well, we did have to get back in time for dinner - still hadn’t done peking duck!
well, we did have to get back in time for dinner - still hadn’t done peking duck!
ok, a film reference used in vain… but oh did this beer taste good.
having somehow found the energy to run the last leg, i suddenly found myself dizzy and not quite having reached the level… loosing which way is up isn’t a good idea on stone steps all the way up a mountainside. bill, here, says it all…
eeek. at least this bit wasn’t on top of a mountain to compound it.
the funny thing about the great wall, at least the section we hiked - janshinling to simatai - is that you get this immense sense of a fallen civilisation, and yet as a british person used to redbrick buildings, its all somehow familiar. which is a weird feeling, given its one of the most genuinely awesome things you’re likely ever to see: just comprehending the front required to build such a barrier across the highest ridge around is hard enough, let alone reading there’s 56,000 km of it. even if it were a tenth of that, it would still be beyond any scale or man-hours i can imagine. and hello jo, picking her way down.
and those stairs can get quite steep. in fact, further up here i had the “can’t go back, don’t want to go on” moment: you’re on top of an outcrop thats on top of the mountain, the side walls have broken away and your peripheral vision is telling you there’s a lot of nothing surrounding you, the stairs have got steeper and steeper and now the finale is to branch even higher off the ‘floor’ of the wall to reach into a watchtower passageway. yes, i’m not a climber.
and they would build it to skirt along the top of the ridge, too. only just realising its mostly stairs.
standing on our watchtower, watching the sun set out of one end of the passage, i turned to see the moon rising, perfectly framed. this is slightly later, once the orange hues had left and the full moon risen somewhat.
…oh no we hadn’t, and what a sunset it was. the layers of mongolia receding into the distance, as if a carefully graded set of ripped papers.
the spirit of adventure calling, hiking the great wall had to be done. striding up a valley side, sweating despite being in the shade, worrying that we’d missed sunset… cresting the brow to find…
…and the noodles were really good too. not to mention wiping the memory earlier in the trip of black chicken bony offcuts in water, which wasn’t the best introductory restaurant experience to a country.
china is no tourist destination for the timid: here we are, nice and prepared with our destination already prepared in chinese characters, and the taxi driver shrugs his shoulders after five minutes and we have to get out and take lucky dip with another. you can do the same with a map, even if you’re pointing at tienammen square, i had the driver struggling for a few minutes until i realised that it wasn’t going happen unless the map was in chinese characters not pinyin (chinese in roman characters).
working hard, socialising hard, 8-hours out of bodyclock… was all good but certainly a challenge in a country that doesn’t really get coffee. so the first time i felt the rich liquid of an espresso slipping down my throat, it was like as if an orchestra had struck up all around my body. and after a suitable pause, to follow that with a fine jasmine tea ceremony… ahh, beautiful.
…which, as you wonder around the forbidden city and so on, makes you wonder how a nation can so comprehensively lose it. so i’ve read wild swans, know my basic history with the cultural revolution and so on, but nothing on this trip ever get close to me understanding how in the last century they could have just chucked all this away and replaced it wholesale with, well, not good stuff ranging from super-drab urgh architecture to the nastier manifestations of a totalitarian regime.
with such a neat photo showing classic and modern, it would be easy to say “there’s china in a nutshell”, except of course thats anything further from the truth. modern china has a number of things going for it, but they have nothing to do with 5,000 years of cultivated civilisation.
the beijing yap forum a success, onto some rest and recreation… you’re not going to fly straight back unless you have to, are you now. first up, check mao overlooking tienammen.
although it meant i had to forgo the celebratory beers-in-the-sun after the showcase, i managed to get the digimedia showcase onto the plasma screens at the reception - so we got to show some work as well as the film that yeast facilitated documenting the whole forum. that film really did the job: well done james.
from our “moonbase alpha” out-of-town paralympic training facility, to the ambassador’s residence for a final showcase in front of prince edward, no less.
and on the way in, passing the crazy cctv building. not the best angle here, but: wow, and eeek!
here’s the presentation in pdf form that was built-up during the workshop, finished by me and shown to all at the final showcase. i’m quite proud of it, and watching your computer turn pin-yin into chinese characters for the first time is pretty cool.
while excessive taking group photos seems is definitely endemic here, its nice to see all the group in one.
the other play, caught in the moment.
steve with the final day’s project: watch a 10-word play developed by another workgroup, and turn it into an animation. this is the moment when they realise that stop-motion is a long-haul game…
no arms but want to play the piano? yes you can.
and so it starts. 27 “young advocates” drawn from china, the uk and beyond, of mixed abilities, ranging from learning difficulties to physical impairment, representing those who’ve achived great things in their communities back home to those picked out of special schools… and in some cases all in those in the one person.
yeast culture ran the film making workshop and the digital media workshop, and i was a leader for the latter. in what could have just been a get media-savvy and learn powerpoint thread, we instead delved into the power of the image; communication beyond photos and text. and they learnt photoshop, and when to abandon photoshop in favour of print-outs, scissors and card.
here is kelly during our (ahem) ‘monkey see, monkey do’ afternoon of photoshop tutorials.
its soo good. and this is with the reflection in the lake cropped out.
spectacular, it was. the paralympics opening ceremony might not have had quite the lavish and epic reach of the olympics that i saw broadcast, but it did have soul - and watching a wheelchair bound athlete pull himself up a rope to the top of the stadium to light the olympic flame was something both awe-inspiring and humbling: when he paused to get his composure back 50 meters up and still a little of the war to go, i’d wager there were 90,999 other people also experiencing a deep moment of reflection.
simply stunning. the best architecture i’ve experienced in the year, probably years. postcard from a distance, it simply gets better the closer you get into and through it.
kelly and steve just having got their tickets - we’re going to the paralympic opening ceremony, school trip style.
mmm. trying to eat a mould coloured lollypop with anonymous black goo in the middle, which was kinda funny until there was suddenly raw sewage in the air despite being in the vicinity of embassies.
…so how you going to take those ones back on the plane, eh nick?
30 desks… not quite filling the room. not your average digital media workshop venue, this.
well, who said car parks have to have their sections numbered
…which is (to oversimplify) a british council project working with young people, hosted as part of the paralympics here in beijing.
young advocates programme: http://www.yaponline.org/index.jsp
yap youth forum in beijing: http://www.yaponline.org/youth-forum.jsp
oh - and just when you’d appreciated the scale of the beijing airport terminal, you take a shuttle train out and under a few more identical and identically sized terminals, eventually walk out into what you think is the outside, just to find yourself in another cavernous hall. scale… scale…
beijing airport, on the other hand, doesn’t fail to impress with its sense of space and flowing roof, largely because its footprint is simply massive: no need to stack football pitches upon football pitches as in terminal 5. here is james, known for his work with the light surgeons, tasked with documenting the programme thats brought us out here…
heathrow terminal 5 isn’t the celebration of modern british design it could have been, but oh my is the structure impressive. these joints really elegantly buttress the arching span of the terminal[^1], and they’re HUGE: thats a simply massive wedge of metal the pylons are bolted to. that, and the last time i saw them, they were bright pink prototypes in the foster associates exhibition at the pompidou…
[^1]not that you can see it so much, much like stanstead the overall effect is often lost behind the cubicle-land at eye height