Kunming Bird and Flower Market

Pleasant Goat is a wildly popular Chinese cartoon.

Bird Cages

This guy hand-made some very beautiful bird cages.

Dropping fish from the bridge

Supposedly, it is lucky to drop a few goldfish from the top of the bridge into the water below.  I don’t think it can be so lucky for the fish as you must drop them from the highest point!

People in Zhujiajiao

Zhujiajiao Scenery

Franz and Vivi from Germany couch-surfed with us (well, Jon was in the US) in December.  Franz had studied Chinese here for a while, and had been to Zhujiajiao.  It’s the closest water town to Shanghai.  He wanted Vivi to see it and they invited me along.  I hadn’t been to any of the water towns yet.

Getting there and back was a bit of a hassle.  On the way, we took a taxi almost the whole way.  It took 1 hour and 34 minutes to get there, and cost 178 RMB.

On the way back, we took a taxi to the nearest subway station (She Shan) which took 38 minutes and cost 68 RMB, and then took the subway back into town.  I think that the subway also took well over an hour (but only cost 6 RMB.)

Tours online start at about $100 per person, so I guess it was good to do on our own!  The only annoyance was that at lunch they tried to keep us from ordering off of the local menu… they wanted us to order all of the expensive stuff (which was the only food translated into English.)

The best job I’ve had

There is a good reason that I haven’t been posting too much lately – I’ve been giving quite a few Shopping Tours.  I think it really is the best job I’ve ever had.  (So far anyway!)  Everyone has so much fun, and they rave about how good it is and how great Suzy and I are.  I certainly never had a job before where people told me daily how much they liked me and what a great job I was doing and how glad they were to have been there with me.  Pretty soon I’ll be getting a big head.  :-)  You can read some reviews of the tour and my and Suzy’s guide skills here.


shanghai5STSArturo and Sophia with me, relaxing with a couple drinks after a tour at Taikang Lu.

Dangling Feet

The other day I was talking to my friend Dan, when he told me that someone was dangling outside of his window and it was bit creepy.

Many of the buildings in Shanghai are getting a face-lift before the World Expo next year.  This guy is putting a light coat of cement over all of the small (formerly) white tiles that are the buildings facade.  Next it will be painted and the cheap, ugly tile is gone.


These guys must be fearless.  They dangle from the side of a building (this is 24 stories up), just sitting on a board that is attached by a rope to something up top.  No safety harnesses.  (He is wearing a helmet, though I’m not sure how effective that would be this high up.)

IMG_4409A bamboo ladder, which they set on a lower roof level to get on the very top of the building.  No roof access, apparently?

Fashion around West Lake

Here we have a classic summer look. It’s hot, so wear shorts and roll up your t-shirt for maximum air flow. You need to look stylish though, so wear your black dress shoes with white socks.

This white poodle had a fluorescent orange tail and ears. Poor little guy doesn’t even know he looks like a traffic cone.

During the summer, many dogs are shaved like lions (to keep cool, I suppose.) They leave the head furry so that it looks like a lion’s mane!

Things locals do around West Lake…

… feed the swans (Does her t-shirt mean that her fashion is the latest fashion in history?)

… practice tai qi

… sleep (why would you get up at 6 AM to go sleep by the lake?)

… jog BACKWARDS around the lake (apparently it improves balance)

… stretch

Temple in Hangzhou

(photo by Jon)

(photo by Jon)
Lots of people waving burning incense all around. Very safe.

Why do people have to touch everything? We all know that the oils from our skin ruins old things. So, they’ve put up a fence to stop people from touching the very old carvings of Buddha. This doesn’t stop them though… they just use it to stand on to lean over and touch him!

Too many people!!! Everyone seems to need to get a photo in front of everything, so people are just constantly standing everywhere.

Jon’s photos from Hangzhou

Jon is a pretty good photographer too! He has learned a lot about composition and tricks to get good photos with his point and shoot. All of these photos are his.

Jon and Emily together in photos!

It was nice to have Mr. Fan take some photos of us together… we almost never have photos together! We’re too busy taking photos ourselves.

Blooming Lotus Flowers

Trip to Hangzhou and West Lake

Last weekend, Jon needed to go to Hangzhou for work. Saturday, we took the slower (and very loud and annoying) T train there. Mr. Fan is also very interested in photography, so he took us to West Lake twice, as the famous lotus flowers are in bloom.

Random shirt – American common sense

I spotted this shirt in Tesco. Can someone explain what it means? Is it actually supposed to be anti-American or is it just a poor translation or maybe someone just put some words together?

More Harbin

These guys are repairing something. Things were falling apart a bit, probably due to warmer weather and people touching things – the big crowd was over Chinese New Year. Quite a few areas were roped off so you didn’t get hit by chunks of falling ice. Very considerate of them.

These are candied fruit with edible paper wrapped around them.

Harbin Snow and Ice Festival

All of these buildings are massive, and totally built out of blocks of ice. There are LED lights inside the ice (well, not actually in the ice, between layers of the ice.)

I had no desire to freeze my butt on these slides.

Harbin – February 15

Jon had a meeting in Harbin, so we went up on a Saturday for the weekend. Harbin is very close to Russia – it has a lot of Russian influence and the city looks nothing like other Chinese cities.

It is frigid there. See my really cute hat? Shannon sent it to me along with a scarf and I think I would have died without it. This is the main pedestrian street. (She sent me another hat and scarf set – you can see it here on her blog. I feel a little bad cause the scarf sounds like a real pain in the rear. But it is really cool!!)

We ate Russian food here – a pretty small place but with good food.

The entrance to the Ice Sculpture Park. We went there the first day and I didn’t even have long underwear on. Not a good idea. We decided to really be comfortable, you’d need snow pants or heavy coveralls. And awesome boots – Jon thought he might lose a toe!

On the second day we bought face masks for 10 RMB and that made life a LOT better. The wind is so frigid. We still had to go warm up about every hour. It really is freezing. We thought we were tough South Dakotans, but we were acting more like Floridians!


A few weekends ago Jon and I went to Harbin. It was just 2 weeks after going to Thailand. I don’t know what the heck we were thinking – going from about 98 degrees F (35 C) to -4 F (-20 C). More on that as soon as my blog is working properly again!

Cost of food in Shanghai

My friend Lura still gives presentations on the SDARL class visit to China. She said she gets asked a lot how much food is here. I put together a list for her, and it was quite the eye-opener!! We spend SO much more money on food here.

If we ate more local, it would be much better. Rice and vegetables are cheap. (Though the rice is bulk and you can watch hundreds of people dig their fingers though it – remember hand washing isn’t so common here – and the vegetables are probably grown either in “night soil” or with massive amounts of chemicals.) However, we like things like bread, milk, and meat.

There are 25 things on my list. 13 of those are more than twice as expensive as they are at home. Only five things are less expensive here.

One of the things we spend the most on is milk. In the US, we’d pick up a gallon of Hy-vee brand milk. After the milk contamination scare here, we began buying imported milk. Now, we have to buy 4 boxes to get a gallon. At home a gallon is $2.87; here the same amount is $11.47. That is a 300 % increase. Yes, 300%.

I guess the answer is “stop drinking milk.” However, we really like milk and it’s where we get our calcium from.

Click on the images for some more comparisons.

News Release

We (Keyframe US) wrote a news release about the Suzhou project and it was picked up on the Animation World Network site.

Nice job Keyframe Shanghai!

Suzhou Skyscreen Grand Opening

On January 16th, the skyscreen in Suzhou opened. It’s not a Daktronics display, but Keyframe did a bunch of content for it. Here is our favorite piece.

Beijing – December 17th

Yvonne and I went up to Beijing to train a company on Daktronics software. It was a quick, one-night trip.

View from the new Daktronics apartment early in the morning.

This cracked me up. This sign is in the airport’s new T3. It helpfully tells us we are here, at 2F. Unfortunately it gives no type of reference as to where 2F is in relation to anywhere you may want to go.

The Suzhou Skyscreen

In Suzhou, a company is building a skyscreen similar to Freemont Street in Las Vegas. It is NOT a Daktronics screen (we choose not to even bid this project.) It was supposed to open in a couple days but is way behind schedule. Keyframe does have a contract for two 5-minute animations and about 25 30-second clips. We went onsite to try and see how our content would look from the ground.

Another photomerge… I love that feature!

The skyscreen doesn’t seem so big when you are there. Above us, workers were welding in some places. (Don’t worry mom, I was VERY careful.)

It’s OK to smoke while handling tanks, right? I was hoping whatever was in them or had been in them was not flammable.

This guy was being very safe. Instead of letting all of the sparks fly everywhere he used a board to block most of them.

I always think it is very interesting to visit construction sites (more so where Daktronics displays are being put in) but in China I am always a bit relieved to have made it safely off site. I have tried to find statstics on death on construction site, but either it is covered up or no one actually cares enough to keep track of the migrant workers. You always hear “Only 11 people died builiding the Golden Gate bridge.” I checked and about 100 died building the Hoover Dam – I am positive the number would be in the thousands for building the Three Gorges Dam.

Bad baby milk

I am sure everyone has heard about the chemical-laced milk that gave hundreds of babies kidney stones. I am just dumbfounded on how this can happen. Some person is poisoning babies just so they can make some extra money with this watered-down milk.

In China, you have to believe everything is fake, even medicine. In Macau, I bought cold medicine that turned out to have photocopied safety information. It is so strange to not be able to trust products here. One of Jon’s salespeople said he can actually feel the difference when he takes vitamins we brought back from the US instead of vitamins he buys here. (Obviously not every product is fake, but there is enough of a problem that most people are careful about it.)

Why doesn’t this happen at home? I’m really glad it doesn’t, but why should it happen here? Are people more ruthless and don’t care about who they might hurt to make an extra buck? Are there so many more regulations in the USA that it doesn’t happen because it is so much more difficult?

to the Bookworm…

After getting wet feet and starting to get cold, we decided to go to a bookstore/cafe that is becoming famous among expats. The location apparently is not famous though, because the taxi dropped us off at the totally opposite end of the street where it was located at.

This pedi-cab driver wanted to take us there, and after calling them and have them give him the directions, we agreed to let him take us. We actually had to call them again when we got close! But, it was well worth the 10 RMB to get dropped off at the door – we were very cold, wet, hungry and cranky at that point.

Snacking on olives while waiting for our food, which was delicious!

After eating we walked around looking at the shops for a while. This sign was on the walking street.

No spitting, no littering, no digging through the trash to collect bottles, no dogs, no passing out fliers, no bikes, no using long sticks to carrying your bags across your shoulders, no sleeping, no picking flowers, and no smoking.

(Esther took all of these photos.)


One of the things that we still can’t quite get used to is that traditionally the babies don’t wear diapers, even when they are a few months old. They have pants with a split in the crotch, and when they have to go they just go anywhere. Perhaps a curb or drain, or the metal grate around a tree on the sidewalk. (or in Tiananmen Square, see this post.) Now, it is MUCH better for the environment that 1.3 billion people did not or do not wear disposable diapers – that is wonderful. But, having human excrement anywhere is not so wonderful. I also can’t quite get used to private parts not being private. This little guy was just playing around but when he squatted down there was nothing private anymore….

It poured rain most of the day. We went to Tiger Hill, which the guidebook says is usually packed. The great thing about the rain was that there was almost no one there.

Olympic Venues

Now that I’m in Beijing I wish I would have tried to get tickets for something. Actually, I probably only would be super interested in the opening ceremony. I’m not so big into sports.

But, being here 1 day before 08/08/08, my co-worker Yvonne and I had to check out the most famous things – the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube. Hundreds of other people also had this idea!

The Bird’s Nest. The whole Olympic village was blocked off (obviously) so all photos are taken through the fence.

The Water Cube. LED lights behind the bubble-surface make it change colors.

I totally don’t get this sign. No exploding cars from 6 AM to midnight? The taxi driver said it was to warning drivers not to bump into other cars, but I’m not buying that. Any other ideas?


Daktronics has a few displays at the new, famous CCTV building. I went to Beijing to give them software training. It would have been cool to be allowed on site, but the control room behind the display was the closest I got.

The curved HD display is on the left (turned off.)

Beijing Air

Tuesday I went to Beijing to give training. Since everyone is freaked out about the air quality in Beijing, I thought I would post a few links about it.

Here is one article with lots of good links, like to and Clean Air Initiatives Asia. Here are photos of US athletes wearing masks in the airport. That got a lot of attention, but no one mentions that locals wear those surgical masks a lot too!

I just learned that the average Air Pollution Index in Beijing is 100, which is six and a half times the World Health Organization’s guidelines for long-term exposure. Great. Shanghai’s is lower, but not that much lower!!

Does Rolls Royce really make airplanes for Air China?

You actually don’t see many white fluffy clouds here, so I thought these deserved a photo.


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