What an Air Quality Index of 886 looks like

If you’ve ever wondered what an AQI of over 800 looks like, here’s a glimpse. It’s like fog, except it burns. The winter of 2013 was a really bad time for pollution in Beijing. It’s been significantly worse than any of the other years I’ve been here.


There are days when I come back into my apartment and realize that I smell like coal and the water runs black when I rinse myself in the shower.  Bloomberg says that it’s akin to living in an airport smoking lounge.

Bloomberg: Beijing pollution January 2013

Swan Lake at the National Center for the Performing Arts

Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts is definitely my favourite building in Beijing.  It might actually be my favourite building period.  From the outside, it looks like a giant egg.  Inside, there’s four theaters surrounded by a gorgeous wood, titanium, and glass shell.


The Russian National Ballet’s presentation of Swan Lake was also pretty impressive, but not as spectacular as I expected a Russian Ballet to be.  I was expecting more Baryshnikov and less walking.  That being said, any evening at The Egg is a fantastic evening.



The history of Chinese bureaucracy

I finally made it to the re-opened Chinese national museum.


One of the highlights for me were the documents on display.  It has continuously amazed me how organized the Chinese bureaucracy has been since the beginning of recorded history.  Some are simple records like inventories of goods or bank account ledgers.

Others are remnants of the type of bureaucracy that exists only to control populations.  Captions are directly from the displays.

Travel Pass: This travel pass was issued in 855 AD by the Chinese Government to a Japanese monk named Enchin.   Many Japanese delegations were sent to China during the Sui and Tang Dynasties to learn about Chinese culture and technology.
Bronze Pass: Xixia Dynasty (1038-1227) This pass was used by Xixia messengers delivering urgent documents or orders. It consists of two bronze plates that fit together into each other – each inscribed with Xixia script.
Household Registration Certificate: Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) This certificate was issued by the Ming government in 1371 to a man named Jiang Shou of Qimen county (present day Shenxian, Anhui province).
Chinese passport issued by Chinese Ambassador to Germany (1907).

Found: hockey sticks

Someone from the office must have left old hockey sticks in the trash. They quickly found a new home.


A small Thanksgiving dinner

Our decision to host a small Thanksgiving dinner for friends soon spiralled into hosting dinner for 45 people. It was the exact number that fit at one long table stretching the entire length of the apartment.


Tiananmen Square during the National Party Congress

Kyle decided to visit Tiananmen Square, but I forgot to warn him that it was the first day of the 18th Party Congress. This is the big event where every party leader comes to Beijing to “decide” on the leadership of the country for the next five years. He came back home that evening with some great photos.

On a normal day, there are tons of uniformed police around Tiananmen, but they were in full force on this day.


For most of the morning, it seems that they kept tourists from entering the square, then changed their minds as the entry queue grew too long.


As if the uniformed police weren’t enough, the photos of the “under-cover” police falling into step and marching around the square to and from their posts just added to the spectacle.


It must be a tough job to be a pretend tourist for a living. I knew there were a lot of under-cover watchers in the square, but I had no idea that there were this many.


My personal favourite is the uniformed police who walk around and scan the ID cards of “suspicious” looking people by reading the ID card’s RFID chip on a hand-held computer. They’ve taken it to a new level with these strange looking scooter vehicles.



Fall colours in Niagara on the Lake

I had a nice short visit back home and we decided to take a walk around Niagara on the Lake. The fall colours were fantastic.



I’ll be honest, I know it was a British fort, but I’m not quite sure why we still fly the flag over Fort George.



Anyone I grew up with knows what a huge influence my Grandmother was on me.

Carl's Camera 2010-2170.jpg

She passed away on October 1st. Jen Smalldon wrote a great letter to the editor in the Fort Erie Times which summarized what her influence meant for a lot of people. There’s also a Facebook group with a lot of great comments. Thanks to everyone who helped my family out when we really needed it.

Boarding the bus in Beijing

One of the more difficult things to get used to in China is the ruthless pushing and shoving anytime there’s a crowd.  I was walking across an overpass near Beijing West Train Station and paused to take a photo.  I ended up shooting these videos as bus after bus was boarded by pushing hoards of people.

A Beijing Guoan game

I live a big block away from Worker’s Stadium, where the hometown football club plays. We got nosebleed seats for a game against Dalian, but it was the crowd that provided most of the entertainment. The game was slightly absurd, and the referees did their best to ensure that Beijing maintained their one point lead. It seems that as long as you play for Beijing, you’re allowed to pick up the ball and walk with it.


The white gloved People’s Armed Police occupied the first row of the stands and kept watch on the crowd from seats on the field.


The biggest shock was that after the game, nearly everyone started collecting garbage and taking it out of the stadium. I’ve never seen anything like this, let alone in China.



Signs that amuse me: Biem lfdlkk

English names for Chinese stores often leave something to be desired. In this case, they weren’t even trying. I think they pounded on the keyboard and decided that would be sufficient.


Seen at the the Beijing South Train Station.

Beijing’s Summer Palace

It was a nice Saturday afternoon and we wanted to get outdoors for a bit. The summer palace was a natural destination.


When we ran into a tour group, it was a little overwhelming, but in most of the park you could wander in peace.


This woman was cutting something out of the marsh.


I think when I get old, I want to be old in China. At least I’d like the lifestyle of playing with the grand child and going for walks. These two ladies walking in unison were great examples.


I was really intrigued by these trees which looked like they were grafted together. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.



The times passing by Kodak

I’ve been buying Kodak lens cleaner for several years. It leaves fewer streaks than any other cleaner I’ve tried. I was pleased to find it for sale in a camera store in Tokyo.

I admit that the solution probably hasn’t changed since 1995, but I would have expected Kodak to update the packaging on their products to take into account things like, you know, the internet.


People have talked for years about Kodak’s inability to adapt to the digital era. It’s no wonder that the company is a disaster if their products still ask customers to write letters to them to request a catalogue.


I might write them just for the nostalgia of the process.

The Red Detachment of Women

It was my second time seeing the National Ballet of China perform the Red Detachment of Women, a ballet about a girl who is beaten and left to die by her evil landlord. She’s saved by two young Red Army soldiers who bring her back to their camp and show her the kindness and compassion of communism.  Big battles against the landlord and his army ensue.



We had a back stage tour after the show. I’m pretty sure there’s no other ballet with this many rifles in the wardrobe.