rcintheprc

Blocked

March 30, 2012
Leave a Comment

Sabrina and I have been brainstorming topics for our next visit to the clinic.  Actually, we planned to go today, but it’s pouring rain, and the narrow cobblestone street is flooded.  We didn’t want to get our shoes soaked through, since they might take a good week to dry in this climate.  At least we’re stockpiling questions to ask for next time.

Anyways, I was figuring that organ donation would be a fascinating subject.  Attitudes toward donation depend a lot on culture and trust in the healthcare system and in doctors, so I decided to do a little bit of pre-research and then ask some doctors to comment on my findings.  I know there’s a huge shortage of donors in America, and I wondered how Chinese culture might make people feel more or less encouraged to donate.

I googled “China organ donation” and one of the first results was a wikipedia article.  I clicked it and immediately got the rather innocent looking “internet connection not available” message.  When you get blocked here, you don’t get a flashing red screen or an image of a brick wall, or anything dramatic like I’d imagined back in America.  It just looks like your Internet connection isn’t working.  When this happens, I do the Baidu test (Baidu is the Chinese google, and it’s a page that loads super fast), where I enter the address of Baidu and instantly find out whether I’ve been blocked or whether my Internet has indeed crapped out (not at all uncommon here in the boondocks).  Well, Baidu loaded in less than a second this morning, so I knew I was about to learn something unflattering.

I connected via VPN and learned all about organ donation in China.  It turns out that about 65% of organ donations in recent years have been coming from death row inmates.  In fact, just this week, China reported that it’s going to be phasing out prisoner organ donation over the next five years—because of health concerns, they say, not because any moral boundaries were crossed.  I enjoyed reading all about it this morning, but I’m not one to comment on these things.  Check out these articles, though.  They’re super interesting:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-17485103

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/china-prisoner-organ-donation_n_1375125.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organ_transplantation_in_the_People%27s_Republic_of_China

In conclusion, it would be quite interesting to simply ask the doctors to explain the organ donation system in China (accompanied with some comments on how the system is very problematic and imperfect in America) and just listen.  Of course, I’d need to study a bit of vocabulary first so that I’m prepared to understand whatever answer we’re given.


Posted in Uncategorized

Preparing for Pesach

March 29, 2012
2 Comments

Passover begins on April 6th.  That means I’ll be experimenting with recipes for matzah, planning a Chinese seder plate, and teaching my housemates to sing Chadgadya and Dayeinu with appropriate Passover spirit.  Favorite holiday.  🙂

There’s always the question of whether rice is kosher for passover.  Rabbinical interpretation, Sephardic versus Ashkenazi, etc, etc.  In China, the rice thing is a pretty big issue, and I think my answer to that question for this year will depend on how well my homemade matzah comes out.


Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty hours

March 28, 2012
Leave a Comment

The train ride from Shenzhen to Huangshan is a long one.  About 20 hours total.  We left Shenzhen around noon and arrived around 7:30 the next morning.

I like long train rides.  I like sleeping, I like zoning out, I like how trains don’t give me motion sickness.  Our tickets were “hard sleeper,” meaning you get a bed, but you don’t get personal space.  The beds are bunked three high, and until night time, it’s understood that people will all sit on the bottom bunk (the others are stacked too close to allow for sitting up).  I have a very old history of sleepwalking, therefore, I always request the bottom bunk.  It’s one of those things like my “penicillin allergy.”  A long time ago, something nebulous happened… it’s not really clear how much of a risk it is… but it’s just tradition now for me to say I sleep walk and can’t take penicillin without significant recent evidence.  Back to the story, I always get the bottom bunk, and the other fellows help me sit on it until dark so that I don’t have too many randos sitting on it.  This time, for reasons of ticket-availability, we were quite split-up.  the other four bunks above mine and Sabrina’s were filled with a family including two grandparents, a mom and her six-month-old baby, another woman, and a man—maybe the dad.  There was a lot of confusion about them wanting to switch tickets, but also wanting to all be in the same bunk-group.  Long story short, I refused to give up my bottom bunk (sorry old people… but I might sleep walk…), and I’m pretty sure none of them slept on the top bunks.  Some of them didn’t sleep at all and instead spent the night talking loudly and rearranging their luggage and sometimes even sitting on the foot of my bed.  I’m not that tall in America, but in China, I require the full cot length to stretch out all the way.

As you can see, this lady is sitting on the edge of my bed and the other lady is swinging her baby around.  This photo was taken around 10pm as I was trying and failing to sleep.  I didn’t mind that so much as the people who were talking and moving stuff around at 4:30 am!!!!  Regardless, I’d take a sleeper train over a bus any day.


Posted in Uncategorized

Sights of a big city

March 28, 2012
Leave a Comment

One of the beautiful parts of Hong Kong is the water.  This photo was taken on the Star Ferry which is basically simultaneously a tourist attraction and just a part of the subway system.

The natural water in Hong Kong is the most appealing, but this walk-through fountain in the park isn’t bad either.

On land, you’ve got big, nicely paved streets.  Everyone basically follows the traffic laws.  Pictured here is a double-decker trolly.  It’s a cheap and fun way to get around, but so crowded that, the minute you get on (through the entrance-only back door), you need to start fighting your way to the front, because it could take you a good five stops to navigate around all of the people crammed on there.

This next part is definitely a “big city” thing, but more than that, it’s a “not mainland” thing.  Above is a picture of the tents at occupy Hong Kong.  Protesting is not considered harmonious in the mainland.  But don’t be fooled by the large turnout of people.  At one time, Occupy drew a big crowd, but the location also happens to be where Filipino migrant workers (who mostly work as maids in Hong Kong) come to hang out together on their day off (Sunday).  This picture was taken on a Sunday.  So, there’s really two things going on here.  One is the tents and the other is the people.

In Hong Kong, there was recently an election of some sort, but the election didn’t allow the people to vote.  It was one of those things where people in the government choose on behalf of the citizens, and these citizens were pretty upset about it.  So, they organized a march in protest of this.  It was peaceful, but irreverent.  As you can see in this next picture, as they passed a particular street, they held up their middle fingers and shouted in Cantonese that the newly “elected” official should eat shit.

When the march was over, the police, who had calmly walked between the protesters and the traffic the whole time, rolled up the police tape and resumed their normal duties.

And now, here I am, back in the peaceful village of 万安.


Posted in Uncategorized

Tastes of a big city

March 27, 2012
1 Comment

There’s so much to see in Hong Kong.  And so much to eat.

I really like eating squid.  I think the first time I consciously ate it was in Beijing this summer.  It was good then, and it’s still good now.  I don’t have any pictures, but I ate some rather large tentacles during this trip.  I also ate fried squid beaks, which was good, though many of them had a little chunk of cartilage or something in the middle, which I could have done without.  I guess the squids can’t, though…

Before I went to Hong Kong, I googled “Hong Kong best” plus three words: cake, ice cream, and chocolate.  All three times, a shop called “Awfully Chocolate” came up in my results.  I didn’t think I’d have time to find it, but we ended up walking right past it one night, so I went in and got one of their specialties: cold poached chocolate.  Imagine chocolate mousse made with dark chocolate but with no air whipped into it.  Just rich, silky chocolate.  Kind of like pudding.  But more intense.

I also had lavender flavored milk tea.  It tasted a bit too much like perfume.  So far, rose is the only flower flavor of which I have a positive opinion when it comes to food and beverages (shout out to C. Lin and the rose flavored macarons at Ladurée).

 


Posted in Uncategorized

Chungking Mansions

March 27, 2012
1 Comment

During our last evening in Hong Kong, we ate Pakistani food at the Chungking Mansions.

The name Chungking Mansions inspires fear in the heart of many a Hong Kong citizen.  It certainly has its own atmosphere that is quite distinct from other parts of Hong Kong, but I wouldn’t say that atmosphere is one of danger.  Walking on the street in that area, it seems that every third person on the street is offering to sell watches, and Indian or Pakistani food.  Some offer to sell drugs, but those are few and far between.  Chungking is famous for being packed with foreigners, especially Indians, Pakistanis, and Africans.  Many of these people are foreign traders and businessmen and many are refugees and asylum seekers (those waiting, often in vain, to gain refugee status).  I had been to Chungking twice before, but was always just confused by it.  This time, a man from Ghana and another from Somalia took me and three coworkers on a tour of the building, and for the first time, I began to understand and become more interested in it.

Apparently, back in the day, this place was incredibly dangerous.  Now, it’s mostly only dangerous to the wallet—an inexperienced shopper will surely be ripped off.  There are over 400 security cameras all over the building, and police walk by constantly.  The first floor is mostly electronics and also some clothes and suitcases and handbags.  Then, there’s a level that sells nothing but wholesale phones (many of which are knock-offs), and then, there are the guest houses.  The guesthouses are relatively inexpensive hotels.  Other than the pre-existing foreign communities at Chungking, the cheap guesthouses are what continues to draw refugees to that location.  An inner layer of the building has a somewhat fancier mall that’s run by the building’s co-owners.

The owner of the restaurant was very warm to us.  And although I wouldn’t have wanted to try haggling for one of the spy cameras in the Iranian’s man display-case, he seemed like a nice enough guy.  As my African guides told me, the people here actually are actually only making a tiny margin of profit.  Plenty of business people come to Chungking only to fail, though most are at least successful to the degree that allows them to stay until they’re ready to leave on their own terms (and bring some money back to their families).

During dinner, I got to meet and pose questions to the author of the book Ghetto at the Center of the World.  He’s a really smart and direct kind of person.  I think this book is probably amazing, and it’s definitely going on my to-read list for the summer.


Posted in Uncategorized

Meditation

March 25, 2012
3 Comments

Went back to the Zen temple that I spent two hours meditating and chanting at this summer.  This time, I chanted for about half an hour and then listened to a very basic explanation of zen and meditation.  Here’s my even briefer explanation of zen:

In zen, you strive to eliminate unnecessary thought.  If you can stop your unnecessary thinking, then when you do think, your thought will be clear.  In that way, you will be able to respond appropriately to the present situation.

Here’s the thing:  I really enjoy my unnecessary thought.  I want more clarity, but I don’t know if I’m ready to get it at the price of giving up daydreaming.  I think that means I’m not ready to go zen.


Posted in Uncategorized

Strong words

March 25, 2012
Leave a Comment

I sat in on a college class in Hong Kong.  I was paired with a student to talk about political views (mostly to let him practice talking about his views in English).  He very quickly got to the one and only point that he seemed to feel strongly about: “I hate China.”

I asked him what he meant by “China.”  People, government, culture?  He thought for a while, and basically ended up saying all the above.  This is how a lot of people here feel.  It’s hard to say whether it’s the majority view, or just the view of the majority of people who like to be vocal about things.

Basically, people in Hong Kong speak out really freely about their negative feelings about the mainland, which they simply refer to as “China.”  This particular student was upset about not getting representation in the Chinese government, but having to submit to that government’s control.  He was upset about the actions and attitude of mainlanders—everything from the way some people illegally cross the border to give birth so that their children can be guaranteed Hong Kong benefits, to the way they like to boast about how Hong Kong depends on them, to the way they spit on the ground.

He said that he had British citizenship, and he wasn’t going to ever give that up.  “In 2047, when the 1 country, 2 systems program ends, I need a way to escape,” he said.


Posted in Uncategorized

Non-mainland conveniences

March 23, 2012
1 Comment

I’m in Hong Kong for a few days.  That means I don’t even need to bother with VPN to access my blog.  Life is easy.


Posted in Uncategorized

Recovery

March 20, 2012
2 Comments

For the past 50+ hours, I had either food poisoning or gastroenteritis.  I’m pleased to say that I am now all better, though still a little weak from not being able to eat much for so long.  It’s good to be back to normal life.  🙂


Posted in Uncategorized
Next Page »