This time a year ago, I left on Train G1 to Nanjing South and Hefei South. A year later, I’m in front of a microphone — not on a train — though at times both have happened at the same time…
The people at Radio Beijing timed the live show to happen exactly a year after the documentary started. We’re far from done… But it has shown me China beyond any dimension imaginable.
Pretty much wherever I’ve set up my camera and microphone — wired or wireless — I’ve been an item of curiosity. I’ve been identified by a member of the public once — at Wuxi Railway Station — but otherwise they’re rather low-key. There’s a reason I keep it like that — to uncover the station as-is, without anything extra (without any extras, in fact). ▶
On 01 August 2008, China did what no other country on Planet Earth did — operate trains at 350 km/h (217 mph). On 23 July 2011, the horrendous Wenzhou crash happened, killing 40. The then-head of the mainland Chinese railway authorities, Sheng Guangzu, had little recourse but to ask the prime minister to lower speeds to 300 km/h (186 mph).
Sheng retired in late 2016. However, it was under his administration that work started in earnest on an “all-Chinese” trainset, the CR Revival Express (a train which was also made inherently safer and better at higher speeds).
That very same screamer sped out of Beijing South in the morning hours of 21 September 2017, with yours truly onboard Train G1. Top speed reached 350 km/h (217 mph). Once again, China had the world’s fastest train. ▶
It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve stepped back into that live studio at Radio Beijing (as in the English-language services)… The show was Touch Beijing, a live show mostly in English, but with a fair bit of spoken Mandarin Chinese as well. I came in around 25 minutes past the hour (17:25 or so), for my 20-ish minutes of fame (or so). The rail documentary I was doing, Next Station: China, took, of course, centre stage.
Up to this point, I had “sped up” going to stations — I literally just returned yesterday from Shidu Railway Station, Station 51 right by the mountains in southwestern Beijing. The past 50 journeys have seen me around much of Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, He’nan, and Shandong, but also as far south as Hu’nan! Were there a few of my favourites already? Absolutely. Old Regular Rail stations made up for the bulk of unexpected discoveries. ▶
That’s me having just completed an interview with Radio Beijing about the Next Station: China trip I’m doing right now. Finish all railway stations on the mainland of China by early 2022. (Now you just have to make a real effort!)
I’ve really been into discovering stations since I stumbled upon the Tanggu-Beijing high speed trains (I thought they used to go only as far as Central Tianjin). Since that time, I’ve been hooked. Unhappy with “just” Beijing South, Tianjin, and Shanghai being the sole three stations I’ve visited and taken a trip from in 2008, I’ve been dreaming of doing a “rail stations atlas”. The documentary, hopefully, will make this one come alive. ▶
On Saturday, 17 May 2014, and again on Sunday, 18 May 2014, Beijing will hold its annual Foreign Languages Fair (World Languages Fair). I’ll play a very active role this time ’round.
Readers, both old and new, of the book, as well as subscribers via the WeChat / AM774 web site channel, are welcome to join me onstage or offstage. I intend to make this an open forum so that people go away with lots of learning to make their next overseas trip smoother, or to make their next encounter with expats in China less difficult.
So to make this conversation two-way and to make the learning “stick”, there will be take-home handouts (expected to be plenty in number). ▶
This report was first published in Chinese on 16 April 2014 by reporter Wang Dongliang of the Beijing Daily.
The Handbook of Everyday English was released yesterday by the Beijing Municipal Foreign Affairs Office and the Beijing Speaks Foreign Language Committee, amongst other bodies. The WeChat and e-learning channels were launched at the same time. Residents are now just taps away from learning English.
David Feng, international teacher at the Communication University of China and a member of the Handbook‘s editing team, spoke about the launch to our reporter. He stated that in spite of city efforts to improve English and train reception industries ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, there are still reports by expat drivers stopped by police officers, only to find they were unable to speak English well, being only competent to say, “My English is very poor”. ▶
2013 is a new year for us, but this year is special — it will be the first year since 1987 where each of the four digits of the year is a different number. And that’s a hint for you to “be different” this year. Much like Apple’s former slogan, Think Different, set it out from the rest of the pack, being different and going to different places is probably the best way to start the new year right, and to give you one of those beginnings you won’t quite easily forget.
Probably the best way to start this new trip is to take to somewhere totally new on the first day itself. I still remember my first short-haul trip right on 01 January 2012, when I took the train to Langfang — not too far away, a mere 60 km outside of Beijing. But at least I got off my sofa and went somewhere. I think you can do more than just 60 km in the new year: try heading to a city or a country you’ve never been to — ideally on the first day. It’s time to get out of your comfort zone and into newer territories.
After being probably scared to death last year about “Are we going to die in 2012?”, I’m sure you’ve been scared as much as I’ve been. The good news is: We just about all survived. So here’s a thing: take into the new year and go places. ▶
I will be appearing with wife Tracy on Sunday, 08 April 2012, from 18:00 through to 20:00 (Beijing time) on Top FM 101.8 on China National Radio (CNR). We’ll be talking about trains and Chinglish!
For the full two hours (which is quite a bit when you think about it), our live show will go through the amazing stories of my 120,000+ km of train travel, 2,200+ Chinglish shots, as well as my travels in nearly 20 countries and territories. I’ll also do a bit of “multilingualism” over the airwaves.
You can listen in online on at Top FM 101.8 — either in Beijing at FM 101.8 or over the online airwaves. ▶
I’ll be on Radio Beijing’s well-known Music Radio tonight (21:00-22:00 Beijing time), 20 July 2011, talking about multilingualism, English in China, and this insanely fun Chinglish phenomenon. I knew that I had to stay in the business of — well, finding and rooting out Chinglish, when I went to the bank and they asked me for my Sex of Gender.
(Male, in all cases.)
I’m also going to be, as they say in perfect, excellent Chinglish, make big the propaganda about my latest Chinglish concoction — Jiong Chinglish (囧图就在你身边: 雷人 Chinglish), my April 2011 debut work. I might be able to sneak in on some of my latest findings. I’ll leave you with one of these now:
(Temporary Bus Stop)
As of late, more and more people in China are expressing concern about Green Dam — new software that’s supposed to keep people away from “unhealthy” sites, but which others have concerns about regarding content control and general security. This doesn’t make it quite “green” at all!
Lately, I’ve been interviewed by lots of media, both online and offline, in the UK and elsewhere. My concerns expressed were less political / “censorship”-related, and far more issues regarding how secure the new software was, as well the existing issue of sites in China that already have low-brow content in the form of controversial ads. Some content were already quite “suggestive” — even on officially approved sites!
The most interesting thing that happened was that during one of the interviews, late-breaking news came and I was informed the plan to roll out such filtering applications would not go ahead. ▶