Saturday, June 20, 2009

Shanghai: Pudong Downtown

(This post is part of a series on my trip with the 9th grade to Shanghai in May 2009.)

In May, I helped chaperone the 9th grade school trip to Shanghai. We had a much lower turnout, proportionately, than last year's Japan trip, in part owing to the students' general lack of interest in visiting China. Without saying so directly, the students who elected not to go made their reasons pretty clear: China, they seemed to think, is the land of swine flu and melamine, a sprawling slum that dwarfs Mumbai, an impoverished Communist police state like North Korea, only larger and dirtier.

Even the students who came on the trip, it seemed, expected to get food poisoning from every morsel of food that passed their lips, and as such came equipped with entire suitcases full of ramen and Spam (both available, mind you, in any Chinese grocery--and both exported to Korea from China, of course).

So it was a stroke of good luck that our first sightseeing stop in Shanghai was the Pudong ("east of the river") section of downtown, seen above at night.

Pudong is home to two of the four tallest buildings in Asia (the others being Taipei 101 in Taiwan an the Petronas Towers in Malaysia), and by 2012 it will be home to three of the five.

The tallest building in Shanghai is the Shanghai World Financial Center, which features the highest public observation deck in the world.

Here's a view from the Financial Center observation deck, showing the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Jin Mao building (foreground), with the iconic Shanghai TV Tower in the background.
Oh, and those little white boxes in the Financial Center photo above? Window washers.
How would you like that job?

Here's a clearer shot of the TV Tower from street level at the Financial Center.
And here's a shot of the Jin Mao building and the Financial Center from the Puxi district, on the other side of the river.Needless to say, the students were quickly disabused of their misconceptions about Shanghai. Of course, the fact that we stopped for ice cream at a Cold Stone Creamery after lunch--and no one died of melamine poisoning--certainly helped.

More on the trip coming soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Wolgye Warrens, Part II: Details, Details

I separated out some of my images from the original Walk in the Dong post to discuss separately, as architectural details. First, we have the Korean roof tiling:

Not much to say about it because I don't know much about it, but I think it's pretty.

Next up, Korean gates. The homes are courtyard-style, as I've said, so you have a big courtyard gate instead of a front door to the home. Some are completly solid and plain, but that's boring, so I didn't take pictures. Here's one that seems to evoke Chinese moon gates, only in the negative (solid where moon gates are hollow):

Here's a more ornate, scroll-y one.

No brilliant insights from me. Moving on! Here's a door from a distance, and then a closeup of the decorative panel:

These, I actually can comment on, thanks to a Royal Asiatic Society trip to the Museum of Korean Embroidery. There are, in the East, ten traditional symbols for longevity, which may be presented all in one work, or in matched pairs. The pairs are, in no particular order,

1. Sun and clouds
2. Crane and pine
3. Deer and "plant of eternal youth;" I don't know what it is in English, but it's the spiky thing behind the deer in the picture there
4. Tortoise and waves
5. Rock and bamboo

In the panel above, you can see the first three: sun/clouds, crane/pine, and deer/plant.

I would cite that information correctly, but the citation would be (Huh), and I think that would confuse readers. So I will say that it comes from the book Crafts of the Inner Court, by Huh Dong-hwa, published by the Museum of Korean Embroidery and purchased by me there.

(On a side note, the museum is small but worth visiting just to get a crack at their textile library. Unfortunately, the hours suck: they close at four and are only open on weekdays. So keep your eyes open for the RAS annual tour, when they have a special Saturday opening just for the RAS group. I also recommend the Chung Young Yang Embroidery Museum at Sookmyung Women's University; free admission, and more great books, including in English).

Another door panel, about which I have nothing to say:

This is a gate door handle.

I theorize that the circle-and-square means that it's in imitation of a Chinese coin. The bottom character is means "peace" in Chinese, and the top one is pronounced "chang" but I'm not sure what it means in this context. Longevity, maybe? Whatever Chinese skills I once possessed have faded after three years. If anybody reading this knows these characters, I'd love to hear.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

8th Grade Graduation

The 8th grade parents put together a lovely graduation party evening for the kids as they moved from middle to high school. I was so amazed to see all the kids dressed up - the girls in particular looked so grown up and beautiful. I don't know if there was a parent in the room who was prouder or schmuckier than me :)

After dinner, a PowerPoint of kids's photos and the film of the Japan trip, we had some great awkward middle school dancing. The students became acquainted with my mad Hokey Pokey skills, which date back to my freshman year of college, when my roommate Connie used to put it on and we'd all go running into the common room to do it for a study break. (We also declared a mandatory moratorium on academics whenever the movie Selena came on television, which for some reason happened like nine times that year). I also do a mean YMCA, but my chicken dance skills pale in comparison with the master: Justin's mom. Kath, I salute you!

Here's Justin and me. Seeing as I went to holiday dances, decade dances, and even my junior and senior proms with my female friends, this is the first picture I've ever had with myself and a male at a school dance. (One might have been taken when I went to one at another school but I never saw it). And I had to be on the faculty to get there. Sad, really.Here I am with Naomi Sensei, of the Japan Trip and Disneyjoy. When I make a list of the coolest people I've ever been lucky enough to know, she'll be in my top five.

All in all, a terrific evening.