Sunday, June 24, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #133] Athína

I hear there's a great big historical city outside my room, and indeed I saw the old fort up on the hill in a daring jaunt out of doors yesterday afternoon; but it's currently 46˚C (114.8˚F) in Athens - I am seeking comfort in freon and won't be going out till the sun goes down.

Went out and had a good time last night, despite the EURO 8 beers; Athens has a pretty vibrant scene, if diminutive relative to its population.  Pride was on a Vegas scale when they had it at Sunset Park - cute.  Going to have dinner at my sister's tonight and have an easy night of it.  I need my rest for when Russ gets to town and the wedding next weekend.  Yikes, an avalanche of family and friends!  I hope the vineyards have been working overtime in preparation.

Melting in the cradle democracy,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #132] Από στο έδαφος που έφηυρε την ομοφυλοφυλία!

Well, it looks like it's time for the next adventure - Athens and Mykonos.  I am heading to Athens tomorrow where my sister Lisa and her fiancé live, and where my sister Lara, my nephew and parents are right now for a little family reunion.  I'm staying there until Thursday, when we, and many more friends and family who have joined, will all converge on Mykonos for four nights of frolicking and the wedding itself.

By chance and luck, turns out Saturday is Athens Pride!  I am very sad to be missing my friend Todd's last New York Pride party on Sunday, so hopefully this will help make up for that some.

I haven't been to Greece yet, so am excited.  And really looking forward to seeing my family and some good friends again.  I've been missing them all lately, so the timing is great.  I am not, however, looking forward to the heat.  It was 35˚C (95˚F) today and I've seen predictions for as high as 38˚ (100˚F) for Monday.  My next Summer wedding better be in Scotland.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Monday, June 18, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #131] One more number...

301.

The number of kilometres per hour the maglev train to Pudong International Airport went on our way Sunday morning.  (It was pretty darn cool!)

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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[The Life of Shaun #130] Some numbers

Let me give you three numbers:

1,400,000,000
270
45,000

The first, as most of you probably guessed, is the population of China.  But sometimes numbers this big are too much for use to take in, we can't grasp it - so the other two are to help illustrate what the first number means.

270 is the number of cities in China with populations over one million.

45,000 is the number of "towns" with over 100,000 people.  That's not a typo - 45,000.

The numbers in China are just ridiculous.  When I moved to the UK I'd hear all these numbers bantered about here, and coming from America these numbers seemed quaint; how quaint America's numbers must be to the Chinese.

Another example - there was an article in the paper while I was there about some flooding.  It affected nine million people.  Nine million!  I am trying to imagine the hullabaloo that would happen if a flood effected nine million people in America, or Britain, or anywhere else in the West. 

That was the main thing I got from being there, just how big it really is - it felt almost childish and simple to be coming back to a country of 60 million and to realise how truly insignificant that is - you get almost that many with China's three biggest cities.  And also the realisation how important China is becoming, and how it will be pushing Europe more and more into the shadows unless the EU can get its act together and Russia can figure out how to do something besides pump oil out of the ground.  There's hope for Europe if the capitals cede more control to Brussels as the American states have to Washington, but thinking about the chances of that, definitely enrol your kids in Mandarin in school, not French.

The trip was amazing, China is a fascinating country and I have seen just the smallest part of it.  I definitely will go back and get out to the countryside more and see what that's all about.  As it is, Shanghai is stunning and vibrant.  Beijing?  Not so much.

I have posted the pics:

Beijing --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/album?.dir=bf30scd&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//uk.photos.yahoo.com/ph//my_photos

Shanghai --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/album?.dir=7b3cscd&.src=ph&store=&prodid=&.done=http%3a//uk.photos.yahoo.com/ph//my_photos

There might be more than you want to look at - I posted a lot for other students at school - but here are a few good ones in addition to the ones I sent while I was there:

1. My favourite sign in China --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=bf30scd&.dnm=7cfdscd.jpg&.src=ph
2. Our table at dinner at the Great Wall - this was my fave night, it really was awesome, both for the location and the 'last hurrah' with most of the class --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=bf30scd&.dnm=9913scd.jpg&.src=ph
3. A lighted faux pirate ship (what else?) in front of Pudong (the area where our hotel was), viewd from The Bund (our hotels the one lit up in gold, second from the right) --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=7b3cscd&.dnm=58b6scd.jpg&.src=ph
4. A painting of "Mao" in a gay bar I went to --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=7b3cscd&.dnm=a476scd.jpg&.src=ph
5. A huge, room-sized model of Shanghai 2012 in the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=7b3cscd&.dnm=d1f7scd.jpg&.src=ph
6. A cool building on whose 88th floor we had cocktails --> http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=7b3cscd&.dnm=591dscd.jpg&.src=ph

It's good to be back in London - I am doing marathon laundry and ran a few errands on Exmouth Market.  Thursday I am meeting with the agency I've decided to do my research project with, London Citizens; it's a non-profit organisation that is looking at providing financial services to the underbanked in London, particularly immigrants.  Seems like it will be pretty cool and it looks like I might get to meet some pretty interesting people.  Then Friday it's off on my next adventure - Greece!  I will be in Athens for seven days to see my family and then we're all off to and being joined by more family and friends in Mykonos for Lisa's wedding.  I am so looking forward to it!

That's it from London for now - hope this finds you all well.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #129] Back!

Hey all,

Just letting you know I got back from China safely a couple hours ago - great to be back, but a bit of an odd feeling that I was in Shanghai just this morning!

Anyway, I will write a bit more soon - right now I need my bed!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Friday, June 15, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #128] Shanghai view



Hey all,

Actually got into old Shanghai a little last night - went through the
"Shanghai Sightseeing Tunnel" and walked along the Bund (where all the
businesses built their headquarters in the colonial times). We're not
getting as much free time here as in Beijing, so it's hard to fit much
in - Saturday we should get some more.

Anyway, I took these pics out our hotel window in the day time and
thought I'd share; they are taken looking from the left out of our
window to the right. It's definitely a buzzing city! And It's built
up like this for at least 20 minutes back from the riverfront, not to
mention all the new construction on this side of the river (Pudong) -
I will get those pics uploaded sometime, too.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #127] Shanghai

Hey all,

Made it to Shanghai - what an amazing city!  It's huge, lively, has a great energy and is so futuristic.  There are amazing, bold buildings everywhere - and not like the ones in Beijing which are meant for showpieces - these are showpieces, but their existence is founded in economic need. 

But they are creative and distinct; New York needs to take some lessons - not every new building has to be a tall square with rectangle windows.  Then again, New York has nothing to prove, Shanghai does.  But New York should watch out - if it gets too comfortable, it will have to prove something again and, architecturally at least, Shanghai won't be an easy one to catch.

OK, back to the conference - just wanted to give a quick check-in.  Attached is a photo of the view out of our hotel room here.  Pretty awesome, eh?

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Monday, June 11, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #126] Beijing

Wow, had a fantastic day in Beijing today!  Got to see several very cool things in this monolithic city.  The last speaker in the symposium cancelled at the last minute so we had more of the day to explore, which was great.  I wanted to see a few of the new buildings that I saw a couple months back on this show talking about Beijing's wild modern architecture, so I suggested it to a couple classmates and we set out.

Just for background, until relatively recently, Beijing was filled with old, one-story neighbourhoods; these have, with few exceptions, been erased from the central areas.  Instead there are the broad, car-choked avenues connecting soulless buildings that are the mark of modern Beijing.  But along with these shames of China's hyperactive need to prove itself to the world are some bold icons that would never get built in more stakeholder-conscious countries.

So, with that we set off to see the Olympic stadium under construction, aka "The Bird's Nest" - *stunning*.  I'd seen the plans on TV and in print, but it is magnificent enough that when we rounded a bend and saw it there, all four of us gasped audibly.  It's enormous, and so intricate and fine.  Really, honestly, an instant landmark that can change your image of the city.  Next was the aquatic centre next door, which is meant to be less dramatic as to not detract from the stadium, but it distinct on its own. 

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=1876scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=c1d6scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=23a7scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=30a3scd.jpg

This is the artist image of how they'll look at night next to each other:

http://us.i1.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/sp/getty/97/fullj.getty-73744593aw121_7_10_15_am.jpg

Beijing has been willing to go out on a limb with the best of the West in terms of architecture, bold iconic buildings that no one in the West is brazen enough or in control enough to pull off any more.

After that we headed off to my next building site (BTW, 80% of the cranes in the world are in China right now - there is frenetic construction everywhere), the new opera house.  This is a very cool, very modern building right by Tienanmen Square.  It looks like half a dome sticking up out of a lake -- there are no doors or windows on it, and you get in by taking a tunnel that leads under the man-made lake.

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=c556scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=6532scd.jpg

And what it'll look like when it's done:

http://www.ariasforhumanity.org/img/china_opera-theater.jpg

But on the way there we stopped in one of the older parts of the city that is still left (for now) and saw a little more traditional, oldy-worldy Beijing.  Very cool to see that side, too, and it gave the city a little more of a heartbeat.  These streets are obviously not well-touristed as when we were there, the Chinese were taking pictures of us!

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=2b45scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=4f61scd.jpg

One last cool building, the new Central Chinese Television headquarters - it's just behind our hotel, but unfortunately is only about 1/2 done, so couldn't get a shot that shows what it will be like at all, but you can check it out here:

http://www.arcspace.com/architects/koolhaas/chinese_television/

Really.  Cool.

It's been very cool so far.  The first night I went to dinner with many people form the class, then headed out to a popular bar area for a few drinks and had some at a very austere, but colourful, local spot.  Sunday was amazing; well, first we went to the Forbidden City, which is very big and very barren.  But that night on the Great Wall was, despite my assumptions of hoakiness, unbelievable.  Impossible to describe what it was like there, seeing the wall stretch over the hills on either side of us, watching the lights come on as the sun set.  Really, really awesome.

One drawback, the smog!  It's filthy, and *so* much worse now in the work week than it was when we arrived on a Saturday - I can't believe difference it makes.  Check out these two pics taken from my hotel room, the first is on Saturday and the second is today; nothing has changed but the day of the week, it's just that much dirtier with all the cars on the road and factories in full swing again!

http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=d172scd.jpg
http://uk.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/shaunec1/detail?.dir=/407dscd&.dnm=d26ascd.jpg

So having a great time!  We're off to Shanghai tomorrow, so the start of the next adventure...  just thought I'd share the Beijing bit now.

Favourite sign so far at the Forbidden City: "We beg your pardon for any possible inconvenience caused by the construction of ancient monument."

I'll post all the pics later - this connection is too slow!

Hope this finds you well!

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Sunday, June 10, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #125] Made it!

I've made it to Beijing!  Fairly innocuous flight, lots of socialising with the class, no traumas to speak of to Shanghai.  Then we transferred to an internal flight to Beijing on a plane that was built in 1922.  It's odd - it was bumpy the whole way, but at seemingly random points they would decide to say "We seem to be hitting some turbulence, please return to your seats" thought there was no discernible difference from when there "wasn't" turbulence.
 
Had a couple drinks in a local area last night and the Forbidden City today.  Beijing is an odd city; all its older neighbourhoods are being ripped down and being replaced with huge avenues and new buildings.  It's a highly impersonal city.
 
Off to have dinner on the Great Wall (!?!?) - just wanted to check in.  Hope all's well where you are.
 
Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #124] 噢我的神! 我明天去中国!!!

I absolutely cannot believe today is here; since last September I have known that I will be going to China, and suddenly it's here!  And all that has happened since then is crazy - I can't believe all my courses are done, that the MBA is nearly over, how ridiculously fast it has all flown by. 

This has really been an amazing experience, unexpectedly so; I thought I would just go to lectures, take my tests and live my life outside school, just how I always had before.  But it turned out to be so much more - it was that real, consuming academic experience I had always wanted and never got.  Maybe that's because I hopped to seven disparate undergraduate schools (who can name them all besides Todd??), or it just wasn't the right time in my life yet, but this time has been so very different.  The people I've met and friends I've made have been incredible.  I've walked home after the pub after lectures and a pint or six and been completely amazed at the time I was having.  I wouldn't trade it for anything - not even the $XX,XXX I've sunk into it!

That being said, I am ready for it to be done and see what's next.  Right now are some times of pretty high stress for me, and most of the class as well, finishing up courses, money, a job...  I have faith it will all work out, but from this point on the time line, it doesn't seem that way and I just wish I knew where I was going to be come 15 September.

But, that's for another day - from this point until Sunday next it's all about going to China with my friends and cohorts.  Reality can wait one more week.

Apropos of nothing, some random pics from the past couple weeks:

  1. DSC00008 - Me, Natasha, Chris and Alistair, our friend and neighbour, celebrating two years since Natasha and I hatched our plan to come to this side of the pond
  2. DSC00009 - The Tate's newest exhibit: "Ocado Has Arrived" - N. Rankow, 2007
  3. DSC00014 - Boys coming out to play on Old Compton Street
  4. DSC00019 - View towards Smithfield (where William Wallace was executed!) and the Barbican from Farringdon, my nearest tube stop
  5. DSC00020 - The Two Brewers (or "The Droop"), my fave uni pub

Till the next time, it's like they say in China: 这个白男孩无法讲中文!  (This white boy can't speak Chinese!)

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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Monday, June 04, 2007

[The Life of Shaun #123] One more step...

Well, I am one step closer to finishing the MBA!  Last Friday I had my last lecture.  Ever.  And since the elective blocks are all project-based this year, no exam to worry about!  I still have a few papers to whip out, though.  But I can't believe it's at the end already!  China is just four days away, and I think I have my Business Research Project for the Summer picked out, which is good.  Now there's just that job thing, which I am starting to work on.

All-in-all things are going well; some things lately have made me feel the distance between my US friends and me more than usual, but getting back on track now.

Anyway, just wanted to give an update where things are and where they're going.  I will try and send an update or two from China!

Hope all's well with everyone.

Cheers,
Shaun

--
Shaun Coley
Clerkenwell, Islington
London, UK
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