It’s not every day you meet someone who has traveled across all 33 provinces of China, let alone an expat. Covering over 35,000 miles (that’s 56,000 km for the non-Americans) on his two-year journey, Tom Carter has rightfully earned the recognition of being “one of China’s foremost explorers” by The World of Chinese magazine. From his two-year journey came his first book, CHINA: Portrait of a People, hailed as one of the most comprehensive books of photography on modern China ever published by a single author.
We sat down with the San Francisco native to discuss his adventures, his new book Unsavory Elements, and what has kept him in China since he first arrived in 2004.
You clearly have a passion and love for China and Chinese culture. I’m curious, how did you come to China in the first place?
As a seasoned backpacker, I love to travel. Teaching abroad seemed like an ideal way to travel and get paid for it, so I responded to a “Teach English in China” ad on Craigslist. Unfortunately, upon my arrival, the job turned out to be a sham. That was 10 years ago this month in fact! I eventually found a job at a public primary school in Shandong, then a year later moved up to Beijing, where I got my start in photojournalism. I relocated to Shanghai just two years ago, but have yet to find it as romantic and rousing as it is portrayed in novels and cinema.
Sounds pretty standard, but you’ve gone on to do some really cool stuff in the ten years you’ve been here. Let’s talk a little about Unsavory Elements, an anthology of short stories you’ve curated and edited. Why did you decide to curate a collection of stories rather than write your own memoir, as so many of these authors have done?
Well, my publisher encouraged me to write a travelogue about all my adventures from my two-year journey, and certainly I’ve had some doozies. But the truth is, I’m not much of a writer, and I prefer to express my creativity through photojournalism. That’s why I published CHINA: Portrait of a People, as a tribute to the people I met on my journey across the P.R.C. However, I did want to do something new, so I tried my hand at editing an anthology of stories from some of my favorite expat writers.
What was your process in finding contributors for Unsavory Elements? Did you know any of them personally?
Most of the authors I had never met until the 2013 Shanghai Literary Festival, which is where we debuted our anthology. However, as an avid reader, I was familiar with some of the authors and their books so I knew which writers I wanted to short-list for this collection. After that, it was just a matter of tenacity in reaching out to them. I worked closely with each of them over the course of many months, crafting their stories so they fit within the themes I had set for the anthology.
Do the stories revolve around certain themes or key ideas?
The two major ideas I wanted to convey in the anthology are based on my own experiences. The first idea is based on my decade in China, encompassing every imaginable experience an expat might have here. The second focused on my adventures as an expat traveller across China. It was important for me that Unsavory Elements reflected China’s vast and varied geography in addition to the varied experiences it offers us as outsiders, both physically and culturally.
What's one of your most memorable moments in China? The most uncomfortable? The most inspiring?
Every day and every place in China is inspiring to me as an artist. Although I’ve settled down recently and am no longer the vagrant photographer I arrived here as, but the adventures continue. Some moments that come to mind: I was married in a farming village in Jiangsu and we had a very traditional Chinese wedding. Last year our son was born at a public People’s hospital where the conditions and customs were less comfortable than what we as Westerners are accustomed to, which of course made it all the more memorable to me.
A lot of the short stories in Unsavory Elements mention dating across cultures. How was the courtship process with your wife, and at any point did you feel like you had to hide or were uncomfortable?
Arriving in China as a swinging single, I’ve had my share of trysts, as illustrated in my own unsavory story about a boy’s night out to a brothel. I wanted to capture that spirit in the anthology, including Jocelyn’s essay, which is a rare glimpse into a Caucasian female’s relationship with a Chinese man. I met my wife in 2005, and she later joined me during my second spin across China. We naturally have our cultural differences, and she’s occasionally been accused by some people here of being hanjian, translated literally as a “race traitor” to the Han Chinese state or nation. But she has figured very prominently in my life; for example, I edited Unsavory Elements literally at the foot of her hospital bed while waiting for her to deliver our firstborn.
At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to stay in China long term, and why?
Has your life changed since this book came out? It was never my intention to stay in China this long. I actually moved to Japan in 2008, and then spent the following year in India, yet I kept finding myself coming back to China. It’s not that I suddenly realized I wanted to stay here, it’s just that, ten years on, I’m still here. China seems to make or break foreigners: the ones who can’t handle it tuck tail and flee, and the ones who can usually wind up doing something remarkable with their new life here. For me, it was becoming an author and a family man, neither which I ever could have conceived happening when I first arrived.
"The only constant in China is change." How has your impression of China changed since you first arrived?
I’ve witnessed China turn from waking dragon to the world’s largest trading nation. Back in 2004, hardly anyone had mobile phones, the Internet was only for wastrels in smoky cafés, and bicycles still ruled the roads. Now everyone has an iPhone and drives a shiny black Audi. The debatable downside to all this development is the obliteration of the traditional communities in Beijing (hutong) and Shanghai (longtang), and the encroaching industrialization of China’s rural regions. But indubitably the world’s eyes are now all on China.
What's ahead for you in the future?
I could keep myself busy for another decade with all the books I want to create. I’d like to edit a few more anthologies about China, and I’d love to get back into photography. But money is, of course, the biggest obstacle to realizing those dreams, so I might just retreat and really challenge myself by writing a fiction novel. I’ll let you know how that works out for me.
The Impossible Burger patty in a Burger King Whopper is the biggest bang so far in the galaxy of plant-based meats, and now that bang is even bigger: The Impossible Whopper goes nationwide at all 7,200 Burger King locations in the US on Aug. 8. After a successful test in St. Louis, which is battleground over the definition of "meat", the Impossible Whopper spread to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Miami and other cities, but national rollout has always been the benchmark of a new era in fast food.
Nationwide availability of the Impossible Whopper does much to assuage concerns that plant-based patties are a fad, a concern cited as a reason that McDonalds hasn't yet made a similar move. When and if McDonald's does choose (really, anoint) a plant-based "meat" patty it will be a bellwether, thanks to the brand having twice the number of locations and nearly four times the sales as Burger King in the US. McDonald's introduced a McVegan in Germany using a plant-based "Incredible Burger" from Nestle that has all the hallmarks of clear broadside at Impossible.
The new McVegan made with Nestle's "Incredible Burger" debuted in McDonald's German locations shortly after the Impossible Whopper was announced.
While the big food chains offer burgers, tacos, breakfast sandwiches and soon bacon made with plant-based meat, an even bigger battle is shaping up in grocery stores. Impossible just cleared a major hurdle toward offering its plant-based meat in stores, thanks to a favorable FDA ruling over the safety of heme, the plant ingredient that allows the burger to "bleed." Barring any objections that offer new proof the heme is unsafe, Impossible could have its burgers in grocery cases by this fall.
Aside from a specially formed Impossible Burger patty that conforms precisely to Burger King's bun diameter, the Impossible Whopper features the same bun, cheese and condiments as a traditional Whopper.
The Impossible Whopper has moved from regional availability to taking its place on Burger King's main menu page.
"We're making meat from plants. That's never been done before," Impossible Foods founder Pat Brown told me, tacitly demoting competitor Beyond Meat's plant-based burger, which has been offered at most of the 1,100 Carl's Jr. restaurants since the beginning of 2019. "People have made plant-based replacements for meat, but they haven't made plant-based meat."
One way the Impossible Whopper will indeed differ from the original is price, costing a significant $1 more in an industry where brands have gone to war brandishing menus of items that only cost a dollar. As with electric cars, price parity with the established choice is a future linchpin to mainstream success.
On the left is the Impossible Whopper we hacked in Impossible's test kitchen. On the right, a traditional Whopper, indistinguishable visually and on the palate.
"Once we have products that taste the same or better and that cost less, plant-based and clean meat will simply take over," according to Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, which champions plant- and cell-based meats.
"So very little will change in people's everyday lives as more and more meat is produced either from plants or from cells. Consumers will continue to buy burgers, chicken sandwiches and sausages, [but] those products will simply not have the adverse impact on our environment and global health."
Impossible says its team spent an inordinate amount of time getting its burger to survive the "death-defying drop" at the end of the broiler-conveyor without breaking apart.
The Plant Meat Wars are Just Starting
Burger King doesn't break out sales figures for Whoppers, let alone its expectations for the more expensive Impossible Whopper, but some insights can be inferred from a 2018 survey by Faunalytics. Assuming price was no different between beef and alternative burgers, 65% of consumers polled said they'd still stick with beef, 21% would choose a plant-based burger like Impossible, and 11% would select a cultured burger grown from animal cells, which isn't expected on the market until the early 2020s.
But Impossible's Pat Brown feels such surveys leave out the qualitative experience. "If you give them our burger, and then ask them the question again, a very large majority of them say they would definitely buy it and would be willing to pay a premium for it."
Acceptance of plant-based meats turns not only on taste, texture and price but on overcoming momentum. Environmental and animal welfare arguments have triggered a million conversations and social media posts about meat's issues, yet US per capita meat consumption hit an all-time high in 2018.
A case of Impossible Whopper patties, the result of a long effort to comport to the realities of the fast food industry, not the other way around.
And while burgers are the American diet icon, steaks aren't far behind, and an even bigger challenge in alternative meat marketing may soon unfold at fast casual steak chains like Outback or Texas Roadhouse. Unlike burgers, steaks generally arrive on the plate unadorned, without bun, cheese or condiments to mask any shortcomings. Get steak right, so the thinking goes, and the plant-based dominoes begin to fall.
At the auspicious time and date of 10:08am, August 8th, Hangzhou International School (HIS) celebrated with a Groundbreaking Ceremony at its new site on Huxi Road (close to Yingcui Road). Students, Parents, Faculty, Board Members of the HIS Community attended along with a number of VIP guests, including Deputy Secretary General Of Hangzhou Mulnicipal Government, Mr. Cheng Hua Min, Deputy Secretary of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Ms. Zheng Li Min, Deputy Chief of Hangzhou Education Bureau, Mr. Mao Wei Min, Chief of Binjiang District, Mr. Li Zhi Long, etc.
Hangzhou International School (HIS) was first opened in 2002 at its current site in Binjiang, alongside the campus of No. 2 High School. HIS serves students from 2-18 years old and is the first International School and only IB and WASC accredited school in the region. The school enrolls over 700 students from over 50 nationalities. Graduates attend top universities around the world. The Director of School, Mr. Jeffry Stubbs, has worked with HIS for thirteen years and has seen the rapid growth of student enrollment over the past years. As the current school has reached capacity, the new campus will accommodate up to 1300 students and include state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, including: 25-meter swimming pool, 650 seat theater, two soccer fields, three gyms, 3 libraries a design center, and separate early childhood facility. The new school will also meet the highest ratings for energy and environment design.
Since 2017, Hangzhou International School (HIS) has worked in collaboration with the Hangzhou Municipal Government, Hangzhou Education Bureau and Binjiang District government, to establish a new facility for future growth. In December 2017, HIS signed an agreement with the Binjiang District to lease land and build a new campus in the White Horse Lake area of Binjiang District. The new HIS campus is located at the foot of beautiful Langdai Mountain and surrounded by water canals and park space. White Horse Lake is located about a 15-minute drive from the current site. While the current HIS has been a wonderful home with many memories and achievements, the HIS community is excited about the additional facilities and 21st century design of the new campus.
HIS is an IB World School that offers the expatriate community in Hangzhou an inclusive international experience and curriculum (Nursery to Grade 12) based on the International Baccalaureate (IB) framework. HIS is the first and only international school that is fully accredited by an international accrediting association and authorized by the IB. The school currently serves students from over 50 nationalities. As a community, HIS administration, staff, parents, and students work closely to achieve high levels of success for every child. Graduates attend prestigious universities throughout the world.
Second time lucky: Daredevil French inventor Franky Zapata, 40, becomes the first person to successfully cross the English Channel on a jet-powered hoverboard a week after his first, failed attempt.
· French inventor Franky Zapata has crossed the English Channel on a kerosene-powered hoverboard
· The 40-year-old is the first person in history to complete the flight following a failed attempt last week
· He landed on the White Cliffs of Dover after just 23 minutes of flight following takeoff at Sangatte, France
Flying Frenchman Franky Zapata today became the first person in history to cross the English Channel on a kerosene-powered board not much bigger than a tea tray – saying it 'feels magnificent!'.
The 40-year-old set off towards the White Cliffs of Dover from Sangatte beach, in Calais, at 7:16am UK time in front of a cheering crowd.
Within seconds he was soaring through the skies looking just like a high-tech version of Marty McFly, the character played by Michael J. Fox in the ‘Back to the Future’ films.
There were shouts of ‘Allez le Flying Frenchman!’ and ‘Go Franky, go!’ including from Mr Zapata’s wife, Kystal.
And at 7:39am – 23 minutes later – the triumphant Mr Zapata landed at St Margaret’s Bay in Kent, saying: 'Frankly, this feels magnificent!'.
The army reservist and former Jetski champion lifted an arm in the air in triumph, shed a tear, and savoured his incredible success.
'There were no problems this time,’ he told waiting reporters. ‘Frankly, I’m tired – I’m not on holiday, but I’m elated. Thanks so much my team, and to my wife'.
'For the last five to six kilometres I just really enjoyed it. Whether this is a historic event or not, I'm not the one to decide that, time will tell.'
'We made a machine three years ago...and now we've crossed the Channel, it's crazy,' he said, before breaking into tears.
Ms Zapata had been left hugely disappointed on July 25 when he failed in his first attempt to complete the same 22.4 mile journey.
Then, he had crashed off a refuelling boat 12 miles into the trip, but this time a larger vessel and landing platform were used.
The self-styled ‘Flying Frenchman’ travelled at a speed of some 87mph, staying at least 49 feet above the water.
French naval vessels kept an eye out during the crossing in case of trouble.
Calais authorities also gave him permission to keep the refuelling boat in French waters, something they had refused the first time around due to safety concerns.
Temperatures were above 25C on Sunday, the sun was shinning brightly, and there was next to no wind or waves.
The state-of-the-art device, which was built from scratch, resembled a souped-up tea tray and could reach an altitude of 10,000 feet. It was powered by five turbojet engines.
Mr Zapata wore a flying suit inspired by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.
There was a maximum of 42 litres in Mr Zapata’s backpack, meaning he once again had to refuel half way across the Channel.
This meant landing on a boat, and swapping backpacks during a stop of no more than two minutes.
He added: ‘We created a new way of flying. We don't use wings. You are like a bird, it is your body that is flying. It is a boyhood dream. We want to follow a little bit in the footsteps of the pioneers of aviation.’
Mr Zapata hopes his device will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware.
Last month, the board impressed crowds at France's annual July 14 Bastille Day Parade, where Mr Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde dressed as a soldier and brandishing a rifle.
The Home-made Hoverboard that Flies at 120mph and Can Reach 10,000ft
Franky Zapata's designed his home-made hoverboard himself, which is inspired by the flying suit worn by the lead character in the superhero movie Iron Man.
Powered by five jet engines, the impressive 'Flyboard Air' can propel its driver through the sky at impressive speeds of up to 120mph and reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The state-of-the-art device, which he built from scratch, is powered by kerosene which is widely used as a fuel in the air industry.
Mr Zapata admits it is very similar to the hoverboard used by Marty McFly, played by Michael J Fox, in the Back to the Future films.
However, current models of the Flyboard Air can only stay airborne for about ten minutes on a single tank of fuel.
The impressive board operates via a small joystick and the rider must maintain a rigid body position while using small movements to help steer.
Last week, the Flyboard Air wowed crowds at France's annual Bastille Day Parade, where Zapata zoomed through the air 50ft above Paris's Place de la Concorde, donning soldier's uniform and holding a rifle.
Mr Zapata now hopes it will one day enter commercial production, as a revolutionary piece of military hardware - and he was even granted £1.26 million by France's Ministry of Defence to develop it.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that the board would be 'tested for different uses, for example as a flying logistical platform, or indeed as an assault platform.'
He previously broke a Guinness World Record by using the hoverboard to travel more than 7,388ft off the coastal town of Sausset-les-Pins - but was almost prosecuted by France's Civil Aviation Authority for the impressive feat.
He has since flown the Flyboard Air across a stretch of the Arizona desert.
Mr Zapata initially designed a board powered by water jets a decade ago, using a hose from the exhaust of a jet-ski to power an aerial device.
It can blast riders roughly 30ft above the waves, and allow them to perform somersaults and other tricks.
It has been in commercial production for several years now and is popular among thrill-seeking holidaymakers across the world.
Mr Zapata then spent four years developing a device that does not need to be connected to a jet-ski, so can fly over both land and sea.
The missing link of the “New Silk Highway” is set to finally be completed. Construction has begun on a new highway that will stretch from Russia’s border with Kazakhstan to Belarus, serving as a critical part of the China-Western Europe transport corridor—an infrastructure mega-project that has been described as the “construction of the century.”
Once completed, the China-Western Europe transport corridor is meant to be the primary nervous system of the Silk Road Economic Belt, the overland portion of China's Belt and Road initiative. The corridor begins at the Chinese port of Lianyungang on the Yellow Sea and stretches along the Lianhuo Expressway, China’s longest road, to the Khorgos dry port on the border of Kazakhstan before moving through Russia en route to Western Europe. The corridor is meant to eventually combine road, rail and air transport hubs into a multi-modal ecosystem which could revolutionize the economic role of the central stretches of Eurasia and alter our paradigms of how goods are shipped between China and Europe. Ideally, this highway would allow trucks to travel between China and Europe in just eleven days, as opposed to 30-50 days by sea and 15 days by rail, making it the fastest overland option of the New Silk Road.
While the China-Western Europe transport corridor got its start in 2009, it was hamstrung by Russia’s reluctance to give its portion of the project proper attention and funding. For years, the corridor served as a high-speed transit route into the heart of Eurasia, rather than a bonafide “Silk Road” which properly connects the east with the west. Trucks would speed across China and Kazakhstan on one of the world’s most modern highways only to run aground at the Russian border, where they would meet head on with infrastructure of a more modest persuasion. However, the fortunes of this mega-project may soon change.
Dubbed the Meridian highway, Russia’s long-awaited portion of the China-Western Europe transport corridor is now under active development. It is to become a 2,000km toll road from the Sagarchin crossing point with Kazakhstan to the border of Belarus.
This new highway is slated to cost in the ballpark of $9.3 billion, with most of the financing coming from private firms rather than public coffers—although investors have sought $500 million of government backing to hedge against potential unforeseen political upheavals, such as the closing of borders. The main player behind the project is a Russian investment holding called LLC Meridian, a company that’s fronted by Alexander Ryazanov, the former deputy chairman of Russian gas giant Gazprom and current board member of RZD, Russia’s railway monopoly, who claims to already be in possession of 80% of the land the road is slated to pass through.
The Meridian highway is primarily being developed for cargo transport, and the main stream of revenue is expected to come from tolls, which Ryazanov estimates will take at least 12-14 years to recoup his company’s initial investment. However, the highway is also posited to generate a large amount of knee-jerk development along its route and create new jobs, in addition to reducing transport times from China to the west of Russia three-fold, according to the Russian Ministry of Transport.
One concerning aspect of the project is its geopolitical overtones. Jonathan Hillman of the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, points out that the route of the new highway subverts Ukraine, which “would add to a series of Russia-led transport projects that limit Ukraine’s connectivity with the east." Political objectives adulterating transport routes and countries battling their rivals with large-scale infrastructure projects are nothing unusual on the New Silk Road. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway, for example, takes a conspicuous long-cut around the contour of Armenia, further cutting the small country off from its neighbors and putting it on the outside of the trans-Eurasian cargo flows that are starting to trickle through.
Hillman also pointed out that Russia could improve the future of this project by removing glaring trade barriers in the Eurasian Economic Union. One of the biggest bottlenecks of the Belt and Road isn’t just the fact that there are gaps in key trans-Eurasian transport routes but Russian sanctions against the import and transit of many products that could otherwise be shipped overland between Europe and China, which has actually given rise to a competing new corridor that bypasses Russia to the south.
While Russia has always officially been a participant in China's Belt and Road initiative and the broader New Silk Road, the country's level of actual commitment has always remained in question. Spanning across much of the Eurasian landmass, Russian participation is necessary if China's Belt and Road is to flourish. Two of the major overland routes between China and Europe pass through Russia, and Russian and Belarusian transport companies are often the workhorses behind the scenes that actually make these corridors function. However, Russia has carried out policies, including the above mentioned sanctions, which run directly against the "win-win" nature of the Belt and Road, and have been prone to delay or otherwise hamper the development of key infrastructure projects that must pass through their realm. The start of the Meridian highway is a good indication of where Russia is leaning as the Belt and Road picks up momentum.
Last week, we posted an article titled “Do You Know How Much Urine is in the Swimming Pools?” The survey at the end of the article showed that more than 60% of respondents have peed in the pool.
Recently, the supervisors of the Municipal Health and Wellness Committee conducted random monitoring of 289 swimming pools in Hangzhou. The first list of pools that failed the inspection was announced. Let's take a look at them, you might have been to quite a few.
Remark: According to the "GB9667-1996 Swimming Pool Hygiene Standards", the standard value of free residual chlorine (pool) is 0.3-0.5mg/L; the standard value of urea hygiene is ≤3.5mg/L; the total number of bacteria is ≤1000CFU/mL.
The results are not all bad and there are some safe and clean swimming pools in Hangzhou. Check out the list of A-class swimming pools, and go ahead to have a nice swim.
A Little More to Know
Free Residual Chlorine: The requirement for free residual chlorine is to ensure that the water in the pool has a continuous ability to disinfect and can inhibit the re-propagation of residual bacteria in the water.
Urea: Urea in the pool is mainly derived from our sweat, secretions and excretions. Excessive urea content indicates a higher degree of contamination of the pool water.
Total bacteria: The total number of bacteria can be controlled when there is enough disinfectant in the pool, the pH value is kept within the specified limits, the circulation of pool water is appropriate, the swimming pool filtration equipment is often cleaned, and the swimming pool hygiene management is strengthened.
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