Geoff's Travel Home :: 2004 :: Best-Of Photography

In February of 2004, Intel's birthday present to me was a trip to Shanghai to ramp up our new china group. It was one of my last tasks with the company before leaving for my own business. I took the trip with a coworker, Brooke.

On the long flight over, we took a great circle route up and over northern Alaska, across the Bering Strait. We left at sunset and was treated with a near permanent dusk, both due to our eastward travel and to the northern latitudes. Flying over the Bering Strait, at the fathest north I've ever been, the view from the plane was incredible. The soft pastels merging the sky and earth over the remotest of landscapes was truly sublime. It captured visually my thoughts about the thin line that separates the real and the sublime. 

That Thin Line between tangibility and intangibility
Shanghai Hussle

Upon landing, I was amazed at just how urban and capitalistic the city really is. As I witnessed the size of the city and the electronic billboards dotting the horizon, I was reminded of the story I heard from an old World War II veteran who handled German prisoners in "mainland" America. He said that as the Germans were shipped by train cross country to Wyoming and Montana for work camps, they witnessed the size of the American continent passing by them, and realized that Germany could not win a sustained war with the U.S. So too, mirrored my thoughts as I went to train my work replacements. 

The skyline reminded me greatly of Hong Kong, and stood in stark contrast to the relatively darker skylines of U.S. cities. I can only imagine the draw to the rural farmers that are currently in one of the larger exoduses/migrations in human history -- from China's farmlands to the urban cities. I suspect no matter how much China promotes Beijing, Shanghai will still remain tops for that raw capitalism feeling. Strange, though, that I had to go to China, of all places, for the strongest taste of capitalism. It's visible from the skyline to the shops in the markets peddling asian dresses for the throngs of people. 

Shanghai Horizon
A Market Shop

No doubt that this strange conflict between conformity and capitalism must permeate throughout the country as it goes through its change. For much of my youth, I had a constant education in Japan, and its ability to quickly adopt other cultures, digest it and rebirth it into their own unique flavor. For Japan, they have a similar blend of eastern conformity (the nail that sticks up gets hammered down), and western capitalistic beliefs. 

But unlike Japan, China clearly has the specter of Mao over them. I've always thought of China as being in constant fear of massive societal revolt. What happens if the farmers revolt, and nearly one billion poor farmers march on Beijing? It seems that most government programs are aimed at preventing such a massive calamity. 

Asian Pop
Morning Meditation

1989's Tiananmen Square's ghost appears to still be a fog hanging over the population's personal desires, preventing clear sight of what is appropriate and what is not. But the inevitability of greatness that is to be China is evident to all you talk to. It exists under the surface, but just barely -- and with subtle arrogance that I am sure is more often attributed to Americans. Mao's Great Leap Forward is indeed coming, but in ways he obviously would not have suspected. The people seem to make no bones that the 21st century will be the Chinese century, and that they are here to take their rightful throne -- it's inevitable. I can't say I can find reason to disagree. 

In the end, I left amazed with the beauty and complexity of China and Chinese thought. Whether they will win the war by ten thousand people beating you with their hats, or by smart economic measures remains to be seen. And no doubt, they will overheat in their current expansion, but the built-in inevitability seems to account for this. Seeing the country, it demands respect -- and I'm obivously fearful if the demand breeches the surface of unspoken teact between two cultures too easily positioned to be competing with each other. 

Chinese Beauty
Humor is Global Throngs of People
The Quartet

While there, Brooke and I took a trip to one of the Chinese Gardens, fresh in bloom with tons of decorations and mob-busting numbers of people. The people just push in, and the "sphere of comfort zone" around a person that Americans so treasure is reduced to negative numbers. The mob just pushed through the bridged passageway through the garden's exterior. Good thing I don't know enough chinese to yell "Fire!" 

Bubble Pop!
Choices 1 Choices 2
Above: subtle commentaries on eastern thought?

I've always been a sucker for Oriental design. It leaves me with pangs that we really only have a few core styles of art that have had centuries of refinement without strong outside influences. I think of our western base, Mayan, African, and Oriental arts as being the unique cores. If only there were 50 others that were all as equally unique. 

Eastern approach
Three Coy

And of course, I am fascinated by the asian blend of art and words, beyond simple calligraphy. One aspect of what I hope to accomplish with code poetry is evident with how the oriental art intertwines their writing into their visual representations -- not hard given that the words themselves are images.  


Cooked sugar coated strawberries... I had to!

As with any culture, food is part of the tradition, through and through. I was lucky enough to have the China group take Brooke and I out for a dinner at an impressive restaurant during our visit. Above is a quick shot of some of the choices... 

Not pictured was a trip we took to a generic restaurant we ducked into on my birthday, somewhere in Shanghai. We were desperate for food, but had a great time eating from a large bowl heated by a propane stove under the table. We couldn't speak a word of chinese that they could understand, and we ended up eating god-only knows what, as it cooked in the soup in front of us. Absolutely delicious, and a great way to have a birthday.... now if only Lenka were there :-)

Many thanks to Brooke for also taking several of the pictures on this page. 

Brooke handling Peddlers

(c) Geoffrey Peters and Lenka J.,, 2003. For more information regarding this web page, please contact
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