in weather lol.   the variations in temperature is wild . like 55˚ in the morning, to 80˚ by midday.  still, its not a hot 80˚, but somewhat humid.

garments are changing.  a few times i have seen a few citizens looking at me warily as i seem to be dressed more appropriately for late spring that late winter. it must be something about mad dogs and jamaicans…


i was asked recently ‘what is happiness?’. my reply, ‘oftentimes, its the simplest of things’ …and it is. just the first signs of blooming flowers was enough to set me off.  now i’m prepping myself for the full bloom of spring.  already splashes of colour are beginning to show a new face on the city.  so, i just want to share some of my first images of the beginnings of spring.



bye for now

louis davis


dorothy, we are not in kansas anymore by louis davis

Many of us are completely discombobulated by the thought of changing zip codes, much less changing countries… even more so when the country we are relocating to is completely different from our comfort zone.


one of my last views of ‘merica


my first view of china

Since late February, I have been living in Tianjin, China.  Tianjin is a port city in northern China, some 80 miles/129 kilometres to the southeast of China’s capital Beijing.


When the news ‘leaked’ out that I was moving from Ft Lauderdale, Florida to China, the response was predictable, “What!  Why China?”.  Many people were happy for me, though puzzled by my choice.  Many openly wondered how I would survive there, “The Chinese are so different. They have a different government.  Why don’t you go to somewhere safe (meaning less of a challenge)?”.

I do admit that I knew that coming to Tianjin would be challenging, but it was one I am prepared to meet.

One of the ingredients for enjoyable traveling or successful migration, is not to bring too much baggage and negative perceptions with you.  You have to be open-minded.  Just because ‘they’ do things differently doesn’t make you right and them wrong.

People everywhere will be different, even if they are just a few hundred miles away.  Language, foods, lifestyles, transportation, race, religion, politics, climate are just some of those differences.  Countries have their own identity, and the people develop along that identity. Change happens, in one direction or another.  The cultural norms you are used to certainly isn’t the only way, and certainly isn’t ‘right’.  That attitude will just aggravate and frustrate you, and make your stay miserable.  Go with the flow.  Be observant, curious, but not judgmental.  Learn to adapt.  You’re not in Kansas anymore.


this is an area Dawn calls 'spanish town road'  because of its similarities to the same place in jamaica

this is an area Dawn calls ‘spanish town road’ because of its similarities to the same place in jamaica

I take it this way, ‘The Chinese love their children too’.  In essence, they are not different from anyone else. They just want to get up in the morning and live a fulfilling life.  The differences are inconsequential, they can be overcome. I simply adapt.

I knew that my main challenges would primarily be language and food differences.  Language is obvious. But I’m prepared to meet that and hopefully in a few years, I will be conversant in Chinese. At least I’m willing to try.

So far I have been getting by with help from a few friends (well-known South Florida figures Professor Darby and Mrs Darby- who have lived in China for many years, and from Dawn, who has been residing here for a year).

Bit by bit, I’m making new acquaintances in some form or another. Recently, (March 2) I went with a couple students (Harry and Danny) of Tianjin University of Commerce to buy some badminton gear.  That went well, and now I’m playing badminton.

But I constantly meet new people.  And as expected, I find myself an item of curiosity, especially for small children and older people.  After all, there are not many of my complexion here.  The babies stare, hide behind and draw their parents attention, and they in turn tell the babies to wave ‘hello’.   The older persons just stare.  Its not hostile and I’m getting used to it.  I’m more often than not, tempted to smile… which is an ice-breaker. The smiles are not always returned but its not out of hostility.  Sometimes I just nod my head and move along.

Many have engaged me in casual conversations (as casual as one can have without either knowing a word of the other’s language). Recently, a man and I started to converse about hats.  He didn’t like the selection at the store and neither did I.  I liked his hat and he tried mine on.  Then we went our way.  Things like that.

On other occasions, Dawn (THERE is someone who really draws curiosity) and I have been approached by strangers eager to try out their English, and many times random strangers have come to our aid when they notice our querulous looks (like when we are ‘lost’).

Being here a year longer, Dawn has mastered some key phrases, expressions and words that are key to communication. My vocabulary so far consists of ‘Ting bu dong’ or ‘Wau ting bu dong’ (I don’t understand), and ‘Ni hao’ for ‘hello’. But I will get there.  Other than that, its a lot of pointing, miming and other gestures.

Daily, I jot down stuff in my book.  Words, phrases, observations, numbers, directions etc. How to say “Wo rou or bu rou” (no meat), or “Wo buneng chi rou” (I can’t eat meat).

For some people food wouldn’t be a problem.  For me, it is.  I don’t eat meat, in any country, in any way, shape or form… except for a little fish, usually prepared by myself.  And despite what many people think, I’m not a vegetarian.  My menu choices even in vegetables are thin, one page at the most, double-spaced.

Yet almost everyday, I’ve eaten something new (hopefully no meat), cooked, fried, sautéed in ways I never imagined.  Some I enjoyed and others will take a little getting used to. I’ve come to love noodles and there is quite a variety here.  I am trying to eat with chopsticks as well and that’s a source of amusement to those (everyone) around me lol (why would I force myself into another challenge?  I have no idea… but).  Practice.


nightlife in tianjin

nightlife in tianjin

Because of how cheap dining and transportation are, the Darbys, Dawn and I, eat out frequently. Perhaps my best dining experience ever, was a trip to the Banyan Tree restaurant, downtown Tianjin.  Folks, if you go there, be sure to ask for the hotel tour.  Fabulous place… but my next visit certainly won’t be for the decor.  They have a wonderful buffet (not talking Subways or Sbarro… a totally superior level). That grilled snapper… damn.  Perfection.

Same night we went to the Tangla, a so-called 6 star hotel.  Not sure it would get that rating from me, but it seems that every visitor to Tianjin is encouraged to spend at least one night in their luxurious rooms.  You can arrange for a tour there as well.  It runs 50 stories high so I guess the view is the thing.  Haven’t eaten there as yet, but I’m told that its certainly not on the level of Banyan Tree.


In the brief 3 weeks or so since I’ve been here (arrival- the night of February 21st) I’ve been enjoying myself immensely with one unforeseen exception.  I never expected the level of pollution that has virtually settled over the city since I came.  I was prepared for  infrequent smog.  But man, with only a couple of day’s clean air and bright unmasked sunlight, the rest of the days have been toxic.  But hey, I’ve not seen anyone fall down and die in the streets, so onwards I go.

I guess all this is the by-product of the ‘great leap forward’, and no one can question that in a few short years, China has made an immense leap from the country it used to be in 1950 to where it is now.


When you move that far in such a short space of time, its not unexpected that there will be cracks in the framework.  And apparently, the government is taking the pollution problem seriously, enacting legislation requiring stricter pollution controls on industry.


One thing I can say, is that photographers might really love photographing in these visual condition, just not breathing it in. See the before and after difference above.


Actually, the days have started to warm up and the last few days have been nearly decent in terms of the smoggy haze.


Another surprise was traffic. No, not congestion. For those thinking of coming and renting a car to drive around… not going to happen.  I suggest taking taxis or hiring a driver. I’ve never seen a foreigner drive but I ‘hear’ it can be allowed.  But there is one good reason for that… driving here is an exercise in ‘uncontrolled chaos’.  Driving in Jamaica or Miami is like a day at the beach, compared to trying to drive here.


popular transportation… sometimes on the edge of being ingenious.


“Uncontrolled chaos”, a double negative.  Perhaps that’s the key, and it certainly works for them.  There seems to be some sort of psychic understanding between bus, truck, van, car drivers, pedestrians, motor-bikers, pedal cyclists, tuk-tuk drivers, all of whom seem to want to occupy the same physical space  at the same time (physics lesson anyone?) despite such things as traffic lights, pedestrian lights, white lines and many other road traffic rules that are constantly ignored (Oh, I’ve yet to see a stop sign.  I don’t think they exist).

I once saw a man standing in the middle of road (fast traffic) with his back to oncoming vehicles, on his cellphone, with a total disregard and lack of concern.  Really?  Sir, I can tell you… don’t try that in Paris.

“I’m going the wrong way? Now what would lead you to think so?”. Perhaps the fact that you are moving in the opposite direction to everyone else and the arrows in the road should be a hint, heh!  Yep.  Its not strange to see a ‘tuk tuk’ or some other form of wheels traveling without hesitation, against the flow of traffic.  Yikes!

Its all about the bluff.  Everyone bluffs and someone usually yields.  There’s no rhyme or reason for that.  In Jamaica or Florida, the small man yields to the bigger vehicle.  Not so here.  I’ve seen bicyclists back down truck drivers.  Hmm.  And like in Jamaica, the pedestrian doesn’t get a pass, even if the pedestrian light ‘gives’ them right of way.  Its everyone for himself.  Don’t don’t worry about them here… they are part of the flow like everyone else.

And like in Jamaica, there is a constant cacophony of horns… each with its own message.  But it works.  I’ve only seen a couple fender benders, nothing major compared to Jamaica or Florida.  Not saying that there aren’t any.  Just haven’t seen any. That would qualify as a miracle in South Florida.

Another thing that fascinated me earlier on, was fireworks.  When I came, I thought that the fireworks I heard were left over from the Chinese new year.  Not so.  Chinese use fireworks all the time, for every celebration, wedding, baby, store opening, sometimes no seeming reason.  I saw 3 men dressed in business clothes, setting off fireworks at about 8 am, on the street.  There didn’t seem to be anything to celebrate… but you never know.  Mostly on weekends, it often sounds like a city on siege.  From all around, you have the small fireworks (sounds like machine-gun fire), or the big bangs (sounds like heavy artillery).

chinese new year decoration

chinese new year decoration



I’m told that the government believes that fireworks significantly contribute to the pollution problem and is trying to tamper its usage. But its part of life here.  One day I will set off my own fireworks display.

Tianjin grows fast.  Its a very big and important city in China. Read the history of Tianjin.  Interesting.

Tianjin- 4540 sq miles.  Pop: 14 million.  4th largest urban population in China (wikipedia)

Miami Dade- 55.27 sq miles.  Pop:  420,000

You can certainly see I’m not in Kansas anymore.

While many countries fret about 2% growth, they are aiming for above 16% this year. Construction is like mad.  Places sprout up like trees.  The Darbys have pointed out areas that were farmland just 3 years ago, and I can’t tell that those areas weren’t concrete jungles for decades.

new construction. those on the left (more than 20 storeys) have been completed, while those on the right is in progress. foreground, is undeveloped, one-time farmland

new construction. those on the left (more than 20 storeys) have been completed, while those on the right is in progress.
foreground, is undeveloped, one-time farmland

So that’s it for now, my little travelogue.   Its been wonderful and I’m going to make sure it stays that way.  Stay tuned as I bring you more from China.






Mi seh, yuh waah sih di place, Christmas nuff nuff inna China. In Tianjin where I live, in particular, signs of the festive season are everywhere… brilliantly lit trees, santa, reindeer, manger scenes, christmas carols, sales everywhere, and as usual nuff nuff people bout di place.


Well, I started off the season with a real Caribbean bang — a CARICOM holiday party filled with reggae, soca, zouk, curry goat, rice and peas, roti, and plenty plenty niceness! Hosted by the Guyanese Ambassador to China, Dr. David Dabydeen, the party brought regional folk together from all over China for a real dancehall/soca-filled night in the capital city Beijing.


Not only did I meet Jamaica’s Ambassador to China, Ralph Thomas, I also connected with other heads of missions, students, teachers, and businesspersons, from Barbados, Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominica, St. Lucia, The Virgin Islands, etc.


So, wherever we are, we bring our culture with us… even in china we are making our mark!


Happy Holidays!

 A manger scene outside WalmartTianjin Christmas Yes, a suh wi dweet!Kerry-Ann Morris and Percival Darby with some wicked movesLatoya and Michael Stephenson were certainly enjoying themselvesKerry-Ann Morris with Jamaican Ambassador to China Ralph Thomas


Golf and Marriage… A Lovely Combination

Who wudda thunk it… my first real golf resort experience in China! That’s right. The province of Tianjin, where I live, was host to the Volvo China Open, a major international golf tournament that brought world-class players to the Tianjin Binhai Lake Golf Club. Thanks to some of my students (who are golf majors by the way), I got tickets to this sought after event that took place in May.


It was a hot sunny day… yes indeed, we have gone from winter straight into summer… perfect for sipping cocktails at a green-side cafe under the shade of lawn umbrellas. Yuh waah sih wi, like tappanaris wid nuff money and time fi spend enjoying leisure activities of the rich!


My friends, Latoya and Kerry-Ann and I took in the sights… not just the wonderfully landscaped greens and rolling hills, but some a dih man dem weh did deddeh fi play golf. Standing at the practice green, we watched as Paul Casey from England and Spain’s Alvaro Quiros practiced their strokes. Nice! And later watched them at the last hole as some of my golf students held up signs to be quiet. Afterall, golfers need calm and quiet to get that little white ball into the hole, nuh soh?


Although golf is still a relatively young sport in China, it is growing in popularity and indeed there are now some young Chinese superstars on the horizon. In fact, the talents of 12 year-old Ye Wo-Cheng and 15 year-old Andy Zhang was definitely on display at this Open. I am sure some of you have heard of young (14-year-old) Guan Tian-lang who competed admirably in the Masters in April along with Tiger Woods and other big name golfers. So, get familiar with these names, you will be hearing more and more about them as they rise in the sport.


Hey, not only were we having a fab day at the golf course, we were also celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of our dear friends Norma and Percival Darby. Can you imagine that… 50 years!!! Talk about commitment… this couple is the true definition of marriage and sticktoitivness. Mr. Darby is well known for his stage career in Jamaica while Mrs. Darby is noted for founding the Jamaica Folk Revue that continues to keep the island’s folk culture alive and thriving in Florida and beyond. Perfect mates to hang out with, they willingly share history, proverbs, and stories of the Jamaica we all wish we still had. Hey, for more on the island nation’s history, beauty, and traditions check out Kerry-Ann’s blog at


Speaking of marriage, I also attended my first Chinese wedding. And although it had western style elements, the bride (Shen Meng) and groom (Chen Yi) held on to some of the Chinese traditions. Most notable is the fact that the ceremony started at 4:18. The number 8 (‘ba’ in Chinese) is an auspicious number in China. It sounds similar to the word ‘fa’ which means prosper or wealth, thus making 8 a positive number. Following the tradition, there were 18 different dishes at the post-ceremony feast.


The bride wore a western style white gown, but as the Chinese tradition dictates, she changed into different coloured gowns three times during the celebration. Her hair was combed in a specific knot, a style worn by married women. Symbolizing longevity, candles and incense burned at an alter-like table where the couple repeated their promise to each other. Lovely!


Well, with all these celebrations and leisure activities on my plate, I decided I needed a massage… and boy did I find a fabulous therapist! Actually, Mr. Darby was the one who introduced me to her, he experienced her powerful hands first. Not far from where I live, about a 30-minute walk, is this nondescript house on a lovely tree-lined street that you would ordinarily pass by without a second glance. But, inside is an army of women who work your muscles based on precise accupressure points. When you enter you are treated to Chinese traditional tea and given a bucket of warm water to soak your feet.


My favourite is Xiaoqing, a little woman with strong hands. She starts with your feet, which lasts for about half hour, then she moves to your head, face, nose, shoulders, arms, legs, back, shoulders kneading out any and every knot you know or don’t know you have. Mek a tell yuh, after every massage I feel like a new woman. Guess what, mi a goh every month… it is now part of my healthy lifestyle regimen. So, when you come to visit Xiaoqing’s massage will be your first experience… welcome to China!

Striking a pose at Volvo China Open

Striking a pose at Volvo China Open

Quiet please said golf student Sonic Sun

Quiet please said golf student Sonic Sun

Not a bad swing afterall

Not a bad swing afterall

Kerry-Ann, Dawn, and Latoya posing off with golf students

Kerry-Ann, Dawn, and Latoya posing off with golf students

Kerry-Ann takes aim

Kerry-Ann takes aim

Kerry-Ann and the paparazzi

Kerry-Ann and the paparazzi

In front of the practice green

In front of the practice green

Hangin' with Norma and Percival Darby

Hangin’ with Norma and Percival Darby

Can't you read the sign asked Ray King, a golf student

Can’t you read the sign asked Ray King, a golf student

The beautiful bride and her dad

The beautiful bride and her dad

Making the promise

Making the promise

The happy couple, Shen Meng and Chen Yi

The happy couple, Shen Meng and Chen Yi


Embracing the Heavens

Have you ever touched the sky or embraced the heavens? Well, I have, on my recent climb up the Great Wall of China.


Considered one of the greatest construction feats in history, the Great Wall is the longest wall in the world. Built more than 2000 years ago between the 7th century BC and 1664, the beginning of the Qing Dynasty, the wall cuts across eight provinces in Northern China.


This incredible fortification was not just created to protect China from invaders, it was, and still is a symbol of China’s power, culture, and economic prowess. The great stones that created this serpentine path of steep and uneven steps through monumental mountains stands today as a testament and memorial to many who lost their lives as they crafted this symbol of profound influence.


The drive to Badaling, the mountainous region of Beijing, was a glorious hint of what we were about to experience. The vertical rock faces, striped beige, gray, and a slight pink, got more colossal the higher we went. Then when our ears ‘popped’ we knew we were way above sea level. It is said that the section in Badaling is more than 1000 metres above sea level.


Me and my Jamaican posse, Kerry-Ann and Loinel, jumped out of the taxi we took from the train station to the Badaling section of the wall. With a broad smile, the taximan waved goodbye after we paid him 330 RMB, about $52, for the long circuitous mountain ride, making us wonder if indeed we did negotiate a good fare. Yuh haffi bargain inna China, a jus soh it goh. It nevva matta anyway, cause wih did glad fi dehdeh.


The air at this height was so clean and crisp, it was like soaking in one hundred percent pure oxygen. We were giddy!


Of course, we chose a holiday weekend for this climbing adventure, soh it did well crowded. But, a China wih deh an nuff people deh yah, so why not experience the real deal.


Well my dears, unuuh betta be in shape fi tek on dis yah activity. To put it mildly, is a rahtid steep climb just about the whole way up, down, circulah, an kinpuppalick! Because the steps are uneven, some high and some low but mostly high, it is like lunging every step of the way. Mek a tell yuh, we climbed up and down and sideways for more than three hours and nevva buss a sweat! A lie yaah. We eventually fling off the jackets…even though it was relatively chilly on the way up, half way up we were sweating. Well, Loinel was cool though; him a big time runner so im nevva feel it, at least soh im did sey.


We had the most wonderfully invigorating time on China’s Great Wall. And, we made friends too. The Chinese love taking pictures, especially with new found Black farin friends. So, our climb was interrupted for some pickcha tek. We big bout yah yuh nuh. Jamaicans tek over di Great Wall…and we proudly flaunted our nationality! We also connected with several Americans now residing in this culture-filled country.


Not only did we go to the ‘edge’ of the world, coming down was quite interesting. Some areas were so steep it forced us to run while leaning far backwards. But hey, we were up for the challenge. When we finally reached level ground again, our thighs were screaming… a weh di %$%^&… a wah yuh jus duh to me, yuh mad or somting. My gams, abs, and butt are firmer for the experience though…yeah!


Jamaicans really are thrill seekers. The very next day we headed to Beijing’s Summer Palace, the country’s largest royal park which has been named a World Heritage Site. Built in the 18th century, this imperial architectural masterpiece of  buildings, pavilions, and beautiful landscape design was home to the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.


With an expanse of almost 3 square kilometres, gardens, and hills that rise to about 60 metres high, we thought, oh this will be easy after yesterday’s wall climb. Yes you guessed it, there were more steps to climb. But it was all worth it as we took in the palace complex, the temples, the towers, the wide pavilions, the curved bridges, the cherry blossoms, the calm, the meditative beauty.


Imperial Discovery

Exploring on your own can be fun, but guess what, if you have a ‘partner in crime’ that is just as adventurous as you are, then the search and discover missions will be that much better. Well, I found a kindred spirit, a fellow Jamaican at that, here in China who also waah soak up the culcha.


Kerry-Ann lives near Beijing, so it was the perfect excuse for me to jump on the bullet train (high speed train)…for the first time. What a sweet ride! When you enter the train it feels like you have just walked onto a plane with spacious seats. The seats are cushy and you have nuff leg room. Even stewardesses walk the aisles answering questions or extending help, and offering items for purchase just like duty-free shopping aboard a flight.


I was caught up in the niceties, not really thinking that we could be going at a maximum speed of 205 miles per hour…and next ting yuh know wi reach Beijing. Mih nevvah even feel di movement. I guess it’s like flying, after all the plane a go real faas but yuh wudda tink seh yuh naah move.


Beijing is a real metropolis with nuff tall buildings, shopping, restaurants, and things to do. In fact, there is no shortage of restaurants and food-filled avenues in China. KFC, McDonalds, Sizzlers, Starbucks, as well as Italian, French, German eateries are just a few of the western style establishments here. Of course, Chinese food is plentiful, full of flavour, and inexpensive, so people eat out regularly.


We decided to have lunch before exploring the city. But guess weh wi goh… Pizza Hut. Ok ok, no baddah scold wih for not having Chinese food. You know how it is, sometimes you just crave something familiar. Satiated, we walked down the busy pedestrian shopping area.


Chinese people certainly love to shop! And there are many US/European outlets besides the local shops and stalls. H&M, Zara, Forever 21, Apple, Tag Heuer, and even Walmart are just about in every major city here.


But, walking down the avenue we buck up on part of the ancient Imperial City, a section of Beijing that was ruled by the Ming and Qing Dynasties (starting from the early 15th century). This city surrounded the  Forbidden City, or the Imperial Palace. What made the Imperial City so special were the lovely gardens and shrines that still exist today. Surrounded by high walls, visitors would have to go through one of six gates to enter the area that served as the first line of protection for the Imperial Palace.


Walking through parts of the Imperial City was like going back through time. Narrow streets and alleys dotted with tiny traditional courtyard homes harkened back to ancient times. Some of these neighbourhoods, called Hutongs, still exist today with their original buildings still standing, and inhabited by locals. Sadly though, they are fast being destroyed in the name of modern development. But, Kerry-Ann and I had a chance to enter one of these traditional homes.


Calligraphy artist San Yung welcomed us into his space, now a center for displaying his work and that of other artists keeping alive Chinese traditional art. Explaining his love of Chinese ink painting and his efforts to pass on the tradition to young artists, Yung gave us a lesson in Confucian philosophy. And before we left, he served us Chinese tea and wished us safe travels on our journey through life.




My first two weeks in China

After two weeks in Tianjin, China, I think I will stay! Indeed, it is perhaps one of the most difficult cultures to adjust to. However, if you are open to experiences and ready to learn from some of the most respectful, curious, and resourceful people in the world, this is the place to be.


Tianjin, one of the four municipalities, is a flat city…no mountains. And unlike the capital city Beijing, it is not as crowded as one would expect. One thing is sure though, you better ‘walk good’ on the streets. Traffic lights are just decoration cause most drivers just ignore red signals, leaving pedestrians to hop, skip, and jump through traffic to get to the other side of the road. But, no problem man. The Chinese are experts at street crossing, and so nonchalantly, that it seems drivers, walkers, and cyclists are in tune in a curiously chaotic sort of way. It’s like watching a ballet. But guess wah, mi a learn ow fi dweet tuh… so that makes me almost Chinese.


But, my obvious difference makes me a curiosity as well, but a good one. Many Chinese stare and smile. Children will take the opportunity to practice their English when they see me. They wave and say hello, then I ask ‘how are you?’ and they answer ‘fine thank you’ with an broad smile of accomplishment. Then I clap them and I have made a friend.


There are only five of us (meaning black people) on the campus where I teach…three Jamaicans, and two African Americans, one is a student. And in fact, I haven’t seen another black face in Tianjin. However, I am sure there are many in Beijing. Laaks mi dear, I have already met a Jamaican working in Beijing.


Walking the streets of Tianjin is like bucking up on treasure every couple of blocks. Colourful, lively, and thriving street markets with exotic aromas, sounds, and surprises assault your senses. If you want sweet mango, coconut, and jackfruit, yeh mi seh jackfruit…a yah yuh fi deh. Of course, if you don’t speak the language, like me (not for long though), the buying process becomes an interesting game of body language.


And speaking of body, one thing unoo people from farin haffi get used to is the hole-in-the-ground toilet. So, you enter what looks like an ordinary bathroom. Then you push open the stall door and you are confronted with a tiled hole in the ground. So, a weh mih fi duh? Crouch like our ancestors used to do. Actually, it’s the natural way to ‘go’. You aught to try it sometime.


Till next time,

Black Mandarin pan di case