I am in Shanghai

Finally, I returned to my home in Shanghai. The excitement and expection for a long journey I have when I started in Dec 6 lasted for two weeks and gradually turned into homesick day by day afterward and became tireness mixed with excitement at last. I am happy to return to the starting point of the journey (which is also the ending point), companied with great stories, sweet memories and interesting pictures.

It is 7:39 PM in Shanghai while the time in my clock in the digital camera and also in my brain is still 6:39 AM in New York. There is a huge jump in time again. I may need to go to bed immediately after 2 hours flight from New York to Chicago and 14 hours from Chicago to Shanghai – I suspect 14 hours are approaching the longest journey on this planet. I believe when I wake up tomorrow morning, the jet lag should disappear and I can start to writing something in details about the journey.

There are something more important than to go to bed. I have to give my big “Thank You” to the following persons who made my trip possible.

  • My brother Jian Zhao and Jian Sheng who helped me to plan the trip and contacted their friends;

  • Robet in Seattle to arrange the meetup
  • Eric and James who gave me a ride from Redmond to Seattle
  • Irfan and Andy who picked me up in Chicago and hosted me;
  • Mr. Gong and Guo Hua who helped me on the first part of my stay in New York
  • Ngai’s family who hosted me in New York City

Cold New York

I am packing my luggage and will leave U.S. tomorrow at the LaGuadia Airport in New York. New York is super cold for me these days, but peopel say the winter of New York hasn’t really arrived yet. New York is around 40 degree in latitude while Shanghai is around 31 degrees.

It snowed the day before yesterday and the snow started to melt yesterday. It was around 29 °F (I started to use F after I came to U.S.). It is freezing everywhere.

Christmas Eve in New York City

What I did today:

  1. Amtrak from New Rochelle to Grand Central. The running time was exactly 35 minutes.

  2. From Grand Central to World Trade Center Site. The new Freedom Tower is under construction already.
  3. Visited Wall Street. I didn’t expect the most important street in financial world is so short. Due to the Christmas day, I didn’t see a single person on the street with suite and tie. Actually, I didn’t see many people there at all.
  4. Heading south, I reached the Hudson River but didn’t take ferry to the Statue of Liberty.
  5. Took Metro Line 5 and reached 86 st. Station. Then visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The most important exhibition there happened to be China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD. Many of the selections were found in Luoyang, my hometown.
  6. Finally, we took M1 to the New York Public Liberty and
  7. Went along the 42nd st. to Times Square.
  8. Then went along the 50th st. to Rockefeller Center. The huge Christmas tree is there and there are “people mountains and people seas”.
  9. We went to the Chinatown via Metro 6 (Canel st.) and had a wonderful dinner.
  10. Went back to Grand Central and took Amtrak back to New Rochelle. It ran for 31 minutes.

Chinatowns in U.S.

The travel is perfect, except the food. I am sorry but I still cannot enjoy the food in America. I tried different types of foods according to the recommendation from local listing, but I cannot find a good one for me. After eating American food for two days, I am feeling like I eat the food on the airplane everyday. You may imagine the feeling – hungry but don’t want to eat, eat but still feel hungry. I tried to stay at American restaurant at the beginning. Since I am here, I should do things like locals do. Food should be an important part of a journey, isn’t it.

I finally gave up and started to eat my favorite Chinese food at Chinatowns. In Washington D.C. we went to the Chinatown Express for three times. In Boston, we went to the Yan Jing Restaurant at the Harvard Square (just on the other side of the Harvard Widener Library). The second time, we took the red line directly from our hotel to that restaurant to have lunch before we start our tour that day.

Chinatown

I have visited the Chinatown in Washington D.C., in Boston, Chicago and New York. What amazed me most is that I saw so many people there who cannot speak or read English. Chinatown seems to be their jails that they can never step out. There are Chinese newspapers, Chinese signs and small businesses serving the local Chinese community. I saw many famous business names were translated into Chinese which I even didn’t see in China.

Meanwhile, I feel sad when I visit some local residents in the Chinatowns. The area in the big city seems to be a replica of old China’s streets – small shops, simple and cheap restaurants. The shops are good at lower the price for their service/good by decreasing the cost. Often, they decrease it at the cost of quality. It is for sure that any people who think China Town is a window for the current China will be misled. Of cause, for big countries like America and China, it is always risky to conclude situation in one sentence. I heard the conversation in Chinatown that went like this:

A: “It is cold, isn’t it?”

B: “Yes. In China, they still wear t-shirts”

The second person must forget China’s territery is large enough to cover the hot and the cold. It is the same to conclude on the economic or culture side.

Chinatown Buses

I had very high expectation on the Chinatown buses, but I was disappointed this time. Taking the Chinatown buses running between Boston and New York as an example, they are cheap (15 USD per trip) because they don’t accept credit card; there are no waiting room for passengers; they don’t run advertisement; they don’t have automatic ticket vendering machine (so don’t need to hire anyone to design the system); there is no customer service; they stops at cities in the middle without telling the customer about it; they don’t need to print flyers; and don’t need to rent a terminal at the Port Authority Bus Terminal – they use streets. I am not comfortable to see the Chinese bus owners do business like there. Finally, I was disappointed with the Chinese bus although I took the motivation to try it and help to promopt it after that.

It Snows in Washington D.C!

Snowing Washington

It is snowing in Washington D.C. When we got out of the Smithsonian Station of the Blue Line Metro and went to the National Art Gallery East Building (designed by I.M.Pei), it started to rain. When we finished our tour to the National Art Gallery, it was still raining but mixed with snow. Very soon, it was completely snowing. How exciting! This is the first snow I saw in America and it is also the first snow after I moved to Shanghai ten years ago.

At night, it started to snow heavily. I guess tomorrow, when I wake up, it should be completely white outside. I like to see the scene before I leave Washington but I worry a little bit about the Interstate Expressway tomorrow back to New York. It will be very bad if the highway is paused due to icy road. From Greyhound’s website, it has paused its operation in Chicago area. It was reported it will be windy and snowy in Boston tomorrow. What my friend reader said the only thing I can enjoy in Boston if it snows is to drink hot chocolate and enjoy the warm hotel room.

The Modern Millie

We went to the Kennedy Center for Performing Art for The Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was a wonderful musical, but of cause, it brought big challenges for my English listening comprehension. I could understand music part very well though. It is a funny story with a surprising ending. However, I am not feeling good that the bad guys in the play came from Hong Kong and they spoke Cantonese and whenever they came out, there had to be an English subtitle on top of the screen. The image normal American see about China is still at the old ages. I remember when we watched the Nutcrackers in Lincoln Center in NYC, the actors and actress for the tea dressed old fashioned Chinese clothes (which is very ugly).

Washinig Pictures

Here are some pictures I took in Washington D.C. Of cause, they are the pictures I took yesterday when it didn’t snow yet.

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© Jian Shuo Wang.

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Lincoln Memorial before the reflection pool.

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Washington DAC Building

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Bench on the National Mall

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Metro Map of Washington. I really enjoy the metro system, especially the $6.50 One Day Pass Metro Card.

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© Jian Shuo Wang. Roof of the White House (in the middle of the image)

This Blog Mentioned by Big Media Again

P.S. Richard and Lisa informed me that my blog was mentioned on today’s New York Times. It is a big surprise for me. :D Thanks for notifying me about it.

I am in Washington, D.C

To my surprise, the price of hotel in Boston drops significantly in the weekdays than weekends. So we modified the route a little bit and chose to come to Washington D.C. during the weekend. I am in Hotel Washington, in Washington D.C. now. As always, to find sometime to sit down and write is not easy.

We took greyhound here. It took 4 and half hours. I am planning to leave for Boston on Dec 20 and go back to New York on Dec 23 to continue the Big Apply journey. The Hotel Washington is a very nice hotel. It is on the same street of White House, which is only one block away. The Washington Memorial is shining right outside my window and the huge Christmas tree Bush lit up is down there.

Washington D.C. is the type of city that I fall in love at my first step. Since the law requires no building can be higher than the capitol in this city, the buildings here are not tall but huge. It seems every building’s name starts with “National”, such as the National Press Building, National Theatre and National Museum of blah-blah around the hotel.

Due to the big contrast between Washington D.C. and New York City, it is even more quiet and here. It is a place where pedestrians have time to wait for red lights and drivers yield for pedestrians. People have time to say “excuse me” again. For us, it’s quite like an escape from New York City.

BTW, the Metro in Washington D.C. is among the best metro system I saw so far. The big halls of Metro and clear signs make it very friendly. The train carts are clean – they even have carpet on train!

P.S. Excuse me for not replying comments, or some emails recently. For those I do replied, sorry for conciseness of the reply. For a person with very strong Internet relationships like me, you can imagine how many emails in my mailbox after two or three days of absence. The dialup is slow here.

New York – Day 2

In the morning, after glanced my email in five minutes, I put the camera into my pocket and went out with Wendy. (If you sent me emails these days, my response will be delayed since the Internet access condition is not good here.)

New York and Shanghai

New York has many similarity with Shanghai. The living condition of many people, if not the majority, seems not easy. Rich people can only get an apartment (not house) in Manhattan and the poor can only get a place to settle down in Queens or New Jersey and spend the one hour more two on the train. I agree it is all about choice. There must be reasons for people stay and choose small rooms instead of large house in the west.

Art? Dirt?

The skin of New York is covered by colorful drawing. It is everywhere, on the walls, in the subways stations and inside the train carts. Look at this picture along the Metro Line 7.

© Jian Shuo Wang

It reminds of the advertisement on the wall in every village in China. The suburb of New York are similar with the villages in China.

I don’t like to look at the eyes of the passengers in the subway. People look tired or expressionless, if I don’t use the word of “hopeless”to describe what I saw. What people can expect in this fast-paced crowded and materialized city?

Subway

The public transportation system in New York is efficient. Please note that I used efficient instead of nice. It is a system that simply works. You cannot expect more from it – no art, no cleanness, no desire to stay there longer. I shouldn’t be too picky on a metro system that kept running from 1904 and a main stream public transportation system for people coming from every corner of the world. If the Metro in Shanghai symbolizes modernized city life in China, the subway in New York symbolizes the industrial development of the last century. It basically uses the same train system as those running on the ground. The noise and the turbulence are exactly the same as the trains for long distance transportation. To my surprise, I didn’t see a modern city from the subway of New York; instead, I saw history.

© Jian Shuo Wang

It is quite amazing that there are 4 – 6 tracks at the same station and there are so many platforms in one metro station. It is exactly typical train station in China. The only difference is, it is built underground.

What Metro system in Shanghai should learn from New York subway, which is at the age of its grandfather, is the naming and guidance system. At least there is no typo on the board. :-)

Park Ave. and 5th Ave.

The Park Ave. and the Upper East part of 5th Ave. are the splendid miles. Houses with the same heights line up there. I guess the old houses must have been destroyed and rebuilt for many times to form the current uniqueness of the street scene. I love to say in the Park Ave. a little bit longer since it is the only place I found in the entire Manhattan that has sunshine so far. Other streets look like the deep valley cut buy knives from the baseline of the top of the buildings. There is absolutely no sunshine there.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Guggenheim

© Jian Shuo Wang

It may be the most famous roof in the world.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Central Park

It is too cold today with the strong wind from the south. I found it impossible to march from the north-most to the south-most point. So we went across the park from the east to the west along the lake. It is a miracles that so huge a piece of land was reserved in the most expensive land in the world. On the other hand, the plan to reserve the land also helped to create the most expensive land.

© Jian Shuo Wang

Night Lincoln Center

New York wake up at night. When we arrived the Lincoln center at the Broadway and the 65th Street, it was already 5:30 PM. The exciting ballet The Nutcrackers would start in 30 minutes. We bought the tickets at $20 and entered the New York State Theater. It is among the cheapest tickets in the theater, located at the end of the level 4, which is basically the second furthest seats from the stage. Since Wed is the off-peak time and the price is lower than tomorrow’s. The more expensive tickets were all sold out.

© Jian Shuo Wang

© Jian Shuo Wang

The theater is huge. Since it is not allowed to take pictures inside the theater, I can only take some pictures at the lobby.

© Jian Shuo Wang

The ballet The Nutcracker is great. No wonder why this has been the 50th season for this ballet to serve as the holiday’s most splendid light. It will be performed at the theater six weeks around the Christmas. This is the forth time for me to visit a theatre. The previous one are the Holiday XXX, The Lion King, The Concert of Spanish Pianist and this, the Nutcrackers. It inspired my interest on performing art, and music. The number I visited museum, gallery and theatre is more than the whole year before. The most important take-away for my U.S. trip this time is art.

© Jian Shuo Wang

At night, the Lincon Center is like a crystal palace. More activities are still held in the other buildings concurently. What an exciting city! I love New York now.