By David Gray
The alarm woke me at 6am so that I could catch the sun as it rose slowly above the buildings to the east. But this was no ordinary sunrise. This was the morning when the sun had a black dot slowly moving across it, and that black dot was the planet Venus.
Photographing the ‘Transit of Venus’ as it is known, was something that I was not at all familiar with. For a start, the total time would be around 6 hours. This was extremely slow in comparison to the eclipses I had previously photographed, with ‘totality’ (when the moon completely covers the sun) lasting on each occasion just 11 and 90 seconds. These celestial events, of course, involved the sun and the moon, but this one amazingly would involve a planet. The difficulty of this was that the sun would remain at its normal brightness the entire time.
By David Gray
The Safedom condom company’s factory is located in the town of Zhaoyuan, located 100 kilometers south of the city of Yantai, Shandong Province, China. Safedom turned its back on the low-margin, guaranteed-business sales to the Chinese government’s family planning program 11 months ago, and decided to shift to where the money is: the higher end of the general public market. Claiming to be the fourth-largest condom maker in China by revenue, after three foreign brands, they are hoping to sell one billion condoms this year with the launch of its “Take Me” condom, aimed at women consumers, and partnerships with French, Italian, German and UK condom makers.
I was led into a rather unassuming building and greeted by the company’s executives. Here they told me during a brief introduction, that I was to ‘behave’ when touring the production floor, and not disclose any company ‘secrets’. This made me chuckle, though I certainly didn’t show it, as I thought this was how you may talk to a child – the very thing their product was aiming to prevent.
By David Gray
Xin nian kuai le!! To get around China, it helps to have a basic knowledge at least of the Chinese language. No question. And these four words will help you greatly at this time of year. What does it mean? I hear those not so knowledgeable about Chinese customs ask. Well, it’s Chinese new year. And wishing someone a Happy New Year will aid you in many ways. But saying it this year is an even bigger bonus, because this year is not just any year – it’s the year of the dragon. What exactly does this mean to Chinese? Well, for one, apparently, it’s the year to have a baby. I have heard this only whispered by my Chinese colleagues over the past few months. Why? Well, apparently, a dragon year is a seriously good year to be born. The Chinese horoscope says that Chinese Dragons (you could call them Dragon babies I suppose) lead a complicated life, but have beneath their stubborn exterior, a soft heart, and are born leaders. Good attributes you would have to say, especially when you consider other animals included on the list are a pig (full disclosure, that’s my year so I am not being nasty when saying this), a rat, an ox, monkey, snake and even a sheep. So, even though its the only fictitious animal on that list, you would have to say, a dragon is pretty cool. I mean, it breathes fire…..cmon, that’s cool!!
So, back to my big tip, especially useful upon your arrival in say Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, or even Chengdu, when you jump in that taxi after enduring more than an hour of being jostled by boisterous fellow travelers, lean over to the driver and yell with zealous – Xin nian kuai le – and he will return your friendly gesture with a speedy ride to your place of abode. It will make your trip all the more pleasant and hopefully one to remember, in the Year of the Dragon.
By David Gray
When I was told about this assignment late last Friday in Beijing, the brief was simple – a group of young female Chinese college graduates training to be bodyguards; sounded interesting. Little did I know how interesting it would actually be.
Myself and a Reuters television crew were met in a shopping mall car park by two obviously former military-trained men wearing army fatigues and dark sunglasses. This for starters was an unusual scene in China; a foreigner being driven by what looked like army personnel as shoppers did ‘double-takes’ as we drove away. Thinking we would be driving to a distant, secret location I settled in for the long ride. Five minutes later, we pulled into a driveway. In front of us were soccer fields, complete with mini-goalposts. What were we doing here?
By David Gray
Along the road to one of China’s most famous tourist landmarks – the Great Wall of China – sits what could potentially have been another such tourist destination, but now stands as an example of modern-day China and the problems facing it.
Situated on an area of around 100 acres, and 45 minutes drive from the center of Beijing, are the ruins of ‘Wonderland’. Construction stopped more than a decade ago, with developers promoting it as ‘the largest amusement park in Asia’. Funds were withdrawn due to disagreements over property prices with the local government and farmers. So what is left are the skeletal remains of a palace, a castle, and the steel beams of what could have been an indoor playground in the middle of a corn field.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Serie A champions AC Milan scored twice in nine second-half minutes to come back and beat city rivals Inter Milan 2-1 in the Italian Super Cup played in Beijing on Saturday.
Milan, who ended Inter’s five-year reign as Italian champions by winning the scudetto in May, fought back through ex-Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
BEIJING, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Serie A champions AC Milan scored
twice in nine second-half minutes to come back and beat city
rivals Inter Milan 2-1 in the Italian Super Cup played in
Beijing on Saturday.
Milan, who ended Inter’s five-year reign as Italian
champions by winning the scudetto in May, fought back through
ex-Inter striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Kevin-Prince Boateng.
BEIJING (Reuters) – A fire on Monday killed at least 17 people in a building crowded with migrant workers on the fringe of Beijing and the government vowed to track down those responsible for the blaze in what one official said was an illegal building.
The deaths were a reminder that even in Beijing, rural migrant workers can live in sweatshop conditions starkly at odds with the city’s image of secure prosperity.
Imagine if you will, being given an assignment that required you to sit in your freezer for 3 days. Then, imagine multiplying that temperature by three, and you might have some idea of what it was like to photograph the 27th Harbin International Ice and Snow festival in January.
Don’t get me wrong, it was fun… looking back on it… but when you are dealing with minus 34 degree temperatures, it’s not always pleasant. Heat packs, for example, only feel warm once you are back inside the hotel. Useful… NOT! So then you try wearing lots of clothes. But try walking around on ice covered footpaths and roads, and then attempting to squat to get that slightly better angle (of perhaps a crazy man fishing while sitting in the middle of a frozen lake with the wind howling and taking the temperature to minus 40) all while impersonating the Michelin Man.
NANZHENG, China (Reuters) – A Chinese man who hacked to death seven young children and two adults in the latest in a series of deadly assaults on schools lashed out after an argument over a kindergarten lease, neighbors and state media said.
The succession of bloody assaults on schools has prompted officials to demand a show of force to deter such attacks, which have angered the Chinese public and stoked criticism of the government. State media reported on Thursday that some schools were being guarded by police wielding submachine guns.