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  • This is a guest post on what I thought to be a quite relevant topic, at the intersection of my interests, health and international development. 

    Global health is important in today’s world. This is because the health of a nation will affect its social, political and economic state and productivity. Partly because of this, the health care industry is now the world’s largest industry. Both the governmental and private sectors have come together to provide health care services to people even on a global level. However, even though healthcare services have improved and ways have come up to deal with most medical issues, there remains certain health concerns that are facing the world. Some of them are emergent while others have existed for a long time.

    Lack of Access to Healthcare Systems. 

    Even though the health care industry is the largest in the world, some people still lack access to medical facilities and health care services. Lack of access to health care systems is caused by;

    - Lack of insurance coverage. An estimated 1 billion people lack health insurance in the world. This means that sometimes, medical cover becomes too expensive for individuals. Some do not have insurance coverage because they cannot afford it, and others because they do not understand its benefits. Take the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for example, owners of the card can receive state health care at a reduced cost and sometimes for free. EHIC application and renewal can also be done conveniently on-line.

    - Lack of availability. Even though this varies from country to country, this is especially common in developing countries. These countries have people who live under $1 a day and constructing and managing health facilities or employing medical workers is prohibitively expensive.

    - High cost of medical services. Health care keeps rising, especially in privately owned healthcare facilities.

    Non Communicable Diseases. 

    The most common are cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancers and chronic lung diseases. These have been made common by the changing lifestyles in today’s world.

    • They kill more people globally than infectious diseases.
    • They represent nearly two thirds of the world’s deaths annually, most in low and middle income countries.
    • Can be avoided by not using tobacco, sticking to healthy diets, exercising and not drinking too much alcohol.

    HIV/AIDS.

    HIV/AIDS is a global pandemic and has claimed more than 36 million people.

    • Sub-Saharan area is the most affected. Up to 60% of people living with HIV/AIDS live in this area.
    • Even though health care systems come up with ways to fight HIV/AIDS, new infections still occur annually. Factors like changing lifestyles e.g. early introduction to sex and homosexuality are some of the factors that have contributed to this.

    Infectious Diseases. 

    Infectious diseases such as malaria, TB, Meningitis and Measles are also some of the health concerns the world is facing today. These diseases if not prevented or treated early lead to death of many adults and children. Even though countless efforts have been put into fighting these infectious diseases, some of the efforts have been frustrated by re-emergence.

    • Infectious diseases are especially a concern because some have a high infection rate.
    • With world globalization through trade, tourism, spread can become worldwide and affect the global population.
    • Some infectious diseases have become antibiotic resistance and constant research has to be done to keep up with them.

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • Day 4, February 20

    Days 4 and 5 were both pretty busy with specific Olympics events.  Before I headed up to Vancouver, Mariska and I had bought Ice Dance (training) tickets for Saturday, February 20th, starting at 7am!  Although 7am didn’t happen, Jaime and I did make it there by about 9:30am and with 3.5 hours of women’s figure skating (training) and ice dance, I think we saw a fair bit and had a good fill of ice skating.   It was absolutely beautiful, particularly the couples, some with just incredible lifts and unbelievable poses.  The Canadian couple had a good performance, though I wouldn’t have picked them to win gold (which they did in the end).  Jaime and I enjoyed commenting on the outfits, synchronization, themes, and overall match to the music.  What were the Germans thinking in their costumes? Russia & US, boring! China, ugly! Hungary, cool 80s theme! The folk dance couples were cute too.

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    Late afternoon Eddie and I decided to press our luck and head down to Canada Hockey Place to try to get tickets to the Latvia-Slovakia hockey game for less than $80.  We succeeded!  Had great seats for $75.  We saw poor Latvia take a whoopin, but it was exciting to be in the crowd full of energy, cheers, and get great shots of the athletes and attend what would be my last Olympic event for this time around.

    Day 5, February 21

    My last day, and with a 5pm departure time, I wanted to see some of the National houses.  The first we went to was Korea, which was meant to be a showcase of Korean heritage, high tech, and winter sports as Korea bids for the 2018 Winter Games (along with Munich, Germany and France).  It was somewhat disappointing and didn’t have nearly the exhibits I expected, or even a very good showcase of the culture or bid location.

    Next we went to the House which will be hosting the 2014 Olympics: Sochi.Ru or more familiarly, Russia. Where is Sochi? With the help of a friend, we avoided the 2 hour line and got in with Media passes.  That was pretty awesome.  The pictures of Sochi look stunning, and there was a good display of Russian culture, both positive and negative.  Watch my video on flickr to see a Russian culture music troupe.  That was the positive.  The negative was the coldness and the attitudes of the Russian hosts.  They were very unfriendly, only mildly helpful, and seemed to want to be rid of us as soon as possible.  And we were wearing media passes!  One would think they’d want to encourage people to come to the 2014 Games and thereby give a good impression of Russian hospitality, it didn’t work out that way.  Particularly as ‘media people’ we have the power to influence others’ thoughts and perceptions, therefore they should want to influence us positively–but just disappointing.

    Vancouver did a superior job at hospitality, in terms of its people, efficiency of public transportation, positive energy, parties etc.  Even my mom’s friend commented, “Almost everyone I spoke with is going to go to the next olympics in Russia due to the fun and excitement they had in Vancouver.”  My response, did any of them actually go to the Russia House (Sochi.ru)?  If so, I think they may have a different perspective of what the Russian Olympics will be like.

    Russia will have a big PR campaign ahead of it, but each host city always faces huge challenges and still manages to pull off a great, world-class event.  Regardless where the Olympics are held, in my 2 experiences thus far  (Beijing), they are fantastic!   I hoping my next Olympics will be Rio de Janeiro in 2016!!

    See Vancouver Day 1, Day 2-3, or all of my Vancouver Olympics pics on Flickr.

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • The Year in Review: 2009

    January started out with a New Year’s Day flight from Phoenix to San Francisco, which included watching the USC Rose Bowl game as soon as I got off the plane in San Fran.  Then more game watching downtown with my awesome cousin Kelly and her friends.  The next day I grabbed my passport from Alec who I hadn’t seen since 2006, many thanks to him for getting my Indian visa.  That same day I caught my 1st transpacific flight of the year and headed back to Shanghai.

    Back to work in Shanghai for a week, ssl22687r then birthday celebrations galore start.  I’m not sure how its possible but I managed to have 3 celebrations during the week of my 25th bday: dinner on the 13th with a few girlfriends, then co-party night with Sian, Sherry, and Yi, and finally birthday brunch.  Thanks for organizing that brunch, and every other one, Sherry!  This is was also the first time in 2.5 years in China that I really got on a work permit.

    Late January, at the start of Chinese New Year, Sian and I headed off to India for a whirlwind 10-day trip around Delhi, Varanasi, Agra, and Jaipur.  India is an immensely fascinating country.

    From February, as everyone got back to Shanghai from CNY, we started having more tweetups, including Twestival, where I met a lot of the people I’d only ‘met’ online, including @IrisJumbe and @PDKay.  At the SXSW Shanghai party at M1NT in late February I got to meet a lot more of my twitter friends, including those who don’t live in China and make better connections with them.  To round out February, I changed the theme on my blog to center around life-streaming, (which I’m now coming to hate…)

    In March we had our first !talk! Chatfest and finally launched the open beta of the teaching platform.  Despite this, the !talk! situation was in somewhat of a flux, so after awhile I decided to work less hours there and spend more time on my multitude of other activities.  Since November of the previous year I was already teaching English a few nights per week.

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    With the start of spring, I still didn’t feel that my health had completely recovered from all the illnesses of the winter, so I decided I needed to take drastic actions (haha). For Qing Ming festival, I booked myself a week at a cleanse resort in Thailand.  It was a much needed flushing out of the system that kept me much healthier in the ensuing 8 months, especially compared to the previous 8.  Besides meeting some like-minded people during the detox, I also met some other awesome people at the #BangkokTweetup, some of whom have become really helpful to me recently.  This spring, I also got to connect with fellow Shanghai transplant Arizonan @Mark_E_Evans and another China-interested tweeter @lparsons, whose dream is to move to China–good luck to him.

    Jane, me, Al and pagodas

    Jane, me, Al and a pagoda

    By late April / early May, when the Dragon Boat festival rolled around, Jai, Allison and I headed to Seoul for a 4-day weekend.  They say Seoul is a city with no soul, but I loved it and think that’s in large part due to our excellent tour guide, my long time friend, Irene.  Check out the DMZ tour, really interesting, including a step into North Korea.  Literally the day after I got back from Korea, I did my first set of factories tours in 2009It’s amazing all the crap that gets produced in China!

    In Late May, I spent a weekend in Hangzhou with Al & Jane, when they generously took me around to all their favorite sites and restaurants.  Tea plantations, China’s Grand Canal, Pagodas, and spicy wings, the spiciest food imaginable.  I was crying, literally.

    As June rolled around I was just starting planning tech events for the Shanghai community and welcoming 妹妹 (little sister) for her summer in Shanghai.  Eliana arrived on June 3 to spend 5 weeks with me and exactly the day after she arrived, we set off to see the ‘real’ China.  The real manufacturing China, that is.  This was my second factory tripping of 2009.  It’s amazing all the crap that’s produced in China!

    Around mid-June the Geeks on a Plane tour rolled through town to attend Shanghai Barcamp on June 14, and then celebrated the end of the trip with the Geeks and Glamour afterparty at M1NT.  It was awesome to meet entrepreneurs, VCs, and other twitter friends from the States including @DanMartell.

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    With Eliana in Pingyao

    Throughout June and early July, Eliana and I went revisiting or exploring new parts of Shanghai.  And of course, we went to Beijing and saw the not-to-be-missed, Great Wall of China, Tiananmen, Forbidden City, and she went swimming in the Olympic Watercube.   I also got to see to see Ian, Leslie, Jeremy, and Jenny, and join yet another Tweetup to meet twitter friends in Beijing.  To check another place off my list, we took the train to the old walled city of Pingyao. At nearly the end of the trip, on the bus ride to the airport, my cosmetics case got stolen from my backpack :( A very sad day.  In this case, Eliana was the rock–thank you girl, I love you!

    Just around the 3 year anniversary of my life in China, the internet went on lockdown in China and ever since then Twitter, Facebook, Twitpic, and since even earlier Youtube have been inaccessible, seriously hindering multimedia communication with the outside world.  Mid-July Eliana went home and I took my 2nd transpacific flight, this time to Vancouver.

    On the bus from Vancouver to Seattle there was free wifi! And unrestricted access to twitter, facebook, youtube, which was like heaven until my laptop battery died and I realized my power cord didn’t work in N America… A busy 3 days in Seattle with my Dad and friends, Burt and Dawn: food festival, hiking Mt. Rainier, and the 4am launch of !talk! Marketplace for companies, but the weather was gorgeous, the food good and fresh, and the air clean and refreshing.

    Next it was time to fly up to Alaska for my grandparents 60th Anniversary.  We went ATV-ing near Denali National Park, watched the sunset at 11pm, pet huskies, took the Denail Express train to Whittier, cruised on the Diamond Princess, went to Glacier Bay National Park, sea-kayaked in Ketchikan, went Geocaching, and had a good week of family time.

    At Butchart Gardens, Victoria

    At Butchart Gardens, Victoria

    For the first week in August, I reconnected with friends from China now living in Victoria and Vancouver, including Heike, Brook, Scales, KK, and Danielle, and made other new friends through them, include Mariska.  The Pacific Northwest from Seattle, to Vancouver and the Island, all the way up to Alaska has truly spectacular natural beauty, clear blue skies, snow covered peaks, stunningly colored flowers, green trees and grass, fresh healthy foods, all enough to satisfy me with what often seems lacking in the grimy urban grey of Shanghai.  Catching up with friends from China who are no longer living there really helped me to get perspective on life there and what is most important.  Getting on my 3rd and last transpacific flight of the year to head back to Shanghai, I was feeling very refreshed and refocused with resolutions for my life in China.

    Back in Shanghai, I jumped head first back into activities related to tech, work, events, and, from all my discussions with friends who formerly lived in China, recommitted myself to learning Chinese.  I found a private tutor to work with 2 times per week, started reading Chinese magazines and newspapers, listening to ChinesePod again, decided to more actively seek out opportunities to practice Chinese including looking for new Chinese friends, and eventually more Chinese shows and movies.  I am listening to countless podcasts on entrepreneurship, as well as lectures on world history and geopolitics to start brushing up my knowledge for the foreign service exam.

    With my September trip to Hong Kong to see Coni, Brenda, Amjad, Daniel, Stanley, etc, and Stephanie (who I hadn’t seen in 5 years, since USC), I finally gave into pressure and got an iPhone.  Podcasts, apps, Chinese dictionary with handwriting, plus GPRS allowing me to be chatting to someone through Skype while walking down Nanjing Road, I can’t believe I waited so long.  iPhone convert, admitted.

    USC friends in Shanghai

    USC friends in Shanghai

    By the time October holiday rolled around, my work permit was expiring, and still reeling from all the traveling I’d already done this year, with additional complications, I was compelled to spend China’s 60th Anniversary National Day in Shanghai, much to my chagrin.  (Randomly, I just realized the CCP was founded the same year my grandparents got married).  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as I got to reconnect with another friend who used to live in Shanghai and was back for a visit: Matthias.  October and November were spent with friends who were in town visiting, including a week with that friend from Germany, Ian down from Beijing and his friend from USC, then in November Sean came back for a visit and the HSBC Golf Tournament, followed by Luke from Toronto (I met but hadn’t seen since 2006), who came to visit family and attend his sister’s wedding

    In late October, USC opened their first office in Mainland China.  Also in late-October, I went to yet another manufacturing town, this one specializing in textiles for the Keqiao Tradeshow and also saw the canal town of Shaoxing.  A month later, Bryan, Vivianne, and I were off for a day trip to the Commodity City: YiwuIt’s amazing all the crap that’s produced in China! Since getting back to SH in August, my Chinese slowly showed signs of improvement after months of stagnation, I signed up to an internet dating site (thinking about it now, am I that desperate?), and I continued to spread myself over many different involvements.

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    With Mom at the Chocolate Hills, Bohol

    For Thanksgiving, I met mom in the Philippines for my last international trip of 2009, bringing the total to 50 countries in 25 years.  Ten days in the Philippines renewed my health (after 2 brutal days of facing the Chinese hospital system just before the trip) and helped me to realize I was stretching myself in too many different directions.  This feeling was further brought home by another conversation in early December that’s been forcing me to take stock of where I am, where I’m going, recognize my passions, and figure out what I want out of life.  As 2009 draws to a close and I face yet another round of visa applications, I’m reading Think and Grow Rich (again) and Getting Things Done, and most importantly I’m reflecting on those issues and what they mean for me in 2010.  The most influential and memorable book I finished in ’09 was The Go Giver–great book, go read it, especially if you do business or work in social!

    Happy New Year!

    Writing this made me realize there were a lot of photos from this year, I hadn’t yet put on Flickr, so if you didn’t click on any of the links above, go look at my photostream now, its been updated: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tofflerann/

    Don’t forget, 2010 is the Shanghai Expo and among other reasons, a great opportunity to come visit me in Shanghai! I’d love to host you if you’re coming this way.

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • Pingyao Ancient Town

    July 6th, 2009

    Pingyao 平遥, located in Shanxi 山西 Province (not Shaanxi 陕西, where Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors are), has been on my list of ‘must-see’ places in China ever since the list began. (Haerbin Ice Festival & Huangshan-Yellow Mountain are still on it).  So with a ready traveling companion and I already making the trip to Beijing, I decided to add in a stop over in Pingyao.

    Pingyao is one of China’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was the first banking center of China, with its heyday in the 19th Century.  The town quickly fell into poverty and therefore escaped modernization and development, which helped to preserve the city’s original structures.  Pingyao boasts its the only city with the original city wall still intact, and the only remaining original example of traditional Han Chinese architecture from the 18 and 19th Centuries.  (Compare Lijiang, which was built by Naxi Minority of China, and has been largely reconstructed–and expanded.)  While I won’t pretend to believe that Pingyao is all the original or that none has been ‘restored’, Pingyao still maintains its charm.  While we were there it was quiet, peaceful, picturesque, and often times we could be walking all alone down an ancient alleyway–something unheard of in China’s metropolises.

    We took the 1163 overnight train from Beijing directly to Pingyao and we had pickup service waiting for us, provided by our hostel, Pingyao Zhengjia Int’l Youth Hostel (an HI Hostel, but no card required).  This hostel was excellent: very friendly staff (but almost no English spoken), set in a traditional courtyard house, exceptionally clean, social atmosphere, great value, and all around nice place to stay–it was rated 2nd Best Hostel in Asia on Hostelworld.com.

    The nearest airport is in Taiyuan, provincial capital of Shanxi, which is 2-hour bus ride away.  To return to Shanghai, we took the bus to Taiyuan, then took a taxi to the airport.  If you arrive at the Taiyuan Jinan Bus station, the bus to the airport stops directly across the road.  If you go by taxi, put on the meter, then add 10kuai to the final fare, it should be about 30RMB.  Be careful, be careful, be careful on the bus.  There are some buses operating illegally around that region, and there are a gang of thieves who work the buses (and seem to have an agreement with the operators to turn a blind eye).  I was a victim of this.  This is now twice in <9 months I’ve had stuff stolen on a bus in China.  Take good care of your stuff no matter how large, small, or worthless–you’ll miss it when its gone, and it will be, if you don’t watch out.

    Then entrance ticket to Pingyao Ancient Town is 120RMB and includes entrance to more than 19 different attractions, including walking on top of the city wall.  After about the first handful or so, most the attractions begin to look very similar.  Except for the wall, the temples, and the church, most of the attractions are courtyard compounds used for different purposes: long front wall, 1 gate, opens into small entryway followed by a courtyard with rooms on each side and a large room at the back, with another courtyard behind that and on each side. This pattern then repeats for the depth of the property and at each place.  It was a good method to prevent attackers and to maintain the inner sanctum of the business or family household.  Both businesses and residential compounds had this layout.

    Eliana & I in Pingyao

    Perhaps the highlight for me was chatting with an elderly couple who had been married for 45 years and who were eager to chat and show us their courtyard house.  They were very proud of the fact that they had so many children who were now office workers in the modern city and had kids of their own–they had a grandson that was Eliana’s age.  They also insisted on showing us that they had modernized their house to have indoor plumbing, including a washing machine!

    In the day and a half Eliana and I were in Pingyao, we saw a number of the Ancient Town attractions:

    Residence of Lei Lutai
    Yingxun Gate (End of South Street to climb the wall)
    Qinhan Gate (End of East Street to get off the wall)
    1st Armed Escort Ageny in North China
    China Chamber of Commerce Museum
    Ri Sheng Chang
    Then lunch at DeJuYuan Hotel/Restaurant
    Ancient Government Building
    Fengyi Gate (West Street Gate)
    Ancient City Building (at night)
    Chenghuang Miao (Daoist Temple)
    Bai Chuang Tong
    Yong Long Hao Lacquerware Shop
    and others…

    Full collection of pictures from the Pingyao & Beijing trip on Flickr

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • Before I went to India I had heard about internet-connected computers being installed in outside walls in some of India’s major slums.  Known at the “hole in the wall experiment,” the project was initially a test to see if children’s aptitude for learning combined with computers could help illiterate children learn to read.  The test has met with resounding results in educating children in computer skills, the internet, and even English.

    For more information read these articles or interviews with the intiator at these sources: BBC, BusinessWeek, Ode.

    The reason I mention this, besides that I think its really interesting and amazing, is because I never actually expected to see one of these computers while on ‘the tourist trail’ in northern India.  But in our first day in Delhi, we did see a handful of children working on two computers just outside the Jama Masjid (central mosque).  While the children didn’t speak much English, they were willing to let me take their photo.  A guy who seemed to be monitoring their activities, said, ‘no this is not that project which you think it is.  This is sponsored by the Islam community to educate the children in the Qur’an. ‘ Well, I’m not sure the truth behind that, but I just thought it was totally cool too see these computers installed and children using them, learning something.  Here is the picture I took of the kids and the computer in the wall.

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • Videos from India

    February 7th, 2009

    The first video was shot in Varanasi, a Hindu Holy city situated along the Ganges in UP province.  It was taken during the 7pm Arti festival which celebrates the life-giving river.  You can see the production that’s put on and the crowd it attracts.

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    The second video was shot (somewhat illegally) inside the grounds of the Taj Mahal overlooking the Varuna River.  You can see how the Taj just glows in the early morning light.

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    The third and fourth videos are from a dance performance put on by the Indian NGO called Vatsalya, which helps get kids off the street and educates them, shows them love, and teaches them life skills.  The performance was part of a fundraiser event that included dinner to raise money for the NGO.

    The children are wearing traditional Indian/Rajasthani clothes and dancing to popular Bollywood songs.  Themes of men and women and romance are wide-spread in Indian pop-culture, and are being played to in these videos.

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • Time Zones

    October 21st, 2008

    While I think most people know China is all on one timezone.  But a recent post on Wired mentioning both my home state (AZ) and my current country (China), necessitated a reposting. So here goes comparing Arizona’s and China’s timezone craziness.

    Arizona is confused about daylight-saving
    The state of Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time. But it is the law in the Navajo Nation, located in Arizona’s northeastern corner. The Hopi Nation—situated inside the Navajo Nation—follows the rest of the state and disregards DST. So if you drive the length of Route 264 during the summer, you might have to reset your watch three times.

    [...]

    All of China is on Beijing time
    China spanned five time zones until 1949, when the entire country was synchronized to the same hour. So when dawn breaks in Beijing at 6:43 am, it’s also 6:43 am more than 2,000 miles west in Kashi, where the sun won’t rise for another two hours and 45 minutes.

    Wired – 3 Smart Things About Time Zones

    Popularity: unranked [?]

  • Reflections on the Olympics

    September 14th, 2008

    Despite my doubts whether Beijing would pull off a successful Olympics and the controversy over free press, human rights, the Opening Ceremony, and other issues, in my opinion, China hosted an amazing Olympics. The skies were blue, there were large tracks of greenery, the Olympic Green was very attractive, traffic was not a problem, the volunteers were helpful and spoke English, security was present (most of the time, until you hear my friend’s story) but not imposing, the city was clean (almost sterile), the new subway is sleek and modern, and people were friendly and helpful. Everything was very well done, with a few exceptions. Visitors who didn’t speak Chinese were still at a loss when trying to communicate with taxi drivers and average folk. The buses shuttling spectators between venues were overcrowded and no one knew how else to get between venues. But my biggest complaint is the re-sale ticket market. There were a few scalped tickets available but nothing to justify the many half (or more) empty events. Where were all the other tickets? Where were the tickets to the Water Cube?  Nonetheless, those who know Beijing, I believe, were all similarly impressed with how well Beijing pulled off the Olympics.

    Unfortunately, those changes were not lasting.  Despite the fact that the Paralympics are currently going on, the skies have already greyed over, the pollution has returned, and the streets are jammed again.  Some of the changes will remain, though: the renovated airport (now one of the largest in the world), the modern, extensive subway lines, the unique venues of the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest, and Beijingers pride in having hosted such an unrivaled Olympic games.

    If you’re curious for more insight into China and reading the blogs of China-based expats isn’t enough for you, also check out NBC’s lessons in Chinese Culture 101.  I can’t say I wholly agree with the portrayal, as many are far from complete and give only positive snippets of Chinese culture, but what makes them interesting is NBC’s take on Chinese culture.

    I expect that with the upcoming election, China’s continued phenomenal growth, the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the 2010 Guangzhou Pan Asia games, and everything else, we’ll continue to hear a lot about and from China.

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • The Beijing 2008 Olympics will start in 4 days!!

    As of this morning, my plane tickets to Beijing are bought and in hand!  I have a place to stay and the promise of Olympics Games’ tickets.  Beijing Olympics, here I come!!!

    I’ll be in Beijing from the evening of August 14th to the morning of August 19th if anyone wants to meet up.  Yay!!!!

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • More (paranoid) Security

    August 4th, 2008

    As of yesterday all the food & drink vendors and retail outlets in and around Shanghai’s subway stations have cleared out their inventory and closed.  No more grabbing breakfast in the subway station for me.  :(   They’ve even put tape over the doors to make sure no one sneaks anything inside.  Some larger, more established outlets are still running, such as McDonald’s.

    How do they decide who stays and who gets closed down?

    Do they compensate the stores that are forced to close?

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • I have a theory about why Americans downplay their culture of hugging when living as expats in China.

    Kiss-kiss greetingIn the US, it is customary for female friends who are close or who haven’t seen each other for a long time to hug as greeting or farewell; the same is true between a male and a female friend.  (Male friends shake hands.)  Friends who are not close, will usually wave or say hi; in more formal situations they may just shake hands.

    In the 2 years I’ve been in China, I’ve noticed that American expats whether in Beijing, Shanghai, or elsewhere have completely abandoned this cultural norm.
    Americans have adopted the practice of kiss-kiss, or kissing the air while touching first the right cheek then the left cheek. Two girls, and a girl and a guy will do it.  (Two males continue to shake hands.) They don’t even need to be close friends, mere friends or familiar acquaintances are given over to the kiss-kiss greeting.

    This kiss-kiss greeting is common in Latin American culture and European culture.  Notably, French and Italians do 2 kisses, while Argentines and Dutch do 3.

    I, as an American expat in Shanghai, have become accustomed to doing the kiss-kiss greeting and farewell to such an extent that when Americans who are in town visiting hug me I am shocked and feel somewhat uncomfortable.

    Anyway, on to my theory…  My theory is that, largely due to the current administration, because Americans are so hated abroad, we try to diminish our American-ness by adopting other cultural styles.  We try to make ourselves seem less American by acting like Europeans or Latin Americans.  We attempt to show that we are citizens of the world and embrace other cultures by adopting them as our own, rather than beating them down, much as has been done in Afghanistan or Iraq.  Obviously, this more of a necessity and common practice in expat life since daily we seek to be accepted by associates and friends from around the world who are frequently not fond of America.  As expats, we are attempting to minimize our American-ness in the presence of a global community and seek acceptance among our kiss-kiss-accustomed peers.
    I’m curious to know, if this is just a phenomenon of expats in China, or if this happens among American expats elsewhere in the world.  Comments on the expat experience elsewhere and agreements (or not) with my theory are welcome.

    As far as whether I like the practice, in some ways I do, as it feels refreshing and somewhat less awkward than the standard American hug.  However, sometimes I do miss the benefits and closeness of a hug.

    Popularity: 3% [?]

  • Video of Spanish faux pas

    May 20th, 2008

    I made another video for my job, this time showcasing Spanish language faux pas. Yes, it’s a script and yes, it’s meant to be a joke. The explanation is below.

    Girl: Oh, you want me to say it in Spanish. Alright. Bueno. Creo que soy bastante fluida.
    ENGLISH: Good. I believe I’m quite fluid.
    Error: fluida = fluid, not fluent.
    Correction: Fluidez is the correct way to say fluent, not fluida.

    Girl: Es porque empecé a estudiar cuando estaba en la escuela, cuando era niño.
    ENGLISH: This is because I started studying when I was in school, when I was a boy.
    Error: niño = boy, not child
    Correction: Joven is the correct way to say young, not niño.

    Girl: También tuve muchas oportunidades de práctica con mi vecino en mi cama.
    ENGLISH: Also, I had many opportunities to practice with my neighbor in my bed.
    Error: cama = bed, not house
    Correction: Casa is the correct way to say house, not cama.

    Girl: Sé que aún tengo muchos errores. Pero de eso se trata el aprendizaje de un idioma. Práctica, práctica, práctica.
    ENGLISH: I know I still have many errors but that’s how it is learning a language. Practice, practice, practice.

    Girl: Trato de usar mi Español en todas partes, como cuando estoy ordenando comida mexicana.
    ENGLISH: I try to use my Spanish all the time, for example, when ordering Mexican food.

    Girl: Me gusta chiquita pechos, chiquita fajitos, con un poco de sabrosos huevos. Mmmm . . .
    ENGLISH: I like little (human) breasts, little fajitos, with a small side of flavorful eggs.
    Error: Pechos = human breasts, not chicken breasts.
    Error: What she refers to as fajitos should be fajitas, a typical Mexican dish of grilled meat served on a tortilla.
    Error: Sabrosos huevos can be construed as testicles.
    Correction: Pechuga de pollo is the correct way to say chicken breast.

    Title: italki.com. Aprenda un idioma extranjero
    ENGLISH: Learn a foreign language

    Girl: ¡Oh! ¿De verdad? Estoy tan embarazada!
    ENGLISH: For real? I’m so pregnant.
    Error: embarazada = pregnant, not embarrassed
    Correction: Avergonzada is the correct way to say embarrassed, not embarazada. (List of false Spanish cognates.) 

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • T_bet – This is ridiculous

    April 17th, 2008

    The whole situation with T_bet has gotten out of hand.  From the blocking of Google News and Youtube to the San Francisco torch protests, and the closing of the Nepal-T_bit border, including stationing Chinese security forces in Kathmandu (talk about national sovereignty & autonomy that China values so highly), to Chinese attacking Chinese who support T_bet independence, this has really gotten out of control.

    As if this could get any more absurd, today I was I was verbally attacked (albeit on the internet) by a Chinese person who was upset that I wasn’t equally outraged at CNN’s coverage of the T_bet situation.  He claimed CNN’s coverage was damaging to China’s reputation and full of complete lies.
    My response:
    1) I haven’t seen any of CNN’s coverage therefore I can’t agree or disagree;
    2) I’m not in T_bet, nor have I been following the historical-political situation; therefore, I am in no position to say what is truly happening or who is in the right;
    3) I am not the outlet to which you should be expressing your grievances because
    a) I already live in China, not in the US,
    b) I do not control CNN, and
    c) I don’t even own stock in CNN.
    4) Perhaps you should be a little more open-minded about the whole situation and try to see both perspectives.
    5) Did you ever consider maybe it’s the Chinese media that is telling the lies?
    6) Since when did China have a good reputation to begin with in the English-language press?

    Perhaps what’s more embarrassing and damaging to China’s reputation is that Chinese people are searching for fellow countrymen’s pictures and information on the internet to hunt them down and throw rocks at their house all in the name of nationalism.  (I sure the West can still remember what happened last time a population had feelings of such extreme nationalism (think WWII).)

    Maybe the reason the Chinese government maintains the Great Firewall of China and heavily censors the media is not for self-preservation, but to protect foreigners (expats) from the violence and anger that ensues when Chinese citizens don’t like what foreign governments or news media say and do. (That was a joke, by the way.)
    P.S. If this doesn’t get my blog blocked in China, I don’t know what will.

    Popularity: 1% [?]

  • All 7 Continents

    February 17th, 2008

    In the past 3months, I have eaten more bread than I have in years. I started out in Chile and Argentina, 2countries that eat a lot of bread, meat, and cheese. Then I went on to Egypt and Jordan both of which eat a lot pita bread with cheese. Then on to East Africa where the staple breakfast is toast with either jam or egg on it. Living in rice-eating China, I’d forgotten that bread is the world’s staple. The majority of the world, aside from East and South Asia eat bread. I think I’m ready to go back to eating rice.

    There should be direct flights between Asia and South America. With the increasing amount of cross-continent travel (I met a number of Chinese in Argentina and many South Americans live in China) and the large trade volume between the 2 continents (notably Brazil and Japan), I believe a direct flight is necessary. Perhaps Air China, JAL, Cathay Pacific, or LAN Chile should think about offering that service. Here are some examples of current inconvenient routings: Shanghai-Beijing-Los Angeles-Santiago, Chile; Beijing-Amsterdam-some random islands-Guayquil-Quito, Ecuador; Hong Kong-Kuala Lampur-Cape Town-Buenos Aires-Ushuaia, Argentina.

    Having now traveled to all 7continents, I can say Europe and South America are my favorite. (This probably leads you to the question of why do I live in China? and leads me to the goal of living Buenos Aires after I’ve accomplished all I intend to in China.) I love Europe for its history, architecture, and progressive, forward-looking ideas. I love South America for its contemporary culture, particularly its music and dance, and the color and vibrancy of the culture as well as the people’s relaxed nature. South America’s natural scenery from high, snow-covered mountains to sun-baked beaches is also amazing. The United States, Mexico, and Asia, in my opinion, have the best food. Asia also has an unrivaled entrepreneurial spirit, which at times I love and other times I hate, but is certainly to be admired.

    I’m very proud to have accomplished my goal of traveling to all 7continets, even a year earlier than my deadline! 90 days, 29 blog entries, and 18 flights later I’ve returned to where I started from, Shanghai. Concluding a major trip like this can be challenging but trying to sum it up is proving to be even more difficult. I saw some amazing places, met some great people, found some countries that I might like to live in and some that I wouldn’t dare live in, and learned some things that can only be understood through traveling. While I won’t be going traveling again for a long time, I’ll always be a traveler, whether that’s through my memories and photographs, through other people’s stories and photos, or far into the future when the opportunity is right again. I hope you have enjoyed the stories and pictures from my travels over the past months and I welcome you to continue reading my blog as I transition back into blogging about China, as well as tourism and business within this most populous nation on earth.

    P.S. Before I leave the topic of traveling, let me again post my alphabetical list of countries visited (original post 10-23-2006) to see how I’m doing now.

    A: Austria (Republic of Austria), Argentina (Argentine Republic)
    B: Brazil (Federative Republic of Brazil), Bahamas (Commonwealth of The Bahamas)
    C: China (PRC), Czech Republic, Canada, Croatia (Republic of Croatia), Chile (Republic of Chile), Cambodia (Kingdom of Cambodia), Columbia (Republic of Colombia), Costa Rica (Republic of Costa Rica)
    D: Denmark (Kingdom of Denmark)
    E: Estonia (Republic of Estonia), Egypt (Arab Republic of Egypt)
    F: France (French Republic), Finland (Republic of Finland)
    G: Greece (Hellenic Republic), Guatemala (Republic of Guatemala), Germany (Federal Republic of Germany)
    H: Hungary (Republic of Hungary), Hong Kong (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the PRC)
    I: Italy (Italian Republic)
    J: Jamaica, Jordan (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan)
    K: Kenya (Republic of Kenya)
    L: Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
    M: Mexico (United Mexican States), Malaysia, Monaco (Principality of Monaco), Macau (Macao Special Administrative Region of the PRC)
    N: New Zealand, Norway (Kingdom of Norway)
    O:
    P: Portugal (Portuguese Republic), Poland (Republic of Poland), Panama (Republic of Panama)
    Q: Qatar (State of Qatar)
    R: Russia (Russian Federation)
    S: Singapore (Republic of Singapore), Spain (Kingdom of Spain), Slovakia (Slovak Republic), Sweden (Kingdom of Sweden)
    T: Taiwan (Republic of China), Thailand (Kingdom of Thailand), Turkey (Republic of Turkey), Tanzania (United Republic of Tanzania)
    U: United States (USA), United Kingdom (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)
    V: Vatican City (State of the Vatican City)
    W:
    X:
    Y:
    Z:

    Guess I need another trip through the Middle East and Africa to finish off O (Oman), W (Western Sahara), Y (Yemen), & Z (Zaire or Zimbabwe). That will just have to wait…

    Popularity: 10% [?]