Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Xiamen - Father and Son Day - ATS 2009

David and I visited our first car show, another first in China for us. ATS 2009 is an annual event in Xiamen, showcasing American, European and Chinese cars. As you may have read elsewhere, car sales are up in China in contrast to the US. Judging from the attendees, this local trend will continue.

David posing with the LAMBORGHINI MURCIELAGO LP 640 - this certainly beats the Matchbox version!

While we were expecting to see cars - this is a car show after all - I was surprised to see the other car 'assessories': models parading with the latest models!

Maybe US auto dealers should consider this marketing ploy to rev up auto sales - well, maybe not!

David is blessed with an outgoing personality, he enjoys meeting new people and likewise, folks here are happy to see him. In a sea of humanity - there were thousands of attendees - this sweet model (we did not get her name) asked to have her picture taken with David. As it turned out, she was the Lamborghini model.

Tolou, Fujian Province - Earthen Round Houses

We celebrated Father's Day by visiting the traditional homes of the Hakka's in western Fujian Province. It was about a 3 hour drive from Xiamen. For the first time, we left the island of Xiamen and headed for the 'mainland' - Xiamen is connected to China via four bridges.

There are many of these earthen homes throughout the region - story has it that the military establishment in the States thought these were missile silos. I suppose these military analysts were looking for things with such focus - it reminds me of the saying - trying to fit square pegs into round holes. Later, confirmation from 'tourists' - a husband and wife photographer undercover team sent to take ground pictures - finally put matters to rest. While I don't blame the analyst for jumping to conclusions - look at them, they certainly have unique architecture and we are blessed to have seen them.

Panoramic view of Fujian Tolou - Earthen Round Houses.

View from the road. There are several of these in the region - the above "4 Rounds and 1 Square" are symbolic of the region as well as the most "touristy" and most visited.

Video from mountain looking down.

Our good friend and host Rabin arranged for transportation - he drove as well as functioned as our tour guide. He is most generous - we are blessed to have met him at one of many English Corners we serve weekly here in Xiamen. Rabin works for a local bus/coach manufacturing company as a network administrator, and we certainly have lots to talk about regarding technology. He speaks and writes well in English.

Close-up of a Round House.

Rabin wit Hannah and David.

On the way up the mountains - they remind us of Western North Carolina, we saw acres upon acres of banana plantations. Since it is mountaineous, the ingenious locals worked the terrain via terraced farming - like steps carved into the mountains, to create flat regions for planting. As such, farming is labor intensive and farming equipment such as we use in the US, would be rendered inmobile. Rice farming is pervasive - rice beds must be covered with water in order to grow.

As the video shows, it is a busy place where local goods and goodies are displayed for sale - this is how they supplement their livelihood, selling their wares. The ground/first floor consists of individual rooms serving as kitchens - daily living for these vendors/dwellers is a never-ending cycle of selling their wares, punctuated with meals prepared in their respective kitchens. They have running water with drilled wells terminating in individual faucets, each strategically situated in front of their kitchen, sustaining their water needs.

The second, third and fourth floors are individual rooms for sleeping, with the top floor usually for storage. We were on the top floor.

Slanted? - Look carefully - are the supporting beams exactly at 90 degrees?

Gerda with local Hakka dweller/vendor. She displays her wares in front of her kitchen area - see door to the left of picture.

Inside view of a typical kitchen - it roughly measures 6' by 8' and so it is not a big area by any means.

Business is thriving - we bought some souvenirs to support the local economy!

Some of these earthen homes are not lived in - Rabin was able to show us one that is abandoned - dilapitated as you can see in the picture below. While some have chosen to stay, others have left for the cities in search of work - another cog in the mass migration of the Chinese people leaving rural areas for the big cities. This mass migration is unprecedented in modern history, though recently, because of the worldwide economic slowdown, retrenched city workers have no choice but to return to their native rural lands.

Gerda wanted to do this - she almost walked on water!

There are many homes near the river - I hope the water level doesn't rise more.....

If the water level goes up more, it make take the van with....

These buildings are near the earthen homes and it reminds me of the movie - Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon.

We had lunch at this place - Rabin made sure it was appropriate - he interviewed the owner, made sure the prices were reasonable and checked out the kitchen as well. We didn't want any surprises. The Chinese character meant 'Restaurant'.

Tofu Pork - we liked it.....

Duck Egg Omelet - it was excellent!

Rabbit Stew

I know what you must be thinking - no we did not have rabbit stew - I did this to see if you were paying attention. Actually these albino rabbits were in a basket on one of the floors of the earthen home - honestly we do not know why they were there - we can only hope they were pets belonging to some families. The Chinese are known for eating any thing on four legs except for a chair and anything that flies except for an airplane.

My class at Xiamen University

It is a big class - 30 plus computer science junior and senior students in the School of Information Science and Technology at Xiamen University. The course is entitled An Introduction to Trusted Computing. This topic is certainly a favorite of mine and, for the first time, I will be using my own published textbook for the course I am teaching! I am certainly thankful to see more fruits of my labors from last summer's writing of this chapter on an important area of computer security.

The lab has about 60 desktops, mostly Dell Optiplex 486 and Pentium-based desktops running Windows 2000 Professional . Internet connectivity is good.

Picture taken during break - these studious students stayed to work on their assignment.

Another first in my eighteen plus years of teaching: I was supplementing my teaching in Mandarin! I am not naturally inclined to teach/speak in Mandarin - my mother language is English but because of my upbringing in Singapore, I do know some Mandarin, Teochew, and Hokkien and they do come in handy as I try to narrow the communication gap for some of my Chinese students. They are extremely bright, with many expressing strong interest in improving their command of English. So, I see this as a Win-Win situation: we both get to improve on our non-native language.

Future leaders of China.

Another future leader.

Background: Department of Computer Science. While I could walk to work (my Dean, who lives on the eighth floor in our building does), I prefer to take the bus - it is only 4 stops from where we live.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More on Xiamen

One of four magnificent bridges connecting Xiamen to mainland China.

Tunnels. Every morning at 8 o'clock, without fail, we are greeted with dynamite blasts. They are loud and the windows rattle violently as the sonic boom makes its way to our apartment. When these tunnels are completed, travel around Xiamen's mountainous terrain will be easier. So will sleeping in.

Xiamen Software Park which is adjacent to the Department of Computer Science at Xiamen University

Kite surfing . Being an island surrounded by constant ocean breezes, this popular sport attracts both locals and expatriates.

Kite surfers told us that Xiamen is one of only two locations in China that are conducive to this recreational sport, the other being Hainan Island which lies further south near Macau/Hong Kong.

View of Xiamen from mountain top - a mix of old and new - high rise living is common- place because this city is land-locked.

The Red Sun - we were amazed at the intensity and color of this setting sun.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Xiamen - Street Legal - here's a sight you don't see everyday!

We were amazed - a nanny goat in the middle of a busy street! Note, she is not fazed by the traffic. Later, we found out that they-yes, there are several of them-are living in close quarters with people in houses. In fact, one of them walked out of what looked like a side entrance to a house. Talk about house pets! Notice the goat's udder... someone's got to milk that poor thing-- now. Actually, Hannah wanted to do it, but we discouraged her.

Pictures of Xiamen University - it is really a beautiful campus

Before we came, we were told of the beauty of this campus - now, seeing it first hand, we certainly agree!

The Landmark - The Towering Administration Building.

View (from the 18th Floor of the Administration Building) of the Sports Complex housing both an Olympic-sized outdoor pool as well as indoor pools below it.

Sunset view of Furong Lake - this lake sits in front of the Administration Building.

Another view of Furong Lake - actually Montreat College and Xiamen University have at least one thing in common - both institutions are endowed with beautuful lakes.

Building under construction - it is shaped like a ship. Being an island, numerous buildings in Xiamen take on shapes resembling ships.

One of many student dormitories - no elevators though - we were told that buildings not exceeding 8 floors are not required to have elevators!

Happy crew.....

Visual art forms displayed throughout the campus.

A favorite landmark.

Founding Father of Xiamen University - the one on the right!

President Zhu of Xiamen University

Picture taken by Maria Pan in President Zhu's office on the 18th floor - his office commands a breath-taking view of Xiamen, over-looking the beautiful campus and equally stunning sea views.

View from President Zhu's office on the 18th floor. The University is constantly upgrading and expanding - this building, currently under construction - sports a maritime design accentuating Xiamen's well-known coastal city image.

View from the top - Track and Field Stadium.

The Towering Administration Building where President Zhu's office is on the highest floor.

Opposing view - this time from the base of the Towering Administration Building.

We were guests of President Zhu - he was so gracious with his time. Our meeting was most enjoyable and he was a delight to be with. His assistant, Maria Pan, speaks wonderful English and was ever ready to help Gerda with translation during her conversations with President Zhu.

President Zhu found out that our bedroom wasn't air-conditioned (Hannah and David share a bedroom that is air-conditioned) - actually David was just casually describing to President Zhu our apartment, its features etc. Being a keen listener, he picked up on the fact that our bedroom wasn't air-conditioned. Immediately, he asked for our apartment address and it was then that I realized what he was going to do. I politely asked him not to make any special arrangements since we are doing fine without it - we have a fan.

Well, guess what? The next day, by 3 pm, a crew of three completed the installation of a brand new air-conditioner. Such a kind act, considering the weather today was 93 degrees! Thank you President Zhu!

With President Zhu's able assistant Maria Pan - she spoke very good English!