May 6, 2018

Missing Richard on 5/5

My upcoming talk has me pulling up photos from previous trips to China. 
And wherever we go there you are. Here's a few of us together from Hong Kong, Yangshuo and Jiangxi, Jingdezhen from Spring 2009 and Autumn 2016. Miss you. Happy Birthday.

April 15, 2018

Sculpture Module Begins

April 15, 2018
There's a chorus of frogs singing every night in the pond outside my window where urban meets rural. Missing peeper season in Wellfleet. I heard a backhoe outside the other day. Now the farm has another pond. Its rained hard yesterday. Plants thriving. Along the railroad tracks, too, veggies are growing fast. 
I'm happy to be working hard here now as our sculpture module kicks into gear. I am turning an empty exhibiton space into studio space. (I will have to turn it into exhibition space in June) I salvaged dry discarded sheet rock cutoffs ffrom the pile next to the crumbled brick shack along the path I walk often  to cross the tracks. Cut them up and taped the edges for work supports.   I also found too heavy to move glass panels and some curved cut offs of white plexiglass. Nice forms.This recycling and reusing is something I would like to encourage in the students. Waiting for our 300 kilos of big pot clay. It is an easy dark brown groggy stoneware. With the little clay I have, I'm prepping tiles with contrasting high white porcelain slip for students to try sgraffito. Class starts Tuesday.
I am teaching with Kong Fanqiang, who is trained in traditional portrait and figure sculpture and whose bronze busts, figures and steel sculptures dot the SJTU campus. 
Learning sculpture by copying Henry Moore model

Class trip to the Pottery Workshop for lesson from Guo

I have also been asked to do a public art installation for the school and already over 25 people want to work on this. This is like teaching a whole other class for which I was not prepared. More to come.

Morning Walk in ZhongShan Park 中山园

Wednesday, March 28
It is a beautiful morning here in Zhongshan Park, across from the metro, near the hostel I slept in last night. Groups of dancers booming music, men watching men at game tables, elderly people listening to live traditional music, parents and kids on the big lawn, tai chi, gourd flute, winding paths through spring growth. bronze sculptures. I have videos of the music and of the dancers, not uploaded yet. Here's some pictures.

Finding my Shanghai Clay Home

 乐天陶折Pottery Workshop in Shanghai feels like home.
Tuesday March 27

After the last trip to town, by Didi on Saturday, taking 2 hours in traffic, I am determined to find my way by Metro. Into my sack I pack toothbrush and change of clothes, clay tools and about 10 pounds of the porcelain I ordered in week two. I have found this clay to be unworkable for much of anything. I will try it for throwing today. So with a load on my back, I get a yellow bike and begin a ride to the nearest Metro stop, Jianchuan Lu, line 5. It is hot, load is heavy, it is further than I expect, but at last, I am on my way to the city. The workshop is open until 9 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I arrive about 3pm and set to work. I make some porcelain bowls and cups, then switch to the big pot brown clay and throw 2 BreadPots and lids and some mugs and bowls. I work until about 7:30. I leave the pots uncovered with a plan to come back tomorrow. I am happy to have a clay home in Shanghai and a clay sister here in Guo. Here is their website.
Upstairs display area

180 Shaanxi Nan Lu

It is not too far by Metro to the Rock and Wood International Youth Hostel near Zhongshan Park. I walk from the Metro to the Hostel, about 20 minutes.I have a small room with a bathroom and only a window to the corridor. There are towels, but I have forgotten to bring soap. I call Richard and then go to bed. I am lonely and tired.

Wednesday March 28
In the morning I have a western style breakfast at the hostel and then hop on a yellow bike to Zhongshan Park. The park is full abuzz, dancing, flute, parents with kids, old folks and men watching men at game tables. I walk and watch. I shoot videos of what they translate as "Square Dancing", dancing in the squares, which is very popular. The videos capture the overlapping sounds of the different dance groups practicing. Morning walk in ZhongShan Park 中山园 here.

I arrive at the Pottery Workshop at noon and set to working on the pieces I started yesterday.  The porcelain bowls have mostly cracked overnight. (Guo agrees that the high white porcelain is only good for slip.) Most of the other pieces are ready for me to trim. Patience is a big part of the clay process, but my time is short and a few pieces are lost in the rush.

Friday March 30
Back at the pottery I attend to my  work. At 5 I leave to go to change into clean clothes at nearby rental I found on bookings. I find the address down a small alley. The white bearded man who lives in the building hasn't a clue what I am talking about. A woman comes, she calls a guy. He comes on his motorbike 10 minutes later and opens a coded key box. No key! He calls a woman, who tells me that alas, the place is not available but she had updated it on the site. I am in clay covered clothes on my way to a seder with no where to stay for the night. I book a bed in a hostel (another story for later).
I get on a yellow OFO bike and ride to the old temple Ohel Rachel Synagogue, built by and named by Sasson for his wife. I change clothes in the bathroom and wander about taking pics until the seder begins. It is about 200 Shanghai Jews. Ohel Rachel Shanghai Seder

April 5, 2018

Qing Ming Jie


In this famous poem the first line: "Qing ming shi jie yu fen fen" means that the rain falls lightly in this period..exactly so today. The spring rains. Qingming (Pure Brightness) is one of the 24 divisions of the year. It is also the tomb sweeping day, when people visit their ancestors graves, cleans them, and burn paper money for them to use in the afterlife. I was in Jingdezhen when I first learned this poem on this holiday in 2009.

April 1, 2018

Travels to Shanghai Center

This week, I started taking the subway! I went to town three times, twice stayed overnight. It was time of dense experience. Here are the details of these trials.
Pottery Workshop Shanghai

On Saturday March 24: Sitting in traffic in a DiDi Chuxing (they bought out uberchina) heading to check out 乐天陶社 the Pottery Workshop on Shaanxi nan lu. 陕西南路180弄1号甲. It is a full hour away but I'm hoping to fit it into my life here. I got some clay from them when I arrived. One bag of porcelain that seems good for nothing without a wheel and some big pot stoneware that seems as forgiving as my wonderful BreadPot clay. Traffic in Shanghai is always terrible, the driver tells me. In the end it took over 2 hours and was only one of the travel frustrations of the day.
I checked out the Pottery Workshop and met the warm and friendly teacher Guo. I am looking forward to making it my clay home in Shanghai. From there I took the subway Line 10 to Longxi. I have been here five weeks now. Up until last week, slowed down by the broken ankle, my only outings were to see physical therapist Frank Fan and explore the neighborhood near Body and Soul, including a French provisioner right next door (ah baguette and brie) and LaoWai Jie, the Foreigner Street, with international restaurants. (Thai tonight!!). I came out from the subway with enough time to get to my appointment by bike. I tried to unlock a bike, but alas, my mobile network let me down. I could not receive the code. I walked fast, limping on my painful ankle, looking for a taxi, none around. I messaged that I would be late...that worked, so why not the bike. I found another bike to try and finally got one to work. Aargh. The travel frustrations stress me out, especially as I am not walking well or fast. Frank was sweet and understanding when I arrived sweaty and out of breath. After dinner of Pad Thai (alone), exhausted, too tired to figure out the subway home, I took a taxi back to my place. Third travel frustration--where I live is new and the address is a mystery, so the drivers have a hard time finding it. My phone battery is nearly dead, so my tools for communicating the location are fading fast. At last I guide him and I am back. 

On Tuesday I will go to Pottery Workshop again, this time to work. I can pay to work there by the day or the week, plus 25Y/kilo for any work fired. 

March 21, 2018

Figuring it Out, Settling In

Hello my friends,
I have spent much time these three weeks figuring how to live here--matters of culture, language and technology. After being frustrated by the inability use a credit card to buy things I needed at WuMei/WuMart, the only store within my current walking distance, I now have a Chinese bank account, which is  linked to my China Mobile phone number and my WeChat (Weixin) account. This is linked to my DiDi account (they took over uber). As of today, as a result of my confusion, I today, I have paid two supposedly refundable deposits for an OFO bicycle sharing account, one through the Android app in English for which I had to send a photo of me with my passport and pay with a visa credit card and the other a Chinese account for which I paid a deposit half the amount through WeChatPay. I tried to sign up for this first but got stuck at not having a national id card to input and there was no other option. At1yuan/hour I can pick up a yellow bike anywhere, scan the qrcode, get a code to unlock, ride and leave it whereever you go. This mostly works but for my phone going into no mobile connection mode or an occasional broken bike.

It has become a cashless culture here. China leapfrogged the credit card, everything is through the mobile phone. Just because you are not paranoid doesn't mean they are not tracking you.

Package deliveries to the KuaidiHui
I spent much of one day figuring out how to buy something on TaoBao (like amazon), translating each page into English, setting up an account there and a payment account with Alipay (rival to WeChatPay) and linking that to my bank account and then in the end they made me use my credit card anyway, always a foreigner, not sure how they know that. It took almost an hour to input my address until it was satisfied. Success! In a day or two a package arrived and was put in a lock box at the service center and I was sent a text to my phone with a number. I had to input into a terminal, then get a confirmation code and at last the box popped open and, for a mere 4 bucks, I have a folding travel yoga mat. All that in Chinese interface. Whew. While my conversational Chinese is better everyday, my reading and listening abilities are weak. I use my dictionary app to read what is around me, writing in unfamiliar words and hoping they stick. A screen reader on my phone helps to figure out interfaces which use words that didn't exist when I studied Chinese.

A card gets me into the dorm building, the school ICCI building and my office 416. There is no working studio space yet, so I am using the other desk in my office The floor is carpeted so I nabbed some discarded cardboard boxes to protect it. I was originally sharing an office, but I pressed to have my own space, as there were many unoccupied offices. There was too much bureaucracy involved in officially changing my office assignation, but not much was needed to activate my card for another space. O China. The card can be reloaded with funds which I can use to buy more hot water credit, pay for food at the canteen/dining room, and at the convenience store on site. Electricity is another story. When it runs out, I have to pay cash to the security in the dorm. O China! There are places to eat on the bigger SJTU campus nearby, but my card doesn't work there. The Wumart and "Magic Plaza" are seeming closer as my ankle improves. I have tried Korean, street food and Stir Fry there. The Zizhu food service is..well...institutional Chinese. Apparently they hired a well respected French foodservice company...

My floor in the dorm has two other rooms occupied. There is a hot/cold water dispenser down the hall, so I bumped into one of the girls once, but otherwise only hear them giggle. By week two I had a comforter(thanks to the staff) and a sheet that fits my bed, (thanks to my colleague and kind friend Titus, who has also shown me around, got me yogurt and laundry soap). I learned how to manage the heater in my room, how to pay to get hot water in the shower, which involves inserting my card in a slot in the shower and reloading it when my 15 yuan run out. Pearl got me a lamp for my bedside, which makes it possible to read.

Here's my room, ninth floor, facing NW, no kitchen, too much storage. There is minimal to no wifi in my room, so I go to work early and stay late to talk to Richard or mom or the kids...or you, if you like, my Skype id is jmotzkin1. 12 hour difference.
Using a virtual private network (VPN) I am able to use google or download stuff from Netflix to watch in my room at night. I could buy broadband, but I like coming to work. I have been watching the very disturbing British scifi horror series Black Mirror. I am able also to download books from Minuteman library on Overdrive whenever they come in. Like I said, I am alone alot. I write longhand almost every day, both in a diary and free writing, a la "The Artists' Way".

As to my fractured ankle, I have been twice to a Chinese trained western style physical therapist Frank Fan.  The place was on the approved list from the GeoBlue preexisting condition travel health insurance I bought. Despite the limits stated in the policy, it appears they are paying fully for 5 sessions within one month. My location is quite far from the city and, while a local subway is being built now, the closest is an hour walk away. I took didi and taxis both times I went and found myself in a neighborhood with some shopping and the famous LaoWaiJie 老外街(Foreigner street), a long walking street/alley where there are restaurants from all over, American, german, thai, etc. Titus came with me the first time and we went for american food. Last time, I was Frank's last patient. It was 8 pm and he asked me to have dinner together. We went to a Japanese place next door. He treated me in gratitude for my help with his English. I am trying to walk without a limp on the whole foot heal to toe and doing exercises to point and flex and stand on tiptoes. Of course all this aches.

Each faculty in our course gives one lecture to the whole class over the first 6-7 weeks. Mine was originally scheduled for week 4, this week, but was moved up to week two. So I worked day and night the first week and a half to get that together. I wish I had more time to edit and get to know the students. This post is long, so I will write about the school and our course later as it evolves.

The first two weeks here were very quiet; there was more activity and lots of people around last week, week 3, USC week. The students had a special course all week about business models in the entertainment industry taught by a faculty member from University of Southern California, the partner school of this program. I sat in on some student presentations so I could get to know the students a bit and see how I can help them with their English and presentation. They have to pass a difficult English test soon so they may go to USC in LA next semester. I am proposing to do an English pronunciation clinic as the students have a spoken part of their upcoming English test.
There were also more students in the dining room from the other programs here in the Zizhu International Education Park: the French AmLyon business school and one associated with Kings College. Saturday there was an all day symposium with faculty from USC and here presenting research. Saturday night was the commencement of the first graduating class of this program. It was held at the Shanghai Tower on the 118th floor. Second tallest building in the world, after Dubai.

One of the staff heard me talk about wanting to do yoga, so she sent me the info for signing up for classes on the Jiaotong campus at noon for staff. On my own, I managed to sign up for yoga class on Thursday at noon and for seal carving, which started today, Monday. I walked there and found my way using gps on Baidu. (google only works when I have wifi and vpn going, so not out in the world, where I am dependent on mobile.) It was about 45 minutes at my slow pace, longest walk yet, and cold. The first class was a powerpoint, so while understanding about 30% of the talk, with pictures, my past studies and dictionary I think I got about 75% of the the content. I don't need to know the names and sources of every kind of stone. It was an hour long and I was at the limit of my ability to take in more language. I have just gone over the vocabulary of the materials list. There is a wechat group to manage the class, so already it is confirmed that some are going in together to get stuff and my needs will be met. I look forward to the hands on lessons. My own chops, with which I have stamped my work forever, were carved for me when I was in Shanghai in 1975. I will try to do Motzkin.

One of the professors in our course is a well respected calligrapher Zhou Bin. His family lives in Irvine and he has a place in Manhattan, Central park and the 50s, where he teaches calligraphy. He taught Ban Ki Moon, former SG of the UN. He will teach me calligraphy, I will help him with English. I am very interested in his attitudes about China and the US. From what he has said so far, he thinks China is better than America.

View from the terrace window week one, much greener already

There is a farming beyond the dorm, so I have my eye on what they are growing. Sunday, I took a muddy walk through the veggie gardens there, where a woman was hoeing and weeding. I saw peas, celery, lettuce, rampseed, garlic and some plants I didn't recognise. It is spring, so there are lots of things beginning. Magnolias are losing their blossoms, cherries are blooming, willows are brightening. It is cool and drizzly this week. Week two we had some warm sunny days in the 70s. Spring will come. Today is the equinox.

My room is on the 9th floor of the building on the right

Anybody know what this one is?