So, it’s been a while since my last post. It was about time to write one about Tibet. Yes Tibet, Tibet, Tibet. That’s a word that shouldn’t really be used in the country that I live in. It’s a word that I had to promise not to speak about in my English classes, it is a word which represents a place that the Chinese on the one hand deny and on the other hand speak of as if there was no doubt about it being theirs. It is a word like Taiwan.
The following is in danger of being a rant, but frankly I don’t care I just want to convey to people the frustrations related to this place.
Now, where do I begin about the absurdities that surround Tibet and the last few days? Firstly, I am happy to remind people that there are ways around Chinese sensorship – one of them being http://www.stupidsensorship.com. Without it I would probably not be able to update this blog. Makes sense though right, cause I am about to talk some dirty talk about the Middle Country – China, the country that has been deemed responsible enough to host the all important international event – the Olympics, the country which we buy from – Made in China, the country which denies some of its people Freedom, well denies people a lot of freedoms that we deem to be necessary in this day in age.
Ok, so by now most of you are a lot more informed than myself about the Tibetan issue. When we first heard about it it was mainly through a channel called CCTV9, yes a lot of the channels in China have the name CCTV – reminiscent of the CCTV freaken surveillence camera. How ironic. Well, CCTV9 is the one English-Chinese channel and we get to hear all of China’s propaganda from it. Basically China is rarely at fault for anything, the government is always supported and Tibet is made to look like it’s all just a bad instance of a small group of unruly monks.
Western media has been reporting a ‘slightly’ different story and those that really want to know the truth are able to access it through special channels in the internet or hear it from a friend (but watch what you write in those e-mails because Big brother has been known to check those too, thanks to my cousin in Poland for sending me many updates that were slightly encrypted to pass the filters).
How about I just tell you what we would think is going on if it weren’t for the help of information from the West and what the Chinese government would want us to think. Firstly we would at first that only about 10 people died in the rioting. That would later be updated to 30 people once it got out that the West was reporting upwards of 100. We would hopefully think that the Dalai Lama is responsible for orchestrating it. We would think that because the riods were started by a small unruly group that only a few people are frustrated in Tibet with how things are being run for them.
Now, if we were locals listening to local TV in Chinese and having years of indoctrination (yes, that’s what I will call it because there is no other way to describe this system) we would probably have a much more skewed view on it all. We would definitely believe that whatever the Police did in Tibet, it was necessary for the nation…. Bullsh…?
Maybe, I wish I knew more about it all. Anyhow, we will all know less and less about the current situation in the country as China works to get all the foreigners out of Tibet – the damn ones that are reporting all the truth and stop anymore from going in. Then we can all go back to hailing China for its Olympic efforts. Well, I hope not. Youtube can’t be accessed in China now, yep, because there were videos of (the truth) riots in Tibet.
What do you think? Do you think that this day in age, in this globalized world, this world where we can all hold nations more accountable to what they do or don’t do, we should just let things roll and all go and have fun in Beijing for 2008 and smile smile smile? I don’t know about that. Should we, should our governments maybe try to persuade China to start changing its ways a little more? Not to say that this country hasn’t been reforming, but I argue that it is still a long way from being truly worthy of the Olympics, being in the world’s limelight like that as if everything is alright.
Come on! When I tell the Polish about what life is like here, it reminds them of the communist years. We all know how the communist bloc worked out in the end…
I say now, go for it Taiwan, shake things up.
Ok. So, since my last post I have been here and there. Chinese New Year rolled around and after finally receiving my computer in the mail I took off to Beijing with a classmate. We were on the train the night of the biggest festivities, namely everyone explodes as many fireoworks as possible, really. No worries though because we got a show from the train, basically for an hour and a half we watched explosions all around us as the train rolled on. Incredible. We wonder how many children get injured playing with cherry bombs every year.
China is proving to be intense. I’ll get to the point. I visited Henan, in central China the most populated and poorest province in all of China. It is also the center of Ancient China, although it’s capital for example, a city called Zhengzhou of 6 million people probably holds very little evidence of this, rather, you can go shopping!
Kaifeng was interesting, definitely has an older feel to it. I got here after my 5 hour ride from Beijing to Zhengzhou where I realized there was nowhere budget to stay for me and proceeded to buy a ticket to Kaifeng, for which I had to stand in of the 10 or so lines that contained about 50 people each. I got my ticket, but it meant waiting at the train station for 5 hours, fine, all part of travel.
In Kaifeng I realized quickly that foreigners are not abundant. Man do you get stared at, man does it ever get tiring. The hello’s (one word all Chinese seem to know) come streaming as you walk the streets. The streets are full of people walking, riding bikes, sitting and eating or playing, squatting while smoking, buses and taxis maneouvering, honking, honking, honking. There are smells of all sorts, some of food, some of garbage some of other stuff of which you quickly learn the source of once you start visiting the public toilets. Unfortunately, the toilets are simply repulsive, simply repulsive.
So, as I walked the streets I actually found myself hoping that a tourist or two will be found, but they don’t appear. I felt alone in a sea of people who find me interesting, who stare, giggle, frown, or whatever. From time to time I talk to some, who usually bombard me with the same questions, like where are you from, how old are you, are you married. I want to take photos. That’s usually fine after the initial talk. I especially want to take photos of the oler parts, the areas that look so foreign to me. One could say that I am just as curious as all the people who look at me, but there’s only one of me and tons of locals.
Kaifeng was a rich experience, at times too rich, like when I find myself having to go to the bathroom in what is a cespool of human waste. yum. I was happy to leave, too bad my ticket to Luoyang, two hours away was seat free, I had a spot in the corridor of the train, yep. I’ll try to get back to that in the next post. I’ll just put a pic up of my 5 hour standing experience on the next train ride which took me to another historical centre of China, Xi’an.
here is the link to the photo
Ok! So, my last blog entry was in Ulaanbaatar I believe. That was about 3 weeks ago right before I got into China. My trans-siberian had been completed in Irkutsk and after Mongolia I made my way with some fellow travellers to Beijing by train and bus. The bus, you’ve probably never seen anything like it, was made up of bunk beds, yep, tight as heck, but one could actually lay and sleep on it, that is if the bus was not taking detours through rugged safari like terrain which it obviously did on several occasions.
Anyways, I was back in the Chinese culture, exploring a bit of Beijing, the buzzing pre-olympic developing city in full swing before August when the world arrives to compete. I was back at it with the Chinese language, struggling more than ever though to be understood, seeing as the Mandarin spoken here tends to differ in accent and vocabulary quite a bit from Taiwan. I’ll get back to the T word in a bit…
So, I took my night train to Dalian, to my surprise a very modern, clean, Japan-like one. Got into Dalian and began my new student life with an introductory lecture just 90 mins after arriving.
I’m in China, so obviously in China. The toilets stink, the cars seem to drive to run anyone trying to cross the street over, the young and the old hork away as if they all have a phlegm disease, wonderful. The Chinese tend to push and shove and everyone seems to be part of a driving force to work work work! I have never had anyone react to a caucausian, myself, in such an odd way as a few did in a restaurant one day, they just could not hold back their bewilderment, especially once I started speaking their language.
Now, there is the good as well as the bad. It’s just that I guess I was used to Taiwan, oops, there’s that naughty word again. That country, ooh, can’t call it a country in this communist one, is quite a bit different in its approach, apart from an obvious Chinese cultural link. Here’s a good time to talk about the 3 Ts. Lets hope that my blog doesn’t get scanned by the online censorship big brothers. By the way, there are ways to avoid the online censorship, I’ve finally found a way to get around it and post, that and the fact I still don’t have a computer would be the reason for the delay. Anyways, the Ts. My fellow classmate from my Photography MA here applied for a job, the main requirement before he could start teaching was to sign a paper that stated he would not talk about 3 things: TAIWAN, TIBET, TIANNAMEN. Yep, do not mention those in class and you’ll be ok. Wowaweewa, now you’re getting a little bit of a taste of where I’ve found myself and what this rising power of 1.3 billion is capable of.
Ok, so there’s the bad, the funny, the crazy. Now the good; cheap delicious food everywhere, cheap stuff everywhere, cheap life, quite pleasant people, good air here in Dalian (the cleanest big city in China), a really spacious, new 3 bedroom flat in the ‘High Tech’ zone. What else? Plenty of photo ops, of course. There is the Asia in Dalian, the truly Chinese parts, with stalls, messy alleyways and garbage but there is the super modern, clean, development areas. We have beaches and parks, given it is pretty darn cold right now. With the beaches and mountains and Asia’s largest public square – Xinhai square – the summer must be brilliant.
There is plenty to still discover here, it’s only been 2 weeks, still sorting a lot out and getting back into student mode with the photography course.
Photos will come!
All the best from China,
I will finally leave Ulaanbaatar after an extended stay here. It’s been a good stay, with good people and a hell of a New Years Eve party at a club strings, yes strings, but they are referring to Guitar ones.
It appears that I have made it around the world. A strange and sort of unplanned circumnavigation but looking at a map and the lines of longitude, I completed the trip near Irkutsk Russia after travelling my farthest east from Taiwan in Thailand in January of 2006.
All the best in the New Year.
I truly tried the nomadic way these past few days. I joined two others on a quick tour into the national park north of Ulaanbaatar to visit and stay with a proper Nomadic Mongolian family. I wish I had the pics to show you, will post when I can. It was an amazing experience, to say simply.
We stayed in a Ger – a traditional tent-like home, if you’ve seen any movie about Mongolia you’ve seen a ger and you’ve seen the type of place I got to sleep in for a night. The ger stood in the middle of a valley surrounded by snow covered moonscape-like land. The family, of which only the older men and one older woman were present (the rest spend the winters in the city where the children go to school) spend most of their days tending to the livestock, fetching water, preparing food and keeping the ger warm with firewood or dung! We had the awesome experience of tending to these Mongolian routines with them. There were the week-old lambs, the chopping of firewood, and the fetching of water down at the other end of the valley.
Seeing and experiencing this life and the people who lead it, if only for a few days, was incredible. Having seen a few movies about Mongolia I was taken aback at the oportunity to step into it personally.
I am in Ulaanbaatar or UB as it is called by expats. I made it here this morning on a train from Irkutsk. The train ride was interesting, spent both Christmas and Christmas Eve on it. The Eve part was fun, got on the train and met my, of course non-English speaking carriage mates, one of whom, the Mongolian, pulled out a vodka. I followed by pulling out a big 1.5 l bottle of beer. The Russian father and daughter had their little table full of food and so I had a Christmas Eve (which for them I think was rather accidental) . Christmas Day was fun, FYI, it takes about 8-10 hours to cross the Russia-Mongolia border by train!
It is freezing here. I am not used to this -10-20 degree weather anymore. A cold was creeping up but I think I froze it away today, ha. I am popping a multi-vitamin a day which must help.
UB is ugly. Yes it is, but I’m gonna get out to the countryside to see what the real Mongolian life is like, outside of this soviet-era, unplanned mess of a city. I’ll update once that is ticked off.