Canadian Matt Sigurdson opens vegan restaurant Green Room in SZ


A LONG way from his hometown, Kitimat, British Columbia, Canada, Matt Sigurdson has opened a Western-style vegan restaurant called Green Room in the Coastal City shopping mall in Nanshan.

He is relatively new to China, having moved to Shenzhen in January 2014. “My brother was living in Shenzhen at the time so I came to see him,” Sigurdson explained.

The 38-year-old has already had years of experience working in restaurants. “After moving to Calgary, I started as a weekend waiter in a family restaurant and quickly grew to love the environment. I was challenged further, and took on the lead waiter role. I spent three years there before I moved on to a newly built high-end concept restaurant, and took on a management position.” Eventually he moved to Shenzhen, and became a bar manager at a restaurant in Sea World in Shekou.

Sigurdson spent a lot of time examining the market in Shenzhen, and found that people were already making healthier choices in their lives. “I spent a lot of time examining what was going on in Shenzhen, and found that people here were already taking a healthy direction in their lives. I noticed an abundance of gyms and fitness centers. There were already a handful of Chinese vegan and vegetarian restaurants so we knew that it wasn’t a completely foreign idea. It would be a risky move, but we could pull it off.”

Sigurdson had many challenges in opening Green Room. “Every new thing we had to do to take the next step forward was a trial,” he said. “From learning the value of equipment and products to trying to explain how we wanted the place to be built. Day by day I learned more and more about each step, the vision became clearer, and we persevered and stuck through to the end to accomplish one of my goals in life.”

Some of the popular items are the eggplant rollups, rainbow spring rolls, Thai coconut soup, and avocado tacos. The restaurant produces all their own sauces and dressings from scratch. Juices and smoothies are made fresh when ordered. Sigurdson especially appreciates his regular customers. “The positive feedback I’ve received has made it all worth it,” he said.

Green Room is located near Coastal City mall adjacent to the Houhai metro station. The address is Wen Xin 3rd Road, Tiley Fame City Center, Block B, #142.


Hong Kong ASSEMBLING Art Exhibition Features Shenzhen-Based Artists


“Of Coming Together and Having to Part” glass panel by Bronwen Shelwell, underneath the entrance to the gallery.


“ASSEMBLING,” an international art exhibition bringing together four Shenzhen-based artists, is being held at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong, and features an array of works that were assembled to complement one another.

The exhibition showcases four young artists from various countries who now call Shenzhen their home: Bronwen Shelwell, Marco Flagg, Tom Hayes and Zhang Kaiqin. The works of art are diverse, ranging from hanging installations to glass sculptures and even a piece made with growing seeds.

Curator Shelwell, who has lived in Shenzhen off and on since 2002, is very familiar with the city and also has experienced working in the art industry in Hong Kong. She currently lectures on art and design at SIFC.

“I’ve worked with Sinsin Man [owner of Sin Sin Fine Art] in the past, and have always been a great admirer of her,” she said. “When she asked me to curate an exhibition in her space, I was very honored and excited. We wanted to put together a group of artists who live in Shenzhen; the challenge was finding artists who are from different countries and work in different mediums.”


“One Minute Suspended” hanging instillation by Bronwen Shelwell above “Geoscroll” by Tom Hayes in the center of the gallery.

Shelwell has a number of her own pieces on display. The centerpiece of “Assembling” would have to be the hanging installation, “One Minute Suspended.”

Powerful in scale and complexity, it has 375 individual balls covered in shards of glass hanging from the ceiling, like a massive Newton’s Cradle. The balls are arranged in a specific pattern, as Shelwell explained. “During our preliminary meetings, Flagg recorded and documented the conversation. My idea for the installation was to take the central minute of that entire conversation and create a pattern based on the soundwaves. The middle line is perfectly straight, and the outer lines of balls follow the patterns of speech of the recorded minute.”

She also has other pieces. There is a wide glass panel with melted red copper inside called “Of Coming Together and Having to Part,” which was created in a factory in Foshan.

Shelwell talked about the process of creating it, “I first arranged fiberglass foam into a wave, and then put two pieces of glass with copper sheets in the middle. Glass has the ability to look incredibly soft while actually being very hard and sharp, and I’ve always been interested in pushing the boundaries of appearance and reality. My other pieces also explore a similar concept with glass in movement and expanding out of a surface.”

Shelwell’s other pieces are a set of three paintings that incorporate shards of glass, entitled “Within,” “Pause” and “Expand.”


“Pause” carefully arranges glass shards on a metal print in seemingly random yet controlled pattern.

Flagg is an American multimedia artist. His hometown is Albany, New York, and he’s been living in China for nearly a decade. Socially conscious, he studied documentary photography, and originally came to China with an NGO that worked in rural education. After first living in Beijing, he’s been in Shenzhen since 2009. His work is a video art piece called “Emergent.”

Among the most striking at the exhibition, “Emergent” is the only piece to incorporate sound. When one enters the space, a flat TV screen draws the eye with a hypnotizing array of animated colors. The accompanying headphones then welcome audience members to listen to a multi-layered conversation. Altogether it is a 1:48 loop which overlaps footage and audio recordings.


“Emergent” video art piece by photographer Marco Flagg.

He explained the piece at length: “What I’m exhibiting is a multimedia piece called ‘Emergent’ which is documenting the initial meeting of the artists involved in this exhibition. All of us were given a selection of writing to respond to by the curator Bronwen … in a kind of round-table discussion at the gallery itself. I documented the audio and the video, and created the piece as a way to capture the exchange of ideas between these artists.”

Flagg also added the use of spectrometer display footage, switching around the senses of sight and sound. “A spectrometer basically displays the audio visually. With colors, red is more intense or a higher sound. Blue is a less intense or lower pitch sound.”

Flagg indeed finds Shenzhen to be an inspiring place for his style of art. “It’s rapidly developing,” he explained. “While some cities have more so-called traditional culture, Shenzhen is reacting to the issues of the current day in China. We can see that energy in the city. It’s very inspiring.”

Tom Hayes came from Britain to China in 2011 to study ceramics and previously managed the residency program at Da Wang Culture Highland at Wutong Mountain in Shenzhen. “Geoscroll,” a long scroll that uses Chinese iconography, is one of his signature pieces. “Sunplot” is more experimental and incorporates nature. Soy bean seeds planted in a circle represent the gathering of artists, and throughout the month as the plants grow, the art will also always be changing until both eventually disintegrate. “My work seems to be quite focused on processes and materials,” Hayes said. “I’m interested in transience and cycles in nature, and I find that working this way allows me to better communicate these feelings.”


Seeds grow into beans for Tom Hayes’ “Sunplot,” a living piece of art.

Zhang Kaiqin is from Yunnan, China and has been living in Shenzhen for over 10 years. She studied in the United States, and currently works on the Baishizhou urban art project Handshake 302. Her painting, “An Afternoon in Summer,” is a layered rice paper canvas on which she applied watercolor and beeswax. The piece is light and airy, almost translucent, but upon closer inspection one can see its complexity.


“An Afternoon in Summer” by Chinese artist Zhang Kaiqin, made from watercolor and beeswax.

It is fascinating to see how the artists use such a variety of mediums and backgrounds to express the theme of coming together.


“Assembling” will be on exhibit until Aug. 21 at Sin Sin Fine Art at 52 Sai Street in Central, Hong Kong. More information can be found at the gallery website:



ASSEMBLING 貳 +叁 = 伍: Shenzhen-based artists exhibit in Hong Kong

Been a while since I published something from Shenzhen Daily, but I do have something in today’s edition. Basically I copy-pasted the press release and rewrote some quick bios, and they gave me the credit!

Also, please do check out the exhibition opening release party in Hong Kong, Friday July 22 to meet the talented artists…



“Expand” by Bronwen Shelwell

Four artists who reside in Shenzhen — three expatriates and one Chinese — will showcase their art at Sin Sin Fine Art in Hong Kong from July 22 to Aug. 21.

Entitled “Assembling,” the exhibition will include ceramic, glass, installation, multimedia and painting, all assembled to connect with one another. Each artist has a unique perspective while sharing the same thread of chance that brought them together, with the content of “Assembling” all collaborating and complementing one another.

The opening reception will be held July 22 at 6:30 p.m. and will feature a performance by Spanish dancer Beatriz Abad Latorre. On Saturday, July 23 at 3 p.m. the artists will meet to discuss how the city of Shenzhen has impacted their work, life and creativity.

Bronwen Shelwell, who is from South Africa and works primarily with glass, is the curator as well as an artist and has a series of glass sculptures. Marco Flagg, a multimedia artist from the United States, will present a video art piece. Tom Hayes from Britain specializes in ceramics, and has produced a “living” sculpture that will grow during the exhibition dates. Zhang Kaiqin is a Chinese artist from Yunnan Province and she will exhibit a contemporary watercolor painting.

Dates: July 22-Aug. 21 (closed Sundays)
Opening reception: 6:30-8:30 p.m., July 22
Discussion panel: 3-5 p.m., July 23
Admission: Free
Venue: Sin Sin Fine Art, G/F, 52 Sai Street, Central, Hong Kong
MTR: Sheung Wan Station, Exit A1

SZ Daily: Eat, Pray, Love: local expat authors share their books



THREE local expat authors recently shared their books with readers in Shenzhen at an event sponsored by the Shenzhen Women’s International Club (SWIC) and the SWIC Book Club. Amanda Roberts, author of “Crazy Dumplings Cookbook,” Lom Harshni Chauhan, author of “Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul,” and Ray Hecht, author of “South China Morning Blues,” shared their experiences in China and the stories behind their books.

All of the books are available on Amazon.


Eat — ‘The Crazy Dumplings Cookbook’

Roberts moved to China from the United States in 2010 and ended up in northern rural Hunan. “Life there was so much different than life here in Shenzhen,” she explained. “I had to completely relearn how to cook.” Her book “Crazy Dumplings” is a food fusion cookbook, one that uses a traditional Chinese dumpling wrapper on the outside, but the filling recipes mimic cuisines from all over the world.

“You can make any food you love and miss by using local ingredients, you just have to be flexible and adaptable and not afraid of trying new things,” Roberts said.

About the book

Dumplings. Wontons. Jiaozi. This remarkably simple food is found throughout Asia and in Chinese restaurants and kitchens around the world, but have you ever filled a dumpling wrapper with chicken? Lobster? North American Plains Bison? Hardly anyone has! “The Crazy Dumplings Cookbook” features over 100 recipes with some of the craziest and most delicious dumpling filling recipes you will ever see. From Chicken Taquito Dumplings to Timey-Wimey Dumplings to a dumpling for your dog, “Crazy Dumplings” will show you all the crazy things you can stuff into a dumpling wrapper for an easy meal or snack.


Pray — ‘Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul’

Chauhan moved to China from northern India in 2002. In 2005, her daughter was born, and Chauhan was faced with the question all parents abroad face — how do you parent your child with a connection to their homeland and encourage them to embrace their adoptive country?

Chauhan explained that she grew up in a proud Rajput family and often remembered her life growing up in the Himalayas. However, her daughter does not have the luxury of knowing her place in the world. “I wondered, how much reinforcement of her cultural identity is adequate for a child who is growing up far from any of those concepts?” Chauhan explained.

Chauhan focuses a lot on the spiritual rearing of her daughter, something that is not easy to do in a place with such a small Hindu population. All parents of “third culture kids” can relate to Chauhan’s book.

About the book

One of the major concerns of Indian parents is how best to pass on to their children the time-honored traditions of Indian culture and spirituality, even as they try to raise global citizens.

“Visa, Stickers and Other Matters of the Soul” is a delightful and endearing account of a young mother’s experiments with raising her daughter in the Indian spiritual way while living in atheist China. As she begins to educate her daughter, she is surprised by her daughter’s sense of understanding and realizes that parenting is her biggest life lesson, with her daughter as her teacher.


Love – ‘South China Morning Blues’

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SZ-based expat artist wins Hong Kong award


THE Asia Society in Hong Kong recently held an exhibition featuring the works of Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara entitled “Life Is Only One.” Famed for his haunting portraits of large-eyed children juxtaposed against dangerous scenarios, the oil painter has inspired artists all around the world to challenge themselves and forge new connections.

For the end of the exhibition, the Asia Society decided to host a competition in which artists could submit work based on Nara’s aesthetics. The contest received hundreds of entries. Entries were divided into three sections: a child division for children aged 6-11, a youth division for teenage artists aged 12-17 and an open division for anyone 18 and over.

The competition’s champion was South African Shenzhen resident Bronwen Shelwell, an art lecturer at the OCT campus of Shenzhen Polytechnic’s International Foundation College, for her glass nest sculpture entitled “Home.”

“Inspiration for this artwork came from my own interpretation of Nara’s process, an artist I have admired for years,” said Shelwell. “I wanted to find a way to express a similar innocence, as he does with his childlike imagery, with a subconscious, violent twist. I took the familiar form of a nest — a symbol of home, safety and innocence — but constructed it out of the fragile, delicate, but also dangerous material of glass. In line with Nara’s process, the base of the glass nest was made out of found material — the broken glass of a car window scattered on the side of a road. I collected the shards and then made a mold, which I melted the glass into. On this base, I assembled glass rods, each one worked into a natural shape over a gas flame. I then built the nest piece by piece, as a child or bird would do.

“The nest is empty. I wanted there to be something read in its vacancy, something familiar, as with Nara’s imagery, but unnerving at the same time. I took an object always associated with warmth and safety but displayed it with a palpable loss.”

Shelwell has lived in Shenzhen for several years and frequently contributes to the Hong Kong art scene. “I go to Hong Kong often to see the latest exhibitions at contemporary art galleries. I feel this keeps me up to date with current trends, gives me inspiration. It also helps me be a better lecturer for my students and a better artist. I have worked with a few galleries, mostly behind the scenes in curating or writing about exhibitions and preparing for Art Basel, which was recently launched in Hong Kong.”

On Sunday the Asia Society hosted an awards ceremony — also presented by the Hong Kong Jockey Club — and finalists got to exhibit their pieces in a new show.

Shelwell was excited when she heard the news that she won the championship in the adult division. “I felt incredibly happy! It is my first time actually exhibiting one of my pieces in Hong Kong. I’ve exhibited in other countries and I have a few clients that I make artwork for in Hong Kong, but this is the first time I’ve had my art displayed in a gallery here. It was so overwhelming that the exhibition theme was based on an artist I love, and the space was the Asia Society, one of the most beautiful gallery spaces in Hong Kong.”

Shelwell also believes this is good news for Shenzhen. “I think it is a wonderful thing that artwork from Shenzhen was admitted and did well in a Hong Kong exhibition. I think this was a wonderful opportunity for the Shenzhen art community as a whole to be recognized in Hong Kong.”

The exhibition will be held at the Asia Society until Aug. 16. More information can be found at their website




Shenzhen Art Museum

Last weekend we went to the simply-named Shenzhen Art Museum, of which I am ashamed to say I had never yet been.

The museum is located deep in Luohu District’s Donghu park, a beautiful park indeed, but not particularly nearby any subway station and hence I rarely go. A simple museum, the day’s theme was “Thermomatter” concerning the nature of the city itself juxtaposed by village traditions with urban sprawl…

Notably featured in SZ Daily:



I appreciated the photography, electrical grid, and particularly the piece entitled Mother.

20150711_10402020150711_104147 20150711_104847 20150711_104750





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Shenzhen Daily

SZ Daily
Occasionally I write (and edit) for the local English-language newspaper of Shenzhen, the Shenzhen Daily. All very official. The only English daily in South China…

It’s not much in the realm of hardcore investigative journalism, but some fun lite reads herein. Here are a few humble lite posts worth resharing:

Hong Kong ASSEMBLING Art Exhibition Features Shenzhen-based Artists

Shenzhen-Based Artist Wins Award in Hong Kong

Interview/Restaurant Review: Canadian Opens Vegan Restaurant

Book Review: Good Chinese Wife

Book Review: No City for Slow Men

Film Review: The Wind Rises

Futian District: A Holiday at Lianhua Hill

Interview: American Expat to Run Marathon in Australia

Interview: Expat Cycles to India for Good Cause

Interview: American Starting Local Volunteer Group

Editorial: Kimmel’s Apology Merits Acceptance

Restaurant Review: Vegetarian Oasis

Book Review: Good Chinese Wife


“GOOD Chinese Wife” is a new memoir published by Sourcebooks, and is a poignant tale expats should enjoy about the overlap of China and the West. Susan Blumberg-Kason details her unfortunate marriage to a Chinese music scholar, as they meet while studying in Hong Kong and then travel to his hometown in Hubei Province before eventually settling in San Francisco, California.

The central question posed by their troubled relationship is whether their differences were due to culture or personality. Interracial marriages may have some problems, but are certain individual defects masked by the excuse of culture?

As their relationship begins, Blumberg-Kason appreciates her future husband’s background. She studies Mandarin as a postgraduate in Hong Kong in the early 1990s, and stays there through the time of the handover in 1997, and for a reader familiar with South China it can be very interesting to compare that time with the current era.

The shy student falls in love with Cai, a handsome divorcee and ethnomusicology major, and the fact that he quickly escalates into topics of marriage on early dates seems to be a source of attraction for her. In that sense, the cultural difference was an advantage.

The book goes over her travels to the Hidden River village in Hunan and subsequent meetings with Cai’s family, and serves as a good introduction to Chinese culture for readers new to the subject of China. Blumberg-Kason is very knowledgeable, and the book is also peppered with quotes from Ban Zhao’s traditional “Instruction for Chinese Women and Girls” which contrasts well with the narrative.

The memoir deals with many hard truths, and Blumberg-Kason can be very frank with personal matters. The first sex scene comes as a shock to the reader, not because of graphic depictions, but because of the realization that the couple is engaged to be married yet they have not even reached that intimate stage. When she does get married, at the young age of 24, their passionless first night together during a honeymoon in a Hong Kong hotel further foreshadows more troubles.

Time and time again, as the book progresses, Blumberg-Kason questions herself and accommodates Cai’s behavior, yet he doesn’t seem to care about his wife’s concerns. From the isolating vacations in his home town, to skipping out on going to an import foreign-language bookstore in Shanghai and an interest in “yellow films” over his own wife, the reader wonders why she comes across so weak and why she puts up with him.

Pregnant, they move to America and the situation worsens. He does not adapt well to living abroad, and constantly complains to her. Though Blumberg-Kason claims he is a good husband during her pregnancy, he grows more distant after their son is born and the book darkens in tone. In particular, when he gives her a STD and then denies it, the situation couldn’t be worse. Always trying to keep the peace, she repeatedly states that she didn’t want to know the truth about his private life.

It soon becomes obvious that their marriage will not work, and yet it takes a long time for the book to finally reach the point when Blumberg-Kason stands up for herself and leaves him. Cai even says to her: “You’re lucky I don’t hit you.” After she gives birth to their son, he tells her “Women are dirty.”

It is a sad state that this is a nonfiction memoir, and so many real women stay in such relationships for far too long. Perhaps there is a lesson there about not rushing into marriage.

“Good Chinese Wife” is well-written and reads like a page-turner novel, although it does get stuck in details at times. If it were a novel, the passages about student dances and descriptions of clothes and food might be cut due to not being relevant to the plot. But the book is a memoir, which is dense with everything Blumberg-Kason has chosen to share.

This book is recommended for readers interested in contemporary Chinese culture, as well as for anyone who has ever experienced problems stemming from cultural differences.

“Good Chinese Wife” is available at bookstores in Hong Kong and on Amazon.

For more from this author, see Susan Blumberg-Kason’s blog at

Susan Blumberg-Kason photo

SZ Daily: A holiday at Lianhua Hill


Kite-flying park


Posing in front of the Civic Center building, best pic I got

IF I was asked to choose my favorite place to relax in Shenzhen, I would say the Lianhua Hill area. When the weather is clear and I have the day off, no place is better. Containing some of the most beautiful scenery in central Shenzhen, in the heart of Futian District, the area boasts the best of both worlds: a calming natural setting and convenient shopping nearby.

Last May Day I enjoyed the holiday by first checking out the book mall and then taking a stroll along the hill path. My day began by taking the Metro to Children’s Palace Station and walking to Shenzhen Book City CBD Store. I enjoy their Eon import bookstore very much because they have an ample selection of English-language books. The nearby library also has a broad range of tomes from both the United States and the United Kingdom, and even though I live in China to learn Mandarin, I am still grateful that there is international literature in my native language on hand.

The book mall has lots of other shops to choose from, including various high-end restaurants, but I wasn’t there to partake in consumer culture. After some snacks, I climbed to the top floor. The roof leads to Lianhua Hill Park, where some friends of mine were waiting.

At the entrance to the park there is a square where kite enthusiasts gather. I hadn’t planned to fly a kite that day, but when the opportunity presented itself I spontaneously bought an inexpensive one from a vendor. The vendor even helped with a refresher course on how to fly a kite, a skill I haven’t practiced much since childhood. It was fun to see my kite go higher and higher into the air, and it provided good photo opportunities for my friends.

Eventually, we made it all the way to the top. The hike might not be too demanding as far as mountain climbing goes, but compared to other mountains in Shenzhen, such as Wutong Mountain, which require hours and hours of work, Lianhua Hill makes it easier for a briefer and simpler afternoon outing.

Once at the top, the whole city of Shenzhen is visible and is perfect for taking pictures. Besides the famous statue of Deng Xiaoping, the view of the iconic Civic Center building is one of my favorite sights.

We took the leisurely path back downhill as a cool breeze came with the setting of the sun. Back near the book mall, the large square contains many aspiring musicians and artists during the evening. At a mere (optional) price of a few yuan in tips, we could listen to rock musicians as well as watch caricaturists and painters practices their craft.

It was a wonderful day and I didn’t even have to travel very far. The diversity of activities in Futian District is the reason I have stayed here the past four years and counting. I can’t wait until my next opportunity to further explore Lianhua Hill Park.

SZ Daily: American expat to run marathon in Australia

running sanfran 2

DEE FULLER, a 33-year-old American from Erie, Pennsylvania, is one of Shenzhen’s most athletic and charitable expats. She is a fitness instructor and a bicycle enthusiast as well, bypassing rush hour crowds on public transport and instead biking everywhere, sometimes from as far as Luohu train station to Sea World in Shekou. Now she has made the decision to utilize her athletic prowess by running the Big Red Run marathon in Australia, which raises money to fund programs that help combat type 1 diabetes.

A long-term expat, Fuller’s been in China for a full decade. After majoring in Chinese culture and psychology at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., she first worked at a school in the states. Then, when the dean heard about her educational background in Chinese culture, which includes her thesis on Li Bai and Song Dynasty (960-1279) poetry — she was invited to teach in Beijing.

“I was in Beijing for 17 months,” said Fuller. “Then I was in Guangzhou for six-and-a-half years before ending up in Shenzhen.”

Although she studied the culture, she didn’t have any language skills upon arrival. Today she is fluent, but it took a lot of work. “When I first arrived, my Chinese students asked questions and I didn’t know how to communicate the answers,” Fuller explained. “I decided I wanted to understand more, and I immersed myself in Chinese. I mainly read children’s books.”

Six years ago, she decided to expand on her experiences by becoming a fitness instructor. “Spinning was my first class, and then I started to get involved in yoga and Pilates.”

Fuller also became a certified coach for the New Zealand company Les Mills. “I’m now a certified nutritionist. I have ISSA certificate.”

With Les Mills, she helps train Chinese instructors who will later teach international customers. Sometimes that means teaching the Western cultural perspective in addition to fitness techniques. “There is culture behind dance. From Latin beat to pop ballet, EDM to disco — it’s very important to know the culture behind it.”

“On May 29th, I’m doing an event at Tavern sports bar in Shekou to raise money for type 1 diabetes awareness,” continued Fuller. “There will be a raffle, lucky draw, and more.”

In July, she plans to go all the way to Australia to participate in the Big Red Run marathon, an intense 6-day marathon covering 250 kilometers that brings together volunteers from all over the world and raises funds for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

“I want to get back to being involved in charity work. I used to donate my time in America with the Salvation Army and the Special Olympics. Since I moved to China I haven’t had as many opportunities. This is a chance to do something I love for a bigger purpose outside of me,” Fuller said, “It just feels good when you do it.”

More information can be found on the Big Ren Run website,

SZ Daily: Expat cycles to India for good cause


Kaisa Ansper, biker and charity driver and all-around great gal’

BIKING thousands of kilometers across the high-altitude terrain of multiple nations is not for the average person. Few would even for a second consider the concept, but a unique sort relishes in taking on challenges of endurance while experiencing the unexpected along the road. And it’s a good thing for some kids in India and China that one of those sorts is in Shenzhen.

“Stay positive and good things will come,” says 30-year old Estonian Kaisa Ansper. On August 1 she will hit the road to raise money for her charity effort, Bonfire Heart, setting out to pedal from Shenzhen to Mumbai, India. The journey will take her along Friendship Highway through Tibet to Nepal. She expects the cycling trek will take about 77 days. Sponsorship and donations will go toward funding her trip, as well as to two charities: Shenzhen Min Ai Disabled Children’s Welfare Center which helps disabled children; and Amcha Ghar, a home for girls in India.

“I’m trying to bring attention to these charities,” she explained. “Min Ai is amazing! But they need new machines to help the children. They receive little money from the government, so they depend on private donations.”

Certified by the Shenzhen Disabled People Association, Min Ai is located in Futian District. The center offers specialized education for physically and mentally-challenged children, including rehabilitation training, psychological treatment, medical care, nursing and nutritional help. More information is available on their website:

“I don’t have children myself,” she explained while planning her arrival at the Amcha Ghar home in India. “Hopefully I can teach art and English there. It’s a good way to help the next generation. The center gives the girls a home, safety, an education and hope.”

Amcha Ghar home for girls aids abused and homeless children in India. A primary goal is to educate and transform the unskilled girls into skilled women, able to lead independent lives. Amcha Ghar’s website is

Ansper now teaches art and language to Shenzhen kids. “I came to China after seven years of international travel,” Ansper said. “I was raised bilingual. I had relatives in Sweden and Finland and my family traveled a lot between those countries.”

Ansper is of a diverse background. “From Japan I moved to Wuhan to teach English. Then I moved to Guangzhou and worked for a Chinese company in marketing. I managed to find an investor and I started In the Red magazine. It was great running it, but it was stressful and I gave it up.”

“I decided to settle in a new city. I’d visited Shenzhen many times. I liked the city, so I moved here.” Ansper says she has enjoyed her year in Shenzhen. “It’s clean compared to other cities. I love the access to beaches, it’s good for cycling and the roads are wide. It’s green with plants everywhere. The Shenzhen government is doing a great job building cycling paths, ramps, parks and greenways.”

Taking full advantage of the paths, she cycles nearly everywhere she needs to go. “I’ve always like cycling. It’s good for the environment, healthy and fun. Other people take the metro, I take my bicycle.”

On the evening of May 8th, Ansper will attend an open mic music event at Rapscallions Café Bar, Shopping Park, Futian District. There she will accept donations in person. “It’s a great way to help less advantaged kids,” she said.

More information about Kaisa Ansper’s charity drive and how to contribute is at

Book Review: No City for Slow Men


Despite Hong Kong’s reputation for being very welcoming to foreigners, it’s not always that easy for expats to deeply understand the city. Hong Kong is famous for its international style, and people from all over the world enjoy the city’s comforts, yet there remains a barrier between the locals and those who hail from other places.

To share the truth about Hong Kong culture with the English-speaking world, Jason Y. Ng — resident blogger and columnist for Hong Kong-based newspaper South China Morning Post — has written “No City for Slow Men,” covering every subject an HK-phile could ask for.

Published by Blacksmith Books, the book contains 36 essays and covers a broad range of topics. For some writers, it might be a struggle to have so many chapters and keep the quality high, yet every line of Ng’s prose is well-written and full of crucial information for piecing together the puzzle of Hong Kong’s identity.

Split into three parts, the first section “Our Way of Life” concerns corrupt property tycoons, the culture of taking out loans for expensive watches, and the rise of Taobao. The title piece “No City for Slow Men” is about one of the very first impressions a visitor of the city will have — the high speed of life. Ng laments about the lack of relaxation when he writes, “Hong Kong is charming when it is bustling, but loveliest when it is tranquil.”

The second part, “Our Culture,” contains such topics as Chinese New Year and includes many interesting childhood anecdotes. The autobiographical element starts to seep in, which shows off some of Ng’s best writing. There is more on restaurants and cooking, which is, of course, very important to Chinese culture worldwide, as well as an overview of the history of the city and the famous sites that rapidly changed through generations and development.

Finally, “Our Identity” has some of the most compelling pieces of all. “HKID” says it best: Hong Kong is stuck somewhere between the Chinese mainland and the rest of the world, and that causes a bit of an identity crisis. The tense relationship with the mainland is an important point, reaching new lows with the labeling of mainland tourists as “locusts,” which Ng points out is an undeserved reputation. A letter from a mainland student best expresses the argument against prejudice. Another major theme is the contrast between the lives of expats and locals — with their gambling by way of cards instead of mahjong, the strange sport of rugby and lack of Cantonese fluency.

The plight of the domestic worker is an especially important topic, written about with great heart. The personal stories of abuse and tragedy of Indonesian and Filipino maids are very moving. Ng is certainly a compassionate writer and should be commended for bringing these issues to the public’s attention.

As the book concludes, the final essays cement the autobiographical element. After a piece detailing Ng’s struggles with stuttering in his early life, the penultimate “My Father the Artist” goes over the very man whose illustrations pepper the book. It all ends with a touching interview of the author’s mother.

As an emigrant from Guangdong Province who struggled through years of tumultuous change, from poverty to a happy retirement abroad, she best exemplifies the contradictions that make up the history and identity of Hong Kong. “All these years, mother and son have been swept up in a complicated dance of love and reticence,” Ng writes. “Each aching to reassure the other of their happy existence.”

“No City for Slow Men” is available at bookstores in Hong Kong and on Amazon.

Shenzhen Daily: American starting local volunteer group


Jason Stine presenting at the Shenzhen Idea Exchange event in
OCT-LOFT last Saturday

THE local expat community is full of nice people, but they aren’t generally known for charitable contributions. However, 25-year-old Jason Stine, an American from San Diego, California, said he appreciates his life in China and is excited about giving back to the community that he feels is his new home.

“My parents live in Houston, Texas, now,” he explained. “My life and friends are here in China. To that extent, this is my primary home.”

Stine has been in China for four years. After graduating with a combined major of liberal arts and engineering — the liberal arts half included studying Mandarin — he moved to Shanghai. He moved to Shenzhen four months ago, for the weather.

While he was in Shanghai, he got involved with a volunteering and networking organization called BEAN, or Business Entrepreneurs Altruism Networking. Founded in 2003 in Seattle, it has expanded globally and now helps people all over the world.

“It became my community away from home,” Stine said, adding that the Shanghai BEAN chapter hosted several events per week and had hundreds of members. “The Shanghai model is huge.”

He volunteered for activities including playing board games and mahjong with senior citizens, spending time at a shelter for stray cats, and leading a Reading Buddies event at a center for poor children of migrant workers while collaborating with

“What interests me with these events is more the social interaction aspect of it, and the feeling that I’m a leader of something truly worthwhile. I love socializing with others, and I love being the leader; these moments can make me feel like I really belong in the community,” Stine said. “Volunteering can be really fun, too, so why not use the two latter qualities and put them to some good use to help those in need and benefit the local community?”

The heart of BEAN’s strategy is to connect the community with charities in need of manpower.

“BEAN gives foreigners a chance to volunteer with no language-barrier issues, and connect with other organizations that focus on their own niche,” he added.

Stine, an events and project manager in Nanshan District, said he’s very optimistic about the future of BEAN in Shenzhen. The local chapter is still new and not quite as active as its Shanghai counterpart yet, he said. An early step is learning about local organizations — such as the Shenzhen Blue Ocean Conservation Association, which cleans up trash at beaches in Yantian District — and connecting them with expats.

“I can provide the framework for volunteers. All I need are people, and it’s ready to go. The toolbox is there,” Stine said.

More information about BEAN and volunteering with the local chapter can be found online at:

Shenzhen Art 4: OCAT “Echoes of Socialist Realism” to the future…



OCAT (OCT Contemporary Art Terminal) is is the central exhibition hall in the heart of the OCT-LOFT area, and currently houses this time-spanning exhibition covering the remnants socialist realism from the Communist red era to see how it influences and inspires modern art and then carries predictions of the future. It is important to know where one comes from, and move forward, isn’t it?

I enjoyed the large-scale canvasses myself.

From Shezhen Daily:

The exhibition is divided into three sections: “From the Issue of Art to the Issue of Position: Echoes of Socialist Realism,” “Keep the Modern Going: Immersion, Awaiting and Idealism” and “Multi-Future.”

The exhibition, showcasing oil paintings, installations, video, dramas and fine art research in China from 1949 to 2013, attempts to reassess how realism influences and molds art.

The exhibition also presents some rethinking and reevaluation of old works. It studies Chinese contemporary art as early as the year 1949, instead of starting from the 1980s. “To revisit the past is to rediscover the work and ideas that were yet to be fully explored and recognized. It is to expand the historical dimensions within which we study Chinese art and to position our current work in a richer and more open context,” said curator Lu.

The exhibited Chinese artworks created from 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976 reflect the socialist realism style, which often glorifies the roles of the working class. While realistic paintings in the late 1980s and 1990s depict the real, sometimes negative, aspects of life. Scenes that took place in people’s homes, on the streets, in parks and on buses are seen in that era’s artworks.