We’re Moving – Win Great Prizes!

•September 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Hello again friends,

Just a reminder that Expatriate Games has taken up new residence at http://www.expatriategames.net/.

The new site includes the blog, photographs, interviews, photo essays, documentaries and more. The official launch date of September 1st is here and we are celebrating the launch by giving away some great prizes all through the month of September. All you have to do to register is subscribe to the new RSS feed and leave a comment on the blog to let me know you were there, it’s that simple!

Head on over to the site and read the latest post for more details on how you can win an Apple iPad or a Cannon EF 100mm f/2.8 MACRO lens!

We’re Moving!

•August 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Expatriate Games the blog is now Expatriate Games the website!

The new site includes the blog, photographs, interviews, photo essays, documentaries and more. The new address is www.expatriategames.net. The official launch comes on September 1st and you can win some great prizes just by updating your feed.

Head on over to the new site and read the latest post for more details on how to win!

10 Minutes – Liang Zhirong

•August 14, 2010 • 7 Comments

Sometimes you can get to the cutting edge by going back to your roots. As one of China’s most celebrated musical craftsmen, Liang Zhirong has traveled the world, filling his passport by creating beautiful traditional hand crafted folk instruments. The instruments are made from memory without any templates, using instincts born by 300 years of family history. Liang is 43 and hails from Sanjiang County in Guangxi Province. Growing up in the Dong minority region, his upbringing was steeped in tradition. Starting with his great-great-grandfather, the Liang family patriarchs have long been recognized as great musicians and artisans. His father was called the King of Lusheng by the locals, and it was his father who and taught him to play, handing him his first instrument (a traditional bamboo flute) at the age of 7.


Liang Zhirong

Liang eventually began to pay attention to how the instruments were being made and found he was a natural, even improving on designs over the years. He is an artist in residence with the Long Tan National Art Troupe and it is with that group that he has traveled to Japan, South Korea, America and Hong Kong. Multi-talented, he is also an actor and an accomplished painter. In fact, it was with his painting that he first garnered wide recognition. His main focus now is to preserve the regional folk arts. The government provides him studio space and pays his salary and so far, he has “re-discovered” over 20 traditional instruments, re-crafting them in his studio and teaching others how to play.


Liang at work in the studio…

When he’s not traveling around Guangxi looking for lost art, Liang spends his days in his cluttered, sauna-like studio, fabricating instruments from bamboo, gourds and other local woods. Some of the results include a traditional fiddle made to resemble a cow’s leg, a gourd flute and a double flute made of bamboo.



Liang Zhirong demonstrating some of his handi-work…

I met Liang on a photo-shoot for the Guangxi Tourism Bureau and afterward  he invited me to come take a look at his studio. I’m glad I did. If your ever find yourself in Liuzhou, head over to Long Tan Park, bear left past the children’s amusement park and head for the Yao Minority Village. The replica “village” is a disappointment but in the first building you come to you’ll likely find Liang Zhirong at work in his studio, crafting his latest instrument. He’ll happily perform an impromptu concert. Friendly and reserved, he comes alive when he’s playing…

Love the shirt…

This will likely be my last post on the wordpress.com blog. The new website is nearly ready to launch and I need to concentrate on getting it finished before the next term begins in September. I may go ahead and launch from there even before I have everything fully integrated..I’ll make sure to post the new url and links, you’ll want to keep an eye out as I’m giving away a bevy of freebies for those who register to get the feed. Details forthcoming, until then…

Peace!

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10 Minutes – Lei Tang Miao

•August 12, 2010 • 23 Comments

I went to Long Tang Park today to finally take a full walk around the place. I’ve been to the park quite a few times but it’s always been during some special event or on a holiday so it was nice to not have to fight through the crowds. More on the park soon, but today I’m posting a few photos from Lei Tang Miao, a small Buddhist Temple located on the park grounds. On the whole, the temple was a bit of a bust. As I said, small, not well maintained and the attendants were a bit too pushy for my taste what with the “Buy this incense for good luck and buy this bamboo stick for good health.” I was discouraged (asked not to) from taking photos of the inside hall, so that left very little for me to shoot.  This is what I manged in catch in 10 minutes or so….

10 Minutes - Lei Tang Miao I

10 Minutes - Lei Tang Miao II

10 Minutes - Lei Tang Miao III

10 Minutes - Lei Tang Miao IV

10 Minutes - Lei Tang Miao V

All of these shots were all taken with the Canon 5D Mark II and the EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens. The light was harsh is some spots and almost non-existent in others so the settings were all over the place. More images from the park tomorrow…

I am awaiting official word on baby Layla, AKA grandchild number one. The kids went to the hospital about 20 hours ago but I haven’t heard anything since… “Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind…”

Positive waves toward California folks…

Peace!

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Dule Caves – Tourist In Da House

•August 9, 2010 • 6 Comments

As I begin year four in my adopted hometown of Liuzhou, I thought it might be time to check out arguably the only real tourist attraction in the area. The Dule Caves are located about 20 kilometers south of the city. The guided walk through three separate grottos doesn’t take long and the caves are a welcome respite from the heat. Still, I’m not sure I’d go again on a day as hot (97F) and humid (100%) as this was. Of course the caves were cool but the treks between were, well, not cool. I was surprised that when we came out of the first cave we had to climb some pretty steep steps up to the second and when then we came out of the second cave we found ourselves at the top of a mountain! It wasn’t a big mountain but it was more than a hill. Then, upon exiting the third cave, we realized we were about 5 kilometers away from the parking area and brother there wasn’t anything resembling a shuttle in sight. The fee is 25 RMB per person for what is usually a guided group tour. We negotiated a price (50 RMB) for a private tour so I could take photos without having to rush. Was it worth it? Ask me tomorrow when I’m trying to get out of bed…

Dule Caves I

Dule Caves II

Dule Caves III

Dule Caves IV (The Old Man)

Dule Caves V

The guides provide all sorts of folk-lore and in the canned presentation say things like “Here, as you can clearly see, this formation looks like a rhinoceros!”. Uh, yeah, I guess I kinda’ see that. Legend has it that the middle cave was inhabited by a fish goddess who leapt out of the cave through the ceiling to save her sister. I saw the hole in the ceiling so it must be true. We like our fish goddesses in Liuzhou, three separate stories all conveniently intertwined. Today’s version was number 46 I believe.

When we arrived at the park we discovered there was a lot of construction going on. Apparently the local government has decided to spend millions on re-developing the base area to include a hotel and spa, meeting facilities and a very large Buddhist Temple. Work on the temple is well underway and is scheduled for completion in December. It’s all being hand hewn in wood by artisans from across China, supposedly without a single nail. Everything was in various stages of completion but these four Buddhas were already in place at the entrance.

Dule Temple

Dule Temple

Dule Temple

It looks like it’s going to be a nice place for photos so I want to return when the temple is complete. So yeah, a pretty good day.

I poached a wedding photographers shoot for a little while. It was a bit bizarre, he (the photographer) was running around shirtless (not pretty) and sweating as badly as I was while the bride and groom were full-on dressed up and dry as a bone. I only got a couple of shots because I didn’t want to make the other photographer uncomfortable or angry. As it was, the couple was already beginning to work my lens and not his.

One issue, when coming out of the cool caves into the hot humid air, my lens immediately fogged up. I didn’t think about that before we left the house so I was unprepared. There is a fairly easy way to deal with lens condensation, or at least to prevent it. Keep the camera in a water-proof, zip-lock plastic bag until the temperature of the camera equalizes with the air. Any condensation that occurs will occur on the bag. If you do get some condensation, you’ll just have to wait for it to evaporate. Even if you wipe it off, it will re-fog if the lens is still cooler than the air. I missed some landscapes today because of the foggy lens. Lesson learned, keep the plastic bag in the camera bag.

I finally heard from the group in Inner Mongolia and they say the project is being postponed until later in the month or even September. We’ll see if it actually happens. Still have the trip to Guangzhou, Shenzen and Hong Kong planned in a couple of weeks. I’ve been doing a lot of leg work on the new web site and it is coming along slowly but surely. Nothing else here for now…. later!

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Madonna with Child

•August 5, 2010 • 8 Comments

Three young friends of mine, all of them expatriates living here in China, have recently had babies. I took this photograph a few nights ago in Guizhong Market. God bless the children…

Madonna and Child

For Steve and Mrs. Stevo…

For Ryan and Maggie…

For Oliver and Keiko

Congratulations. Cherish every moment because believe me they really do grow up too fast. Case in point, my first grandchild is due at any moment but I can remember so clearly when my kids were this size. I hope your children make each of  you as proud as my kids have made me.

I may be less active here for a while as I continue to work on getting the website put together. I am struggling mightily but have decided I’m not going to give up on it this time. Maybe I’ll find some time to post some photos to break up the monotony… Peace!

UPDATE:  In the original post I mistakenly said all three couples had boys. Actually, Steve and his wife are the proud parents of young Reilly Elizabeth, who as you can clearly see here is a beautiful baby girl! I will be avoiding the glare of Ms. Stevo when I head south later this month.

It’s nice to know you’re actually reading this stuff Steve!

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Guizhong Market

•August 4, 2010 • 7 Comments

I took a walk through the sprawling Guizhou Marketplace tonight. It’s hard to tell how long these unregulated outdoor markets will hang on, but for now, they are big business in Guangxi Province. You can find just about anything in the way of fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. There are also a variety of restaurants and small shops spread over a 4 block area. Anytime I’d been through here before I was always in route to some other place so I’d never stopped. I had a good time, Lily came along as translator and to provide comic relief.

This is old Ms. Wei, she’s 82 and still works the family fruit stand near a busy intersection in the middle of the market. It was about 9PM when I met her and she was going strong. She happily agreed to let me take this shot but kept her mouth covered, I figure she was a bit self-conscious as she had no teeth. She couldn’t hide her smiling eyes.

Guizhong Market - Granny Wei

Granny Wei

Guizhou Market - Granny Wei II

Granny Wei II

This vendor was pacing back and forth and I think he was just about to call it a night. Notice the one pant leg rolled up, it’s a common “beat the heat” fashion statement. To complete the look, the more fashionable men will also roll up their shirts to reveal a little belly. Sexy.


Guizhong Market - Scale

Scale

A businessman proudly dotes on his son, feeding him tiny slices of mango. Within this four square block area you can find folks from every economic level. The neuvo riche and the poorest of the poor rub elbows, each pursuing their piece of China pie. Some pieces are bigger than others.

Guizhong Market - Baba's Boy

Baba’s Boy

Motorcycle Taxi drivers wait for one last fare at the market exit.

Guizhong Market - In The Spotlight

In The Spotlight

This cat is one of thousands of guys who work the streets in the cellular phone business. They offer a variety of services, everything from recycling to repair services to selling new phones. The new phones are either black market legitimate phones, pirated copies of legitimate phones or outright fakes. Now it is very common for men in some parts of China to let one fingernail grow to an absurd length and I have heard about 328 different reasons as to why its done. I have not seen this before…

Guizhong Market - Red Elephant Lamp

Red Elephant Lamp

All the shots tonight were taken with the 5D Mark II and the 135mm f/2.0 L USM. I didn’t want to lug a lot of stuff around and I should really be using that lens more anyway. I think everything was shot at 2.0 at around 1250 ISO.

It looks like my return to Mongolia has been scratched. I was supposed to be traveling this week but have received no tickets or itinerary. I can’t get anybody to give me a direct answer as to if it’s on or off. Usually when that happens someone is trying to save face because nobody here wants to dole out any bad news. Most would rather say nothing at all. Anyway, I’m going on the assumption that its not happening. I’m disappointed but I’ll still go to Shenzhen and Hong Kong later this month and I also need to make a quick stop in Guangzhou.

The summer is moving along all to quickly… less than a month before the next term begins and I am so not feeling it!

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