Total Eclipse in Suzhou

I know I am (very) late with this, now that the eclipse is more than a day old. But it was breathtaking to stand under the overcast sky yesterday, still quite bright at 9.30am, and watch the sky get progressively darker in a matter of seconds, turning nearly black after about five minutes. It was especially exciting because heavy thundershowers earlier in the morning had made the hundreds of spectators at the hotels gloomy. While they may not have gotten their full money’s worth, it was a dramatic and rare event nonetheless. The photos were captured by my friend Ben from the outdoor area of the third-floor lobby of the Sheraton hotel in Suzhou.

First, you can see the view before the eclipse started.

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Then it gets darker.

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And then you know there’s a total eclipse taking place, and not just some dark clouds.

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And then after five minutes the sky begins to return to normal.

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Yes, it would have been a lot more magical if the skies had been clear, but this was nothing to sneeze at.

This trip, my last before moving back to the US, got interrupted by an unexpected email a few days ago when I was in Suzhou. Just like the last time when I wasn’t sure what to do next, back in April, another opportunity simply appeared, and it was again due to this blog, if somewhat indirectly. I’ll be doing writing and media relations for an NGO devoted to a cause I care a lot about, and it will bring me back to Asia (though perhaps not China) less than two weeks after I return home, at least for a couple of weeks. Fate plays strange tricks, and you never know what’s next. What was that Forrest Gump metaphor again?

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

Oooooh, nice! I’ve been in two total eclipses. The first in Kunming in 1980, the second in Mazatlan – I forget what year. Kunming cleared before the eclipse. Stunning. Mazatlan was more like what you experienced. As I just wrote to another friend, the quality of the light is like nothing else you’ll ever experience.

And many congratulations on the new opportunities coming your way!

July 23, 2009 @ 6:03 pm | Comment

In the mid 90′s, before I came to America, I was of a similar opinion as most “pro-West” and “liberal” elements in China – hating the Chinese society, loving American culture, thinking that the outside world would be much better. So I came to America. Then, over the years, I realized that America is very different from what I initially imagined – all the buzz words like ‘democracy’, ‘liberalism’,'human rights’, they are all bullshit and non-sense. An independent intellectual like me don’t even have voting rights in America. In China, if you commit a crime, one type of punishment, along with jail, is the legal elimination of your political rights. In America today, I feel like such a person.

And this ‘freedom of speech’. In China, I frequently cursed at the Chinese government. But here in America, as soon as I say anything negative about America, people on the internet always say “If you don’t like America, just go home, you Communist!”. Immediately this blocks my mouth, where is your freedom of speech?

And when it comes to entertainment, America also disappoints. Most American TV programs have ads every 5 mins, an hour long program would take two hours to finish, is this not a waste of my time? And the programming is of very limited diversity – either a man trying to catch a crocodile or a snake in the jungle, or a police man trying to catch a criminal on tv, or a gangster trying to fight another gangster. And black people will always lose to white people, Asians will always lose to white people, white males will always be the heroes and get a beautiful woman at the end. Most Hollywood movies, at the beginning you think it is a entertainment movie, then you realize it’s a children’s film, at the end you realize it’s a pro-American propaganda film. This type of monotonous programming is even more boring than the propaganda movies that the Chinese TV puts out nowadays. As an independent intellectual, how can I stand being brainwashed like this every day?

America also lacks civil liberties. Nowadays, all foreigners coming to the US need to have their finger printed and photographed like in a police mug shot, is this not severe discrimination? No foreigner going to China is ever asked to be finger printed or photographed. When I try to look for a job, 60% of jobs require American citizenship, is this not employment discrimination? If you do not even have equal access job market for all, how can you call yourself an equal society? Clearly a hierarchical society.

So this country America, no democracy, no liberty, no human rights, no entertainment. Coming to this kind of country is a complete mistake. Whenever I go to China and talk to youngsters, I advise them not to come to America and experience this kind of mistake again.

July 26, 2009 @ 3:26 am | Comment

“When I try to look for a job, 60% of jobs require American citizenship, is this not employment discrimination?”
I will immediately regret responding, and I imagine this douchebag is just making shit up. But has anyone ever seen a job, besides the presidency, requiring American citizenship? Just out of curiosity…

July 26, 2009 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Kevin. Nope.

July 26, 2009 @ 3:06 pm | Comment

Never. Maybe for some government jobs, but you’ll never see that in job descriptions.

July 26, 2009 @ 4:30 pm | Comment

I’ve seen it for some US government jobs, especially those involving the US military, but Math is once again just making stuff up. This isn’t to say that employers don’t discriminate, but they can’t do so openly.

July 26, 2009 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

I think what Math means is that you must be eligible to work in the US before you can be hired. This usually means that you have US citizenship or permanent residency. If you don’t have these things, you must get an employment visa which is much harder in the US than, say in China. If a company wants to hire Richard to do some work, it can usually manage to get a work visa for him in China easily. But to be legally employed in the US takes a lot more work. A company has to prove that you have unique qualifications that native people do not possess. Of course you always have the option to work illegally in the US, but that is not what Math wanted.

July 26, 2009 @ 10:23 pm | Comment

[...] Some great pictures of the solar eclipse in China. [...]

July 27, 2009 @ 8:30 am | Pingback

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