Thursday, June 28, 2012

Meet the 2012 PSU-China Innovations in Urbanization Interns

The 2012 cohort of PSU-China Innovations in Urbanization Interns are beginning their internships throughout China. This year's class will be heading to Beijing, Chongqing, and Shenzhen for eight week internships with the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Design and Shenzhen Institute of Urban Planning & Design.

Over the course of this summer the interns will be posting about planning, culture, and travel in China. Colin Rowan and Shavon Caldwell will be reporting from Beijing; Derek Dauphin and Jenny Koch will be documenting their experiences from Chongqing; and Iren Taran will be chronicling her observations from Shenzhen.

A new blog has been setup at with all of the 2011 posts as well as reports from the 2012 interns.

The interns are immensely grateful for all of the support they have received from Portland State University's Urban Studies and Planning department and Portland State University's Institute for Sustainable Solutions. Thank you!

Please check back often for reports related to the wide range of planning and social issues that the interns observe and experience in China. The interns hope to chronicle a host of topics while providing a fresh perspective; stay tuned!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Big Buddha, Big Goodbyes!

Bid farewell to Hong Kong today with a pilgrimage to the Tian Tan (Big) Buddha via the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. We needed an excuse for one final "Connie-Pic!" See you all soon!

Ngong Ping 360 on Lantau Island. 5.7km of awesome.

Tian Tan Buddha, world's tallest seated bronze Buddha statue.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

China, We Hardly Knew Ye'

Well, that's it. The last of us are leaving China today. Ali and I are hopping on down to Hong Kong to ride a cable car and see a big dude, and we'll be flying back to the states tomorrow morning. It'll be about 12 hours, and we'll get there before we leave. It's like Daylight Savings times, um, 12 I guess.
We have had several touching evenings with coworkers and new friends, and were roundly encouraged to learn Mandarin and return to the People's Republic because, after all, this is the Chinese century. For the moment, though, we are excited to be coming home, if only briefly in my case.
We've definitely got a few posts up our sleeves still, so stay tuned.
See you on the other side!

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Shāokǎo Post

烧烤 (
Shāokǎo). Noun - Delicious Chinese BBQ, purveyed by everyone from migrant workers at unsanctioned construction rubble camps to Barack Obama's half-brother in fancy restaurants, and enjoyed by all. Shāokǎo is best eaten fresh, at night, sitting on a tiny plastic stool, and shirtless.

The origins of Chinese barbecue tradition, according to one reliable source, sprouted from a public "death-by-a-thousand-cuts" execution that lasted three days in which onlookers paid to slice hunks of meat off the unpopular offender and grilled them up at home. The same source also describes how Life Magazine got the American male to believe that outdoor cooking on Ford(tm) grills was manly, unlike other cooking, and that wearing an apron doesn't necessarily make you a sissy.


Today's BBQ is arguably less violent, but just as delicious. The zesty sauce consists of some combination of the following: salt, ginger, green onion, sugar, sesame oil, chili powder, sweet potato starch, chicken powder, and a lot of MSG (99% fresh, or better, of course).

Street-style Shāokǎo is great for the illiterate traveler because you often get to grab a basket of ingredients yourself, but you should still expect the unexpected. Common fixin's include: green beans, cabbage, potato slices, tofu hammocks, beef, chicken, lamb, long thin mushrooms, short fat mushrooms, squid bits, fish balls, mystery cubes, and who knows what else.

Pretty much everything we've had has been excellent, but the main course for me is always the eggplant. To eat it properly with chopsticks, simply peel out the insides in long strips and stuff it into your mouth while it's still far too hot to eat, making sure to drip hot oil all over your nice clothes. Pairs well with Tsingtao.


Rethinking freight transport

(Collin here, writing from the good ol’ U.S. of A. Since Beijing provided far more blog material than I could possibly write about while I was there, I figure I’ll continue posting until school and work take over my life in a couple weeks.)

One of my favorite things about Beijing was the volume and diversity of cargo bikes in the city. The vast majority are actually trikes with large rear beds, usually made of steel or bamboo. They haul a wide variety of cargo: watermelons, novels, Styrofoam, houseplants, beer, goldfish, copper pipes, bootleg DVD’s, mobile hot-pot kitchens, 2x4’s, dinking water, steamed buns in bamboo baskets, orders from, garbage, and passengers.

My favorites were the ones with integrated BBQ grills and/or crepe-making facilities. The mobile food tricycles, much like Portland’s food carts, provide affordable food while transforming the street into a welcoming, lively public space. Brilliant!

I don't know how many cargo trikes are in Beijing, but it’s almost certainly in the millions (the Beijing government estimates that there are more than 10 million bicycles in the metro area). Part of the reason there are so many cargo trikes is simple economics – trucks are unaffordable to the vast majority of these small business people. Another reason is the typically smaller scale of retail stores, which often don’t require tractor-trailer-sized deliveries.

The biggest reason for the huge number of these small delivery vehicles, however, is government policy that prohibits large trucks from entering the city (within the 5th ring road) unless they are carrying food from the countryside and have a special permit to do so.The fine for operating a large truck inside the 5th ring road without a permit is 200 Yuan, or about $30 US dollars. Before 2009 heavy vehicles were prohibited from entering during daylight hours, but the policy was so successful in decreasing emissions and congestion that the government decided to extend the truck ban to all 24 hours of the day. The policy creates an incentive for goods to be shifted to smaller - and in many cases less polluting – vehicles before they enter the city. Most of the cargo tricycles, for example, are either human-powered or electric.

Shifting to a similar model of policy that promotes smaller scale, lower (or zero)-emissions freight vehicles is attractive for several reasons:

  • less pollution and noise makes for a more livable city
  • smaller vehicles consume less roadway space and contribute less to congestion
  • increased safety for all other road users
  • more jobs in the transport sector

Chinese officials understand that freight is important to their economy, but they’re not limiting themselves to the standard freeway expansion solution. Perhaps it’s time to start thinking outside the box when it comes to freight transportation?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kaiping! Beautiful Kaiping!

A couple weekends back Andy and I met up with my good friends Nick and Vicky to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Diaolou sites around Kaiping, Guandong. In Kaiping there are five government-sanctioned Diaolou and village sites that we needed a ticket for entry (Zili Village, Majianlong Village, Jingiangli Village, Li Yuan Gardens and Yinglong tower, 150 RMB for all five over two days) and there are countless of other individual Diaolous scattered across the countryside.

The Daiolous are family villas that were built by “overseas Chinese” in the 1930s. These Chinese families spent time abroad, typically in South Asia, Australia and North America, then returned to Guangdong, bringing with them a new architectural taste.

The buildings are considered a significant architectural form because their defensive features and for the way they combine Western and Chinese styles. To protect from bandits of the day they built high walls with ironclad windows and slots for firing weapons. Wealthy families built most of the Diaolous, but each village would also have a less decorative Diaolou that was shared by the rest of the village population during a raid. Today village residents and visitors alike only need to be weary of modern-photoshop-bandits like these two outlaws.

Family portraits and artifacts were displayed in the buildings. Artifacts ranged from chopsticks and chopping blocks, to a 300 year old toilet and an Ashland, Ohio made water pump. The design of the buildings, with tall stories, internal windows, and shaded upper story balconies allowed for air circulation and kept the insides a cool temperature (much appreciated on hot summer days!)

In 1980s many of the families entered into entrusted management agreements with the Chinese government. The government took charge of maintenance and repair of the buildings, while the families remain the owners.

The different sites were in varying states of repair and slow deterioration. The Li Yuan Garden site was by far the best maintained and all the buildings still boasted their original bright yellow paint. At the Ruishi Lou Tower I could see how sun and rain was washing away the once vibrant blue paint. In the tall stairways, protected from elements, colorful stencils still line the walls.

On our first sightseeing day we hired a driver to take us between three sites. On our second day we started early to beat the heat and rode tandem bicycles the 11km between Chikan, where we stayed the night, Zili Village and Manjianlong Village. And we even found the almost fully paved “Guangdong Greenway” to ride home!

All together it was fantastic trip that couldn’t have happened without Nick and Vicky!

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Rubble Street" to Zhenhua Road.

A brief illustration of construction in Shenzhen.
Zhenhua Rd. is a three lane road with wide sidewalks just around the corner from the UPDIS offices. In order to build out the Yannan Metro Station on the Shekou line, this portion of Zhenhua was ripped up and replaced. Yannan Station was already operational when I arrived (I can't imagine the chaos during that phase of construction), so in just a few weeks Andy and I have seen what we had affectionately had deemed "Rubble Street" be restored to a once again bustling business corridor.
Upon arrival (July 6).
And repaved (July 19) with people (myself included) still treating it like a Pedestrian Street.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Violent Chicken-Face Nation (A Rebuttal)

In response to Alex's appetizing and photo-heavy food post:

The Chinese eat a lot of meat. Apparently not as much as Americans on a per-capita basis, but I suspect any per-capita statistic for this country is skewed due to China's vast divide between rich and poor.
Before coming to China, I had never intentionally eaten meat (and I've, like, totally reaped the karmic benefits, man). I mentioned my dietary preferences to my handlers at UPDIS prior to our arrival, and when we had our first meal in China they were gracious enough to order some delicious greens for me and I wasn't pressured into eating the chicken feet.
I knew I wasn't going to be able to keep it up, in part because I don't want to be rude by refusing to eat from the ostentatious platters laid out for us, but mostly because I didn't want to starve. It's difficult enough to order a meal when your language skills are on par with those of a toddler or clever dog. Further complicating the situation is typically a frustrating and risky endeavor.
So, I've dabbled. It's been fun asking friends to identify meats for me. So far I've had shrimp and chicken and ground beef and not-ground beef and sausage and pork and boar and liver and lamb and some kind of fish and fried squid and sea-snail. And then there's the unsettling mystery meats, stuffed into otherwise-wholesome vegetables and sweet rolls. I'm going to politely refrain from posting photos of chained-up dogs at a countryside agritourisy restaurant I was taken to. And I didn't manage to get pictures of the lady dashing frogs against the wet concrete in Yangshuo, though that sound will stick with me for some time.
And honestly? Meh. The best I've had just reminds me of the good fake meat, though the real stuff is probably much better for you. Except for the sausage. And the Calamari. I think I can ethically support eating squid, just because humankind has killed nearly all of their natural predators in the ocean, leaving the squishy things to rule the seas.
Anyway. The original intent of this post was to describe the vegetarian-friendly places that have made eating less of an exercise in moral compromise. Behold!
  • India Inn (¥ ¥ ¥) has a whole vegetarian page on their menu and is mere meters from Yannan station, exit C. Their TV is always showing Bollywood dance compilations.
  • Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Noodles (¥) can be found in all kinds of dirty, out-of-the-way places. Some cleaner versions are in mall food courts, but you probably won't get to sit on tiny plastic stools. You get a basket to fill with whatever you like for your soup, and it'll be your own fault if you accidentally pick the bush meat.
  • Shao-Kao (¥). See above, but with barbecue. This has been a staple of our diet, for a number of reasons, and will definitely get its own post later.

  • Awakening (¥ ¥) is a jen-you-wine vegan restaurant in the heart of Futian's CBD. Their food is delicious, the staff is super friendly, and they have pictures of famous vegetarians all over the walls. I think it's run by a cult, as all good vegetarian restaurants are. They do cafeteria-style lunches as well. I haven't been able to figure out who their clientele is really, but I've met some Chinese vegetarians here.
  • Bars and Western Restaurants (¥ ¥ ¥) cater to foreign crowds, so their menus are in English. Don't expect the food to be like you remember it, or to show up in a reasonable amount of time (it's often biked in from somewhere else). These places are typically in malls, and "expensive."
  • Szechuan Food (¥ ¥) can be a boon or a total bust. Get a sympathetic local to help you find the eggplant mashed potatoes and sticky peanut sauce noodles, as they are incredible.
  • Delicious Noodles Fine Kitchen (¥ ¥) has a great vegetable noodle soup dish that makes for a pretty good lunch. 'Nuff said.
  • Thomas' Place (¥ ¥) doesn't actually have any vegetarian food on the menu, but he will cook special dishes for you because he loves foreigners. It'll probably be an omelette of some kind. His restaurant is half a block from UPDIS and is known for its fancy coffee, which he is convinced will catch on in China someday. Thomas will teach you the proper way to drink it, as well as how to make the best of the bitterness in the cup and in life.

Connie Pictures

Over the course of our time in China, the PSU interns have had the opportunity to pose for pictures in various iconic locales.  We call these non-candid photo-ops "ConniePics" in honor of Dr. Connie Ozawa, our PSU-China guru and distinguished director of the Toulan School.  Along with repeating her "stay flexible" mantra, we pay homage to her with ConniePics because we thought it would be nice to show her that we're still alive and having a good time.  Since we didn't end up sending them as we went, here are some of our favorites from the last two months...hope you enjoy them, Connie!

Collin, Elizabeth (GA Tech), Alex, Caroline
Oriental Pearl Building, Shanghai
Caroline and Alex with new Chinese friends
Bride Beach, Guangdong province
Andy, Alison, Caroline, Alex, (and Nick)
Lizhi Park, Shenzhen
Caroline, Alex, Alison, Andy
Kowloon waterfront, Hong Kong
Caroline, Alison, Andy
World's longest people-mover, Hong Kong
Alex, Caroline, Alison, Collin
Urban Planning Museum, Shanghai
Alison, Andy, Alex
Shenzhen Bay Park, Shenzhen
Caroline, Alison, Andy
Yangshuo, Guilin
Caroline and Alex
CAUPD-SZ Office ConniePic

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tasty Sunshine Country

This is a post all about food.  As is the case with the consumption of most great dishes, there will be few words.  I'll only mention that, as China is an enormous country, it plays host to a broad range of cuisines.  As a city of 14 million migrants, Shenzhen is a jack of all of these cuisines, but master of none (though it does get pretty darn close sometimes).  I've been saving these for a while, I hope they are as delicious and strange to look at as they were to eat.

    Mini lobster creatures - Xiangmihu Delicious Food Town

    Durian, my food nemesis - Wo Er Ma (Walmart)

    Left: Stomach and peppers - Jenny's Place               Right: My friend Mr. Zhou (Jenny's Place cook) and I

   Seafood lunch extravaganza (salted snails in mid-ground)- Xiaomeisha Beach

   Red Ramen - Hong Kong

   1000 year egg, fish balls, and sweet buns - Dim Sum, Hong Kong

   Calamari, deep-fried eggplant, udon - Tung Ping Chau Island, Hong Kong New Territories

   Freshly harvested peanuts - the ground  (hand model credit: Alison Wicks)

   Chilies roasting in the Yangshuo sun - Yangshuo, Guilin