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With the summer of sport underway in London, Birmingham based PR and Marketing agency, S&X, is in the capital to work on projects for its clients within the sports industry.
In the second of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, S&X Associate Director, Jo Green, discovers there's more to East London than just the Olympics.
The arrival of the Olympic Games in a once highly industrial area of East London has undoubtedly seen sweeping regeneration, not only in terms of the construction of the Olympic Park, but with new additions to the local area including the vast Westfield shopping centre in Stratford.
In many respects, of course, this can only be seen as a positive, with valid arguments that the new facilities have revitalised one of London's most run down areas, creating jobs and attracting people into the community.
As we've made our way around Stratford since arriving for the Games last Sunday, we've seen both sides of the current make-up of the area, from the shiny shrines to the modern world that the stadium and shopping mall can represent, to the artistic underground core which has long regarded the East End as its own capital.
Among such venues is the Stour Space, which has become a regular haunt for Team S&X during our time in London thanks to its convenient location around the corner from our base in Stratford.
Last week, people across China enjoyed a three-day holiday to mark Qingming festival. But rather than enjoying a break somewhere nice, or putting their feet up in front of the TV, many Chinese people will have spent the holiday spending time with family or visiting cemeteries to pay respects to their ancestors.
Qingming Festival, which fell on April 4th this year, is also known as tomb sweeping day. It is a day set aside for Chinese people to remember family members who have passed away. Like most Asian countries, family plays a major role in the lives of the Chinese people. Therefore, it is considered essential that Chinese people of all ages make a special effort to honour the dead.
For those that have the opportunity to visit cemeteries on this day, the standard ritual is to burn incense and offer sacrifices to the dead. It has long been a tradition for families to burn fake money, which is peculiarly printed in the style of dollar bills. As the fire eats away at the money, it is believed that the 'money' is passed over to their family members on the 'other side'.
A Chinese friend of mine once told me that his grandmother, who had passed away a couple of years earlier, visited him in a dream. He noticed that her clothes were shabby and her hair unkempt. So, come Qingming festival, he made sure he bought plenty of paper money to burn for her. The next night he dreamt that she visited him once again; this time wearing her lovely new clothes. Rather than query the belief, with questions such as 'is currency necessary in heaven?' or 'where would one buy clothes in heaven?', I choose to respect the belief. The emphasis and consideration that Chinese people attach to the importance of family is admirable and something I consider to be severely lacking in British society today. However, I can't help but smile at how much emphasis cash has in Chinese society. If Qingming festival proves one thing, it's the belief that even in death, money and possessions are indispensable.
Since China's 'opening up' 34 years ago, the significance of money and status have become even more magnified. It is no longer simply a car, apartment, and job that prove your worth, it's also your partner, where you eat, and of course, your mobile phone, handbag, and a whole host of other materialistic paraphernalia. So it came as no surprise when I discovered that this year, it wasn't just paper money that Chinese families were buying as offerings for their ancestors, but also paper Apple iPads and iPhones.
At 80 US dollars per iPad, and iPhones for around 4 US dollars, these paper offerings do not up at a snip. In an attempt to drum up enthusiasm, sellers on popular Chinese shopping site, Taobao.com, offered discounts to bulk buyers. How many iPads does one's deceased relative require? For those really wanting to splash out and treat their deceased loved ones, then paper villas, cars and even houses are also available.
A majority of Chinese people that I spoke to about Qing Ming festival plans told me that they will not be bulk-buying paper iPads just yet. In recent years, as the Chinese people have become more aware of eco-living, people have been encouraged to commemorate relatives on QingMing festival by planting flowers and trees around gravesites. However, the traditional way of commemorating Qingming festival remains the most popular option.
Nothing can dampen the process of falling in love quite like a bad kiss.
That first kiss that you've imagined over and over in your head to be nothing short of perfection. A teeny-tiny orgasmic lip lock.
But then, as you bob your head to go in for the kill, lips pursed in anticipation of making your dreamy kiss a reality, you're met with a soggy mouth full of disappointment. The dream is shattered, rose-tinted spectacles shaken and blurred.
It really has been a while since I enjoyed some decent lip action - a kiss that gave me butterflies in my tummy, and made my right leg kick back with a pointy toe.
I can't help but wonder whether this has something to do with the fact that I have limited my lip-locking over the past few years exclusively to Chinese men...
Of course it would be uncouth of me to generalize; just because the Asian men that I've kissed came at me like a starving man at a giant ice cream cone, it doesn't mean that every single man in Asia would do the same.
However, it does pose the question as to whether different nationalities have their own preferred kissing styles.
I mean, just because I don't get off at being suffocated by a kiss, it doesn't mean to say that another girl somewhere else in the world might think it totally hot.
After the suffocating sandstorms in Beijing recently, it's been good to escape the organised chaos and take a trip to Singapore.
I've been to Singapore twice before, and coming from Beijing, it never ceases to amaze me just how clean, controlled and so much more practical so many things are in comparison to the city I have come to call "home".
The 3rd sign of the Chinese zodiac, the tiger, begins it's year long reign on the February 14th this year.
However, much alike our western new year, the most exciting day is actually the eve. But unlike in the west where we find the most exciting party and drink with friends, lovers and, more often than not, a bunch of strangers, the Chinese New Years Eve is spent with family.
In fact, the Chinese New Year 's Eve is the most important family day of the year. Needless to say that the seriousness of my and my boyfriends' relationship is left without doubt, now that I have been invited to share this day with his family.
The latest leg of my round-the-world trip took me, perhaps predictably being a Britsh backpacker, to Australia. I have spent the last few weeks travelling up the east coast and set out to discover why so many Brits choose to spend a year or more of their life in a country they've never visited, what attracts them to stay once they arrive and if there is anything we could learn from it to help the UK tourism industry.
British cities outside London have long lived in the capital's shadow, but I didn't appreciate quite how much until I took this trip.
When people from outside Europe hear an English accent they tend to assume you're from London and respond with a blank expression when you correct them. Cities including Birmingham are actively working to raise their profile and attract more visitors and good results have undoubtedly been achieved. But how can the UK unite to make sure the message is being heard internationally, particularly outside Europe, that there's life in the UK outside the M25?
The west coast of America is a popular route for road trippers and so two weeks ago we met some friends in Seattle and have been driving south heading to Los Angeles.
We made a rough plan before we left of where we'd like to stay and driving times but the only real requirement was reaching LA in time for our friends to catch their flight home. Along the way we've seen some beautiful coastline and visited some lovely places, but I don't think we were quite prepared for how much time we'd have to spend in the car.
We've just left Nashville where we spent a few days and I have to say I'd love to have stayed longer. Having moved from big city to big city in the first part of our trip it was a welcome change to go somewhere we could enjoy a slower pace of life and see a very different side to America.
I always thought the English accent was pretty recognisable, but apparently not. I've got a bit of a Brummie twang and while Charlotte H doesn't really have a regional accent she sounds distinctly English. So far on our travels people have guessed that we're from Cleveland, Canada, Australia, Scotland and Ireland. Maybe they don't get many English visitors in America.