Archive for July, 2007

Out With the Old…

27 July 07

Broke Down Linyi

Part of our neighborhood has been demolished, most likely to make way for high-rise apartment buildings.

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Something to Make You Laugh

26 July 07

If you can access YouTube, here is a great video that made me laugh out loud this morning.

I found this on FP Passport. It is a prison in the Philippines that  has choreographed yard exercises to mimic popular music videos and musical routines. The prisoner portraying Michael’s date is a hysterical touch.

What I’m…

26 July 07

Reading:

  • Richard Preston’s The Demon in the FreezerAmazon Link
    • Smallpox and anthrax, as interpreted by the author who brought us the Ebola blood-fest that was The Hot Zone. If you are a fan of infectious disease reading (and who isn’t?) this is a great choice. Preston knows how to turn CDC and USAMRID research scientists into Indiana Jones. I’ve been interested in infectious disease literature (as I like to call it) since I borrowed my sister’s copy of The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett ten years ago.
  • Loads and loads of literature on the Digital Divide.
    • I’m writing a paper on the topic for one of my Master’s classes. What is the Digital Divide? I’ll put it this way – more Americans than ever have high-speed access to the Internet. People pay bills online, contact government officials, email friends and family, read the newspaper. Now, think about the people who can’t afford a computer or the Internet connection fees. This group is being marginalized. The Digital Divide is the chasm between those who have access – and a supportive social network relating to the use of these technologies – and those who do not. Internationally, the Digital Divide is more complicated, but just as important.

Watching:

  • Memphis Belle and Flyboys with my aviation English students. These are great movies with exciting aerial maneuvers, dogfight scenes, themes of love, friendship, bravery, honor, loyalty and brotherhood.
  • Battlestar Galactica with the DH.

Listening to:

  • The sound of rain, every night for what seems like weeks.
    • Aren’t we too far north to be experiencing monsoons? Much of China has been experiencing heavy rains and flooding lately.
    • I love the word “monsoon.” It comes from Portuguese – monção and from Arabic – mawsim, which means “season.” It brings to mind words and images like tropical, steam, hot, rain…flooding, devastation, disease, death. It is a cycle and for the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, a way of life.

I Love Censorship

25 July 07

The Great Firewall of China is such a strange thing. For almost a year I have had no direct access to this blog, then one day – *ta da* – I can access it no problem. For how long, I have no idea. But by no means am I free of censorship. For several months now I have been unable to use Flickr, the site where I upload and store all of my photos. Flickr is definitely being blocked by the Great Firewall. I can still access it when I use my anti-censorship software, but I am beginning to wonder what the point is.

It is really annoying to have to use proxy servers and special software just to access these sites, and I am not really all that hip on Yahoo anyway. (Yahoo is the parent company of Flickr and has cooperated with Chinese authorities to hand over information on emails that eventually led to the imprisonment of Shi Tao, for “spreading state secrets” about the Tienanmen Square “incident.”) So, is there an alternative? Does anyone know of a photo storage site that is equivalent to Flickr but available in Mainland China? I have a paid account at Flickr and will continue to use it until it expires, then I will move somewhere else.

In one of my Library School classes we have been discussing censorship and libraries (the American Library Association is vehemently opposed to it, including Internet filtering software) and I get the idea that most of my classmates have no idea what censorship really is. They have never really had experience with it – but watch out America! I can sense more and more threats to intellectual freedom in America everyday. (Including the Patriot Act, which is not about censorship, but, in the library, severely compromises patron’s rights to privacy and intellectual freedom.) I shared my experiences with my classmates – having entire passages excised or blacked out of my high school history textbooks, not being able to access web pages, having to keep your mouth shut to avoid deportation…

Having seen the effects of censorship, I say NO! Because every time we censor, we take one step closer to a totalitarian society. (You know, like Hitler, Mussolini, Franco…) I live in that type of society now, by choice, and I can leave whenever I want. Those around me can’t. They have to bribe local officials to even apply for a passport. You can see the effects of this everyday – lack of initiative, stifled creativity, no critical thinking skills. Is that what we want in America? Information is power – something leaders understand all too well. They fear the people becoming informed and thinking for themselves. Instead, they are fed propaganda and made to learn by rote.

The key to reversing this disease is information and intellectual freedom. Allow the people to form their own opinions, choose their own course and freely discuss issues. Protect intellectual freedom in America, it is one of our greatest achievements!

I am extremely proud that I have joined a profession that stands so passionately for intellectual freedom. Librarians are the first to oppose censorship, in the form of book banning, Internet filtering and lack of access to information, the first to resist the Patriot Act and its threats to our freedom (repeal it!!), the first to support open access to information for all people.

Having lived in societies where censorship is the norm and openly practiced, I think the best thing I can do is to warn others about what I have experienced and how, if we are not careful, it could happen to us, even in the USA.

**Edited post wording regarding the Patriot Act, which, indeed, does not discuss the issue of censorship or provide for censorship, although it most certainly will cause some people to self-censor and does restrict our intellectual freedoms, as noted succinctly by the American Library Association:

The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry…ALA considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.”from ALA’s Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act.

Where is the Pied Piper When We Need Him?

18 July 07

Get ready to squirm!

In the South China province of Hunan, field mice are taking over. They are escaping the flooding of Dongting Lake, looking for food and shelter. All I can say is, ewwww. Over at Global Voices, Chinese bloggers are discussing the situation, and wondering what will become of the mice. Will they end up on Cantonese dinner plates? Again, ewww.

Heavy rains have brought flooding to much of South China. China Daily has a slide show of the local residents fleeing the rising waters.

Go Ride a Bike!

17 July 07

I have cycled through the busy streets of downtown Toronto, the sleepy airport of Shijiazhuang, China, and the mayhem of Linyi, China. I am all for bike culture. Want to reduce your carbon emissions and fuel bills? Get a bike!

Paris has introduced a pilot bike rental program to decrease traffic congestion in the city center. This is the perfect situation for bike use. Ever been to the Netherlands? There are bicycles and accessible, safe bike paths everywhere. (But if you have to cross one as a pedestrian, you’d better look both ways!) My sister-in-law lived outside of Amsterdam for years. Everyday, she rode her bicycle from her house to the light rail train station. There, she parked it in a bicycle storage room, hopped on the non-polluting train, and rode for 15 minutes into the city of Utrecht. At every train station in the Netherlands, you will see huge warehouses full of stored bicycles. Commuters take them from home to the station and back home again at the end of the day.

Most cities in the US were not designed for bicycle use, but that does not mean it is not possible for them to change! Urge your community to install bike paths and biking trails. And if you can’t use a bike for your commute, consider the fun and health benefits of recreational biking! After two years in China, I long for the day that I can leisurely ride a bicycle, enjoying the fresh, clean air. I do ride a bicycle here, but with all the potholes, traffic and pedestrians, it is far from leisurely! Sadly, the home of the largest bicycle population in the world is fast becoming a car culture. The flying pigeons are disappearing only to be replaced by Audis, Suzukis, Great Walls and Volkswagens.

Other Expat Tales

16 July 07

I love reading blogs, especially expat blogs. I like to read blogs with thoughtful, smart commentary on political doings and over-arching themes, but honestly, the ones I like best are observational blogs – those that give insights into the daily life of the blogger. What I want to know is, what is it really like where you are?

Recently I had to take a break from blog reading. It is really time consuming, and I needed to concentrate on my studies. But, I got suckered into blog browsing after I joined expat-blog, a forum for… expat bloggers.  China Grunge is one that I am very interested in. The posts were originally written in diaries between 1993 and 1994, when the blogger was living and working in China. He has transcribed them onto the net and they make for great comparisons with life now.

The blog actually gave me a good idea. I’d like to share some of my stories from previous travels and expat postings, long before I ever knew what blogging was. I don’t have access to the hundreds of photos I’ve taken  – they are all in boxes at my Parent’s house, so I guess words will just have to do. And I’ll be more true to my tag line, “Global Gal in China and Other Expat Tales.” So in the future, you might see some memories from Kuwait, Costa Rica, Spain, or Canada (my former homes) and many more places my travels have taken me.

Where I Want to Go

16 July 07

I want to visit Wulingyuan National Park, in Southeastern China’s Hunan Province. Why? Take a look at this audio slide show and article from NY Times and you’ll understand. Sometimes I forget there is more to China than enormous cities!

**And good news! Looks like wordpress is no longer being blocked within China, at least for now!**

China, China, China…

14 July 07

I just don’t know what to think of you! I like you a lot, most of the time. You make me laugh. You make me ponder. You make me curious. You make me question many things about myself and others. You also make me question you and your people. Sometimes I can’t stand you. You infuriate me. You frustrate me. You sicken me a little, too. (I hope not literally!) I read a lot about you, because I want to understand you, despite my gut feeling that I never will.

Two things have been on my mind lately:

When I asked my students, “What is the one thing you would do to make the world a better place?” They all responded that they would do something to improve the environment. Everyone in China recognizes the extreme degradation of the rivers, lakes, air and land here. Will there be any changes made before it is too late? The government has been fudging numbers on the affects of the mass pollution. The younger generations are starting to notice and they are ready for some action. China Dialogue looks like a good place to start, so no more rivers have to look like this.

China has also been on the world news radars recently due to the tainted and poisonous goods they have been exporting everywhere. I’m just as concerned about it as you, especially since a high percentage of the goods still in China are probably highly contaminated, too. Yumm. But I have one thought – do you shop at Walmart? Are you always looking for the lowest price? If everyone keeps demanding lower and lower prices, quality is going to get lower and lower, too. Yes, many businesses in China are corrupt. Yes, many people here will do whatever it takes to get more money. I suggest you be wise in your purchases and keep that in mind. However, don’t forget that it is not just China exporting questionable stuff – according to the New York Times, India, Mexico and Dominican Republic have a pretty nasty record, too. China needs a “progressive era.” In the meantime, buy local! Think about your purchases!

China has come pretty damn far in a short amount of time. They have a long way to go. I am not ready to give up on this place, even though I love it one day and hate it the next.

Good Day

11 July 07

I will admit that I am probably not the best ESL teacher ever. I’m hardly qualified, having only taken a short course in English teaching. Half the time I am not really sure what I am doing, I just do it. My students, thank goodness, already have a decent grasp over English grammar. What they need is to use it. Speaking is not something that is emphasized in the classroom.

So for the last month I have switched gears and changed from aviation English to oral English. Sometimes it is painful trying to think of things to do, other times it is fairly easy. Today I struck gold. I came up with this idea to write wacky, thought-provoking questions on cards and play a game with the students where each one drew a card, thought about it quickly and answered, using more than one word. I used questions like “If you could have any superhero power, what would you choose?” and “If you didn’t need to sleep, what would you do with the extra hours?”

I have 4 students in one class and 6 in the other. We all sat around a big desk and talked non-stop about the questions and other side stories that came up spontaneously. It was fun. Everyone talked. Everyone laughed.

I love days like this!