Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

China Post Script

(images are of Tibetan Prayer Flags)
I may sound in the last pages of my blog as though I am blithely moving on in my life, looking towards my future with some anticipation, looking forward to the next experience, and seeing the recent past as an 'inconvenience' that I endured for a time, but I know that though the memories may become somewhat dimmer as time passes, I will carry the experience with me always. And I will never again take anything I have in my life for granted.

I have spent my first few days back in Canada, at times reliving the violence that erupted in Tibet, curious to know more about what is happening, and yes, I admit, sometimes trying to forget it. Although I never personally saw the physical damage to buildings and the horrors inflicted on the Tibetan people, I know the first level of fear, but not the horror of the brutality. I know many more have been killed and tortured than is being told to/by the media.

I don't pretend to know all the ins and outs of the politics there, but I do know what is being done in the name of quelling a 'riot' is nothing more than terrible brutality to humanity for reasons that make no sense in a 'civilized' world.

To simplify, the way I've seen it is that the Tibetans, and repressed people like them in other countries, only want the freedom to worship how they see fit without fear of persecution. Of course, the problems are more intricate than that and there are always extremists, who want other things as well, but the fundamental basis is one of basic human rights to live a life without persecution, and with the ability to follow their own religious ways.

There are many web sites now that are reporting the devastation, and protesters from all over the world joining in so that their message can be heard. I only hope that people will understand how horrifically China is treating the Tibetan people, what atrocities they are inflicting onto human life and how many innocent lives they are taking.

I hope in the forseeable future we can all do our bit to end these senseless, barbaric genocides all over the world. At the very least, our prayers need to go in aid of them.
If you would like to sign an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, please click on the link below.
There are other groups and web sites, as well that you might like to consider.

Final Day in China

My final day in China was spent in Beijing. This time I treated myself to a five star hotel...only $100/night Canadian - the Beijing International Hotel. (During the rest of my travels I only spent $25-$38/night.)

I felt I deserved this extravagance after the ordeals I had gone through. This hotel also had a telephone in my room, so I could conduct my radio and newspaper interviews, and hopefully have a connection to home.

As well, I had an Internet connection again, which I had to pay extra for (120 rmb) per day, but as I was soon to discover, I was blocked more than I'd ever been before while travelling in China.

My regular e-mail no longer worked, and many Internet sites weren't accessible. For the first time I had a TV with CNN on it, but when Tibet was mentioned, the TV screen immediately went black until the newscast segment was over.

Communications was more frustrating than ever and I wasn't even sure if anyone from Canada could even get through as phone lines had been blocked during the Tibet violence.

However, the interview connection came through and here's the way it reads on the CBC Morning Edition feature page: http://www.cbc.ca/morningedition/feature12.html. You can also link to the actual interview.

I did an interview for the Regina Leader Post too: http://www.canada.com/reginaleaderpost/news/story.html?id=1ac4f44a-b135-450f-9edf-2057ada58883

One of the other good things about the hotel was that it had a bath tub, which I promptly used a couple of times before leaving, although soaking for any length of time became out of the question because the plug didn't fit into the drain hole. (I was happy to have a bath though instead of a shower, which I'd been using most of my month in China.)

The rooms were adequate, but not anything fabulous, though the hotel lobby and the eight restaurants were impressive.

I chose the multi-cultural buffet on the top floor, discovering when I arrived that it was a revolving restaurant. It served some great Western foods, and I resorted to some of the comfort foods...they had mashed potatoes, potato salad, baked ham, and makings for a green salad, sort of. And there was plenty of seafood, especially shrimp, and even some buns and bread, though not anywhere near the quality of what we have in Canada.
I had supper there, and the next day a brunch, which was quite similar.

Good old Beijing is still plagued by smog and the sights from the 18th floor weren't that inspiring.

I've learned that China's plans for making things better during the Olympics are little more than closing down the factories in Beijing for the two weeks that they will take place, and to have half the cars on the road, during the same time. Those with even numbered licence plates will drive on even numbered days of the week and vice versa.

The problem is that the whole country is full of pollution and it's all drifiting east. And can you imagine all those factory people out of work and the other residents somehow having to find a way to their jobs during that time? Sounds like total chaos to me and a solution that won't work for getting rid of the pollution at all.

For most of my time in China I had a scratchy throat and phlegm like conditions. In Beijing the situation worsened and my eyes were itchy constantly.

I left Beijing in the afternoon on Air Canada. After a 10+ hour flight and two not great meals, I was incredibly relieved to be on Canadian soil again, when I landed at the Vancouver airport.

A couple of hours later I caught a flight to Calgary, where I decided to stay for a few days, just to relax and decompress.

A good friend of mine is taking care of me, cooking for me, and nurturing me, as I sleep a great deal, catch up on the news about Tibet, and finish my travel blog.

I did another newspaper interview, this time with the Calgary Herald, but have not seen it yet. That very afternoon in Calgary there was a protest by Tibetans in front of the Chinese Embassy. I didn't take part in it, but my friend did....I was sleeping soundly, finally able to relax totally after the tension of the past week in Lhasa.

What's next? I'm working hard to complete all the sections on this blog, so please check back to see some of the sights, if you are interested, especially those I didn't get to while I was in Beijing the first time.

Then it's home to Regina for awhile, though of course, I sold my house and my belongings and don't actually have a 'home.' I have great places to stay though, so that's what I'll do while I finish a children's novel I'm writing, which I started a few months ago.

I've already been applying for other teaching jobs, so I'll see where that will take me. I'd like to go to a Spanish speaking country, so may try for Central or South America.

I can't teach in Europe because I don't have an EU passport. I suppose Russia is still a possibility, but not sure if I want to be in another communist-type country again for a long time. I'd certainly like to go back to Europe to travel though! I just need to work a little first.

Wherever I travel, you can be sure I'll post another blog! Besides, it's the only way I can keep things straight myself.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Safe in Canada - Able to post to blog site again

I landed in the Vancouver aiport in the afternoon of March 18, very glad to see Canadian soil again. By evening I was at a friend's place in Calgary, where I will decompress for a few days before I head home to Regina.

Just before I left Beijing, I had been totally cut off from my regular e-mailing, and I wasn't able to post to my blog at all. I sometimes wondered how I would react if there was a sudden knock on my hotel door and I was escorted to the airpot at gun point...not a pleasant feeling, and thankfully, not one I had to endure.

Now that I'm able to communicate again, I will bring my blog site up to date over the next few days, so you can expect to see more about my adventure while in Lhasa and beyond. More to some soon.....

Chengdu - Giant Panda Bears

I booked my flight to Beijing for the afternoon, so that I could check out the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Centre Tour

This tour began at 7:30 am with a driver coming to the hostel to pick up myself, two guys from Belgium and a girl from Shanghai who was out on her own touring China...an unusual occurrence, but she was a feisty young girl and we had some great conversations.

There was a long walk to the actual homes of the pandas, but it was a beautiful one, filled with their natural environment, and indications of spring.

Along the way, peacocks and peahens strutted about, and we even found one stationed in a tree.

At last though, we came to the habitats of the Giant Pandas, coming upon the adults first. There were signs everywhere for us to speak quietly, if at all. The whole environment was peaceful and tranquil, we just wanted to enjoy the pandas.

We eventually came to the abodes of the young pandas. They thrilled us with their playful antics.
Sometimes they tumbled and wrestled with one another , or chased each other. More than once, we saw them fall on their heads from a high loft.

At one point we were invited to have our pictures taken with one of the pandas at a cost of $1,000 yuan ($140 Cdn). They were cute, but, nope I didn't get in on the offer.

They are also breeding Red Panda's at this research centre. They are quite a different kind
of animal with a big bushy tail like a fox.

Once we'd seen all the pandas in live action, we watched a twenty minute long video on how they were bread, going through the whole process of mating, insemination, and the birth process. They spared no details.
At the end of the tour we are led, of course, to the gift shop where there is tons of panda bear paraphanalia to choose from...all I bought were some post cards as they had better shots of the pandas than I could take with my camera and the angles we were allowed to shoot from.

Web sites about Giant Pandas: