Monday, December 5, 2011

Themes of Fallows in Ganzhou

As far as I know James Fallows is not at the moment in Ganzhou, Jiangxi province. But he did come to mind on a few occasions during my time there.

One is related to his interest in aviation (see here for an assortment of his aviation-related posts) and occurred while I was crossing Ganzhou's Dongjin Bridge (东津桥) which is a historical pontoon bridge constructed of wooden planks, many over wooden boats. As I walked across the bridge I saw several people staring into the sky behind me. I turned around and saw this:

I could even hear the motor from the powered paraglider in the sky which was traveling up and down the riverside. I had never seen a paraglider in China before so it was rather striking. Although it's not as thrilling as some of the flights in China shared by Fallows, I thought he'd appreciate this moment.

I had my suspicions about the paraglider's purpose but couldn't be sure since I didn't have the opportunity to examine it more closely. However, the next day while in a downtown shopping district I spotted a paraglider that was easier to observe since it was closer and from my viewpoint near the moon instead of the sun. Here is a zoomed in section of one of my photos:

As I had suspected, the paraglider appears to be flying for advertising purposes, and an ad for an upcoming trade show is visible. I can't be absolutely sure it is the same paraglider as the previous day but I'll take my chances there.

After I finished my examination of the paraglider I soaked in the scene around me at ground level. This also brought Fallows to mind as it reminded me of some of the spirit of a photo of a shopping area in Yulin, Guangxi that I shared when I guest blogged for him. Fallows had this to say about the photo: captures something I have tried so often to convey in words. When you hear people saying, "Yeah, there are those big cities with their skyscrapers and their bullet trains, but so much of China doesn't look like that," or "If you spend time in China, you take it seriously but you're not so scared of it," or "it's a country of a billion individuals all trying to make their way," it's vistas like this they have in mind. At least that's what I've had in mind when writing or saying such things.
Like the scene in that photo, I was captivated by the scene around me in Ganzhou as I pondered the intertwining lives. In this case, I'll use a video to help share the experience (see below). There's so much to notice: street vendors moving their carts around, people walking through a busy intersection that may look chaotic to many Westerners but works in its own way, the little girls who try to get my attention only to run away when they're put in the spotlight as one prepares to slide down a ramp (we had a fun chat later), and more. While not everyone may find such scenes as fascinating as I do, at least watch it to see some of the everyday life in China that can be overshadowed by flashier images and news. No matter where you may be, it can be invaluable to just stop and watch the world around you.

(added note: For some reason the settings to make HD default for the video below aren't working when I view this post. For a richer experience, after clicking the play button I recommend clicking on the resolution if not HD (such as "360p") and changing it to "720pHD". You can also watch the video in HD here.)


  1. Quite appropriately, that image of the Yulin shopping area grabbed my attention when your site first loaded. Such a great shot. I think I actually prefer the header image crop over the original image, despite less being shown, I like that it pulls out the girls skipping a bit more.

  2. Ryan, thanks and interesting to hear your comments. I should add that it was a real challenge to get the girls to stay up in the air like that. Now, if only I could squeeze them into a favicon (still haven't gotten around to making one).