World Tai Chi & Qigong Day

Tai Chi Demo

Today, April 30, 2016 is World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. Right now it is 48 degrees in Connecticut at 8:00 in the morning. I am putting on some warm clothes over which I am wearing my official Tai Chi T-Shirt and heading off to the cold waterfront to do Tai Chi with a group of friends.  Like me, thousands of people around the world are celebrating these ancient Chinese martial arts. Tai Chi fans in hundreds of cities in six continents across all time zones will be practicing and introducing people to this amazing healing form of exercise.

The reason I like Tai Chi is not only for the physical exercise. Tai Chi teaches me balance and helps stimulate my memory.  As I move through the various positions in a form my mind becomes active and my whole body moves in a balanced rhythm. Tai Chi also teaches me to be calm.  The slow precise movements help me learn to abandon the burdens in life and remain calm no matter what happens.  Tai Chi is practiced by over 250 million people worldwide to help in stress reduction, balance improvement and to build physical strength in leg muscles.

Photo by National Museum of Australia – http://tinyurl.com/gtyxn6z 

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Pilot Shortage in Asia is Massive

Chinese Airlines

If you have been to anywhere in Asia recently you have probably noticed that the airline industry has really expanded. There are lots of beautiful new airports and shiny new airplanes.  As a result of this, Asian airlines are rushing to recruit qualified pilots from around the world to counter a shortfall of pilots.  These airlines are really struggling to crew their airplanes as they expand. Industry experts are worried about the possibility of routes and services being cancelled due to a lack of flight crews.  This would be considered a disaster in the Asian airline industry and a massive loss of face.

In China airlines are holding recruitment fairs in Europe, Australia and in the United States to find experienced captains and first officers. China has no fewer than 10 large airlines searching for experienced captains to fly their B737NG’s, A320’s, A330’s, B757/B767’s, B787’s, B777’s and B747-400’s. The Indian airline industry is also desperate to hire type rated, and non-type rated, experienced captains and first officers. Basically who ever meets their standards at the interview stage get them started in training and into the airline cockpit as soon as possible. In South East Asia, low-cost airlines share some of the highest expansion rates in the world and are also in need of pilots to crew their airplanes.

Photo by Michael Rehfeldt – http://tinyurl.com/zpk46g4 

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How Not To Give a Chinese Birthday Gift

Chinese Children Playing

For Chinese Americans it is becoming more and more popular to celebrate birthdays annually versus in China where birthdays are often celebrated only on certain key years. The giving of birthday gifts is also becoming popular among Chinese Americans versus giving the traditional red envelope.  Unlike in the Western world, however, some birthday gifts can be considered offensive and may actually cause harm to a relationship.  If you are going to participate in a Chinese birthday celebration you should familiarize yourself with certain gifts that should be avoided at all costs.

Presents that are related to funerals or death should never be given as birthday presents. Clocks of any type, for example, should be avoided because they symbolize time is running out.  White flowers are used at funerals, so giving white flowers is synonymous with death.  Gifts in sets of four are not good because the word “four” in Chinese sounds like the word for death.  Anything white or black, such as the color of wrapping paper, should be avoided because these colors are often used during funerals.  Also avoid giving towels as a birthday gift because towels are given out at funerals and can bring sad memories of funerals and death.

You should also avoid giving birthday presents that signal the end of the relationship.  For example, giving sharp objects like knives and scissors symbolize that you want to sever a friendship or relationship. Giving shoes can also be a bad idea because that sends the message that you want the person to go his or her separate way. A handkerchief is also inappropriate for a boyfriend or girlfriend unless they want to break up. A handkerchief signals a farewell greeting.  Don’t give an umbrella for the same reason.  Giving an umbrella means you want to end your friendship. Knowing these gift giving taboos can make Chinese birthday giving a much more satisfying experience.  For a list of appropriate Chinese birthday gifts see www.zodiacals.com .

Photo by Dmitry P – http://tinyurl.com/z5qzw9h

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Asian Americans Represent a Key Voting Bloc

Voting

I just completed a trip through several Southern states and could not help but notice the large number of Asian Americans everywhere I traveled so I decided to check a few statistics. As you probably know, Asian-Americans are one of the fastest-growing racial groups in the United States. What you may not know is that approximately two thirds of Asian Americans live in the 16 Southern states, from Delaware south to Florida and west to Texas, plus the District of Columbia. With the growth of the Asian American population has come a rise in Asian American registered voters. Asian Americans are now a key voting bloc. A survey sponsored by Asian Americans Advancing Justice found that 49 percent of Asian Americans identify themselves as Democrats, 17 percent identified as Republicans and 34 percent called themselves independents.

Photo by Benketaro – http://preview.tinyurl.com/h5fl3bl

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China’s High Speed Trains

China's High Speed Train

Riding on one of China’s high speed trains is truly an amazing experience. The first thing you notice is the appearance of the train.  With its bullet shape, the front of the train looks more like a fighter plane than a train.  When you step on the train you are greeted by a female attendant dressed in an attractive uniform that looks like those of flight attendants back in the glory days of airline travel.  What really gets your attention, however, is the huge speedometer mounted on the bulkhead in the front of each car.  All eyes are fixed on this gauge waiting for it to reach 300 kilometers per hour.  You also can’t miss the difference in sound level between these high speed trains and the old fashion trains.  There is no sound.  Because I live in the Northeastern section of the United States I am used to riding in trains but I have never seen anything like this.

China has the longest high-speed railway network in the world. At the end of 2015 the length of high-speed railway lines in China exceeded 19,000 kilometers and there are plans to increase this to 30,000 kilometers by the year 2030.  I was with a group of friends traveling from Beijing to Zhengzhou.  We were planning to travel by airline but an experienced Chinese traveler suggested that it would be easier and faster to go by high-speed train.  It turns out he was correct.  One of the reasons is that getting to the train is easier than getting to the airport.  The high-speed train network in China is so closely integrated with the urban public transport systems that we had no problem quickly transferring to and from the train.  In China they call it “zero-distance transfer”.

Photo by Dunhilaryu – http://tinyurl.com/god7ztz 

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Alishan Gourmet Tea from Taiwan

Alishan Tea

A few years ago a friend of mine, on returning from a trip from Taiwan, brought me a package of Alishan tea. I have to say that gift changed my life.  From that day forward every morning I get out of bed and fix myself a hot cup of this most delicious tea before I do anything else.  This is an amazing green oolong tea grown only in the mountains of Taiwan where the altitude slows the plant growth concentrating the flavor in the tea leaves.  As soon as the tea is in your mouth you feel surrounded by a flowery sweet flavor with a hint of spice. The tea has an intoxicating aroma that is reminiscent of lilacs.

Alishan tea is mostly grown in the mountains north of Taipei. It is harvested up to six times a year, although the tea in the highest mountains may only be harvested twice a year.  It is mainly produced for tea lovers in Taiwan and is extremely difficult to find in the United States. I have been lucky to have friends that go to Taiwan and are kind enough to occasionally bring me gifts of Alishan tea.  I have seen Alishan tea in tea shops in Chinese communities like Flushing, New York.  If you are lucky enough to find this incredible tea I recommend you give it a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

Photo by Sonse – http://tinyurl.com/zadraxf

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The Asian Breakfast

Asian Breakfast Buffet

I have had more exotic breakfasts in Asia than anywhere else in the world. In America breakfast is usually quite similar throughout the country.  Typically Americans like to eat either eggs and meat or desert for breakfast.  Muffins, Danish, donuts, pancakes and waffles are as common for breakfast as eggs and bacon.  Some Americans like cereal with fruit or a sugar coating.  On the East Coast bagels and cream cheese are common. All of these things can also be found in Asia, especially in hotels frequented by foreign travelers. The typical Asian breakfast, however, goes way beyond eggs, meat and desert.

Asian breakfasts may include Chinese rice soup, long fried bread sticks inside flaky crusts with sesame. They may include Chinese or Korean-style scallion pancakes, pork lettuce wraps, soup dumplings or even stir-fried vegetables with shrimp, shrimp dumplings or spicy fried noodles.  The exotic nature of an Asian breakfast is especially noticeable when traveling in Asia and staying in nice hotels. I have been in hotels in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China where the breakfast buffet was mind boggling.  Some have huge buffets set up with maybe a hundred alternatives.  An Asian breakfast can be a real gourmet experience.

Photo by Gwydion M. Williams – http://tinyurl.com/j7ej2lb

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The Asian American Stereotype

Asian Doctor

If you ask a group of non-Asian Americans how they would describe the typical Asian American you will get a pretty consistent response. They will say the typical Asian American is smart, particularly in math, science and technology.  The description will also generally include words such as wealthy, hard-working, self-reliant and never in need of assistance.   They may also say the average Asian American is docile, submissive, obedient and uncomplaining.  Sounds like the perfect human being.

The fact is Asian Americans are a diverse group of individuals and they are not all the same. Not everybody wants to go into science and the family sometimes wonders why their college student is choosing a major like journalism instead of engineering. Not everybody is docile and people are surprised when an Asian American stands up for himself or herself and expresses dissatisfaction about something.  I believe that every Asian American should strive to be their personal best.  I also believe, however, that that personal best should be whatever brings you satisfaction and fulfillment.  This may or may not fit the typical Asian American stereotype.

Photo by Walt Stoneburner – http://tinyurl.com/hc2zmxm

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Fish Head Soup is an Acquired Taste

Fish Head Soup II

Fish head soup is a delicacy in oriental cooking. I have learned to love fish head soup and seek out opportunities to have it whenever I can.  I have actually been in restaurants in Beijing that only serve fish head soup and they are very popular restaurants. I must say, however, when I was first introduced to the idea of fish head soup I was disgusted.  Somehow the idea of whole fish heads, with eyeballs attached, floating around in a soup tureen was not my idea of a gourmet meal.  I now look forward to the unique taste of fish head soup and thoroughly enjoy using my chopsticks to pluck out the succulent morsels.

Eating fish head soup can be quite challenging, depending on the type of fish. Although the head is the most flavorful part of the fish and has plenty of meat, the head of the wrong fish can be quite bony.  You want to use the utmost care when picking through the bones.  There is a lot to explore when eating fish head soup.  The cheek meat is excellent and is often denser and finer in texture than the rest of the fish.  I have found that there are people at the table that prefer the eyeballs and the cartilage from the skeleton. However you eat it, fish head soup with pickled greens and rice wine served with noodles can be quite a treat.

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Western World Becoming Curious About Chinese Culture

Shanghai

As China continues to develop into an economic and political superpower more and more people in the Western world are becoming curious about Chinese traditions. This curiosity includes interest in business opportunities, language and even cultural traditions such as art and philosophy.  I have asked many non-Asians why they are interested in China and have received a variety of answers.  Most feel that the Chinese culture is interesting because it is so different from the Western culture.  They find the more formal structure fascinating.  Others see a practical reason for learning about Chinese culture because they are interested in doing business in China or they have adopted a Chinese baby.

Chinese language learning is booming all across America at all levels. The number of students taking Chinese classes more than doubled over a 10 year period to more than 60,000 students.  Hundreds of high schools and a growing number of elementary schools all across the country have also added Chinese to their curriculum.  Interest in China is so intense to some Americans that they are actually moving to China and staying there.  The latest figures show that there are over 600,000 foreigners living in China who have received the equivalent of a Chinese “green card”, making them legal permanent residents of the world’s number two economy.

Photo by Thomas Depenbusch – http://tinyurl.com/zll82f8 

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